There are times when I feel haunted by the past that Seth and Lizzie have that I cannot change. Perhaps that seems like an odd thing to feel, but it's true. It comes in waves...most acutely when I hear of younger kids who weigh more than my Seth did before he came into our family. Every time I hear of someone receiving a referral of a child from Ethiopia, my first thought is to wonder how much the child weighs relative to his/her age. I've not yet heard of a child Seth's age who weighed less than he did; although I wouldn't wish that on any child or parent, sometimes I selfishly just want to hear of one, just one, child who was Seth's age and who weighed the same or less...so that I know he could have survived...so that I know he wasn't as close to death as I know he was. But it hasn't happened yet - the kids being referred are usually years younger than Seth was at referral and already far heavier than our Seth.
Seth was five years old and weighed 22 pounds. Twenty-two pounds. I've said that here before, and I'll probably say it again - the fact is that I just can't wrap my head around it, no matter how often I say it out loud. That was Matthew at six or seven months old. It's no wonder that pediatricians thought both Seth and Lizzie were significantly over-aged given their sizes.
We were told by the adoption doctor we consulted before accepting our referral of Seth and Lizzie that when children are as severely and chronically malnourished as ours were, first the child's weight is affected...then their size/stature...and lastly their brain - the body tries to protect the brain from the ravages of such malnutrition for as long as possible. Clearly our kids' weights and sizes/statures were profoundly affected. The outstanding question was always about how much their brains had been affected...particularly Seth's, given that he'd been exposed to it for a full two years longer than Lizzie had. There was simply no guarantee to be had that he would be ok, despite the tests that the doctor completed to attempt to draw a conclusion or even a likelihood.
I want to go back and protect them. Please. I know it's completely unreasonable, obviously impossible, but I want so terribly badly to go back in time and ease their suffering, ease the hunger pain that I know lived with them as constant companion, ease their father's anguish at not being able to provide what he so desperately wanted to. I know things about their earlier life that we've told no one; things that we will tell and help Seth and Lizzie process some day; things that bring me to my knees in grief sometimes. I'd give anything to be able to go back in time to provide for them, to protect them...even if it meant that the end result would be not having them become my children...at least to know they would be provided for.
Like I said, this stuff haunts me and I lose sleep over it. Lots of it, from time to time. The grief of it swamps me and there's no rationalizing my way out of it. I'm never quite sure what to do with it other than just to get through it; life goes on normally on the outside, but on the inside.... Then I overcome it for a time, until the next wave hits me - always out of the blue. It took me weeks to grieve the last wave and I remember thinking just a week or two ago that maybe this had gotten a little easier for me.
And then just yesterday I read about a situation in Toronto, where a boy was allegedly starved to death at the hands of his grandparents - a coroner's inquest is now being held, inquiring "into the death of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, who weighed just 21 pounds when he died, about the same as he did on his first birthday."
Body slam. Just that one sentence. Body slam.