The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Quantico couple share love
BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
In a few years, Dmitri House will most likely bound down the stairs at an insanely early hour to open Christmas presents.
But this morning, Dima (which means “little Dmitri”) doesn’t know what to expect. In his five years, he has never
had a Christmas morning.
As far as his parents know, he has never opened a gift.
For his first four years, Dima lived in a Russian orphanage. Last January he was transferred to an institution with about 150 other children who were labeled “uneducable.”
But last month—days before Thanksgiving—Charlie and Melissa House brought Dima to their Quantico home to be part of their family.
Dima’s adoption was the culmination of a yearlong, exhaustive journey, one that was emotionally, physically and financially draining.
That grueling effort to adopt began in the middle of the night more than a year ago. Charlie, a gunnery sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps, had just returned from duty in Afghanistan.
Still getting used to the time change, Charlie surfed the Web late one night. On his Facebook page, an ad appeared for an agency that helps find adoptive parents for children with special needs.
That ad for Reece’s Rainbow showed a young boy with Down syndrome. And Charlie fell in love.
He and Melissa had talked about one day adopting a child. And while most parents pray their child won’t have any disabilities, the couple specifically wanted a child with Down syndrome. Their oldest son, Haiden, was born four years ago with the disability.
Charlie and Melissa struggled to get Haiden the help he needed. They didn’t know how to deal with the health issues and the developmental delays.
Through hard work, they figured it out. Charlie became an advocate for other families, through the Arc of the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg.
“We learned to navigate the system really fast, and we wanted to provide that to someone else,” Charlie said.
Staring at the computer screen, Charlie felt sure the time to adopt had come. He showed Melissa the picture the next day.
A flurry of paperwork, fundraising and frustration followed. Months into the process, they learned that the boy they fell in love with was no longer available.
The couple grieved.
And then they discovered Dima. And fell in love all over again.
They threw themselves back into raising money, getting home studies, filling out seemingly endless paperwork.
Adopting Dima took nearly $40,000 and three trips to Russia.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Melissa were raising Haiden and his younger brother, Noah, who will be 2 in February.
Their first two visits were heartbreaking, because they had to leave Dima in the institution.
Finally, in mid-November, they traveled to Russia for the last time. Their new son was now the oldest child in their home.
But he is also the smallest and shares clothes with Noah.
He spoke no English and limited Russian. Little had been done to help him meet developmental milestones.
Charlie and Melissa began teaching Dima sign language before they left Russian soil. They had learned the basics of signing when Haiden was a baby, hoping to help with the language delays that often accompany Down syndrome.
Now Dima knows more than 30 signs.
He wiggles his hand under his chin for frog—and makes the croaking sound to match. He wiggles those fingers on top of his head and lets out a “mooooo” for cow.
He can also ask for help, for something to drink, food and more.
Dima settled into his new home here quickly. At first, his new brother Haiden was reluctant to share his bedroom.
Now the boys have trouble falling asleep in their matching beds because they would rather play together into the night.
During the day, the three boys play as brothers—wrestling, chasing each other, climbing into the toy box together.
“It’s amazing to see them together,” Charlie said. “Of course, there are chaotic parts of the day, too, like when they all want to eat at the same time or when diapers need to be changed at the same time.”
But sitting on the floor with Noah on her lap, and Haiden and Dima playing with a toy nearby, Melissa declared the trio perfect.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.
And in January, the boy who was once deemed uneducable will start school.
His parents don’t yet know whether his size or his delays are the result of orphanage life, his disability or—most likely—a combination of both.
They don’t know exactly how far he’ll progress, but they’re excited about how far he’s come already.
And they know that his life—and theirs—will be much different than it was just a month ago.
Amy Flowers Umble: