She’s been with us four months! It’s hard to believe. I needed to record her progress so far before these months completely blur together and I forget.
When I look at her I am filled with so many emotions. She has changed so much in such a short time. She smiles more, she laughs more. She jumps off tables more! This girl is a dare devil! When we first met her she didn’t know how to climb. Now she can climb almost anything. I often find her at the top of the stairs or on top of the kitchen table. If she can pull herself up she will climb it and most likely attempt to jump off. She’s making up for lost time and scaring me half to death in the process.
Sometimes I look at her and my heart breaks for her first mom and dad, and the heart wrenching decision they made. We will never know the reasons but I have to believe they hoped for a better life for her. There are times I wish I could just tell them she’s ok, she is loved. I see her squeal in laughter when her daddy comes home or plays with her, and I think of the daddy that doesn’t get to experience his daughter’s laughter. I brush her hair and pull it into pigtails and I think of the mom who will never know what her precious daughter looks like as a toddler, as a teenager, as an adult. It breaks my heart that my daughter will never know who they are. In the first few months we filled out lots of medical paperwork and questionnaires. There are huge sections that we will never be able to answer. It’s hard for me to skip over those sections; one day she will have to skip those sections and it will be very hard. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to call her my daughter, to teach her, to guide her, to love her.
She is a sweet and brave little girl but one of the challenges we face is indiscriminate affection. She will hug a stranger off the street and would let them pick her up if I allowed it. Most people see a sweet, outgoing little girl. And that may be part of her personality, but we also believe she learned that being cute and outgoing gets her attention, gets her food first, etc. While most people see an cute, friendly little girl, we see a girl who is still scared and who doesn’t know that we are forever.
She has been through several major losses/traumas in such a short little life. She lost her first mom and dad. Her primary caregiver at the orphanage became her new mommy, referring to herself as mommy. At 15 months old, she had a major surgery and spent three weeks away from the orphanage being cared for by people she didn’t know. She did return to the orphanage but at 15 months old she didn’t know what was happening. At 2.5 years old, we came to her and took her away from the mommy she’d known for two years. While she was there, we have no idea how many additional caregivers came in and out of her life. She has no idea that we are forever. Based on her experience, she has no reason to believe we are forever. We’ve watched her attachment to us grew significantly over the last four months but now when I leave she gets extremely upset. She doesn’t know if I’m coming back. The phrase I repeat most often to her is “Mommy came back.” Just hearing that phrase brings tears to her eyes sometimes because she’s not quite sure that will always be true. She’s just now started referring to me as ‘mama’ on occasion, but to her ‘mama’ is just a name.
As her attachment has grown she has also struggled with sharing my attention and affection with her brothers. She loves them, loves to play with them and imitate everything they do. But, when one of them needs my attention and affection she struggles.
Her sleep has improved thankfully! For the first three months she would awake at random times each night scared and unable to go back to sleep without our assistance. We’ve kept a mattress next her crib and have spent many nights sleeping in her room. Around 3 1/2 months though, she started sleeping through the night. She will still wake up around 5:30 or 6 and we will go lay down with her to help her get another hour or so of sleep but I’ll take 5:30 in the morning over 1:30 or 2.
One of the most frequent questions we get is, “Has she picked up a lot of English?” Our daughter had a cleft palate, and while it was repaired in China, we don’t believe a lot was done to develop proper speech. So, when we met her she wasn’t even speaking much in Chinese. We began speech and occupational therapy pretty quickly after coming home. We’ve worked hard to learn sign language and identify things for her. She’s doing amazing! She knows roughly 25 signs. She’s learned a few words such as ‘hi’, ‘more’, ‘milk’ and ‘bye’. She’s working very hard to say her name. And just recently she started saying ‘yes,’ although it sounds more like ‘yeah.’ This has been a big step as we had to teach her that she has the opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ We’ve had to teach her that she can make choices, she can express her preference.
She’s also made huge progress in the area of food. For the first 2 1/2 years of her life she had a bottle or soft, mushy food. She had no idea how to chew. Through occupational therapy and consistently offering new foods she has made great progress. She still eats a lot of pureed and soft foods but she now loves crackers or anything crunchy. She will eat meatballs and when she feels like it, small pieces of chicken. A few weeks ago I spent the day in bed with strep throat so Greg ordered pizza for him and the kids. I asked him what Emily ate for dinner that night. We typically offer whatever we are having along with something pureed but he offered her only pizza and the girl ate three slices! Victory! Of course, in typical toddler fashion the next day she usually decides she doesn’t want to eat that food again but we are seeing progress.
It’s so easy to feel discouraged day in and day out working on her language and eating. But thankfully, our family and close friends who don’t see her every day help us to see the amazing progress she has made.
She’s had a lot to overcome, and still does, but she has learned so much! We’ve had some hard days but it has been such a blessing to watch her grow and learn. Many people say she is blessed to have a family, but she has been a blessing to us. She is such a joy and it’s hard to imagine our family without her!