It's time for an update. One week home, three weeks from Gotcha Day. I'd like to start by saying that besides raising 4 of my own kids, all very different types of toddlers, I also worked in a large inner-city daycare center in the infant/toddler room while Brandon was in college, and continued to babysit privately in my home until just a few years ago. With all of this experience, and all the studying of international adoption I did for XinQin and Will, this has been one of the most emotional, fascinating, draining, frustrating, heart-breaking, joyful, rewarding things I've ever encountered. We are in a constant state of considering where Will came from, where his head is, his loss, his grieving, his genetics and his personality, along with his firsts, his joys, his comforts. I knew that stuff with my bio kids. With Will, it's like working through a labyrinth, hoping we're making the right turns.
We've been home from China a week now. Here's a list of things we are seeing:
1. Will's meltdowns have diminished to more manageable tantrums, and they are fewer. His negative (and scary) institutional behaviors are fading. We are in awe at the speed in which he is learning and choosing to regulate himself instead of giving himself over to what is more familiar. This is such a blessing. We are still cocooning so we're keeping him out of social situations. Right now I fear he might fall back on old habits if he's overwhelmed or over-stimulated. Still, seeing the rate at which he's letting it go is so encouraging, and we wonder at the idea of him still being in an orphanage, and at the other little ones still there, and these horrible behaviors continuing and strengthening, when it takes so little time for their minds to begin accepting that there is something better for them, if it's offered. He is soaking in real love and constant family.
2. I'm not concerned about language at all. He's a little mimic. He jabbers a lot and reminds us of our granddaughter, Carly. Getting these two together, I smile at the conversations of jibberish they would have. No, he's not speaking Chinese. We asked our China guide. She laughed. Nope, just baby talk. He does say Thank you (xie xie) and car (chu chu) in Chinese, but that's it. He is picking up new English words every day. He says hi (his favorite greeting repeated over and over), bye-bye, Mama and Dada, Cub (Jacob), Meh (Maren), baby, apple, bow wow or woof, nana (banana), cheese ("say cheese" for the camera), pee-bee-bee (peekaboo), and I see (I see you). Yesterday we started the name game, pointing to ourselves and saying our name, then pointing to Will and saying his name. He caught on and wanted to play again today, starting with "Will."
3. Sleep makes a HUGE difference, especially for Mommy. I've been running on 3 hours of sleep a night, with only 2-3 full nights of sleep thrown in there. Will was cranky, I was cranky, and honestly, I was crying at the drop of a hat. A body and mind can't function on exhaustion. Add to the mix that I've been sick since day 2 in China. I lost 10 pounds in two weeks because of a stomach thing. Not an energizing weight loss program, but a draining illness. And I was putting Will first. So the stomach bug and no sleep, on top of jet lag and being there for all of this transition has been absolutely draining, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Will seems to have sleep anxiety--not being asleep, but going to sleep, as if it's a loss of control he can't give in to. After learning of the conditions in which they're put to bed in the orphanage, I can't blame him. We somehow have to make that transition a safe place for him, and I think we're figuring it out. But yesterday, after another 3-hour night, I was a mess. Brandon mentioned something at dinner and I just started crying. Blah. BUT, we tried fresh ideas with the bedtime thing and kept Will up until 10 pm, Brandon bought me a new comfy rocking chair, and somehow the mix worked and Will slept through the night. That was so needed. Both of us slept until 9:30 am. So today, at least, I'm thinking clearer and Will was definitely happier. We'll see how tonight goes. Also, I've been on probiotics for a few days and I think they're making a difference. I hope. I need to be healthy and strong.
4. Going backward to move forward. In all of my studying I read a lot about regressive behavior in institution kids. I'm so grateful. On paper, Will is 25 months old. In life, he is more like 14 months old, in some ways, a lot younger. He has 16 teeth, but doesn't know how to chew, because he was only fed soft foods. He still pushes food to the roof of his mouth. He's making up for lost time with that one as we introduce finger foods. He loves apples and they're great chewing practice. He still takes a bottle. The nanny told us he takes one night bottle of regular cold milk. But he didn't want that. We give him a bottle of warm formula before nap time and one before bed. I don't care. He loves it. He needs it. When we first started with a bottle, he'd turn away from me, and not make eye contact, not letting me touch the bottle, and barely him. Then, he would turn toward me. Then, he began to make solid eye contact, and study me. Then the matching began. I'd read about that, so it was exciting to see happen. He'd lift his brows. I'd lift mine. He'd blink long. I'd blink long. He'd grin. I'd grin. He'd lift his brows again. I'd copy. Then one night, he reached up and rested his hand on my face. That was emotional. I moved his palm to my mouth and kissed it. Now, when he greets me after nap, or in the morning, or during bottle, or when he likes a book I've read, he lifts his palm to my mouth and I kiss it. So yeah, bottle time. All the things I did naturally as I nursed my bio babies...Will didn't get any of that. He's getting it now. We do a lot of rocking in the rocking chair. Lots.
|He loves steamed broccoli.|
5. Physically, Will is growing. He's sturdier, and I'm pretty sure he's heavier. He's still a comfy 18 months in clothes, but he feels strong and healthy in our arms (especially when he's fighting sleep with all of his might, ugh). When we first got him he toddled unsteadily, holding a hand. Now he walks very independently and practically runs. His first doctor appointment will be in a couple of weeks. He hated the medical exams in China. I'm not looking forward to it, but I have questions that need answers, and we need to make sure he's on the right track.
|He loves the little pool. He hopped and splashed and spent lots of energy with me and Maren.|
7. Just now, at 11:15 pm, Will woke up. I braced myself and went up to his room. When I picked him up out of his crib, I noticed he had a wet diaper. So I changed him there in the dark as he calmed. With dry diaper on, I lifted him to my shoulder and he relaxed. I swayed with him until his breathing deepened, with Kenny Loggins singing softly in the background, and then laid him in his crib, and snuck out. It worked. No institutional rocking. Totally normal. And I was blown away by the normalcy of it, taking time to say a little prayer of thanks and do a little victory dance in the hall. I'm not naive enough to think it will be sweet sailing nighttime bliss from here on out. No way. But tonight, I'm grateful.
And I'm going to bed.