2.20.2011

A Year in Review

On Friday (February 18th) we celebrated our 1 year anniversary of meeting Evie.

Dan playing with Evie for the first time.
Our time in Ethiopia could not have been more magical - truly the experience of a lifetime.  We fell in love with the country and the people.  Our stay at the Toukoul Guest House surpassed all of our expectations.  We traveled with some amazing families and still keep in contact with them.   From the moment we first saw Eves, we were absolutely head-over-heels crazy about her.  Dan and I were mesmerized by all of her little details, ones that we couldn't observe in the photos.  We both felt a protective love for her instantly and it felt very similar to the feelings we experienced after Jude and Indigo were born.  It was a total high.


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.





4 comments:

  1. Oh happy *sigh* and sending many hugs and happy thoughts your way as you celebrate one full year with your littlest blessing. How beautiful she is, equally matched by her siblings and parents!

    What a lovely & thoughtful summary of this past year; I can honestly share that it only just keeps getting better too!!!

    All my best!

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  2. Evie is doing so great! Thought it was interesting how you described her problems with textured food. We had a LOT of problems with introducing M to solids. I had to puree the heck out of his food until he was about 15 months. I didn't think about getting ECI help. Wish I had...

    I also thought your words on indescriminate friendliness were interesting. We see some of that in certain situations.

    In one of our PAP classes for kid #2, some Ethiopian ladies talked about culture, and how demonstrably loving Ethiopians are with family and friends. And that "family" and "friends" have a much wider definition than they do here. They advised parents of older kids that it was common for kids to make friends quickly, and hugging and kissing are normal ways to show affection (even with male-male friends), so they would have to teach their kids not to do that in America. I know our kids were babies when we brought them over, but it makes you wonder how much culture is part of us from birth... And I think it's interesting that we're going to have to teach our kids about appropriate American boundaries, even though they should have been too young to absorb Ethiopian boundaries...

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  3. This brought tears to my eyes, I'm just so happy for your family and that everything is going well. E is SO adorable, I can't believe she is the little baby in that first picture you got. What a precious family you have!

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  4. WOW.....I cannot believe it's been a year! She's such a gift, and I am so glad to hear that things are easier for all of you! I have been dealing with lots of anxious attachment here, and it does wear a mama out- glad to hear it's improved.....although if we have to wait till Cooper's been WITH us longer than he hasn't been then we might have a problem! :) (I think he's gotten a lot better already, so I'm not worried about that!)

    LOVE, LOVE all the great news about how Evie is doing!! :)

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