Heidi turned out to be right. We did get to teach Justin everything. The first thing was an appreciation for freedom which Justin had never known. When we got home we put several toys in the new play pen we’d bought and started to put him in to play with them. Right away that panicked look came over his face and he began his egg-beater turning motion. Justin knew he was helpless; he had no power to stop himself from being restricted in some contraption again. I just couldn’t do it! Instead I turned from the playpen and put him down on the floor, took the toys out and scattered them around, and sat down to watch.
Justin crawled through the whole house, going from one room to the next, never looking back, always going forward. He was free for the first time. The kids took turns following him, encouraging him, talking to him.
Everyone wanted to be “first” at something with Justin. Heidi was first to feed him in his high chair. Robin was first to stretch his legs down to touch the floor when he was in his walker. Adam claimed the right to be first to take a bath with Justin since he was the only other boy in the family. We put extra bubble bath in the tub and started the water. Justin was reluctant to get in so Adam took his place in the tub first. As the bubbles got higher Justin finally allowed us to set him into the tub. Almost instantly Adam jumped out and grabbed his towel. When we asked why he’d gotten out just as Justin had gotten in his answer gave us all a laugh. “I was the first and last to take a bath with him until he learns to pee before he gets in the tub. I don’t like yellow snow or yellow bubbles!”
In a matter of days Justin was walking along the edge of the couch and coffee table. He grew to love his walker and the speed it gave him. We never used the play pen for anything other that a toy box. None of us could stand to put him in it. It was just a couple of weeks before Justin was walking on his own.
We had regular visits from the social worker after Justin joined our family. She would comment on his progress and how he fit right into our family. During one of these visits we were told Justin had been removed from his home when he was about three months old. Conditions had been bad for our little guy. He had been taken directly to the hospital where he spent three days recovering when he was removed from his first home. The two gentlemen who removed him told the hospital it is customary to make at least two visits to a home before a child is removed but Justin was removed immediately when these two men saw him. He was hungry and screaming. At the hospital it was noted both of Justin’s eardrums were broken and oozing infection.
The first week Justin was with us Adam asked to share him at school. I took him to Adam's class at the appropriate time. Mrs. Has Ellison asked Adam to stand and tell about his new brother. He was so proud to share Justin. I put him in the middle of the kids who were all sitting in a circle. Justin just sat there. I think Adam was hoping he’d do something and when he didn’t Adam commented to his class, “This is my new brother, we got him last week but he can’t do anything yet!”
When Justin had been with us for about two months our worker said the foster mother had asked her if we’d give her a picture of Justin. I explained my surprise and disappointment that she hadn’t taken a single picture of him in the nine months she’d had him in her home. I sent a message to her that I don’t give out pictures of my children. I know it was a hateful thing to do but I didn’t think she deserved a picture. I didn’t think she deserved to remember Justin. I was trying everything I could to make sure he didn’t remember her and what it had been like for him in their house.
I really think the lack of expression shown by Justin was his way to let this world where no one had cared about him that he didn't care either. Sometimes, when I tried to think about what he was feeling, I'd just sit watching him and cry. He fought caring about our family with all his might. He would sit with us but we were never allowed to hug him. That was hard. I love to hug my babies and this little guy would start to twist and turn any time we even started to put our arms around him. I think somehow it might be related to being tied into all the contraptions before we had him. He didn’t want to be restricted so we all learned to live without those hugs we so desperately wanted.
For about a month Justin kept his somber face never smiling. He didn’t care where he was, he didn’t care where anyone else was. Slowly things began to change. One Sunday morning as I was leaving Justin in the nursery, instead of seeming to not care, his eyes followed me as I left. My friend said that for the hour I was gone he kept looking at the door where he’d last seen me. When I came to get him after church he saw me then looked away. I came in, picked him up, and went out to join the others in the car. The next week when I dropped him at the nursery my friend said he watched the door and got a tear in his eye before beginning to play. This went on for a few more weeks.
Heidi and Robin were drilling words into Justin all the time. Other than their own names, mommy, daddy, ball, horse, socks, shirt, and other items around the house were on the list. Justin began responding and calling objects by their names. The girls were beside themselves with joy.
One afternoon, when Justin had been with us for about three months, I was cleaning the kitchen. The sink was full of bubbles. Justin crawled up behind me and touched the back of my leg. “Mommy,” in such a precious little voice came flooding into my ears. I turned looking at him and said, “Justin.” He looked at me and again said, “Mommy.” I hadn’t imagined it! I didn’t even clean the bubbles off my hands, I sat down next to Justin and laughed and cried. I scooped more bubbles from the sink and we pushed them up and down each other’s arms. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget. He had come to me and spoken to me. How I longed to scoop him into my arms and hug him, but I dared not, I couldn’t spoil the moment.
It was the next Sunday when I left Justin in the nursery things really began to change. When he saw the nursery he began to squirm. When I handed him to my friend he began to scream. He continued to scream for a good while and then continued whimpering until I returned. I hate to admit it but I loved that he had screamed. It was one of the first times he had shown emotion.
The next few weeks were difficult to maneuver. Now instead of him not caring where we were Justin had to know every minute where one of us was. When the kids were home they kept him occupied but during the day while they were at school Justin never, even for one minute, would let me out of his sight. Still, even when he was comfortable there were no smiles and no hugs.