It is hard to believe that it has been a month since we picked Cara up at her orphanage. How does time fly by so quickly? I spend my days taking care of her, loving her, enjoying her, and poof, a month is gone!
According to the “experts” we are possibly coming close to exiting the “honeymoon” period of good behavior, and entering into a period of time where she will rage, cry, fight, and do everything she can to see if we will stop loving her. Part of this will be the grief she feels at leaving the orphanage. Good, bad or indifferent, this was the only home she knew, and the caregivers were also the only people she trusted to take care of her needs. Then we walk into her life last October, and things get a little confusing and frightening. The little girl we met was very shy and reserved. She called us mama and daddy, because she was told that was our names. She had no concept of a mother and father, or family. But there we were, strangers, who she was told were mama and daddy. We brought her pictures of her new home, pets, older brother and sister. All very exciting until she realized we would be taking her away from the only thing she knew.
During the four months between visit and and pick up day, I wrote to her every two weeks, doing everything I could possibly do to prepare her for the time we would come back to bring her home with us. Unfortunately, we did not get the support from the orphanage staff that we should have. The did nothing to try and prepare her for the day we would arrive, instead telling her how much they would miss her, and that she would eventually come back!
The day we picked her up, she cried and cried. I can only imagine how she felt, but have to imagine she felt like any child would feel. Kidnapped! We turned her entire world upside down and inside out. Does she have reason to grieve? Absolutely! Does she have reason to rage? Again, absolutely! She has suffered a great deal of loss and change since we picked her up, and I can imagine the lid is going to blow off at some point. Am I ready for it to happen? Absolutely NOT! I watch this precious child laughing, playing, hugging, kissing, learning English, and having choices about what she eats and when, choosing her own clothes out of the closet, and picking out the shoes she wants to wear with it, and I see a well-adjusted, loving, happy little girl. Even when you know something may be coming, you are never truly prepared for it. All I can do is wait, and hold on tight when and if it happens!
As for this past month, we managed to get her see our family doctor after jumping through all the hoops necessary to get her on our medical insurance. They confirmed what we already knew… she is very tiny! Our 6 year old moppet doesn’t even hit the height and weight charts. Well, I’m lying a bit… she is in the zero percentile for height, and charts at .014 in weight. Yep, she’s a big one! The good news is that the last weight we had for her was 25 ½ pounds, and her height was 35.5 inches. This weight and height was taken about 6 months ago. She is now 32 pounds and 38.1 inches tall. That is HUGE! Prior to this, she had only grown half an inch and 1 pound in the prior 12 months. I know she’s had a huge growth spurt just since picking her up. Clothes that fit her on pick up day, no longer fit. She was between a size 2-3T when we picked her up, and now she is solidly into 3T’s and needs some shirts in 4’s to cover her tummy. That’s 7 lbs and close to 3 inches in growth! I suspect most of it has been in the past month. She has been able to eat as much as she wants of good healthy food, gets better digestive enzymes to help her digest more of what she eats, and daily vitamins. Because of the digestive issues, I give her more vitamins than recommended because she doesn’t digest many of the nutrients she eats. I was concerned about the volume of food she eats, but our doctor said to continue to let her eat as much as she wants. I have noticed she is satisfied with less food lately. She is either digesting more, or now realizes she can have as much food as she wants. She’s still a big eater, but not quite as big as she was when we picked her up. This is a good sign no matter what the reason is!
We now have referrals to see a gastroenterologist for her digestive issues, and an ophthalmologist to have her eyes checked. Since being home, we’ve noticed that both eyes seem to float. Both will cross, but never both at the same time. I don’t know how well she sees, or if she will need surgery or just glasses.
I also received the name of a good pediatric dentist. When we picked her up she was on antibiotics for an abscessed tooth. I can see a black spot on one of her back molars, so we will have to get that taken care of and get her teeth cleaned. Thankfully, she ate quality food at the orphanage, so there isn’t a lot of damage. And even though she is almost 6 ½, she still has all of her baby teeth, which means none of her permanent teeth have damage. Obviously, we have a lot of appointments to make in the next month to make sure her health issues are taken care of.
Cara is learning to play. When we picked her up, she really didn’t know what to do with toys. She would carry her baby around, but didn’t know how to play mama and baby. She had 11 other children to play with at the orphanage, but they didn’t really play. When we were there in October, there were very few toys. Most of them were put up high, mostly for show, not for play. There were no outdoor toys. The children played with sticks in a play area over gown with weeds, littered with broken glass and broken down ancient playground equipment. They were so excited when we brought them balls to play with. We also brought them playground chalk, but never saw them use any of it. However, with a little example and instruction, Cara is finally learning to play with her babies. She combs their hair, feeds them from the high chair, and puts them to bed, telling us to “shhhh… baby, spish (sleeping!). She will serve us tea during our tea parties, and pass out pretend food for everyone now.
Sharing is a foreign concept at this time. Hallie comes to play and she wants Hallie’s toys without allowing her to play with any of hers. This concept will come in time, but unfortunately, Hallie has trouble with it! But she’s learning too that some things we have to teach Cara, and they get along quite well.
The tantrums continue, but are much less frequent, and far less violent. She knows what time-in means, and does not like having to sit on the couch with me until she calms down. She realizes that “I’m sorry, Mama” means the issue is over. Of course she uses that for other things too, so the concept isn’t quite there yet. Telling her “no” will almost always get some type of negative response, whether an angry glare or full blown tantrum. I try hard to limit the no’s and keep things as positive as possible, to give her time to understand more language. One of the biggest issues is her demand for immediate gratification. If she says she wants something, she wants it NOW, not 5 minutes from now! She doesn’t understand that dinner isn’t ready yet, and she can’t eat right now. That is a very big issue. I know she was hungry all the time in the orphanage. Not because she didn’t get enough to eat, but because her body wasn’t digesting her food, so the nutrients she ate, didn’t stick with her. Now that she can eat as much as she wants, she is learning that if she wants more, she can have it. This helps with the hunger, but not always the timing. If food doesn’t immediately appear, she gets very angry. I turn on the oven light now for her to see the food cooking, and that has helped.
Cara continues to sleep in bed with us. She is absolutely terrified of the dark. We’ve discovered this is why she did not want to go outside with us after dark while we were in country. She would start to cry and insist we go back to the room. A couple of times we insisted we go anyway, and she would calm down, but she was not happy. One night last week after we were in bed for a while, and she refused to settle down, I put my book away and turned off the light. She literally flipped out, screaming and crying. I turned the light back on and she stopped. A few nights ago we went out to dinner after dark and Ron had to sit in the backseat with her because she could not see us in the car and she was terrified. I feel bad that we didn’t realize this sooner, but now that we know, we can work around it. She has a nightlight in her bedroom, and I hope that will be enough light to help her transition into her own bed shortly.
She is such a joy and a blessing that it is hard to believe this is the honeymoon period and she is going to turn into some raging monster soon! If it happens, I’ll know it’s fairly normal, but I will continue to expect nothing but the positive changes I am seeing in this precious little girl.