Wow…has it really been only six months since we became a family of four?
Mary is doing so well and we are constantly amazed by our youngest daughter. She has grown like a weed and now at almost two and a half, looks like a little girl much more than a baby girl… sniff sniff! Mary has gained 8 pounds since coming home and is now starting to sprout up as well. When we look back over the past six months we are in awe of how far she has come in such a short period of time.
Mary had two surgeries for her cleft lip, both in late January. The first was a planned procedure to close her bilateral cleft lip and to position her protruding pre-maxilla back into her mouth. Her first surgery went well and we were amazed at the change in Mary’s face. She was a trooper after the surgery and we were released to go back home late the following day.
Unfortunately a couple of days later her lip began to open again and we returned quickly to the hospital. The surgeons tried to reattach her lip and discovered she had an infection in her surgery site, as well there were complications removing her breathing tube after surgery. After a late night flight in the air ambulance to the provincial Children’s hospital, and subsequent successful removal of her breathing tube the following afternoon we never want to experience another stay in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit again. After all this, even with the administration of antibiotics, the already present infection resulted in Mary’s lip opening up completely over the next week. This was very disheartening and we felt awful for Mary having to go through two surgeries and still not have a successful result. After a three month healing period, Mary is scheduled to have her lip re-repaired again on May 18, and we are hopeful that this will be last surgery required this year.
Mary has a large single word vocabulary, we stopped counting her words after she hit about 75 words. Most of her words are nouns, so we have been focusing on adding verbs and adjectives to her repertoire, which our Speech Language Pathologist has advised to help develop Mary’s move toward 2-3 word sentences. So far she has a few 2 word sentences that she uses and she is so pleased with herself when we respond positively to her attempts.
As Mary’s lip is still separated there are many letter sounds she is unable to reproduce (ie. p, b, w), but she can clearly enunciate all the vowel sounds so we are able to understand her wants and needs most of the time.
It is funny, but as we have been encouraging Mary to use her words to express her wishes, instead of relying solely on body language/actions (believe me, if you need a charades partner you want her on your team – she is a ringer) Sylvie has gotten annoyed with Cory and I. Sylvie will get exasperated and say sternly, “Mama, Mary wants more milk” and look at us like we are complete morons who are unable to get what her younger sister is clearly demonstrating with her pointing and whining.
By far the biggest issue we have had to help Mary with has been her anxiety around food. From the first days together on, Mary has shown us she is very concerned and preoccupied with food. Her appetite was simply insatiable, and she would eat a larger adult size portion of food at every meal as well as having snacks throughout the day.
We were unconcerned while in China, knowing the stressful transition she was undergoing and her not knowing we would provide food for her consistently. After arriving back in Canada this continued and she began to tantrum at every meal opportunity when she finished eating, wanting yet more food. Unfortunately offering her more food would not work as she would eat until her stomach was as hard as a rock, to the point of gagging but still insisting on more. To say that meal time at our home was stressful was an extreme understatement, now imagine going through this three times a day for meals and twice for snacks. In response we continued to give her large portions of food at every meal and snack time and dished up food in the kitchen instead of having it on the dining room table. We wanted Mary to know there was always enough food available, and that there would be more food at the next meal time.
It was also challenging not being unable to prepare food for meal time in front of her, as she would cry and whine throughout the preparation. We feel that Mary was unaware that food took time to prepare, where in the orphanage they would be led to the eating room and food would instantly appear to be eaten.
In the past month or two, Mary has made ENORMOUS strides in reducing her anxiety around food. Yes, she is still concerned with food and watches others carefully to ensure she has an equal or larger portion but she is less consumed by it. She still has not really developed any food preferences yet, and we know this will come with time when she is secure in knowing we will always provide for her. We were giddy with excitement a few weeks ago when she actually left some breakfast on her plate, after she left the table Cory and I took a picture just to document the occasion. It hasn’t really happened again, but this is a step in the right direction…slowly but surely.
We feel that Mary is developing a secure foundation for attachment to both Cory and I, as well as to her sister. She turns to us to receive comfort, and continuously checks in with us when we are out with other people and their kids. She is sleeping much better at night time (it was simply awful for a month after surgery) and wakes every morning and after nap time with a smile on her face. Her eye contact is improving all the time and she will now snuggle deeply into our arms to cuddle and gaze a little longer into our eyes when we are singing to her each evening. She has a very outgoing personality and it does not take her long to warm up in new situations and she confidently jumps in.
One area that Mary has been working hard on is developing her gross motor skills. Mary was extremely bow legged which our pediatrician feels it was due to a Vitamin D deficiency, and very weak in her core and leg muscles. Our weekly gymnastics program and wanting to do everything her sister does, has helped her to learn to climb up on her bed, couch and chair, go from a slow walk to finally running, developing a two foot jump and last week I saw the beginnings of her skipping down the hall way. She is still working on climbing up stairs and ladders easily, as her leg muscles are getting stronger every day.
We feel very grateful for the opportunity to love and cherish this beautiful girl. We can’t wait to see how her tenacity, confidence, kindness and yes… a little stubbornness will help her to overcome any obstacles in her path. We love you very much Mary Dang Yundan!