As with everyone else, December got away from me. I'm sure most of you have seen these pictures on social media, but here's the back story of what we've been up to this past month.
Backing it up a little bit, about a week and a half after we returned from China, we had our first visit with our caseworker. (We have to report back to China on a quarterly basis that first year, then on years 2, 3, and 5.) Our caseworker commented that Madeleine still had what she calls an "orphanage glaze" and that she notices kids seem to snap out of it around months 3-6. CJ and I, being the naive, first-time parents we are, took it with a grain of salt, almost brushing it off. We honestly thought the quiet, calm, deliberative child we brought home was who Madeleine really was.
We were wrong, and we couldn't be happier about it.
Somewhere during month two at home, a different little girl came out. She's still curious and persistent. But she's also become more like a toddler and as CJ says, she has found her little girl scream. You all know the one we're talking about, the one that happens in grocery store aisle #20 that you can hear while you're still in the produce section.
As you'll see from a lot of this month's pictures, eye contact has been one of Madeleine's biggest improvements. Yes, some of that is her being a toddler. But a majority of it is still that eye contact is a learned behavior, and for the first time in her life, Madeleine has parents/caretakers who will look her in the eye, pay attention to her, love her.
A much more fun personality is coming out.
Mid-December, we took Madeleine to see an international adoption doctor (yes, that's a specialty). Her doctor had reviewed M's file prior to us accepting her referral, so she knew of her "special needs." I put that in quotation marks because we aren't certain her file is anywhere close to being accurate. In fact, at this time, there is nothing medical in her file that requires additional testing or attention.
While there, we learned that in a six week period, Madeleine grew 1.5" and put on 1.4 lbs. Prior to this, she was only in the 25th percentile on the Asian growth charts and didn't even register on the American growth charts, so this is welcomed news!
Even though her medical file may not be accurate, we still did quite a bit of blood work to fill in the blanks and make sure there aren't any underlying issues her file didn't address. And although we were provided her vaccine record, we still pulled her titers to determine what vaccines she has in her system and which may need updated, if any.
Additionally, and the most fun, we submitted stool samples for testing! There's nothing like having some vials of poop sitting on your counter, even if they are double bagged. The point of that is to rule out any parasites that many children in orphanages have.
(Due to the holidays, we haven't received results back from any of these tests.)
It's like once she started walking, a light bulb clicked and a whole new world was opened up. She's much, much more curious and likes to test her limits quite a bit more than she did a few months ago. She's finally becoming the toddler that she should have been quite some time ago!
While we are so thankful Madeleine is home and was able to celebrate Christmas, we're actually more excited for next Christmas, when she will hopefully have a much better understanding of what's going on (and so I can do Elf on the Shelf). She still humored us this year and opened up some presents from Santa -- rather, she unwrapped her gifts just enough to see what was inside and then stopped.
A few days ago, a few therapists from First Steps visited for a formal evaluation of Madeleine. We verified what we already knew - that due to her circumstances, she is globally delayed. This means she functions more like a 9-12 month old (give or take), not at the 2-year old level. We have the access and means to provide her with this early intervention, so there's no reason not to do it. Although we're biased, we do believe she's a smart little girl and will catch up very quickly.
With the help of the therapists, we narrowed her (future) therapies down to speech therapy and to developmental therapy. I didn't even know developmental therapy existed; I thought it was just broken down into specialties (PT, OT, speech, etc.). The developmental therapist will look at Madeleine globally - cognitively, through language and communication, behaviorally, gross and fine motor skills, and self-help. Essentially general therapy like this will help her connect the dots.
A big part of First Steps is also giving us the tools and education to help her learn. The physical therapist who evaluated her said she needed to work on more upper-body strength and commented how she ideally needed to crawl more. Since she's mimicking us now, we can play with her on the floor and try to get her to crawl around with us. She suggested buying one of those play tunnels to encourage her to crawl...so we now own one of those ugly things. Another suggestion was activities that encourage her to use her hands more -- painting, play doh, etc. I assumed she was too young for that, given her developmental age, but they assured me she wasn't. You'll see above that attempt #1 with play doh was not a raging success, but we'll keep on trying!
My final adoption act for 2016 was changing Madeleine's name with the Social Security Administration. Talk about more unnecessary red tape. When I completed her DS-260 for US Citizenship and Immigration -- the form to allow her to immigrate into the United States -- I was asked if I wanted Social Security to automatically send her card when she arrived. I said no, knowing that most likely they'd sent it to me in her Chinese name and I'd have to redo it and that it'd be easier to start fresh. Of course, that was ignored and we received her Social Security card in the mail shortly after arriving home -- in her Chinese name. I basically told insurance, the doctor's office, anyone who needed it that we didn't have her number yet. Imagine all the problems it'd cause, all the work I'd have to redo, if her names didn't match up everywhere (taxes, anyone?). #hotmess
We finally received her Certificate of Citizenship a few weeks ago, which allowed me to change her name with the Social Security Administration. I came armed with her Social Security card in her Chinese name, the Certificate of Citizenship in her American name, her Hague Adoption certificate in her American name, her Chinese adoption decree in her Chinese AND American names, my passport....and they initially told me it wasn't enough. I also learned that even though US Citizenship and Immigration saw her as a US citizen, the Social Security Administration did not -- they still classified her as a legal alien. After multiple people working on her file, her name change went through and her new card will arrive in two weeks.
Now do you all see why I said that all the trouble we had with her adoption wasn't caused by China, but by the U.S. government?
Madeleine has been cool to stuffed animals and dolls since she got home. We assume she never had them in the orphanage. Since she's mimicking us now, if I pretend with the doll, she will now take her and pretend. We got out her doctor's set to play with and now she will check her doll's heartbeat and give her shots.
In many ways, 2016 has been a wonderful year, and in others, it has been kind of terrible. Like most of you, we're ready to close the door on this year already and hope for a much better 2017. In fact, I need to close down now so I can get back to planning several events for January -- Madeleine's birthday and Chinese New Year are right around the corner!