|Dan playing with Evie for the first time.|
The adrenaline rush continued during our first three months home. Evie had some health concerns that we had to have investigated, seeing both a hematologist and a cardiologist for full work ups. We were very relieved when we received a clean bill of health from both physicians. Evie was a fantastic sleeper (unheard of in this household!). She cried a lot but we figured this was part of transitioning into a family.
Months 4-8 were the most challenging in our transition. Evie was strongly displaying the signs of anxious attachment and the demands that go along with that were starting to wear on me. She cried frequently and whined often but I never seemed to be able to make her feel content for long. I wondered if I was doing something wrong and felt a bit inadequate when it came to meeting her emotional needs. I got lots of advice from our social worker, who assured me this was all normal and would just take time.
Meanwhile, Evie was experiencing some sensory issues related to her mouth. She refused to eat any food that was not pureed. She would only take a bottle and would not drink from a cup. In June, an occupational therapist from Texas ECI came to work with E. Using various tools and techniques, she was able to help Evie overcome the protectiveness of her mouth. By July she was drinking from a cup. By September she was accepting all textures in her mouth in the form of toys but not food. In October she finally started accepting solid foods.
The most dramatic milestone in our transition home was when she had spent more time with us than in the orphanage (9.5 months). Families had told me that this milestone was big and for us, it was huge. It was a real turning point. She became more content and things started to get much easier around here after that.
At the one year mark, I would say everything feels pretty normal. Evie "graduated" from occupational therapy in January and is fully caught up (or exceeding expectations) on her gross and fine motor, cognitive development, receptive language, and even attachment. She is experiencing a pretty significant speech delay, however, our speech therapist says this is pretty common in internationally adopted kids and feels she will catch up soon. We are doing weekly therapy to help her get on track. When evaluated, her attachment to me scored at the highest level that it could. However, we still see the indiscriminately friendly behavior pretty regularly. For instance, if we are playing on the playground at the kids' school, she will run up to a complete stranger and start charming her, gesturing to be picked up, and giving her hugs. When she does this to the other moms, most of them LOVE it, which only reinforces the behavior. So even now, one year home, our social worker still advises that we not let others hold her unless they are close friends or family. When Evie is older, she said we will need to teach her that it's not appropriate to hug people we don't know well.
If I were to give advice to newly adoptive or prospective adoptive parents, it would be that attachment is a process and takes months and years, not days or weeks. I would highly encourage APs to read up on it and take it seriously because it's so important. [There are excellent, free workshops on attachment available here.] Studies show that how a child attaches to his parents will influence him for the rest of his life. Children who are insecurely attached gravitate toward insecurely attached friends and even tend to choose spouses who are insecurely attached. The same is true for anxious attachment. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I found that it wasn't always intuitive and lots of people gave me advice that would actually hinder attachment (i.e., when she cries so much you need to start ignoring her.)
I would also suggest having an eval done by an early intervention specialist. Our doctor suggested this for Evie at our one year well check. I tend not to be one to jump right into interventions. I knew that babies from orphanages are generally delayed one month in development for every three months spent in the orphanage. I had heard stories of babies catching up rapidly. But I am so glad that we called Texas ECI. It took several months for them to get the right people on board, but when they did - wow! The results have been amazing and both the occupational and speech therapist have given us so many great ideas that have helped Evie. I'm thankful our doctor encouraged us to be proactive in this area.
We are so blessed to have Evie as our daughter. She is an amazing child and is so dearly loved. She has brought much joy to our family. We couldn't imagine life without her.