Friday, April 11, 2008

This girl has come so very far...

Grace in China, age 12 months.

Grace has been home with us for about 4 years and 7 months, the time has gone fast in many ways. It hasn't always been sunshine and roses. She has come so far in many ways and so have we as her parents. I've thought about this post for a long time and what I wanted to say and how to say it, because I don't want to scare any first time waiting parents. I believe knowledge is important and powerful. What scares ME about these extremely long wait times to a referral are that parents tend to "romanticize" and "idealize" this child that you are waiting for. I encourage waiting Moms and Dads to read as much as they can about adoption issues and developmental delays. Some of it is scary stuff and I remember when we waited for Grace's arrival that I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. The scary stuff like attachment issues and grieving was helpful to me and sometimes hard to relate to. Sometimes I found it overwhelming to read, so I'd take breaks of course. Now I occasionally find blogs or a comment on an adoption board how their adopted child attached almost immediately and there was no grieving period. I hope I don't offend anyone ...but that's just a bunch of bull. And if those people truly believe that, most likely they are in denial. Attachment is a process that takes a very long time and every child is different. We were fortunate with Grace's adoption that the agency we used put a high priority on education about pretty much everything that can and does happen after you are home with your child. We were given the worst case scenarios which might sound negative, but now I'm happy in a way that that's how they handled it. I distinctly remember our SW telling us that on the day we received Grace...that was the happiest day of our (Dan's and my life) and also the saddest of Grace's. At the time I thought her comment was kind of dramatic and mean. In hindsight, it was the honest and brutal truth. Everything that Grace had ever known in her short life of 12 months was taken away and changed forever. I have always kept in mind the losses she has had in her life. Those losses don't define her, but they are a part of who she is.

I call the time period post "gotcha day" or "forever family day" the honeymoon period. And it's a period of time that at least for us probably lasted about a year maybe. Dan and I were absolutely giddy with joy. We couldn't believe this girl and what a wonderful little girl she was. In between the wonderful times were also sad times and grieving times for Grace. She had sleep issues intermittently that would wax and wane. Some night terrors, and phases where she would wake up frequently at night. We tried co-sleeping...she would have nothing of that business. So what worked for us was that she slept in her crib in her room and sometimes I slept on the floor. I was up a lot with her rocking her, holding her and consoling her. If I had a blog at that time it would have been pretty wild to read through my chronic sleep deprived it was I called some of my friends the wrong name a few times, had some short term memory issues and was tired a lot. What helped me tremendously was my little group of travel group moms that became my support group, don't know what I'd do without Michelle, Kris and Stephanie. We all helped each other and shared our own stories about what was happening with our children now that we were home, helped problem solve and just listened. And that's what I did, if something didn't seem to work, I'd try something else and find something that would. Grace was screened at age 18 months through the state just to see where she was developmentally and she was right where she was supposed to be. She didn't speak much at all. She babbled and made noises, but very little that we could understand. We had taught her some sign language and that helped but her expressive speech was pretty much nil. It didn't concern me that much because Nick spoke very early and well and I knew that all kids were different. What Grace excelled at was gross and fine motor skills (and that continues today).

The 2's were difficult for Grace, she threw many heavy duty temper tantrums, more like rages that would last anywhere from half an hour to 50 minutes, many times 3 and 4 times a day. In between those times she was a happy girl, I could tell her speech was delayed and that wasn't helping much with her communication with us. She would get frustrated very easily and so was I. I had her re-screened through the state's birth to 3 program and fortunately she qualified! I remember being very relieved. Grace started Speech and Occupational Therapy at age 2 and 4 mos. She had some mild sensory integration issues which I had sensed myself for a while. Grace was what I called "a hopper," and "a hanger." When she was tired or upset or even bored, she'd hop up and down a fair amount and sometimes hang off the kitchen counter, later on I found out she was trying to get vestibular and proprioceptive input (parts of your brain that control balance and movement), because that was something that was lacking in her brain development. Grace lived in her orphanage for the first 12 months of life. Her sensory issues are pretty much completely resolved, they appear now and then rarely and usually if she's tired or overwhelmed by a new situation. We've been taught by her OT techniques how to deal with them. As for Speech, Grace has come so far in the last 3 years...she has gone from her speech being around 25% intelligibility to now about 98-99%. She has been in a traditional preschool for 2 years, and I waited a year for her to start Kindergarten in the Fall. Her birthday is in August. At her last IEP for speech, she is ready to graduate from the program, but they will continue minimal speech services to start her out in Kindergarten next year. Grace is now a happy, securely attached little girl, her pragmatic speech and articulation has come so far, she loves her school and is starting to read. My advice after telling this long story, is to be patient, don't give up and ...please, please, please get your children screened after you are home with them. If you are not happy with the results, go somewhere else and get the answers and help you need. Unfortunately I know many folks who haven't done this and their kids need some help. We all are guides, teachers and mentors for our children and we want them to be the best people in this life that they can be. I always keep in mind when I see my daughter and how happy she is because she has come so far and hopefully will continue to... :)
Edited to say: When you meet me in real life, I don't sugar coat things. I believe and know we are here to help one another as best as we all can. I continue to learn so much from Grace and about myself on this journey. :)

14 kind words:

Pam and Jeff said...

Thank you for being so honest. Sometimes when first time adopters/parents see pictures of other's kids, it looks like everything was easy.
As a first time waiting parent, it keeps our road ahead of us in perspective. It is not all just about pictures. It is the love and working through the growth with each individual child. Thanks again. I just love your blog!!

OH MY #6 said...

wow, Gail, this post is incredible. Thank you for taking the time and thought in writing this.

I wondered if you would e-mail me some time with recommendations of books. We/I have done some reading and course taking but my hope is you have more.

I mean it when I say how appreciative I am for this post.


amy said...

thank you, this post rocks!

Gail said...

I understand.
I too had a tough time after bringing my daughter home.
She is making progress, slowly.
It can be emotionally draining.
But well worth it when you see healing.
Great Post.

Brandi said...

Thank you so much for such an intuitive post. I've read so many blogs about how their meeting/attaching/bonding (whatever) is just almost perfect, and while I wish this were true, I try to remember that it's probably not. Granted, I've never adopted, but I do try to stay informed and I know there will be some trials that we'll all have to overcome.

Thank you, again, for sharing your story and reminding us that it will not be as easy as some make it sound.

redmaryjanes said...

This is such a powerful and meaningful post. I truly believe that we all should share what we know to help the others on this journey and to be honest with you, if I didn't have this wait and the blogs, I would be so unprepared for what is to come with Sophia. Thank you for sharing your experiences, hopefully many will read this.

A Mom- In-W8ing said...

Gail, thank you for this post. It is so very important that first time adoptive parents (like me) get to hear about the difficult topics as well as the amazing moments. I have been reading lots and my husband & I are beginning educational classes tomorrow. With the wait times as they are right now we will have lots of time to research and learn. Hopefully when our turn comes around for a referral we will be able to apply all that we have been learning and put it to good use to help the difficult transition.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your experience with all of us.

Smiles! :o)

Mob said...

Thanks for being REAL. So many people just blog about the good things and you never hear about the "issues". Now, that my Hannah is 8 months, I can see how tramatic that would be for any child to have their routine and living conditions completely changed in an instant. The SW was so right, happiest for you, saddest for Grace.

Denise C said...

Oh Gail,

What a very special post this are so dear to share this with other adoptive families....because just like you said....these are things that they may not realize and these issues can significantly affect each family!

Your precious little Grace is so sweet...I have spent the last few minutes catching up on your past few posts....I love to visit you and spend time with you and sweet little Grace! You both are precious and by the way...I adore that you both share the same dimple!!! Isn't that just like God to give you that gift!

Have a blessed week sweet friend!

Steffie B. said...

Very good is very easy to dream about this beautiful adoption process and then have it turn out to be a long worth it in the end thoguh....wonderful post! ;)

The Morris Family said...

Gail- Your honesty and experience are a rare treasure! As we travel our own post-adoption journey for the very first time with our Maggie- this is exactly the type of discussion and information every adoptive parent needs to engage in-(and I sense that many are afraid to talk about)-THANK YOU sharing! Karen

Laura said...

Excellent, excellent post! Could you please reprint this in the files section of the lid yahoo group? It's so very important for parents to hear this. I'd love for this to be brought up again a few more times before we get to referrals.

I also don't know where I'd be without my DTC/LID group from my first adoption. It's so important to keep in touch with those who will understand.

suzanne said...

Gail I love your honesty, its refreshing. Its easy to forget these things, and to see everything through rose coloured glasses. But we need to keep an open mind about the potential problems that we are likely to encounter. Our journeys to our children are difficult but theirs in equally or more so, and will have an effect on them for the rest of their lives.

When we eventually get our referral :) we can work together as a family to work through any problems that we face and we can learn so much from those with experience.

Angie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Gail. I so appreciate any information that I can receive that will help our transition easier as an adoptive family. However, information that comes from families that have "been there, done that" is always the best to me.
Thanks for being real....

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