Orphanage Syndrome

November 17, 2009

This morning Steve and I watched the unedited video footage from our time with our little boy in Russia. We laughed. We cried. We sat in awe of what an amazing time we had with him. Although total, we spent about 5 hours with our son, the connection of our hearts rooted deep into our souls, and we believed they rooted deep in him too.

By the end of the video, his eyes sparkled when he looked at us, a big difference from the confused and curious initial look in his eyes when he saw us on the first day. God truly is the weaver of hearts and lives and we are grateful for giving us far more than we could have asked for or imagined with those few hours.

As we watched we were also reminded of one of the more painful times we had with our son. We were having fun, playing and he went over to touch a nice vase that was in the room. I gently said, “nyet” (which means, “no”).

Suddenly his whole facial expression changed, he quietly sat down, then put his little hands over his eyes and began rocking back and forth. Steve and I immediately scooped him up in our arms and sat with him, holding him tightly, while whispering in his ear that we loved him over and over.

Within seconds (though it felt like hours) his little body just relaxed. He took a big deep breath, and he sat nestled into my chest as I held his sweet body. Then he got up and began to play again with a big smile on his face.

This whole experience broke our hearts and in fact, even writing about it now, brings tears to my eyes. This rocking back and forth is referred to as “orphanage syndrome”. Many children in orphanages do this when they are hurt or afraid. Since they don’t have a mommy or daddy to comfort them,  they have learned how to soothe themselves.

Because there are so many children in the orphanage, and the caretakers are working so hard to meet all of their physical needs, they are unable to address all of their emotional needs. So, the children have learned how to soothe themselves. Our hope and prayer is that when he comes home, he will learn that he doesn’t need to self-soothe anymore…that he has a mom and a dad who will hold him when he’s scared, lay with him when he’s sad, and help him when he’s frustrated.

As I watched the video today, it was as if God was reminding me with a visual, tangible example of His own love for us…for me. Through the frustration and the pain of all this waiting and paperwork, I so often run to other things to bring me comfort. I try to “stay busy” to make time go by faster or vent out my frustrations to friends or through this blog.

I try and try in many ways to make the pain of waiting go away on my own. I self soothe. I suffer from my own kind of orphanage syndrome. I go back to the things of myself to bring immediate relief or satisfaction without first going to the Great Comforter. He’s the One who so longs to hold me in His arms. He’s the One who whispers my name in His ear and speaks His love over me. He’s the One who quiets my soul.

So why do I continue to go back to the things that seem to bring relief,  these temporary, self-made imitations of true Comfort? I am reminded of this verse that has so come alive in my heart after visiting our son.

Romans 8:15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

I have received a spirit of adoption. It’s a spirit that is no longer a spirit of fear, but of belonging and security. It’s a spirit that now can cry out, “Daddy, Father”. And I know that my daddy, Father is there, always, ready to bring comfort, peace, hope and love beyond anything that this world could offer and anything that I could bring myself.


  • we had to make another run up to Cleveland just days after doing it once already, but for now the bulk of our paperwork is done
  • I’ve already received so much encouragement from people who are planning showers for us and our new little man

Prayer Requests

  • for our little boy, that he would somehow know that his mommy and daddy are coming soon to get him
  • for our paperwork to process quickly so we can get a court date

Until next Monday, love Kate & Steve.

5 Responses to “Orphanage Syndrome”

  1. Sarah said

    I found that throughout the process of adoption I discovered so much about my own relationship with God. As I experienced powerful emotions towards my new children, I in turn would discover that this is only a taste of how much God longs for, waits for and rejoices over us.
    It really didn’t take long for both of my children to look to my husband and I for soothing. When they first came home they seemed so tough, they could fall and not even bat an eyelid or look for an adult for comfort. Soon after being home that all changed, to the point where every little scratch, bump needs lots and lots of kisses and cuddles, I recenly informed my nearly 5 year old son that I was not going to kiss the ouch on his big toe until he washed the dirt off it!
    My son does still rock himself when waking up in the morning, a sad reminder of his history. I think a great way to deal with this is lots of time with Mum or Dad in a rocking chair before bed and possibly when waking up.
    You really have got me thinking about how I self sooth instead of turning to God…that thought will stay with me for a while.

  2. Sue said

    I am sure that you and Steve are gonna do a great job of making your “little guy” feel very loved, accepted and significant. He is a lucky guy to have you for parents.

  3. Mama Mary said

    Good insights, Kate. He works in all situations, even our waitings. Love you.

  4. Mama Garcia said

    Your insights are amazing, Kate…but not surprising. “The LORD confides in those who love Him.” Thank you for sharing…really made me think of how I self-soothe. This morning I read in Habakkuk 3:1 …”Lord, I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known…” I’m waiting on God to do something awesome for you and Steve and your little one.

  5. Pam Thimsen said

    I greatly appreciated the thoughts you shared in this post. We often act as though we don’t have a heavenly Father, don’t we? So often we only turn to Him when we have reached the end of ourselves or our solutions, when it is to Him that we should first and always run.

    I am praying for you as you walk this journey. God’s blessing on you, Steve and your little one.

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