We adopted our 7-year-old, Natalie, from a Russian orphanage 5 years ago. She had ADHD, was malnourished, neglected… and perfect.
My 7-year-old daughter, Natalie, has ADHD. My husband Don and I adopted her 5 years ago from an orphanage in Russia. Nat had a rough start in life, but she’s a survivor — an amazingly resilient, strong, lovable little girl.
She was born 6 weeks premature, and bounced from home to hospital and back again before landing in an orphanage. When we met her she was 2 ½. She could barely walk. She couldn’t speak a word. We were convinced she was mentally retarded, but after one look at her, it didn’t matter. She was ours.
As soon as Nat left the orphanage with us, a completely different child emerged. Gone was the child who seemed afraid to move — who pursed her lips and made strange faces, as if she had no idea how to smile. She started exploring the world at a dizzying pace. She moved 100 miles per hour every waking moment and needed constant supervision. She exhausted me beyond belief.
Nat’s history — premature birth, suspected fetal alcohol exposure, malnutrition, neglect, lack of stimulation — nearly guaranteed neuro-disaster in her developing brain. Our pediatrician took one look at her and knew she would end up with a diagnosis of ADHD. Within a year, she brought up the option of starting Ritalin.
“At this age,” she said, “we only use Ritalin if you are too exhausted to cope.” I was — but couldn’t start Nat on meds on those terms. We started Ritalin when she was five. In addition to ADHD, Nat has Sensory Processing Disorder, developmental delays, and will probably end up with an anxiety disorder diagnosis in the future.
Natalie climbed on my lap as I was writing this. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Writing about you,” I said.
“Read it to me.”
“My husband, Don, and I adopted Natalie from an orphanage in Russia,” I began, editing for her ears. That was all she needed to hear. She knows her story well.
“Does it say I’m special?” she asked.
Yes, it does, baby. It sure does.