It’s only been three months, but she looks like a different child. I can hardly believe how Alea has transformed in the 90 days since she joined our family.
She has gained 4 pounds, for one. She’s developed a bit of a pot belly and pudgy little cheeks. Alea’s such a little dumpling in more ways than one now. This morning I realized she no longer fits into the 3-6 month clothing she was in the first few weeks we had her… nor does she really need the 6-9 month clothes she’s worn since coming home. No, our 19 month old is solidly in 12 month clothing… not bad for 3 months.
She has started vocalizing more and more, and she’s demonstrating understanding. My favorite is asking her for a kiss and getting one of those open-mouth, slobbery baby kisses planted solidly on my cheek. Alea has microtia and atresia, so she doesn’t have her right ear or ear canal. In addition to her hearing loss caused by this birth defect, Alea spent the first 16 months in a non-language-rich environment. (With nearly 30 cribs in her room and only a few caregivers, there isn’t a lot of one-on-one conversation happening.) On top of all that, she’s changing languages. It makes for the perfect storm of speech delay… When she came to us, she was only grunting. Now she’s babbling, saying mama, pointing at what she wants and having “conversations” in her baby talk. Our speech therapist told us the other day that she’s made about 6 months of language progress already… not bad for 3 months.
She knows who we are. I’m starting to see more and more signs that she trusts us above all others… Just today in my Bible Study, I went to the restroom and left her with my friend for a couple of minutes. She cried when I walked away and as soon as I came back she eagerly came back to my lap. That’s a success in my book. She isn’t very interested in being held by people she doesn’t know, and she checks in with us when she’s playing or exploring. She seems more comfortable in our home now and she won’t go to sleep without us rocking her. She’s learning what it means to have a Mama and Baba and JieJie and not just Ayis and cribmates, and we’re learning what it means to have her in our family… Not bad for 3 months.
She’s getting stronger. When we met her, she could hardly support her weight on her legs. She’d try to pull up on things, but she was incredibly unstable and prone to falling (literally) flat on her back, banging her head on the floor. Now, she’s almost walking… in fact, she could do it if she would just work up the courage to let go. (I think she’s smart enough to realize that if she falls while walking she gets hurt, so she’s unwilling to risk it yet.) She’s getting more curious. When we met her, she would cry if she touched grass or a plant. Now she crawls through the yard. She likes ice cream, solid foods, and our dog, all things she wasn’t interested in when we met her. She regularly empties out my cabinets and eats the dog food, not to mention crawling into or onto anything she can. She’s gone from seeming like a baby to a full-fledged toddler since we’ve come home… not bad for 3 months.
Our adoption moved fast because Alea had lots of scary-sounding diagnoses in addition to the microtia and atresia, including a subarachnoid hemorrhage and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). She wasn’t an easy baby to place, so we were matched much earlier than we expected when we decided she was a good fit for our family. Those labels are terrifying, and though what we DID know about her didn’t seem to back up those diagnoses as being accurate, we certainly walked into our adoption with lots of unknowns as to how it would all play out. There are still many unknowns, as we’ve elected to put-off some evaluations to give her more time to settle into our family, but at this point all signs point to her being a perfectly healthy toddler with moderate hearing loss whose developmental delays can all be explained by institutionalization rather than underlying causes. We have no reason to think she won’t fully catch up, given the support and time she needs. And that’s not bad for 3 months.