So I thought I had blogged an update at Lucy’s 3 month mark home, but it was 1 month home! You can find that post here. The fact that I didn’t remember correctly and the fact that I wasn’t able to get that 3-month update out are good indicators as to where I’ve been mentally and physically. :)
When friends ask how Lucy is doing since has been home, our answer is generally that Lucy is exceeding all our expectations. We as parents, however, have been our biggest disappointment. We laugh about this, but it is true, and something we are getting to be ok with. The transition from 2 to 3 kids has been a doozie for us. Namely, being outnumbered and also the 2 and 3 year old girls keep us on our toes. I joke that they have a “sit down” alarm- just as we sit down, they have a new need. But I digress, this blog is about our sweet Lucy- not our struggles as parents (or is it?!?)
At the end of this month, we will have reached the 6 month mark. I anticipated this milestone because in many of the books and resources I read pre-adoption, it was advised to not make any hard-and-fast judgments about your newly-adopted child for at least 6 months. This makes sense for medical conditions, physical development and abilities- some things take a while to really show themselves, and to find what treatment is best- but as far as emotional capacity and personality- I have thrown that idea out the window. It’s going to be much longer than 6 months.
I am certain the honeymoon stage is over- this summer was a wild ride and we were all just there for the party, haha! We traveled a LOT (family camp, New Mexico, a cruise to Mexico), and I’m really glad we did. Many families choose to cocoon (stay home in a stable and familiar environment) once a child is brought home, and we have definitely soaked up our time at home. But the travel and change of scenery IS our family- and seeing Lucy soak it all in and live it to the full was just another reminder that God knew she would find a home with us. So as we’ve been home more often and settled into a new routine, it’s been interesting to see how we’ve all adjusted. In many ways it has been great to get to establish “home” and routine. It’s also brought out a lot of what hangs out underneath the surface- trauma. More on this in a bit.
Lucy is definitely growing- she already looks quite different to me than she did when we first met her. She has only gained two pounds since being home, but has remained very healthy with the exception of some allergies/runny nose. We started gymnastics last month and she is doing amazing. We are all impressed with her balance and ability to execute what she is asked to do. It is a mommy-and-me (although daddy may have done it more than I have!) class, so I think it has been great bonding time as well.
Surprisingly, Lucy is now potty-trained! This is not something we expected, but we are thrilled about! I am pretty sure this is partially thanks to her foster mother in China who had already been working with her, and her PDO teacher who is amazing. Lucy was just ready about a month ago, and it helps that Liv is just a year older and she has been able to watch her.
You guys, our Lucy is sweet. Since we first met her, we could see that she is a compassionate soul. She deeply cares for others and is quick to comfort another and apologize. She gets her feelings hurt easily (remember, 2 year old here!), but is quickly comforted and back to playing. She is quick to smile and her laugh is the BEST. I am so thankful for that smile. It has reassured me many times when I have felt like I’m not connecting with her.
Speaking of- let’s talk about attachment really quick. Attachment is a a term used to describe a child’s level of bonding or close relationship with a parent. With kids adopted from China, it is not uncommon that they first attach to the father, which is what happened with Lucy. She was immediately more comfortable with (and comforted by) Shawn. She would run to me when she was upset, but there have been many moments where she preferred him. This was tough because at first Shawn felt like I was being overly-sensitive about it (something I have definitely been guilty of), but he has come to see what I am talking about, which has made us on the same team. It is so much easier to parent when you are on the same team as your spouse!
As far as she is concerned, we just want her to feel comfort! So any attachment in our eyes is wonderful. As far as I, as her mother, am concerned, this is HARD. Mentally, I understood that it wasn’t about me, but emotionally, I was dealing with all the negative marks on my ability as a mother. And to add to that, it was like her baggage had finally arrived at our home, and mine was stacked up right behind hers. This bonding process has forced me to look into some of my own trauma (yes, apparently I have some!), wrong thinking, and heart-issues- it has been awful to confront at times BUT I am so thankful to have come out the other side with more FREEDOM than ever to really trust God, as a person and a parent. I will write more on this later, because I think it is something all parents (and people) deal with- not just ones with adopted kiddos.
So- attachment is happening- which we are super thankful for. Some days we can really see it, some days we wonder where she went. And this is due to one thing: trauma.
Many people who have reached out to us regarding adoption (which we LOVE to talk with anyone about- we are not experts but we love adoption)- have a similar question: what is her trauma like? Sometimes it is asked in a way that assumes there will be less trauma based on her young age at the time of her adoption. I am pretty sure this is at the core of what most people mean when they say, “so how is she adjusting?”.
The truth is any adopted child will have experienced trauma. In the womb, shortly after being born, in experiencing the loss of biological parents, dealing with complex medical issues or basic needs that aren’t being met- all of these things result in trauma. It’s just part of the reality- adoption begins in brokenness.
Trauma for our house right now looks like a general distrust in caregivers (us as parents). Lucy frequently asks for food, needs to be told where she is going and that she will come home WITH US, some grappling for control over toys or shoes, and the hardest one for me to see- complete emotional withdrawal. Lucy is an internalizer, so when she chooses to cry, we are thankful and sad at the same time.
What I have learned is that so much of it is out of my control. The trauma she has experienced is not my fault, and it’s not her fault. It doesn’t even help to place blame, really- it’s just there and must be recognized for what it is. I am comforted by the fact that time will help, and she is going to forever be in our family. I am also comforted by the fact that we serve the Ultimate Healer. God sees all our broken parts (ones we don’t even know we have), and He delights in drawing close to those hard places. We will get through this with Jesus. It helps so much to give trauma a name. It rends it powerless because we know the One who IS power. This is something Lucy will deal with all her life, because it is part of her story (and all of ours now), and my hope is that we are able to give her a great foundation in recognizing trauma, giving it a name, and proclaiming victory in Jesus over it.
I’m so proud of our girl in this arena. Though we have some really tough days, watching her trust has taught me so much. She has little reason to trust us- we’ve only been in her life 6 months- and yet she does. What a miracle!
Haha- I mentioned this before, but Lucy LOVES food. Some of that is rooted in her past life- the need to know food is always available and she can have as much as she wants has been important. We turned around after dinner last night and she had pulled a huge container of raisins out of the pantry and was finishing it off at the dinner table! It feels good to see her eat and be full. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to bribe her like any other 2 year old, though.
She feeds herself 90% of the time and loves noodles, rice, bread- all the carbs! Spaghetti is always a hit. Our family is at Chick-Fil-A at least once a week as well and it is a fave. She is generally willing to try everything we sit in front of her. Again, so thankful for this. I know many adoptive kids have food-related issues.
Lucy loves music. I have been taking the girls to a music class put on by our parks and rec department and she looooooves it. If there is music playing, she is singing or dancing or both. I am positive she will learn most of her English through song. She is also quite good at imaginative play- I think because she watches her sister so much. They play with their Barbies, baby dolls, kitchen, etc. and there is always a scenario happening we are invited into. She loves to be chased and tickling
Lucy is quite friendly and plays well with other kids, although she likes to keep her distance and get a feel for the environment. She started going to Parents’ Day Out two days a week at the beginning of September and has done really well.
She does not like to be dirty- which is the opposite of her sister! I have been on alert for sensory issues that are common with adopted kiddos, but this does not seem to be that. She just really doesn’t like dirt- or anything on her skin, for that matter. She kindly requests a towel at least 3 times a day. :)
Lucy is doing amazingly well. She understands most everything we say to her and is repeating everything…all the time! If you are a parent, you know I say this with a little weariness, haha. But- we are so impressed with her and clearly have a very smart girl. Her love of music has been very helpful in teaching her new words, and she can even put together a few short sentences. We have not changed the way we speak to her at all, and she has not seemed to have any trouble with it.
This, for me, has been the hardest. Lucy actually sleeps great. It’s the getting there that has been tough. I have felt the need to rock her to sleep so that we could bond- I rocked both Liv and Knox- and Lucy prefers to just be laid down so she can put herself to sleep (the traditional way in China, and the way she’s always known). This has been a struggle as my desire to rock her has met her rejection and it’s hard at the end of the day to not take that too personally. I also hate knowing she may be just laying there in bed, wide awake, scared and trying to soothe herself to sleep. I want to soothe her. She will let me rock her to sleep at naptime, but in the evenings it is very difficult and I realize she probably has some trauma related to falling asleep (like, for instance, falling asleep at a government office and suddenly being with new people who don’t speak your language- which is exactly what happened the day we received her). So, we have some work to do here. But all in all, she is a great sleeper when she is asleep!
Super thankful to Lauren Clark Photography for all of these images we will treasure. She shot this lifestyle session for us and I was amazed at the images she was able to get with all the crazy we handed her.