Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One month home

Last night was our one-month-iversary!  It feels good to know that Kavya has been with us long enough to begin understanding that this isn't just another hotel -- it is her home.

For the most part, our month has been very quiet.  The only times she's left our house are for doctor visits, to pick up the older kids at school, and two brief visits to the library (Aaron has a research project).  Today, I took her for a quick visit to a grocery store, just to get her used to the place before I attempt to do normal grocery shopping with her in a few more weeks.

We've had a few visitors to the house too. On Monday, an early intervention specialist through the Birth to 3 Program came to assess Kavya.  It was early for a visit, but because Kavya turns 3 this summer, she wanted to visit early enough so we could use their services if necessary.

She spent about an hour with us, observing Kavya's speech, non-verbal communication, and cognition.  She ended up having no concerns at this early stage of the game. Kavya used over 20 words during the visit, and showed a lot of receptive language comprehension.  

I continue to be struck by how different our homecoming has been than what we anticipated.  Because of a typographical error in Kavya's medical records, we thought we were bringing home a daughter with a "hearing defect" that was significant enough to be noticeable at 10 months old.  She was also hospitalized at 5-6 weeks old with meningitis, and was born with a cleft palate. We were prepared (as prepared as we could be) for the possibilities of cognitive delays because of the meningitis, and assumed a surgery was in our near future (her repair surgery at 6 months old was not noted in her medical records).

Any of those medical conditions might be the reason she was available for us to become her parents.  The fact that others may have turned her down because of her medical history gives me goosebumps -- it feels like a miracle that she is ours, and doesn't face surgeries, hearing aids or profound hearing loss, or cognitive delays.

I'm almost having a touch of "survivor's guilt," because so many of the surprises with adopted children aren't the good or easy kind. I feel so incredibly blessed by the way our first month has gone, and the way she is settling in. She is bright, funny, curious, affectionate, and so dear to our whole family already.  Every week so far, I've cried tears of gratitude and joy that she's with us, and that God has joined us together forever.

We are still seeing some orphanage behaviors occasionally. She has a few self-soothing behaviors that have changed slightly -- for example, instead of rubbing her own belly to fall asleep, she will sometimes reach over to me and rub my neck.  She still pulls on her eyelids, eyelashes and eyebrows when she's very tired -- but I haven't seen her rub her ears for over a week. Tonight, she was very tired (she only napped for an hour or so), and I saw the return of her hitting herself on the head to fall asleep.  She hasn't done that for about a week.  It's a good, though hard to watch, reminder that appearances can be deceiving . . . She's such a busy, chipper extrovert, but the move to a new country, with new foods, new sounds, new people -- it is a very traumatic thing for any 2-year-old.

We also saw some behaviors this weekend that we will keep an eye on -- we ended up having a surprise visit from Peter's sister Anne, her husband Nick, and their daughter Emma. Kavya went right to Anne and Emma, and wanted them to pick her up and play with her.  We will have to keep an eye on that, and make sure she isn't doing that with random people out in public or the first time we go to church with her.  I used a baby carrier at the library, so there was no chance for her to approach strangers. She didn't do it at the grocery store today, so maybe it was just that she felt secure enough in her own house to interact with them? Time will tell.

My sister Alicia also came to visit, along with my brother Matt.  It was the first time Kavya has seen Alicia since our trip to India, because she injured her knee while skiing and wasn't able to travel.  Her boyfriend was so sweet to drive her to us -- he's the one who rescued us when our flight out of Chicago was cancelled, so he's logged lots points with us! Kavya remembered Alicia, and was excited to see her again. She was a little more reserved with Matt -- she seems to be a little more shy with men -- but after a while, she was happy to be on his lap for a few moments.

Our month at home has also included 2-3 visits from both sets of grandparents.  They are thrilled that Kavya already recognizes them and call them "gwamma" -- ALL of them, even the "gwampas."

This week, she's started to combine words to make 2-word phrases.  She has said "no birdies," "night night, Daddy," "Anya, come on," and more!  It is so adorable to hear her pronunciations. The big kids find her chatter endlessly amusing.

The next month will likely be pretty similar to this one. Lots of play at home, a few trips outside our house, and not too much else. We are following the experts' advice, and keeping her world small.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Making gains

We had our first doctor appointment with Kavya on Tuesday, and were happy to see that she's gained nearly two pounds since we met her on January 9.  She was still hovering just under 20 pounds, but she's now at 7% on the US growth charts for both height and weight.

We will go back this week for a few more tests -- a repeated TB test (the one in-country wasn't injected correctly), and blood titers to see if her previous immunizations were effective.  We will also be testing for vitamin D levels, and some other nutritional things -- as long as we're have to draw blood, we will make the most of it.  I am so sad for Kavya, though -- she will also be getting two shots. That's a lot of pokes in one day.

She continues to settle in well, and has a such a great sense of humor. That seems like a funny thing to say, but it's true.  She loves to laugh, and loves to find funny things to do to make us laugh too.  She also discovered the piano this week, and loves to "play" her own compositions.


We have seen some signs that she's relaxing a little bit.  Last weekend, she was having a lot of fun with the whole family after dinner.  Anya and Nathan were pushing her around in a laundry basket, and she was having a ball . . . so when bedtime came, she wanted no part of it!  She kept pointing at the bedroom door, and had her first real 2-year-old tantrum.  While those aren't fun, we were relieved to see that she's feeling at home enough to 'let it all hang out' with us. 

Many families see grief behavior with their new children, and we have too -- the unusual thing for Kavya is that it only seems to happen in the night.  We've had five nights (she's been home 3 weeks now) where she's woken up crying. It is truly heartbreaking -- she is inconsolable when it happens.  It doesn't last long . . . usually less than 30 minutes.  Different things have helped her out of those moments -- just holding her and talking softly, taking her down to the basement (she loves going down by the laundry machines), and giving her hot chocolate have all helped bring her out of her sadness.

I wish she could tell us what brings on the grief.  I wonder if she's dreaming about the Sisters, Sumi or the orphanage, or if she's disoriented when she wakes up? It does seem to happen when something new is introduced -- for example, Peter and the boys had to go away for a retreat one weekend, and she woke up both nights crying.  And we had Anya's 1st grade winter concert last Thursday. We really wanted to go, and took separate vehicles so I could leave with Kavya after the kindergarteners and first graders finished -- but being inside the school in a tangle of people for even that short time was enough to make her have a hard time falling asleep, and then wake up at 11:00 p.m. crying.

It's a good reminder that, no matter how well she's doing by day, or how outgoing and funny she is, we must still keep her world small during these first weeks and months.  Our only visitors have been people bringing meals (and my friend Kathy bringing me Starbucks!).  We have been SO blessed by friends, family, and church family bringing us dinners three nights a week!  Kavya really loves to be held (REALLY loves it!), so I'm doing many things one-handed, and the help with meals has been a lifesaver.

Her grandparents have each stopped by twice for short visits.  They are just thrilled with her, and can't wait until we are out of the "cocoon" phase. Kavya is so smart -- she already remembers the words "grandma" and "grandpa."

Her language is coming along well too! New words this week are "good job," "okay," "monkey," "come on," "pencil" (pen-see), "bunny," "hop," "chicken," "cupcake" (cup-cup), and "thank you" (dank goo). 


We continue to be surprised by some things she knows or doesn't know. For example, it seems as though she's never been read to.  She would barely be interested in any book at first, and the only time I could read was when we waited for the kids after school in our van.  (She was strapped in her car seat, so she didn't have much choice in the matter!) She did enjoy one large book with pictures of babies and toddlers, and would kiss them.

Finally this week, she has a favorite book: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. She LOVES the rhythm of this book, and also likes The Lady With the Alligator Purse.  She also likes Elmo's Puppy Book (what is it about Elmo??).  As she understands more English, I'm sure she will gradually enjoy books more.

Meanwhile, we are hoping my sister can come visit soon. She hurt her knee skiing, and hasn't been able to make the 2-hour drive. We're hoping to see her next weekend -- it will be interesting to see how Kavya reacts to seeing her again.  She has talked to Alicia on the phone since our trip, but it will be great to have her here in person.