Sunday, August 09, 2009

second chances

Two birthdays in two weeks! Our little engineer Parker turned 4 and tomorrow Miss Emerson will hit the big 2!

I have received many comments and emails since my last post; most supportive, some a bit more critical, but I know all coming from the same place - honest concern for Em and our family. So while a few of the comments I haven't agreed with, I do appreciate all of the concern.

Every child has taught me something unique. Parker taught me to believe in second chances. Cade was a complete surprise (in fact, at the time we didn't plan to ever have children!) and he both opened my eyes to the wonders of parenting and to the negative consequences of trusting others over yourself and following blindly without thinking. His pregnancy was riddled with fears and worries and a sense of helplessness as we watched pre-eclampsia spring up. I sat on the table in the doctor's office like a lamb, never learning anything for myself, never questioning the best practices for handling what I was experiencing, and worst of all - never making any decisions other than at the end when I refused to go on bedrest (it's unproven, and I knew the added stress of lost income would only make my blood pressure go up further). But even that one decision left me feeling unsure of my own judgement until a second opinion with a perinatologist backed up my own instincts.

After Cade's birth I couldn't wait to do it again. I saw what I had failed at - not the pre-e, not the induction, not the c-section - but the means to those ends that I never took control of so I could say later yes, this was the best outcome possible. Parker was my second chance to "get it right."

And I did get it mostly the way I wanted it, with a few bumps that had to be worked out with Macy's and Dawson's pregnancies, but as I held Parker in my arms that July afternoon after birthing him vaginally, I realized how wonderful second chances were just on their own. Without comparison to the first, his experience stood in its own brilliance. It was never about getting it "right," after all, it was merely about doing all I could to bring us both through happy and healthy and no matter what happened, being satisfied with myself for trying.

Emerson is like a second chance, too. A chance to realize that sometimes things are not in our control, however much we wish and wish them to be so, and sometimes we just have to accept that and move on and work on what is within our power. The hardest part is knowing that we thought she'd be ours last October - we were told she'd be ours last October - and seeing all that time lost and knowing I can't get it back. But that time is gone and there's no point in dwelling on it anymore.

I do have 4 other children, and they're all 5 and under. A few people suggested to me that Em *should* get all my time and attention, or the vast majority of it. But my other children are also at a vulnerable age, an age where they too desperately need me, and neglecting them in any way in favor of another child is not an option - not for Dawson, not for Em, and not for Holden when he comes. It might mean Em doesn't catch up as fast as she would in a family with older children or no other children, but we are her family and all we can do is the best that we can and be satisfied knowing we did.

I also think some readers may have misunderstood the nature of most of our frustrations. It is not merely a matter of functioning - that it is somehow worse to parent a child with greater delays - but it is different and new to me and just as we can understand a new mother coping with the diagnosis of Down syndrome, I think we can understand the emotional chaos that ensues for most people when faced with the challenge of an adopted child with serious needs they were not aware of beforehand. Honestly, if Em was just as verbal as Dawson but still had the feeding and emotional issues, it would be just as overwhelming. Or if Dawson didn't say a word but ate well and made eye contact, I would still not feel as helpless with him as I do with Em.

I want Em to be healthy. I want her to be connected to her world. And the rest can come later, or not at all.

Since we scaled back our baby food attempts, we are all less overwhelmed. Em is taking her bottles much better and though she is still trying to eat with her tongue LOL, she is now able to draw liquids through a straw - she even picks up the cup herself! Granted, she doesn't quite know how to keep the liquid in to swallow it, but considering that 2 months ago when we placed a straw in her mouth she merely made an open-mouthed grimace, we are all very impressed by and proud of this new accomplishment. :)

She has also crossed the 17 lb mark!!! She is starting to show some chub and it is such a relief to see.

We are making slow progress with getting her connected to her new world, she does make much more eye contact now and she has learned to anticipate tickling and even "I'm going to get you!" with smiles and giggles. We did have an audiology exam done a few weeks ago and she responded to absolutely no sounds and we discovered her ears are so impacted with wax the audiologist could not test the vibrations of her ear drums. So she might just be cognitively too young for the test or it's possible she does have some hearing loss. She has an appointment with an ENT in early September. And one of the sweetest developments - she now looks when you say her name 90% of the time. It was sad to see that she did not look at the caregivers when they said her birth name, so it is thrilling everytime her head shoots up now at the sound of Emerson. ^_^

I was so happy to hear from several moms who went through very similar issues - and conflicting feelings - with their new adopted little ones. Sometimes it is easy for a mom to also feel disconnected as she tries to navigate herself and another ship through unknown waters. So it is reassuring to see others standing on the shore, however distant it may be. :) We are getting there, at our own pace, and not without storms to weather, but still sailing.

Happy Birthday to our beautiful babies!