Sorry that we haven’t had a chance to blog in awhile, parenting has taken up much more time than we bargained for! Going from a childless couple to the parents of one has been quite a change in life style. We’re curious to see how it will eventually be when we go from one to two!
Sylvie is doing very well. We went to Kelowna General Hospital this week to have an echo cardiogram completed on Sylvie’s heart. As mentioned in previous blog posts, both Doctors who have examined her have not heard her heart murmur, so this procedure was done to determine if the hole in her heart has closed on its own or not. Apparently a reasonable percentage of heart defects do close on their own within the first year of life, or reduce in size so no medical treatment is required. The procedure was not bad; it took about 35 minutes with Sylvie lying on my lap with leads stuck to her chest and back while the technician took approximately 45 images of her heart from different angles. Since she didn’t scream bloody murder we think she did reasonably well. This was most likely due to the fact that she consumed about 45 grapes in that period of time, as Dad would place one in her mouth every time she started to fuss. We have an appointment next week with our doctor to learn about the results of the EKG.
We also had the chance on Thursday to have our intake meeting with the Infant/Child Development Early Intervention team. We met for about an hour and a half to provide our known medical history for Sylvie and to have them observe her playing with toys and interacting with us and the specialists. We decided to be prudent and have Sylvie placed on waitlists for almost ever service they provide (Speech Pathologist - Language, Occupation Therapist – Gross Motor, Physiotherapist – Fine Motor). One of my (Joyanne’s) biggest pet peeves is when early intervention does not take place for children, particularly when parents resist mainly because they are unwilling to admit their child might not be perfect and have some area/skills to work on – then the children arrive at school noticeably behind their peers. This is not fair, nor in the best interests of the child, but I digress…
Anyhow, we were pleased to have the intake coordinator inform us that although Sylvie will be placed on the different waitlists for services, when her name pops up on the list for service (some lists are anywhere from 4-8 month waitlists) she most likely will not require any service. They feel she is developmentally on par for fine and gross motor development. However, in the instance she does require surgery for her heart; they can help with building her up for surgery and recuperation.
The team also assessed her communication skills so far, and is pleased with her attempts to communicate with us and those around her with words (or attempts at words) and body language (pointing, sign language). We were also given suggestions for working on her receptive language (understanding what we are saying to her, names of things ect), which was nice to learn that we basically just need to continue what we are already doing. For her expressive language we will continue to annunciate words slowly and use short phrases and continue to encourage her to copy us. We will also be moving onto vowel sounds using animal noises (What sound does a cow make? Moooooo – o sound). So far they have put her English language skills at that of a 9 month old, not bad for only 6 weeks in Canada!
We’ve also been observing Sylvie’s growing bond towards us and the beginning stages of attachment taking root. Although we recognize this will be a long ongoing process to maintain and grow, we are so pleased! Sylvie seeks us out for comfort, maintains eye contact and is independently showing signs of affection for us (hugs, kisses).
Although we had done a lot of reading and attended many adoption parenting meetings on attachment style parenting, it is still nothing like jumping in the deep end of the pool. Over the past month she has learned to give and receive hugs and snuggles from both Mama and Dada. In the beginning she would squirm away and last only a few seconds. However, with lots of patience and fun, daily practice she now goes between Cory and I laughing to receive hugs and will snuggle into us even when we aren’t feeding her the bottle. We have also been working on waving “Hi” and blowing kisses. Just in the last couple of days she now is waving at us first when we walk into the room, and blowing kisses at us as we are putting her down for a nap or bedtime.
While we have mentioned before in previous blogs about the differences in parenting an adopted child to promote bonding and attachment, we would like to revisit this topic again. These first few months together as a family are essential for laying the foundation for a healthy attachment. Sylvie has spent the first 14 months of her life in an institution. Although we feel she received good health care and was in a smaller orphanage with fewer care givers, she still was NOT raised in a family. It is our job as her parents to help her learn to trust and what family means.
Based on her learned experiences in the orphanage, she has learned that many people meet her basic needs – food, comfort, hygiene, attention. Logically, this also means growing up in the orphanage, that even though there were good people caring for her and the other children, it would have been impossible for all her needs and those of her peers to be met in a timely fashion. As such, she has learned early on not to depend on others to meet her needs. In this lies our challenge as parents. We need to teach Sylvie, through repeated experiences, that WE - HER PARENTS, will meet her needs. That she can depend on US and trust US.
In order to accomplish this feat, we are using several strategies to build this trust. While these strategies are not unfamiliar among adoptive parents, they do perhaps sound strange or confusing to others. One of our strategies is that only Sylvie’s parents will pick her up. This means that unless her life is in imminent danger, DO NOT PICK UP THE BABY.
By only having us pick her up, we are helping Sylvie to realize that her parents will comfort her if she is hurt, sad, fussy, or not feeling well. Although this may be hard for those who have difficulty resisting (and we know where you are coming from – she is super cute!), it is essential for building trust, and having her identify us as her singular care givers. Or, as Cory calls us, her people or “peeps” We can see with Sylvie that she still participates in “mommy shopping”, where she will go to others to be picked up. If she had grown up in a foster family, or another family, Sylvie would have learned to be shy of strangers. Instead, we have a little girl who would most likely go home with the first person she meets on the street. What can you do with her when you meet her? Lots! We encourage our close family and friends to get on the floor and play with her! You can hold her hand and walk her to us if she wants to be picked up. Make funny faces at her, play patty cake, laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
Another attachment style technique we are using is where Cory and I are the only ones to feed Sylvie right now. We are the ones who put food on her plate, and help her to eat a bit more after she is done feeding herself. Only we are giving her the bottle before nap and bedtime. Yes, it is a special time to give the bottle for snuggle time, and that is why we are doing it only. To repeat, Sylvie spent the first 14 months of her life having several different care givers give her a bottle, or as she grew older, leave her with a bottle in her crib alone. We spend this feeding time working on eye contact and snuggling together. So although we are sorry others will miss out on this experience, we are grateful for these months to comfort and nourish her body both physically and emotionally.
So once again, Sylvie is not just “another little kid”. She has had a vastly different experience growing up, and as such, she will require a different parenting style. Thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation. We welcome any respectful questions in an effort for others to learn more, but no criticism. We would also like to say a big thank you to our family and friends who have supported us during our early days of parenting, and continue to do so.
We have attached some photos and a short video taken over the last month. Enjoy!