A family?s wait: Blake has been worth the sacrifices and chaos



At a time when most of us are traditionally traveling to be with family for the holidays, one little boy will be enjoying that experience for the very first time.

Two-year-old Blake Andrew is the newest member of the Jerad and Anna Woods family, whom the Free Press featured this summer as the couple worked through the process of adopting a special needs child?Blake has Down Syndrome?from Ukraine.

Despite differences developmentally and in background, Blake?s new mom said this is where he belongs.

?It feels like he?s just been a part of our family from the beginning,? Anna said.?My favorite part of having Blake home is that feeling of our family being complete, like he was supposed to have been a part of it all along.?

Jerad, concurred, saying, ?Everything went pretty smoothly. The next morning (after Blake arrived) he played here with the girls like he?d been here his whole life.?

The Woods made two trips to Ukraine during the adopting process. Jerad and Anna went for three weeks earlier in the year, and Anna returned with her mom to bring Blake home just before Thanksgiving.

Blake has been with the Woods for a month now. Already Jerad and Anna have seen him make great progress physically and developmentally.

?He went from rolling on his tummy to crawling to almost walking in a month, so he?s doing really well,? Anna said.

She also said at first, when they picked him up, he would curl in. Now he is able to support himself, is filling out and is much stronger.

?Just seeing him progress so quickly,? Anna responded when asked her favorite part about having Blake home with them. ?Physically, just seeing him thrive. It amazes me to see what love and a family and an environment that is supportive of him, just what a child can do.


?A child needs more than just a place to sleep and food on the table. It?s something I?m excited to be able to witness.?


That?s not to say there have not been some challenges and adjustments to make. It has been a learning process for both Blake and the Woods family.

?When we first brought him home, when we?d feed him, and then we?d take the food away, he would cry and cry,? Anna said. ?It breaks your heart.?

Because he never had enough food at the orphanage to feel full, Anna said, she has had to learn how much he should eat. She has also started giving him a plastic bag of crackers to carry around.

He rarely eats them, but it comforts him to know there will always be more food if he needs it.

Blake has learned to adjust to many new textures of food, as everything served at the orphanage was warm and mashed, as well as how to drink out of a sippy cup.

?They spoon-fed all their liquids to them, or used this metal funnel-like thing and just poured it in,? Anna said. ?It was horrible. I couldn?t watch. He?d be choking and it?s like torture.?

Though the orphanage Blake has lived in since he was 3 months old was not like living in a real home, Anna said it was the best in the country and the director is forward-thinking, even allowing special-needs children to interact with healthy children.

?She felt that if children with special needs were with those who were healthy, they would progress more quickly, which I agree with,? Anna said.

?I thank God that (Blake) was put in this orphanage, because if he was put in another, he probably would not have survived this long.?

Not every new texture and experience has been hard for Blake. He loves the outdoors, as he had not stood on grass before, and bathtime also is a favorite.

?It?s fun to watch him discover new things,? Anna said. ?He hated water at first, and now I can?t get him out. He sits under that faucet and just watches the water run on his hands.?

Emotional healing

Re-learning the basics of life is difficult enough, but for Blake and the Woods, restoring his emotional health has been an unusual challenge.

?We?re having to teach him how to laugh, because he doesn?t know how,? Anna said. ?Crying is another one. Because he?s been there from birth, he?s learned crying isn?t efficient, because no one responds to it. That becomes a suppressed behavior.

?He?ll hit his head on something really hard that should be painful and he should respond to it, but he doesn?t. So, we?re having to almost exaggerate picking him up and comforting him.?

But, Anna said, progress is happening and he gets more animated and vocal every day.

?He?s starting to show his emotions a little bit more,? she said. ?You can tell with tickling or wrestling, he?ll start to laugh, and then he?ll look at you like, ?Is this okay??

?He?s come a long way.?

Family adjustments

The learning curve has not been limited to Blake, though.

?We learned to not be selfish with our time,? Jerad said about the adjustment for he and Anna. ?I thought it was a big change when we went from one child to two children. It?s a lot more time-consuming.?

Anna agreed, but added the experience of adopting Blake has definitely expanded her perspective of the world beyond her own problems to the needs of children everywhere.

?I feel like my eyes are open now to children who are suffering,? she said. ?I was really ignorant of how children with special needs are treated and viewed in other cultures.

?That?s obviously going to be on my heart, telling people about the needs of these children. It makes me that much more passionate about finding homes for these children.?

On a more down-to-earth level, Blake?s little sister, Autum, who is 11 months younger but already bigger than Blake, has had to do some learning of her own. She was none too thrilled with someone else invading her space.

?At first you could tell, she?s like, ?Get this thing away from me, because they share a room and toys and bathtime,? Anna said. ?She always wants the toy he?s playing with, and he always wants the toy she?s playing with. Typical siblings.?

But their older daughter, Leah, said she likes having him around as long as he does not spit his milk.

Plus, Anna said, Jerad loves having a boy in the house to balance things out.

?He and his daddy are best buddies,? she said. ?They say sometimes that they?ll be a little apprehensive because they?re not used to having men around, but not (Blake). He just has loved Jerad from the very beginning.?

And for Anna, nothing beats having her new snuggle buddy.

?He just brings lots of laughter,? she said. ?He?ll just put his head on your shoulder. Every time you pick him up he has a huge smile. It brings a lot of joy.?

Worth the sacrifices

For the Woods, finally having Blake here is completely worth all the sacrifices and ensuing chaos.

?When we first started, there were so many obstacles looming in front of us,? Anna said. ?Cost, time off work, all the paperwork, unsettling the dynamics you already have in place at your house.

?We talk about these things now, and we can?t believe we let those be questions in our mind.?

She added that she has learned to never say never, as she would never in a million years have seen herself where she is now.

?Don?t consider it not a possibility for your family,? Anna said. ?These children need homes and families just like any orphan anywhere. They just need love.?

Thanks to his new family, Blake is experiencing that love for the very first time this Christmas season.

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