I haven’t written a post about adoption thoughts in a very long time. I like to update about Olivia and what she’s been up to (and oh, is she up to a lot these days), but not much about my feelings around the whole subject or updates about where things are at. I think the biggest reason for that is that we just get into the rhythm of our days and before I know it another month has gone by and Olivia is another month along in life. Would you believe that on Friday she’ll be 17 months old?!? I wonder where those days have gone?
Before we brought Olivia home, actually before there ever was an Olivia, I would spend time sitting in what would eventually be her room. There was a chair in the room and I would just sit and get lost in my thoughts. I would find myself thinking so many of the things that adoptive parents think about. Things like whether I would love her enough. I had no idea what it was like to love a child of my own. Would it be different that she didn’t come from my womb? Then again, I had nothing to compare it to. I wondered what it would be like for her to grow up in our family. I wondered what attachment would be like and if we would struggle with that.
Then we got the call and life turned upside down and now here we are almost a year and a half later and I marvel at how far we’ve come. I’m guessing most first time parents have those moments. You know, the ones where you realize that you’ve managed to keep your kid alive for the last x number of months. And not just alive, but they seem to be alright.
We brought Olivia home when she was 15 days old. We’ve felt so blessed that we get to have her living with us during our adoption process. There are so many adoptive parents out there that don’t have that and seeing what we have makes my heart ache for them. I know how much you’re missing out on and I wish you didn’t have to. It sucks. I wish adoption would go fast because that truly is in the best interest of the child.
Before we adopted I got some parenting books, but nothing really specific about adoption. I did borrow a few from friends, but I’ll be honest, I really only got through a couple all the way. The others just totally turned me off. I realize they have probable been really great resources for many people, but for me they just rubbed me the wrong way. As I read and we talked we realized that it would be very easy for us to label our child just because a very high percentage of adoptive families have had these struggles. We didn’t want to do that, but rather feel it out as we went. I put the books away and instead we just focused on loving Olivia and chose to deal with any issues as they arose. When I look back at how we’ve grown as parents I am very grateful for that one decision. It really was a big one for us I think. We have always kept in mind that we were very fortunate to be able to bring Olivia home when she was so newborn and that it isn’t the case for so many families.
Over the last 16.5 months of watching Olivia grow we’ve been so blessed to see how attached she is to us. This girl knows we are her Mommy and Daddy and there is no denying that. She is turning into an incredibly loving girl who smothers us with hugs and kisses and just today returned an “I love you” in her own way (we just taught her how to say it yesterday) along with a hug. She needs lots of cuddles and smooches, but also needs to give a lot of them. Many times throughout the day she’ll come up to me and hug me tight, or climb up on my lap and wrap her arms around my neck and give me a smooch and a hug. It makes me melt. I think the biggest thing that we’ve seen in regards to attachment is when we discipline. Almost always when Olivia has been disciplined she’ll turn to the disciplining parent for comfort. Seeing that has giving Chris and I confidence that we’re making good decisions and balancing love and boundaries well. Olivia is naturally more needy of Mommy, but because of all the involvement that Chris has had she has a very special bond with her Daddy too. She will go to both of us for fun, comfort and nurturing.
One thing that we’ve been sensitive to right from the beginning is letting Olivia set the pace for building relationships with others. If she felt comfortable then we let others hold her, love on her, play with her etc. Right from the start. Olivia never went through a phase of “stranger anxiety” which actually surprised me because I had read about it being part of natural development and was anticipating it. In fact, I think it was just the opposite. In most cases she is a very social child that will wander around a room making friends with people of all ages. I have noticed that in some situations she’ll be more cautious and needs time to just observe, but when she feels ready she’s off and running. She has some very close attachments to certain friends here and we’re grateful for that. In the end though she knows Mommy and Daddy are her “home base”.
I know that as Olivia gets older and understands her adoption more there will probably be things that come up that we’ll need to deal with, but until then we want to just experience her one day at a time. Taking that approach, for us, has allowed Chris and I to be “all in” all the time. Not a day goes by where we’re not saying to each other, “Did you see her do such and such?” or “Okay, when did she learn that word?” We’re having so much fun with her, even though there are plenty of trying moments.
Speaking of developmental issues, I feel like we’re on a high speed ride right now. I have no idea if all parents feel this way, especially first time parents? I can only assume so. Isn’t it crazy to watch your kid learn so much every single day? When I think of just recently these are the things that come to mind…
- Olivia was able to say “1, 2, 3,” after she heard me count the clothes pins as I was putting them back in the bucket. She was counting, just like Mommy, as she put them back in. I know it was more of repetition than cognitive understanding, but WOW. Counting!
- Yesterday we taught her how to say “I love you”. When she says it it sounds like “I lul lu” but she gets that it’s a way of expressing affection.
- There were a whole slew of new words. We always laugh because she’ll pick out the funniest words in a sentence to repeat, like “pants” but she’s repeating all of it and storing it away.
- She has an Old MacDonald’s Farm book. The book goes through all the parts of the farm, like the barn, the pasture etc and talks about the animals that live in those areas and that Old MacDonald looks after them. Olivia now knows all the sounds of the animals. You can ask her, in any order, what sound x animal makes and she can tell you.
- She knows most of her body parts if you say, “Where is your…”
- I see her motor skills improve every day and I see her challenging herself with things like using small items and trying to do it correctly.
- She loves to dance. Any kind of music and she’s moving somehow. I love to see how she moves her body to try and find the rhythm.
There’s so much! It’s such a fun stage.
As far as where we are in the adoption process, our file is still in IBESR, but it’s only been there for about 6 months. There are a lot of families that have been there for much longer. I like that we’re able to go about our days and get distracted by life. It would be great to take a family holiday and we’re very much looking forward to the day when that can happen, but we’re trying to keep moving forward until it does because it might be a very long ride.