It has been so good to be home! Maggie was a little overwhelmed at first by our large, busy family but she seems to be adjusting pretty well, little by little.
I continue to be amazed at Maggie’s resilience and cheerful spirit. I am sure everything here is overwhelming to her but she is handling it pretty well. She definitely has an “off” switch when she has had enough stimulation and she can fall asleep in an instant. Once she does, there is absolutely nothing that can wake her up. She has been very tired since we got home, which I think is probably a combination of jet lag and her way of coping with over stimulation.
Getting to know our family
Yesterday was our first full day at home. All our boys were busy with football so Maggie and I had a good part of the day at home alone with our 3 year old daughter. It was so good for Maggie to have that one-on-one time with a sibling and she started to open up and smile more and relax and play.
I decided to let the other children have one-on-one time with Maggie and mommy yesterday and I found that it worked really well. She was much more comfortable interacting with them one at a time than as a big group–but then when we did have everyone together at meal time, she was more relaxed having gotten to know them a little bit individually. She has already flashed smiles at a few of them, and she even laid her head against one very happy brother’s chest for a few moments. I plan to continue giving each of them some time alone with me and her for the next several days as she becomes more comfortable.
Time for Bonding
We don’t believe that Maggie probably has any concept of what a family actually is, since she is so little and may have never even heard the words for sister and brother. If she has, she certainly had no frame of reference to know what that meant. We are planning to give her some time at home to get used to our family and to start to understand that we are all “her people” before we widen her circle to include others. Our adoption agency assures us that this is the very best thing we can do for her to encourage her bonding with our family. Her first year of life was spent with hired shift workers and although we believe they did as good of a job as could have been expected, they were not able to provide the love, security and stability that a family provides. Maggie has shown great resiliency but she will not be able to overcome a year of loss in just a couple short weeks, so our bonding may take some time. We are so grateful to our friends and family who have been providing meals and helping with rides and other logistical needs to enable us to keep her circle small for now.
Our house may also be overwhelming for Maggie, as she spent her entire life in two rooms: the room where she slept and ate and the room where she had activities. She has been sleeping well in my bedroom, and she has been happy to sit in the high chair in the kitchen to eat, and to play on the floor in the living room and in our other daughter’s room. We have limited her to those four rooms for now. I am grateful that she has not shown signs of stress about being in such a large new environment.
Maggie has slept very well every night since the second night we got her. As I wrote in a previous post, she did wake up crying in the middle of the night on Gotcha day, and she would not let me comfort her. She thrashed around in my arms and could not settle down until I laid her back in her bed. That was my first experience with a child that would prefer to comfort themselves than to be comforted by mommy, but of course I did not feel like mommy to her at that time.
The first night in our home she woke up crying in the middle of the night again. She has cried other times during the past two weeks, but not at night. When she wakes up at night she is tired and disoriented so I consider it to be a truer test of how she feels gut-level than the way she reacts during her waking hours. She stopped crying as soon as I picked her up, and she snuggled into me and let me rock her back to sleep. She immediately relaxed when I picked her up that night, and for me it was a true milestone: she wanted mommy’s comfort during the night.
I also noticed many times during the first week with her that she was very heavy, as she never held any of her own weight. She was like dead weight in our arms. Now she is already starting to mold herself more to my body when I carry her, and she is often holding on and bearing some of her own weight. It feels much more natural to hold her now. She often leans forward when I am holding her and snuggles against my chest. She loves hugs and seeks them often. These are all such great signs! I think a lot of it is due to a combination of how young she is and her personality. We do not take it for granted that things have come much easier than expected with her.
Before we got her our agency told us to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that is just what we did. They also advised us to have no expectations but to go into this with a commitment to this child, whatever the situation. Also, that we should expect that things will look different after two weeks than they did on Gotcha day. They asked us to look for baby steps of progress every day, rather than expecting the early days to be wonderful. It has helped us so much that we took all of this advice to heart.
I thought we were prepared for anything, and I know the Lord gave us a supernatural peace that everything would be OK no matter what happened on Gotcha day. We were grateful for a relatively smooth Gotcha day, but looking back I can see how much Maggie has relaxed and come out of her shell since that day. She was very reserved, withdrawn, and quiet that day, and each day she has shown more of her true personality.
I don’t think I was adequately prepared for how delayed she is physically. I think she spent an awful lot of time sleeping in her bed and didn’t have the opportunities to practice the physical skills that most babies have. When she was out of her bed I think she was often held, which is a good thing–but that also kept her from getting stronger. I knew she probably wouldn’t be walking but I thought that she would be pulling up to stand and would likely walk very soon. She is still far from achieving those milestones.
I have been trying to let her spend more time on the floor since getting home two days ago and she is starting to army crawl more. She is excited to pull up to stand when holding my hands, and she wants to do that dozens of times in a row, though she still doesn’t bear weight on her legs for long. Yesterday she was able to put some little pieces of cheese in her own mouth–another milestone to see her starting to feed herself from my hand. When we got her almost two weeks ago she couldn’t even bring her head along when I pulled her to sit up. She can’t wave bye bye, but she is learning to raise her arms to show that she is “so big”. We are seeing progress every day and we are excited to see her grow and develop in the coming weeks and months.