Saturday, September 5, 2015

Making Strides

Earlier this week, Daniel, Little A and I loaded up and headed into Chicago to meet with Dr. Gaebler-Spira at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  We really did not know what to expect but we were going into this appointment hoping to gain a better understanding of what Cerebral Palsy means for our precious girl.  We still don't fully understand and I am not sure we ever will but it was a productive visit.  The intake nurse told us, "Dr. Gaebler is absolutely brilliant" and after our consultation I would firmly agree.  She gave us some good insight to our girl and her disability.  Dr. Gaebler indicated that A is in a good prognostic category and gave us the hope that in a few years she will be able to participate in sports and even play an instrument despite her right hemi-paresis and dystonia.

While we were there A was casted for new "special legs" (AFO's) and we allowed her to pick out the colors and patterns.  She was so excited to pick "purple" special legs.  She will also be adding a purple thumb loop to her accessories to help with the use of her right hand.

It is absolutely amazing to see how far this little girl has come in 12 months time.  When we met her in China she was still quite wobbly on her feet and was very rigid when she walked.  Today she is running, trying to jump and climbing all over the furniture.  12 months ago she barely recognized she had a right hand or arm and just this past week she attempted to use it to eat her chicken and rice for lunch.  One year ago she had little to no speech (Chinese included) and just this morning she asked me to play with her and pretended to run a grocery store.

Our Little A is making strides and continues to amaze us on a daily basis.  Next week, Little A will begin the Early Childhood program through our elementary school and I cannot wait to see where we will be 6 months from now. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stretch Marks

Just before we traveled to bring our Little A home an acquaintance innocently said, ‘how wonderful you get to enjoy all the joys of pregnancy without developing any stretch marks.” There was much innocence in those words yet they stung. The scab on my wounded heart and womb was ripped off. Exposing yet another raw and gaping wound left as the result of secondary infertility.

Although I did not physically carry Annalise in my womb and my body does not show the physical signs of pregnancy I walked an almost 4 year journey to this precious daughter of ours. I have stretch marks. Deep, ugly, penetrating stretch marks.

Stretch marks cover my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my faith. There are plenty of them, crisscrossing over one another. Some deep, red and sore, others faint, pale, barely there. Yes, I have stretch marks. Beautiful representations of growth, faith, and resilience.

Today marks our one year anniversary of being home as a family of 4.
One year...12 months... 365 days. What a year it has been!

9 months of sleepless nights, more specialists and doctor appointments than I can count, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, laughter, growth, tears, tantrums, a fractured ankle, AFOs, break-throughs and breakdowns.

I don't know that I can fully express in words all that we have been through in the past year with our precious Little A. She has brought so much joy to our family. She has left an indelible mark on so many lives. She has changed us for the better. She has challenged us. She has stretched us.

The stretch marks that I bore prior to bringing Little A home are still there but others have been formed as well. Stretch marks of flexibility, learning to lay down my wants or expectations for what was/is best for our daughters. Stretch marks of understanding (and sometimes a lack of understanding), stretch marks of triumphs and stretch marks of failures.

I am thankful for the stretch marks that this past year has brought and so very thankful for the beautiful, amazing little girl who has caused them.


I wish I could share a picture with this post but I can't. At least not a visual picture. My words will not do the scene justice, but I must try.

Good Friday. The cross. Candles. The Lord's Supper beautifully arranged around the foot of the cross.  Lights dimmed. Music being played. Voices raised.  And then.....

I hear my precious A "singing" with her loudest voice. I glance to my left and there is my little one standing with arms raised high, eyes closed, swaying to the music. I know she is mimicking behavior she has witnessed every Sunday for the seven months she has been home but there is just something about watching her join in corporate worship that overwhelms me.

My little one. My little girl. Learning about the love of a Savior who died on the cross for her. My sweet Little A experiencing her first Easter with her forever family. As I watched her I was overcome with emotion. Overcome with the heaviness of Good Friday. The reality that Jesus died on the cross for me. It was my sin that drove Him to the cross. Overcome with the sweetness that my God and Father loves me so much that He brought Little A home to our family. Overcome with the deep responsibility that I have as this little girl's mom to help lead her into the arms of her Savior.

Overcome.  Overwhelmed.

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!