Monday, March 2, 2015

A Precious Gift

This afternoon we headed to the cardiologist in hopes of some further answers regarding our sweet girl's medical condition. We did not receive any definitive answers but we did receive two things. First, we received the great news that her heart is in perfect condition. Second, we received a precious gift from God. A heartbeat. Little A's heartbeat. 

Every expectant mother anxiously awaits the doctor's appointment where they will hear their baby's heartbeat for the first time. I remember the day I first heard our eldest daughter's heartbeat. It was amazing. The sound of life flowing through her tiny body, protected within my womb. The indication that she was there. Thriving. Growing.

As we walked through our adoption process there were a number of things I missed about not physically being able to carry our new child. Hearing the beat of that tiny heart was one of them. But today, I received the gift of that heartbeat. Even though I knew we were seeing the cardiologist and that they would be doing a thorough examination of her heart, I did not go to the appointment even thinking about Little A's heartbeat. But God did.

One of the tests they conducted included the use of a doppler to listen to her heart and blood flow.  The sound of her heart beating within her chest was music to this mama's ears.  A heartbeat.  My baby girl's heartbeat.  I may not have had the opportunity to hear that precious sound while she was being snuggly carried in my womb but God knew what a gift it would be to me.  He gifted me with something that to many would seem so ordinary, but for this mama, the one who longs to intimately know her baby girl who has so many unknowns in her short little life, it was absolutely extraordinary.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

6 Months and Almost 4 Years

6 months. Half a year. 184 days. The calendar pages quickly turning marking the time since Little A arrived home. What a whirlwind the past 6 months have been.  Full of blessing, hard days, tears, triumphs, questions, growth, unknowns, new experiences, doctors, therapies, likes, dislikes, uncertainties, and GRACE...lots of grace!

6 months of discovering this little person that God has placed in our lives.  6 months of holding her close and helping her to feel safe when the world seems chaotic and unsafe about her. 6 months of watching her grow and learn and then again at times regress. 6 months of watching her gain independence and trust in the world around her. 6 months of trying to fill in the gaps of 42 months spent without her forever family. 6 months of restoration. 6 months of hope.

A lot has happened in 6 months but as I have said before, the road before us is long and the end is not nearly in sight.  We continue to see doctors and therapists as we try to get a better understanding of our Little A's medical condition. Each week we head to physical therapy and speech therapy with hopes of helping our girl reach her full potential. We meet with a counselor to learn how to parent her well as we help her with her grief. Grief that as a mother is so hard to watch. Grief that I cannot fully understand.  Our girl has suffered great loss that I wish she would have never had to face. Loss that brought her to us. Loss that gave us a second daughter. Loss that has brought great joy to our lives and hopefully hers, but loss just the same.

Today our precious girl has been home six months and in a few days she will be turning 4. Her first birthday in her forever home. Our first chance to celebrate the day she was born. I must be honest and say it is a bitter-sweet time for me.  I long for the birthdays of the past 3 years when she was not with us. I cringe at the unknowns surrounding my daughter's earliest years and memories. My heart aches for a birth mom who is probably remembering her final days of pregnancy and the baby she would deliver but not watch grow into a beautiful little girl.  A woman who does not know with certainty that her daughter has a mom, a dad and a big sister who are crazy in love with her. But I also rejoice that our girl is now home and we can celebrate her. She will know she is loved. She will know she is celebrated. She will know she is home!

6 months and almost 4 years. Time passes ever so quickly. What a gift it is to have this time with Little A. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year, New Story

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”
― Brad Paisley

I saw this quote this morning as I was perusing social media and it got me thinking about the story God has written in our lives over the past 365 days.  2014 was an amazing year in so many ways. Most especially brining our Litte A home from China.
In the grand scheme of life 365 days is not much. However, how we choose to use those days is really what determines their value.  Just a little over a month ago some friends of ours received the devastating news that their 2 year old has a terminal brain tumor.  Each day matters to them. Each hour makes a difference. They are not guaranteed another 365 days with their little one but neither are we.  We do not know the number of our days and for that reason we should be seeking to write a grand story with each one.
Today as the Christmas tree was put away, the new calendar displayed, the house tidied I reflected on our year. A year of challenges, a year of highs, a year of unexpected blessing. I thought about missed opportunities, the things I wanted to accomplish but didn't, the writing I had hoped to complete. I didn't dwell here long though because there were so many other things that did come to fruition. There were hugs, stories read, cuddles given, attachment, bonding, teaching and learning. There were huge parenting failures and many parenting successes.

Tomorrow we will begin with a blank page, each day an opportunity to write a story reflecting the love, grace and mercy of God.  I do not know what the end of 2015 will look like but I do know that I have 365 days to make a difference in the lives of those around me.  My hope is that at the end of 2015 I will look back and say "this was the best year yet!"

Monday, December 29, 2014

Long Days, Short Nights

Today marks 4 months since Little A's homecoming.  Four months! So very much has happened over these past 4 months that at times it seems as though she has been home much longer.

Little A is making strides in her language and physical development.  Each week we find ourselves being caught by surprise at something she says or attempts to do.  Just last night I caught her "running" for the first time.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Our little girl who once struggled to walk, has significant balance issues, difficulty changing directions, etc. was running. I quickly pulled out my phone to video her for our physical therapist.  Speech and language also surprises us regularly.  Little A understands almost everything we tell her. She is clever and we can see her eyes dance with delight as she learns something new. In the past few weeks, Little A has learned to nod her head yes in response to our questions.  While this may not seem like a big deal to many this has definitely made communication a little bit easier.  She is quite the opinionated little one and not knowing what she wants at times can be frustrating on both sides. Now, thanks to her new found nod we can more often figure out what it is she wants or needs.  In taking a quick count of the words she has learned I had to laugh.  Almost all of them are related to food - hanbaobao (hamburger), bagel, apple, apple juice, apple sauce, banana, yogurt, pizza, rice, goldfish, cereal, jiaozi (dumplings) - you get the idea.  She still requires mama or big sister to translate - even for BaBa at times - but she is gaining new words and sounds each week.  Some of her other funny and favorite sayings are "no way" and "aww man" and they are most often used in regard to sleep.  Sleep is still our arch-nemesis.

If you would have told me that at 4 months home Little A would still not be sleeping through the night I would not have believed you.  Unfortunately, as this post is entitled, the Cooley household is full of LONG days and way too short nights.  While nighttime has gotten a little easier, I am still up with Little A 2-3 times a night. On top of that A and E are now sharing a room so E is also awoken several times a night. Sleep deprivation is no fun for anyone but we are surviving.

We are continuing to grow as a family and it is a joy to watch E embrace her role as big sister.  E is ever helpful, kind and compassionate toward A no matter how she is received.  It is a blessing and we are so proud of the way E loves her sister.  Just this morning E said to me, "Mama, when I grow up I want to be a therapist (PT, OT, Speech) so that I can help other kids like Mei Mei (little sister)."  Be still my heart!  My precious 6 year old's world has forever been changed by special needs adoption and for that I am so thankful.

For your viewing pleasure watch our girl run!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Like No Other

How thankful we are to have our girl home for Thanksgiving this year!  As we look back and remember our prayers from 2 years ago we were praying for our daughter who was awaiting us in China.  At that time we had only just begun the adoption process and had no idea how long it would be until she was in our arms forever.  But still we prayed.  We prayed for her to know the love of a family.  For her to know she was wanted, valued, loved.  We prayed for her birth parents.  We prayed for her future.

Little did we know as we prayed for her that she had only come into care one month prior.  We did not know that she was a beautiful 20 month old little girl with precious chubby cheeks and a smile that could light up a room.  But still we prayed.

Another year passed and we continued to pray.  Last year our prayers echoed those of the year before.  We cried out asking God to bring her home soon and to help us endure the wait.  We still did not know the child we were praying for. But still we prayed.

This year our prayers are a little different.  They are filled with Thanksgiving for our precious Annalise.  The beautiful 3 1/2 year old whose belly laugh and smile now fill our home.  The charming, mischievous little girl who loves to close doors and turn off lights.  Who squeals as she steals things from her big sister and runs away with them.  We are thankful!  So very thankful!

Unfortunately, our Little A did not get to truly experience her first Thanksgiving home thanks to illness.  There is no family picture to document our first holiday with her but there was plenty of cuddles, motrin, pedialite and temperature taking and that is just fine.  We are thankful she is home and knows the love of her forever family, thankful that we could offer comfort when she was ill, thankful for the sweet smile on her lips as her fever broke, thankful that we have many more days to celebrate with her.

We are thankful that we were chosen to be her family! Thankful for the gift that has been given to us through another.  Thankful for birth parents who chose life for their daughter and because of them we can celebrate with thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What's Up and Where We Are

It is time for a much overdo update on this here blog.  Life has kind of resembled a three ring circus since coming home with Little A.  We keep thinking we will hit our stride with a new normal but just when we think we have hit that new normal something else comes our way. 

We have been home just a little over 2 months now and it is so very hard to imagine that there was a time when Little A was not a part of our family.  Even in the mud and muck of the hard days it just feels right.  It is obvious that God handpicked this little one for our family.  He knew we needed her as much as she needed a forever family and we are forever changed.

Our weeks have been full of appointments and therapies and just trying to figure the new normal out.  Each week Little A has physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.  We are anxiously awaiting the day the language explosion hits.  This little one is so very expressive and certainly has a story to share, we just need to help her find her voice.  She is an OT and PT rockstar and is showing improvement daily in her body strength and coordination.

Over the past two weeks we have seen the orthopedist, orthotist, dentist, audiologist and ENT and tomorrow Little A will undergo an MRI of her brain.  I feel tired just typing all of this and must say we are all a little exhausted but we want our girl to receive the treatment and help she needs to soar.  Overall, the consensus is she is doing great and will continue to excel with therapy and time.  I would be lying if I said I was not a little anxious about tomorrow's test.  The results will most likely confirm what we already know so I am trying not to get too worked up over it. 

Overall we are doing pretty well.  We are taking one day at a time - sometimes one hour at a time and just reveling in the family that God has knit together. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Special Needs and Labels

Many people have asked us about Little A's medical condition or special needs.  We are not offended by this question because it is common knowledge that most children currently being adopted from China have minor to moderate medical conditions.  We have also been very open since the beginning of this process that we were adopting through our agency's Child of Promise program which meant our daughter would in fact have a special need or medical condition.

I know many of you have only "met" our precious Little A through pictures but I fully believe in the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  One glance at our little one's photo and you know she is simply wonderful! However, as many of you have expressed, she does not appear to have a special need.  So the question remains, "Does Little A have a special need or medical condition?"

Daniel and I were careful about sharing information about Little A's medical condition prior to her coming home because this is part of her story and although she does have a medical condition that does and will affect her it does not define her.  We are not embarrassed or ashamed of the words special needs nor are we allowing them to have a stronghold on our daughter's life. The fierce mama bear love in me did not want someone to place a label on my daughter before they had an opportunity to meet her, to know her, to love her.  We do think it is important to share though because we want others to understand our daughter and her needs.

Our Little A has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  As far as we can tell it is a mild form of cerebral palsy that mainly affects her hands.  She does not let the CP slow her down and is VERY independent.  Her gait is slightly affected as is her balance but for the most part she walks quite well. As we meet with doctors and developmental specialists we hope to learn more about her diagnosis and how to best help her thrive.

Our biggest concern and hurdle right now is that Little A has a fairly significant verbal delay.  We are amazed daily at how much English she understands but she has very few words in either Chinese or English.  She is trying hard to communicate and has learned several words and signs in the short time she has been home but we have a very long road ahead of us.  We are uncertain if the verbal delay is associated to the CP or if it is a separate issue but again as we begin to meet with doctors we hope to gain a better understanding of all that is going on.

Please do not be afraid to ask us about our little one's diagnosis, needs, development, etc.  We have much to learn about CP and will be happy to share what we have learned with others.

When we received Little A's referral file there was one sentence that jumped out at us, "when you meet this little girl, you must like her" and there is no doubt about it.  She is absolutely charming and when you meet her I am pretty sure you will like her!