She Knows We Are Family

From Kelley

I’ve wanted to post an update regarding Aila’s medical evaluations, but I couldn’t quite find the words. She had an MRI of her brain on Monday because one of her doctors suspected swelling. The good news is there is no swelling. But her MRI showed a condition called PVL, which is basically areas of brain damage due to lack of oxygen. I got off the phone with a list of referrals and a need to vomit. Because that’s how your body responds when you hear the words brain damage when talking about your baby girl.

I looked over at her trying to lift her leg high enough to crawl up on the foot stool in front of our chair. She desperately wants to scale that stool and tries over and over again, every day. And I got so scared, wondering if we were seeing her best days. Because what if this damage was progressive. What if it got worse? And let me tell you, doctor Google was NOT reassuring.

I called my husband and then I prayed. Here’s what God gave me.

We can’t fix her.

She will still have Down syndrome. She may have permanent brain damage. She may live to be 60 years old. Or she may not. There are no more guarantees on her life than there are on our own, and there are no fewer fears. We didn’t bring her home to fix her.

Adoption has always been about giving her a family.

That’s what God asked us to do. Be her family. She may have no future severe medical issues or she could see a specialist a month for the rest of her life.

Through it all, God wants her (and every child for that matter) in a family. And through some mystery, He saw fit that we should be the lucky ones to welcome her in.

And since that day three months ago when we stood in front of an official and swore an oath to always love her and be her family forever, we’ve seen gains. A lot of gains, actually. She crawls. She signs “eat” and “bottle.” She has grown 2 inches and gained 4 pounds. But above all that, she gained a sister, two brothers, a mama, and a daddy. And she knows who we are. She knows we are family.

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Adoption Update

It’s Update Time

It’s been a little more than two months now since we’ve been home. I hate that we didn’t keep up with the updates between leaving China and now. It’s been a busy few weeks with doctor’s appointments and follow-up home studies. On top of that, continuing the remodel of our house and getting ready for Christmas…

Sometimes when your boat is cruising into active seas, you need to put down the excess stuff and focus on navigating to calmer waters.

So let me take a few minutes to catch you up. Here’s the highlights of the last couple months:

Doctor’s Appointments

In early November, Aila had her first round of doctor’s appointments since arriving in the US. She’s had other appointments since we’ve been home and for the most part everything has come back normal. She had a long-awaited eye appointment TODAY at the butt-crack of dawn. The doctor has scheduled an MRI soon but this means that Aila will need to be under sedation during this process which always gives us a bit of anxiety. Not sure yet when all this will take place but please pray for us and for little Aila through all of this. I know at some point maybe we will get beyond all these discoveries and diagnoses and we’ll know everything that’s going on – everything that we need to watch and maintain – and we’ll find a groove.

Progress Isn’t What You Think

Not to say that we’re not finding a groove now. We are. Things are actually moving along quite nicely. She’s attaching well. She’s coming into her personality. She’s more mobile. More expressive. More demonstrative. Her skin is clearer. Her eyes are brighter. She’s sleeping pretty okay… sometimes. She knows how to tell us she’s hungry or sad. She loves Daniel Tiger. All these things are good things and give me comfort knowing that she is beginning to know her place in this party of six and we couldn’t be happier about it. But the new discoveries, especially the ones that require sedations and surgeries kinda interrupt our rhythm and we long to get back to creating our normal flow.

I know the radio silence of the last couple of months may have caused you to believe that everything was without worry and full of endless perfect moments and that our family never felt interrupted or out of sorts or perplexed by the addition of a new family member. Most of that is accurate. Most of the time. But it took us awhile to get there. And we seem to take a step back here and there.

Kelley was recently chatting with another adoptive mom who will be on the plane in less than a week to go bring her new little boy home. This mom was asking questions about what to expect and things from the Mom-perspective that she didn’t anticipate but could pass along. This is a brilliant observation that I think all of you adoptive parents out there should know…

For many of you, when you pick up your child and go to your hotel room, the first few days and nights will feel like perfect bliss. It’s likely you child sleep through the night. It’s likely he’ll never cry. The sad part of this is the reason why…

For most of these kids, they’ve learned that crying does no good. Nobody’s coming. Nobody’s gonna pick you up. Nobody’s gonna comfort you. So they stop crying.

Heartbreaking, right? I cry now just thinking about it. They don’t wake up at night. Or if they do, you never know because they make no noise to indicate that they need you. Because nobody’s coming. So for however long they lived in the orphanage, they stopped calling out. They just stopped. And then you get them home. And you love on them. You hold them. You kiss them. You play with them all day long. You keep them awake at night just so you can see their beautiful eyes and tickle them and make them laugh. And in the process of the playful interactions, she bumps her head on yours and she cries. She cries! For the first time, you hear her cry. And you comfort her. You pick her up. You kiss her and hold her and rock her and sing to her and tell it’s gonna be okay. And she calms down and looks at you with those deep dark brown eyes and you melt and she begins to unlearn what she once thought was true.

Someone will come. Someone will care. Someone will help calm. It’s okay to cry. Someone is coming.

Over time, these little moments happen again and again and the serve as little hooks in her little heart that she begins to hang her trust upon. She begins to think, “I can tell someone I’m in need and they will respond.” And she learns to cry again.

For parents who haven’t adopted, to celebrate this may seem a little backwards and in fact it is. Why would you want a crying baby? Well, we don’t actually want her to cry all the time. But we do want her to know that if she cries, we will be right there. If we walk out of the room and she whimpers – no matter what – one of us will turn around immediately and go pick her up. I told her the day we met that I’d never leave her lonely. She was left in an alley behind a hospital when she was days old. Then she was left in an orphanage. Then when she had open heart surgery at a year old, she was left alone in the hospital with only the attending doctor to check on her from time to time. She will never be alone again. And when she cries to tell us she’s scared or overwhelmed or insecure. We consider that a step forward. Progress. She’s just gone from believeing that no one hears her cries to knowing that when she cries we pick her up. That my friends, is a win.