Free, Safe, Loved

November 26th, 2011

Sunday night, the 20th

Finally, after the tumultuous events of the last couple of days, a quiet moment.  An opportunity to re-connect with my tiny girl.

I lift her gently from her bed, tubes and wires trailing from her fragile body, and position her carefully on my lap.

She arches her body, twists in my arms, crying as loudly as her weak body will allow, clicking the joints of her hips, chewing on her own wrist in her rage.

My hand lies softly over her.  She pushes it away.

My tears overflow my eyes and drip onto the blanket that encircles her.

She wants to get away from the scary intensity, back to what she knows.  She wants her bed.

My heart throbs with the grief of seeing her pathetic attempts to comfort herself.

She herself is all she had for so many years.  Hands, fingers, feet, mouth, head, hair.

My heart longs to reach through her shell.

She doesn’t need to protect herself, medicate herself, comfort herself.

The law has been satisfied.  The ransom has been paid.  All has been done.  It is finished.  She now belongs to us.  We are making sure her needs are being met.  She has no need to fear.  She has never been more secure than she is right now.  I am here; I will be here.

I yearn for her to trust that I am staying put, and that my presence means that her needs will be met in full.

But she has no idea of all these realities.  She doesn’t yet know that she needs what I have to give.

She turns from the abundance I have to offer her, and goes back to her own pitiful obsessive efforts to make everything all better.  Fingers fluttering in her peripheral vision, tapping the sides of her head, over and over again, all day long, sucking her own tongue, chewing on the corners of her lips, tap, tap, tap, flutter, flutter, flutter, flutter, chew, chew, chew, overdosing on food, self-medicating with chocolate, Starbucks, and retail therapy, eat, eat, eat, shop, shop, shop, escaping into mind-numbing entertainment, reassuring oneself with the contents of one’s financial portfolio, tap, tap, tap, flutter, flutter, flutter…

She doesn’t yet understand how to live as a child who is freesafe, and loved.

I expected steps forward and steps backward.  I know that she will not be stuck here forever.  But it is hard to see.  It is heartbreaking to see, heartbreaking to know the reasons why.

And my heart breaks for her all over again.


Monday night, the 21st

She has figured out the routine.  She knows when someone approaches her if they like and value her or if they are just awkwardly gawking at what they consider a freakish curiosity.  Interestingly, she and I agree in our assessments, but my outward reactions are more civilized than hers.

She knows what the alcohol on the heel means, and responds appropriately, as she does to the electrocardiogram stickers, the diaper changes, and the approach of needles.

She is braced for pain, and doesn’t understand that it is necessary to accomplish a much greater good in her life.  The greatest good that has come into her life thus far.  This pain will not harm her; it is a good that will free her to grow and gain in strength and skills.

But she doesn’t know this, and resists it with every bone in her body, her cry growing louder each day as she gains energy.

She doesn’t have much energy left over for other interactions.


Tuesday night, the 22nd

She has been increasingly fussy due to the, uh, the deleterious digestive effects of her formula.  They start her on Colace.  I think, and eventually say–we didn’t have this problem last week.  Breastmilk works better.  She can tolerate a bolus of 5 cc’s of breastmilk if she can tolerate a bolus of 7.6 cc’s of Colace.

She is hyper-aware.  She doesn’t miss a thing.  She is having trouble falling and staying asleep, afraid of the results of a perceived loss of control.


Wednesday night, the 23rd

She has received a PICC line.  No more pain for Katie.  But she doesn’t realize this yet, and she fusses all day.  She definitely does not approve of the no-no, the wrap that protects her PICC line site and keeps her from messing with it.

She lifts it up stiffly and looks at it over and over…

I. do. not. approve. of. this. arrangement.

The Colace still hasn’t kicked in.  She is still uncomfortable.  Just cranky and uncomfortable all over.

She doesn’t sleep a wink all night long, and cries loudly at regular intervals, compulsively chewing on her wrist.  Sometimes she forgets about the no-no on her right arm, and bops herself in the face with it, trying to get her wrist to her teeth.  That left wrist is putting in overtime.

Every time, I gently draw her hand away and wipe her wrist dry.


Thursday night, the 24th 

This morning she sees the rest of her new family.  It is pretty much unanimous–she is tinier than the photos had led them to believe.



[I miss this Verity-cake something fierce, and a few hours was not enough to get my fill.]

Katie takes them all in, delighting Laura and Jane’s hearts by warming up to them right away and making her silly sniff-face.

“We’re your big sisters, Katerina!” 

She remembers Daddy and rolls toward him, giggling with happiness.

Today, Katie does much less fussing.  She finally begins to relax.  There has been only comfort for many hours now.  No pain.

She feels safe enough and strong enough to roll about and begin to explore her space.

Toward evening, she begins to show signs of boredom, and I hunt down a few more toy options.

She is beginning to feel the need for my presence, but at the same time she fears the intensity, fears the unknown, fears her loss of control.  She thinks she knows what she needs most, and she thinks that her pathetic little orphanage habits will fulfill those needs.  She pushes my hand away and flutters her tiny fingers softly at her head.  Just a little more, and I will feel better…

Yesterday and today, she tolerates being held on my lap, waiting, for about five minutes before she melts down.


Friday night, the 25th

Oh the joy–she fusses if I must go away from her bedside.

This morning, when the doctors make their rounds, and I leave her side to stand in the doorway, she keeps her eyes on me and cries loudly.  One of the doctors queries in surprise, “Is that her?”  The day we picked her up from the orphanage, her cry sounded like a little kitten’s mew.

Today she tolerates being held for twenty minutes before she begins to fuss.

Tonight she falls asleep with my face hovering next to her cheek, my breath falling on her face, her hands resting quietly.


Saturday evening, the 26th

I have spent every possible hour this week sitting next to her bed, simply being present.  If she needed care that a mama can give, I have given it to her.  I take special joy in giving her a clean [size one!] diaper, knowing that never again will she lie wet and dirty for hours, waiting for her daily diaper change.  If there has been pain this week, it was administered by another hand, and my face was there for her to look to for reassurance.  She has gradually tolerated more and more comforting from me throughout the week.

She is still wary of my hand, and still automatically pushes it away as soon as she deems it threatening her comfortable space.  She always knows exactly where it is.

[Just look at the beautiful roundness!  She is now 5 1/2 kg!]

On this morning, Katie relaxes when I brush her teeth and wash her hair.   She smiles and laughs when I give her a dry diaper, bathe her and dress her in a clean gown.

She sits quietly for thirty minutes before she begins to fuss for her bed.

This afternoon Katie and I receive some very welcome company.  I lift her gently from her bed, tubes and wires trailing from her fragile body, and position her carefully on my lap.

After two peaceful hours, it is past my pumping time, and I lay her back in her bed.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

She will get there.

Someday she will come to me when she is distressed instead of turning to her own pathetic devices.

Someday she will know how to live as a child who is freesafe, and loved.

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83 Responses to “Free, Safe, Loved”

  1. Michele says:

    So glad she is slowly improving!  She is absolutely beautiful!  Through her pictures, you can see what a personality she has!  She is precious!  Praying for your family! 

  2. Maureen H. says:

    About in tears here too. Someday Katie will know how much she has taught some of us.  {{{hugs}}} Thank you for blessing us with these updates. Praying!

  3. Jenny says:

    Dear Susanna, My heart is in peace looking at Katie in your arms. I pray that Lilliana and Sophia will also soon be in my arms in a warm room surrounded by us who love them dearly.  When fear comes to me, I will go look at these pictures. Hugs

  4. Becky K! says:

    Tears are welling up in my eyes as I think about Katie trying to comfort herself, like she has had to do her whole life. Bless her tiny little heart.  and to think there are so many more Katie’s out there, children who have never know the comfort of a loving mother’s or father’s arms. Thank you for taking the time to update us on her progress. I love reading your post and seeing how God is working. Praying for Katie’s progress, and for you and the rest of the family. I know this has to be exhausting and hard on your heart being away form your other loves. 

  5. Joni says:

    She is growing!!! I can see the difference in the pictures already!! I loved the pictures of the other children meeting Katie and the expressions on their faces are precious. Your whole family is serving the weakest of these and I know God is looking down on you and smiling!!!

    I love the descriptions you give of Katie and how she tries to comfort herself, and I can’t wait for the day when you report that she looks to you for comfort even more…..I can see it in her looking for you and wanting to be near you!

    Bless you, dear Susanna and May God give you strength to care for this little angel!!!


  6. Heather Dawn says:

    we sang this in church today and wanted to share it with you: 
    The Hymn “Be Still My Soul” sung by Selah
    (i think you’ll just need to copy that http link and paste it into your browser bar)

  7. Randy Boroughs says:

    Thanksgiving was wonderful!  How refreshing to see such well mannered happy children.

    Psalm 127:3-5

  8. Anna T says:

    She is gaining weight and learning that mommy will meet her needs.  Her “fussy” face is so similar to Jacob’s : ) !!  I LOVED seeing your family meeting Katie for the 1st time.  I hope that one of the BBC mommies was your “special visitor?”?  I’m continuing to pray for you and yours, keep taking good care of yourself and I’m glad that you’re speaking up (e.g. mommy’s milk instead of the colace).  ((Hugs)) and prayers… 

  9. Becky K. says:

    Such a precious child.  Thanks for the gift of these photos and the opportunity to visit.  We were all so blessed. 
    God is doing amazing things through Katie and she doesn’t even have to leave your lap for them to take place.  She brightens the room with her smile and makes our hearts leap with her giggles.  Wow!  An amazing child.  A very special girl, indeed. 

  10. Libby says:

    Katie is a treasure, she is already radiating from the loving care of her mama!  Susanna, your words are beautiful.  They are so clearly God-breathed.  While your post was a wonderful review of your week with Katie and her recovery, I couldn’t help but notice your beautiful comparison to us, as children of God, who all too often push Him away thinking we know better.  But alas, He is our Father and He knows us better than we know ourselves…  Thank you for so openly sharing your love of the Lord, and this journey.  Sending lots of love and prayers for you, your family and sweet Katie!

  11. Jane says:

    Sending love to you from the west coast as this Sunday closes.  Prayers continue to God for Katie and Susanna and all of the Mussers and the medical staff.

  12. Rochelle Wilson says:

    She does look different! What beautiful little cheeks she’s developing! What a blessing you are to her…such patience :)  We will continue to pray for her, and you, and your family :)

    Rochelle Wilson

    Elk Grove, CA    

  13. adriana says:


    may God continue to bless you with His love and peace and patience,
    and may He  give Katie the freedom He has for her through your love ofr her,
    i cried to see her smile at her Daddy and sit on your lap…so precious!

    Blessings from Germany,


  14. Kathy says:

    This may sound strange, but what a blessing it is that she has Down syndrome!  Our children may have cognitive and physical delays, but I think God has given them a unique gift in recognizing the things that are really important.  It’s so wonderful to see her responding to love and kindness already.  Her smile is beautiful!

  15. Cole says:

    Your patience is such a blessing. It will take so long for her to feel safe I’m sure. I love that she is already offering up smiles to your family though! I don’t know what it is about Daddy’s voices or sister’s smiles- but I love that she is comforted and happy with them!

  16. Valerie says:

    I have to say THANK YOU again for taking the time for these blogs and pictures.  Every one more meaningful than the next.  I cherish being able to follow your lives.  It makes me see so much more!!

  17. Jerri H. (My7Blessings) says:

    More tears of joy…  Thank you for sharing your precious pictures with us.  The looks of pure joy on your children’s faces as they look at their God-given new sister is beyond words!  You all continue in my prayers.

  18. Samantha says:

    This post is so beautiful!  I know there is such a long road ahead but what progress in a short amount of time!  She WILL know the true meaning of love and family very soon.  I love the pictures of her with her daddy too.  As a daddy’s girl myself, I am a sucker for that!  The last picture shows such contentment in a simple setting.  Just sitting on mommy’s lap quietly relaxing.  That moment was probably one of the best moment’s of her life!  I will continue to pray for Katie and your entire family because all of you need prayers for peace and healing and adjustment.  It seems the whole family is smitten (and who can blame them)!

  19. Lorena says:

    What a joy to see her being loved, learning to receive it! Such hope pulsates through this update – thank you so much for sharing. And Susanna, although it sounds like you are getting little sleep, you have never looked so beautiful! God bless you and provide for you all, as he has always done.

    And oh, how like some others of His children she is …  may His love undeceive us all.

  20. Cameo says:

    What a beautiful and so true to life post. I have loved following your incrediably courageous journey to get this beautiful angel. Thank you for writing and posting this. I just can’t wait to see how much she grows and learns how to love. God is simply amazing when we follow his plan. 

  21. Praise the Lord for the love and care Katie is receiving.  You must be so tired, but you sound so caring and loving.  Praise the Lord for the porgress Katie is making, even if just tiny steps, I know she has a long way to go, but the Lord is faithful!
    Continuing to pray here…

  22. Holly says:

    Susanna, I work in early intervention where we often see children in foster care or that have been adopted (after neglect not as physically as bad at Katie’s, more abuse than anything.)  I have no advice to give you because YOU ARE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT!  Allowing other hands to do the hurtful stuff, being her only caretaker as much as possible, and easing her into being held, touched, and comforted!!  She will get to that healthy and free place much quicker with you as her mama!! 

    That pitiful little lower lip reminds me of my Trent.  I wonder if all kiddos with Ds have longer bottom lips or something.  Or if they are just so good at pouting!!  You other children are absolutely lovely!!  Verity is just sooooooooo cute!!

  23. Mary Harvey says:

    Sending all of you love and prayers!! This precious daughter of yours will now be able to thrive with REAL FAMILY love!!!! She is one of God’s many miracles!! God’s Blessings to all

  24. Tricia says:

    She looks AMAZING!  The difference is so obvious. 

  25. Lisa says:

    Oh my goodness, she is beautiful!

  26. Dannette says:

    She is looking better so quickly!  I am struggling to wrap my head around her age and I was a special education teacher for 22 yrs – never have seen children as emacaited as ones coming from these orphanages!  I am amazed at her spirit and spunk.  Thank you for rescuing her!

  27. Oh Susanna!!!!! She is beautiful and doing so well, I’m filled with joy reading this!

  28. Karen Yu says:

    Hello I am David and Sasha Bliss’ friend.
    I want to tell you that God has really used this blog to speak to me…you are so rght, that’s what we do…we do think that our own ways for dealing with insecurity is better than the hand of God…thanks for sharing.  If for nothing else, Katerina’s life has been used by God to teach me that.  May God continue to use her mightily for His Kingdom.  May God grant you and your family grace and strength. 

  29. She is beautiful!  What a change already.  Praying for you and your family.

    Gabe- A MOMYS 

  30. Thank you for this post, it made me cry.  You did such a good job mirroring her actions to that of any child of God’s.  What a struggle we put up to get what we think we need; if only we would relax, trust Him and let Him care for us!  Slowly we learn though, thanks to His work in our lives!

  31. Megan says:

    Beautiful post. As the mother of a beautiful little girl with her own special needs, I know how heartbreaking it can be when they resist the comfort we want to give. My little girl didn’t have near the struggles that your little bird has had, but when she came home from the NICU after many many weeks, she wanted nothing to do with us. It took a good month or two before she would t

  32. Megan says:

    Before she would tolerate us for longer periods of time, but now she’s a little snuggle bug. I think it’s amazing that Katie is already warming up to you so much! Praise the Lord! Thank you for sharing this journey with us and showing the world how much value our little ones have!

  33. Dale says:

    I can’t tell you how much the first part of this post effected me.  What an amazing illustration of what God holds out to us as His adopted children – yet we keep trying to self medicate ourselves.  We think what we can do for ourselves will make us happy, but in reality it is pretty pathetic to what He offers us.  Thanks for posting this!  

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