I’ve started an update post here so many times. So many posts are composed in my head but fail to make it to the keyboard. So much on my heart but too few words to really do any of it justice. And truthfully? I’m still processing so much interiorly and I’m not sure I will ever be able (or inclined) to verbalize it fully.
Suffice it to say that 2014 will go down as one of the more eventful (if not most challenging) years to date. So much packed into such a relatively short amount of time.
The year opened with that familiar sense of joyful anticipation in expecting a new child through adoption. As the New Year 2014 dawned last January, our dossier sat on a desk in China waiting in queue. We were in a familiar state of waiting and wondering about who God had planned to join our family next. Then came the Marianna’s referral in February followed by finding Joseph’s picture on the waiting child list the very next day.
The next few months are a blur to me now as we scrambled to assemble that second dossier for Joseph and then jumped hurdle after hurdle of red-tape, waiting for clearance to travel. During that time, we also wrestled with the demons of doubt and fear–the likes of which we had never experienced previously. The unknown was/is scary and at times, paralyzing. Mike was a rock throughout and more than once I found myself clinging to his seemingly unshakeable confidence that served to carry and anchor the both of us along the journey.
Then the day finally arrived in July when that long flight took us to a foreign land and later on to that hot, stuffy room where we met M&J for the first time. The joy. The anxiety. The fears. The doubts. The relief. All emotions came to a head at the same time.
And then we were home and the real journey began.
But the jumble of emotions continue to linger as we struggle (yes, still) to find our feet. The challenge has been–and continues to be–to not get ahead of ourselves or allow fear to dominate but rather take one day at a time and embrace the chaos rather than try to resist it.
In August, the babies were claimed for Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism. This was a day I had been looking forward to even more than Gotcha Day. Why? Because it made them more fully a son and daughter of God, a member of Christ’s Church and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Ontologically and eternally, their souls were marked with the sign of Christ. Their mortal and immortal lives had changed.
God be praised!
In September, after 8 weeks of the Ponseti treatment involving weekly cast changes, Joseph underwent the first life-changing surgery to lengthen his Achilles tendon and separate his fused thumb. By the end of the 4 hour surgery, and for the first time in his life, he could fully dorsiflex his foot and he now had two thumbs. It’s a partial thumb, but a thumb no less. Two more fingers on his right hand will be separated at a later date but we rejoiced at the improvement prospects this one surgery now offered for his future.
After 3 weeks, the casts were cut off and he went into boots and bars which he wore round the clock, save an hour a day. After the relative mobility he enjoyed with the casts–however cumbersome it was–being saddled with foot braces prevented him from doing more than a crawl. This frustrated him and was a hardship for all of us to watch him struggle. But true to his nature, Joe didn’t let it keep him down. Instead, he demonstrated for us (as he does again and again) the virtues patience, forbearance and fortitude.
Slowly, steadily we began to find our feet as a family. (This is still an ongoing thing.) Homeschooling was now underway, however fragmented and interrupted our days are. Naps started becoming more regular thing for the babies as did their comfort level around us and their new surroundings. We learned to read their cues more effectively. They would tense up whenever we left the house and visibly relax when we returned home. They went from not napping at all to taking two naps a day–reaffirming the fact that in many ways, they developmentally are still infants in toddler bodies.
In November, they both turned 2–just a day apart.
December arrived and with it, Joe was weaned from being strapped to his boots and bars round-the-clock. He will continue to wear the device at nighttime until about age 5. But having them off while he is awake has helped him gain a whole new sense of freedom. He even learned to run for the first time.
Let that sink in for a moment. At 2, he finally discovered the exhilaration of moving his legs fast (and steadily at that). Never before had his gait allowed for him to take more than a few wobbly steps at a time before he’d fall over. Now? Just try to stop him if you can. He began wearing shoes (on both feet!)
He is slowly learning to use his new thumb. The skin grafts and sutures still make it very sensitive to the touch but he is beginning to use that hand again, a little at a time. The older boys are his greatest OT/PT advocates, using touch therapy and encouraging Joe to put crackers and crayons between his new thumb and forefinger.
For her part, Marianna (who we now call May–a derivative of both the name Mary and the Chinese term mei mei meaning “beautiful sister”–has blossomed into a beautiful, confident little girl. She still has diva qualities which makes her more demanding and less tolerant than her brother. She has been slower than Joe to pick up language skills but understands most everything that we say to her and will make real effort to imitate language sounds. Despite this, she has no trouble expressing herself and (ahem) making her needs known.
Christmas was especially fun of course to watch the babies experience the holy season for the first time. So many firsts. So much wonderment. So much to appreciate through their little eyes.
The babies have largely acclimated to us and to each other and although it remains a (pointless) battle to get them to cooperate with each other, they have proven that siblinghood is possible and even natural over time, despite an inorganic beginning.
The past year has been one of incredible stretching and growth. Much of it uncomfortable but all of it necessary and incredibly formative. We are grateful for both the blessings and the trials but look forward (please God) to a quieter 2015 as the dust further settles and we continue to get into a groove. We pray for the continued healing of our babies and for us to be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other, tackling each day without getting ahead of ourselves and overwhelmed by the future.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2015 to you and yours!