How He’s Doing.

Now that Baby Boy has been home a little over two weeks, we have had a chance to get to know him a little bit more and already see some signs of growth and attachment as well as struggles that we continue to work towards overcoming as best as we can.

Baby Boy is an absolute sweetheart and loves to cuddle, which makes the whole attachment thing pretty easy for both of us. In fact, when it comes to attachment….we think we’re there. He likes to snuggle and be snuggled. He already recognizes his name and will turn his head to look at whoever is saying it. His face lights up when he sees me and he will even whimper a little if I leave the room to grab a diaper or something of the sort. He is getting to be slightly nervous around strangers when we are out. Though he is typically happy and content in our arms when we take him out, we invited some friends into our home the other day when they were dropping off gifts, and he became very agitated while they were here and very upset when they left. Since he rarely cries outside of mealtimes, this was a huge indicator to me that he sees our home as a sanctuary and the coming and going of a face into that sanctuary was not a positive experience for him. Even though he may be doing well in other areas, it’s important to continue to protect him and provide him with felt safety, so we’re continuing to be hugely rude and asking visitors to stay away.

He did get very upset this morning when I took him to a friend’s house for a playgroup. When he was done with his snack, he screamed and cried and kept looking and reaching for all the other food on platters, even though he didn’t want any when offered. When I took him to their child’s nursery to remove him from the food “situation”, he became very upset at the unfamiliarity of the whole thing and we ended up leaving and coming home, where he was perfectly happy and content.

Baby Boy is enjoying his toys and books. I wish I had been able to videotape the first time I read a book to him. He was completely amazed and wide-eyed, turning his head back and forth between the pictures and me in wonder and awe as he tried to make sense of the whole thing. The first time I put him in an exer-saucer, he lasted about thirty seconds before freaking out — I think from both the sheer amount of toys and also the idea of having to be upright with his legs dangling (he avoids putting any kind of pressure on his legs at all costs). Now, he looks forward to going in it and will even stay in it long enough for me to take an occasional shower, though he still tucks his legs up underneath him.

A lot of results for Baby Boy’s tests have been coming back this week. We learned that Baby Boy is “severely” anemic. His pediatrician prescribed iron drops which he takes twice a day. He also had his evaluation with an occupational therapist this afternoon. We discussed some concerns I had from photographs about neck development and it turns out they were not without warrant — she thinks he did have some muscle developmental issues in his neck that caused him to favor a side and, as a result, has a flat head on one side. We talked about the pros and cons of putting him in a head-shaping helmet for 23 hours a day for 2 months, but ultimately decided against it in favor of working on repositioning him throughout the day and night and doing some exercises with him. He may always have a bit of flatness on his head, but we decided that after everything he’s been through a helmet was not the best option for him. We also have some exercises we’re doing to promote his gross motor skills and improve his muscle tone. She could tell he hadn’t played with toys much as he is very uncontrolled and jerky when he handles toys. We’ll be seeing her weekly for now as we continue to work towards healthy goals.

Baby Boy clearly suffers the affects of a malnourished child. His small size and the fact that his iron levels are so low are obvious indicators, but the way he eats and his anxiety about eating are a continued struggle and indicative of malnourishment. He screams his head off the entire time a meal is being prepared and after he finishes, and he would also eat all day long if I would let him. It’s been tricky to find a balance between feeding him enough so that his physical and emotional needs are being met without over-feeding him — since it is something he would gladly have me do. He is very stiff and rigid the entire time he drinks his bottle, though that is getting a little better and he will now cuddle up close to me when he drinks on occasion (he is otherwise very cuddly). I can tell that the food is doing him a lot of good, and some of the malnourishment “symptoms” are slowly fading. His hair is growing in thicker and healthier, the whites of his eyes are whiter. While his tummy is still quite distended, his legs and arms are filling out. When he first came home, he spit up large amounts all day long, not just after a meal (another symptom of malnourishment) — but this is significantly improving. While he is an avid thumb-sucker, he also would suck his thumb urgently, desperately, and all the time — something malnourished babies often do to cope with their hunger. His thumb sucking is now generally reserved for consoling himself when he’s done with a meal or when he goes to sleep.

It is also quite obvious to me that Baby Boy was left on his own in his crib quite a bit. No surprise there — that’s a pretty common issue with institutionalized children. He doesn’t cry at all when he wakes up from naps or in the morning, so I check on him frequently to make sure he isn’t just hanging out in the crib since he doesn’t make a sound to let me know when he’s awake, rendering our monitor virtually useless. He likes having a little blankie from his godmother and a stuffed giraffe that a neighbor gave him in his clutches and touching his face near the point of suffocation when he is sleeping. His pain tolerance is also unreasonably high — something we’ve learned as he’s gotten blood tests and x-rays these past couple of weeks — which indicates that he has learned crying does him no good. Though all of this makes him “easy”, it also breaks my heart for him.

Even though these things are “small” as far as the world of international adoption goes, they are still things that break my heart for him because…well…it is just heartbreaking when you know any child has suffered and especially your own child. Hearing his desperate cries and feeling his body go stiff when he finishes a bottle are reminders to me of all the time I was away from him and the scars that orphanage life have left.

At the same time, I know that our God is bigger than his broken and suffering heart and body. He can heal the heartache and the wounds. He can breathe love and life into a baby that has experienced grief and pain that I can not even begin to imagine because He has suffered the same grief and pain on the cross. I am privileged that He is using our family as His vessel to provide love and care for one of His children, and privileged to have the gift of such an amazing, beautiful and resilient little boy to parent.

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