Matteo: An Adoption Story
We adopted our son Matteo from Fuyang in February 2015 when he was 28 months old.
My husband and I initially couldn’t agree on a name, but when we learned his Love Without Boundaries advocacy name was “Matt,” we found our inspiration. Since there are already two Matthews in the family, we chose Matteo and planned to call him Matt for short. However, the only nicknames that have stuck have been “Teo” and his Chinese nickname, Tao Tao. And that’s how our Chinese-born son adopted by Polish-American and German-American parents got an Italian name.
Matteo was born with a cleft lip and palate and an inguinal hernia. Love Without Boundaries sponsored both his lip and hernia repairs at five months old and he received care at LWB’s Anhui Healing Home before and after his surgery.
We had the opportunity to visit the healing home in Hefei and thank the nurse who stayed with Matteo in the hospital while he recovered from surgery. After seeing how much pain he was in following his cleft palate repair at home in Minnesota, I’m even more thankful that our son had someone to love and dote on him after his first surgery.
Matteo eventually graduated to live in their LWB’s Fuyang foster care program where he lived for about a year and a half until we adopted him.
While in China, we visited his foster family, an experience we’ll always treasure. They prepared him as well as they could for a child of his age and we believe his easy adjustment can be directly attributed to his foster family. Each and every day it is not lost on me that Matteo has adjusted so well and is the happy boy he is because of the love and care he received in his foster family.
Through our pre-adoption training, reading books and blogs, and talking to other adoptive parents, we had prepared ourselves for parenting an institutionalized child. Instead we’ve seen first-hand the positive influence a foster family can have on a child. The food issues, malnourishment, sensory issues, attachment issues, not knowing how to play and poor self-regulation that we had learned about? We didn’t see any of it. Our son knew how to be a child, and most important, he knew how to love and be loved.
Our first few weeks with Matteo were not without challenges though. Because he had to leave people he loved so much, he grieved heavily while we were in China. I cried a lot too for what he had lost, for his broken heart and for his foster mother, who selflessly loved our little boy, whom she will probably never see again. (Although I desperately hope the opposite.) I had legally become Matteo’s mother, but for our first few weeks as a new family, he, at best, tolerated me, but mostly rejected me. He only had eyes for his new dad.
Yet, because he had been loved, he knew how to love and, my gosh, you would never know seeing us today that he wasn’t so sure of me at first. He wants to sit in my lap when I read him a story, kiss me when I tuck him in at night and looks to me for comfort when he’s scared or hurt.
Since arriving home to St. Paul, Minnesota in February, Matteo has blended into our family like he’s always been with us. He gets along so well with his three-year-old sister Kiera, (adopted from Shenzhen, Guangdong at the same time) and older brothers Soren (3.5 years old) and Oliver (5.5 years old), whose every move he follows. He is enamored with everything they do, and I’m so happy Matteo has big brothers to look up to.
Matteo is truly a happy-go-lucky little boy who loves life. He may look serious in his pictures, but he’s actually very quick to smile. He greets visitors and friends with a big wave and smile and never forgets to wave goodbye when they leave. He’s a typical toddler who likes cars and trucks, digging in the sandbox, building with blocks, having someone read him a book, playing outside, pedaling his tricycle and dancing.
Within a month of coming home, Matteo finally had his palate repaired. (Unfortunately, he will probably need a follow-up surgery in the fall.) We discovered he also had moderate conductive hearing loss and ended up getting ear tubes. With his hearing restored, we’re anxious to hear him speak his first words. Even when he learns to talk, we’re still anticipating years of speech therapy ahead of us. The only surprise medical need is that Matteo needed glasses. We think he looks adorable in them!
We feel we’ll never be able to adequately thank his foster parents for loving Matteo like one of their own and giving him the love of a family until he could join his forever family. We are honored that we get to be his parents and love him dearly.
~Kirsten Partenheimer blogs about adoption and her family life at Talkin’ ‘Bout the Next Generation.