Tuesday, April 15, 2008

And Now the Real Fun Begins...

So, as you probably already know, yesterday was a big day for us. In the morning, we went to Children's Hospital Specialty Care Center and had Ellie's "Magic Shoes" made. Actually, they are more like magic socks that fit into her shoes. She isn't wild about them, but is beginning to accept them. She screamed the whole time they were working on her little tootsies... big fun. It was really great when we had to go back about 6 hours later for an adjustment due to a mark being left on her instep. Hopefully, we will get her feet squared away with these... the next step, if they don't work, is an $800 pair of shoe/boots. FUN!! Let's hope that we don't have to get to that. She will continue with physical therapy for about a year and work on strengthening her foot and ankle muscles, getting her heel bones in the right position and stopping her pronation. Somewhere on that continuum she will learn to walk. She really wants to do it, so these new shoes may do the trick.

Our second appointment for the day was with the therapist to discuss our issues with Eliana's attachment and difficulty accepting Milan. It was a really good appointment, but I am a bit overwelmed by the prescribed therapy. Even though I am intimidated by the task before me, I at least feel good that we have a plan, we understand what is happening and the likely reasons for why, and that our therapist has been in our very shoes in her own family. When we got Eliana at nearly 11 months old, she was not able to roll over, sit up very well, feed herself, or even pick up and grasp a toy. Within days, she made incredible progress. She also had severe scarring on her legs and bottom from diapers not being changed or being tied on and left for too long. Ellie had four separate losses being in four different care situations before coming to us. In a nutshell, our therapist put her in the top 30% of kids who experience early trauma. She is incredibly insecure and just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under her. The fact that she chose to begin attaching to me rather than Milan is a random choice, nothing about Milan caused this issue to develop. Ellie began trying to attach to me, but she is incredibly insecure in that relationship. She pretty much is expecting me to leave her. So, she sees Milan as a threat to that relationship. We have sort of reinforced her fears by forcing the situation. We were told that because of her history and her obvious reaction to that history, we need to look at Eliana at her emotional age rather than her chronological age. Basically, if she were 4-6 months old, how would we treat her and what would we expect from her. The course of action that we are to take for at least the next 3 months or so is pretty dramatic and is completely counter-intuitive. Our therapist basically said, "You will be doing about the opposite of what you feel like you should do or what you would have done with your biological boys." YIKES! Anyway, we need to pull back from letting anyone else care for her, hold her, feed her, comfort her, etc. Also, because she is trying to attach to me, but not secure in it, I need to treat her like a newborn. If she cries, pick her up, etc. When my boys were babies, I did most of the caregiving...comforting, all the feeding, getting up, etc. That bond was established and they felt safe. Then they were more able to bond to their dad. Well, it is Mommy boot camp for the next few months. Milan can (and should) continue and expand on anything that she will tolerate. So, if she is ok with him when I am gone completely- they need to extend that time. If she will let him feed her sweets, do it more often, etc. If, however, he tries to be with her or comfort her and it intensifies rather than wanes quickly, I need to step in immediately and reinforce that I am always going to be there for her. Once she is more assured of my permanence, Milan will not be such a threat. Our therapist believes if we intensely intervene at this point we will see a dramatic change in her behavior toward Milan within a few months. I pray that is true. I pray that I can handle doing so much on my own. I do have other kids, you know? I know it will also be hard for Milan to step back and be very casual in his efforts with her. The therapist basically said that he should walk in and say hi, but not to get to close or try to engage to intensely with her. It sort of struck me as being around and friendly, but not moving into her "space" without her permission so to speak.
The other issue we have struggled with is her constant offering of herself to other adults that are either strangers or little known to her. While she does this more commonly when she is with Milan, she has done it fairly regularly with me as well. Apparently this is very common with kids like Eliana. She spent 11 months being pretty seriously neglected. She still expects not to have her needs met, so when she is constantly feeling stressed or insecure, she will reach out to pretty much anyone as a knee-jerk reaction. This is another reason that we have to sort of isolate her from the care of others. She needs to learn to fill those needs with the love and care of her parents. Over time, her reactionary "reach" will diminish.
This may sound like a lot of psycho-babble or extreme overindulgence, and a year ago, I may even have agreed with you. Having lived this crazy roller-coaster ride, however, I can say that this makes complete sense to me, and I have seen that seemingly unexplainable panic in Eliana. God never intended babies to experience the things Ellie has experienced. Those first months and year of life are designed to build trust and safety and security. When that doesn't happen, it takes time- sometimes more than you would like- to heal those hidden wounds. We are confident that there will be a change in the future, and I am pretty sure that some people will not understand or think we are crazy along the way... C'est la vie! I am thankful we have a better understanding of our daughter and her needs. I am thankful that we can have a plan of attack, as exhausting as it may be. I am grateful that we have friends and family who will continue to pray for us. Most of all, I thankful that this path set before us was not unknown to God who knows what we can handle when we depend on Him. May he grant us the perseverance and strength that we need for what could yet be a few years of healing the hurts.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One down, ..... to go?

I just got home from Eliana's Physical Therapy evaluation with Children's Hospital. They were really nice and did a great job with getting Ellie to warm up to them. The appointment took about an hour and the conclusion was that she is actually incredibly strong, particularly in her arms. Milan asked if that means she is going to be a shotputter. That is a question for another day. Anyway, the problem is in her feet and ankles as we thought. She pushes her heel bones out and rolls her feet over on the inside. We will have another appointment next week where the therapist will make an orthotic insert for her shoes. We will try those out for a while and have therapy about every other week. Depending on how she does with the inserts, we may need to have an orthotic specialist design a shoe for her. The therapists said it is actually good that she has not started walking on her feet as they are because she would develop improper bone growth in the bottoms of her legs and feet over time by walking on them as they are. The therapist expects that we will need to work fairly deliberately over the next year or so to properly develop the muscles in her feet, but that ultimately she should not have any long-term problems. That is good news, but a little intimidating as well. I just want to be sure that we get her the treatment and therapy she needs in order to have normal feet and to be able to walk and run normally without pain.
So, one down on the appointment front. I have left a few messages now trying to reach the therapist that we want to meet with regarding Eliana's attachment issues. Again, I am hoping to get in before our family vacation. Let's hope I get a call back in the next day or two with good news on that front. The other evaluations thata we are having done were moved up a week, so we should have answers there in the first week of May. One step at a time.... One step at a time....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Soccer has Sprung

The boys had their first soccer games of the Spring season this weekend. They both played their little hearts out. Elijah felt sad after his game that he didn't get to play more... the unfortunate side of having 9 kids on your team in a 4 on 4 league. Some days you just don't play as much as you would like. Eliana was comforting him after the game, patting him on the back and shoulder as well as rubbing the back of his head. It was too precious. It also got half a smile out of him eventually.
I have linked to a few shots from their games and one of our little comforter. It is so great to have the weather warming back up so we can get these two boys outside and running off some of that endless supply of energy. They just love it!
Spring Soccer 4/5/08 9:14 PM

Friday, April 4, 2008

Good News on the Grant Front

We recieved word today that we were awarded the full amount of money we requested to begin working with an attachment specialist. That is great news. Now, the question is when we will be able to schedule appointments. We are going on a family trip soon and it would be great to get in with her before we leave so that we could really use that intense family time to the greatest advantage. Either way, we all need a vacation around here and how could a few weeks on the beach not make EVERY situation a little better?
Ellie has her physical therapy evaluation on Monday with Children's Hospital and then we will have some other evaluations done in mid-May for occupational therapy among a few other things. I believe that by early summer, we will have evaluated, therapeuticized (like that one?), and otherwise analyzed most every possible part of our little peanut. I am thinking about have her colors done, just for good measure. Ok, I am kidding about that one. Anyway, we are still trying to piece together our little 21 pound puzzle, puzzle pieceand I am hopeful that we will begin to get a better idea of the picture on which we have been working. I know that ultimately it will be a masterpiece of God's own design, but it sure would have been easier if he had included the box.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

18 Months Old``

Eliana had her 18 month appointment today... it is hard to believe that she is already that old. Partly, my boys have gotten me accustomed to large kiddos. By my estimation, size-wise, Ellie should be about 9 months old! Seriously though, she is quite a little peanut. Her size percentile-wise had spiked up quite a bit in height at her last appointment, but she is back down to close to where she started at 12 months. Obviously, she is growing, but I believe that she will be a petite little thing, and not as tall as we thought she might be with the trend at 15 months. Anyway, she is now 21 lb, 5oz and 31 1/4 inches tall. She is healthy and growing and we are thankful for that. Unfortunately, our doctor did say it was important for us to get her evaluated and treated at Children's Hospital for physical therapy. She still isn't walking and her feet do some foooonky stuff. Walking Baby Most likely, she will need some "magic shoes" like Forrest and some physical therapy that should correct the problems completely over time. We have our evaluation on Monday, so stay tuned...
I will also be having some assessment done with her fine motor skills to see if she might benefit from some occupational therapy as well. Man, between the physical therapy, occupational therapy and attachment therapy we need- sounds pretty grim! I am not so concerned about the first two... they will work out with time and work without too much pain... the painful part continues to be our attachment issues. For those of you who have been praying, please continue diligently. We greatly need it. We will be vacationing as a family soon and I am hopeful that we will see some progress and make some good lasting memories as an entire family.
Until next time, rememberForrest Gump!