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!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Baby Steps

Baby steps!  We are making baby steps!

Jet lag is still hanging around the Cooley household but I think we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel and a glimpse of the new normal or at least the temporary new normal, as I am sure things will be in a constant state of flux for a little while. 

Daniel returned to work today, the girls and I were up, showered, dressed and had breakfast by 10:30am (which is an absolute miracle in itself), we had a visit from a friend, lunch and now Little A is sleeping and E is having quiet time.  Ahhhh, it feels good!

Not only are we making baby steps in our schedule and return to routine but we are making baby steps in the areas of attachment and bonding.  Little A is now allowing Daniel to hold her, bathe her, help her, etc. and we often hear "Hi, BaBa" over and over again.  However, she also uses this new found love for Ba Ba to try and control situations and ignore Mama.  Baby steps people, baby steps.

Attachment and bonding is a tricky thing.  Just when you think things are going a certain direction they change.  It is not always easy to manage and sometimes it is just plain hard but we are thankful for little glimpses of growth.  The road before us is long and there are times it will most certainly leave us feeling weary but we will just continue to take baby steps, taking one day at a time sometimes one hour or even minute at a time.

2 weeks in our arms
September 1, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Preparation for Coming Home

As we prepare to come home Daniel & I feel that we need to work on attachment and bonding. It is extremely important that Annalise learns who her family is.  Daniel and I need to establish our roles as Mama and Baba.  We are making good progress and feel like she is bonding with us but there are also times when she will seek help from someone else rather than allowing us to meet her needs.

Thankfully we are making great strides in attachment and bonding with our sweet girl but we have a LONG and possibly hard road ahead of us.

To this end, for an undetermined amount of time, we would ask:
  1. Please do not pick up Annalise, even if she's standing with us and reaches her arms out to you.  She is very social and has the most beautiful smile you will ever see and so it is natural that you would want to hold her.  We are still establishing boundaries.
  2. If Annalise falls down please do not pick her up or comfort her (unless she is seriously injured and we are not near by).  She needs to learn to accept comfort from Mama and Baba.  She will probably fall often as her balance is not very good.  It may be hard to watch her struggle to stand up but we will help her if it is necessary.
  3. Along the same lines of #2 - Please direct Annalise to either Daniel or I for help.  This includes going to the restroom, washing hands, opening things, etc. 
  4. Please do not feed her anything or hand a present directly to her.   Any toys or gifts should be given to us, and we will hand it to her.  This will help with confusion for her as she continues to figure out life with Mama, Baba and Jie Jie.  
  5. Please be patient with Daniel and I in how we handle her tantrums.  There may be times we turn our backs on her and allow her to scream and yell or roll around on the floor.  You may think our tone is harsh or that we are being unkind by allowing her to cry.  Again, we are establishing boundaries and discipline with her.  Despite being loved by her foster family and neighbors discipline and boundaries may not have always been very clear.
  6. Please do not correct Annalise if she does something wrong.  Bring it to our attention and we will deal with it immediately.  Annalise needs to learn that correction and discipline come from Mama and Baba first.  

While this list may seem a little strange or restrictive it is because we love our girl and want what is best for her.  She is part of our family forever and so there will be plenty of time for you to love on her in the ways we are asking you to avoid initially. Also, it may not be imperative that we hold to these restrictions very long.  It will all depend on how things progress once we return home. 
It is obvious that Annalise was well loved by her foster family and it is our understanding that many of the neighbors were involved in her life as well including helping with her walking and physical therapy.

The positive side of this is that our girl has attached before, knows what it means to be cared for and is very social.  She loves people and loves to go, go, go.  The negative side of this is that our girl was probably a little spoiled and this has definitely led to some challenges as we set boundaries with her.  It also could possibly make it difficult for us to establish authority in her life as her parents because she has probably often looked to many to meet her needs. 
We have read several books, been through extensive training and read a number of blogs written by other adoptive families concerning attachment.  Each family is different and the needs of their child or children may also be different but one thing that is universal is that attachment and trust must be developed between the child and parent, and so we are asking a couple things from our friends and church family.

We appreciate and value your prayers more than we can express.  This is a time of transition for all of us.  We are so thankful to have you on this journey with us and cannot wait for you to meet our girl!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Today was the day we boarded a plane and took our daughter away from the place she has known as home for the last 3.5 years.  The place full of familiar sights, smells and sounds.  The place where she was most likely born. 

It was a tough day for us.  Tough for many reasons.  Our sweet girl is grieving.  Her grief is real and it is hard.  We have no idea what she has experienced in her short life.  We do not know the trauma or the pain but we can see that it is there. 

It was tough because I knew her life was changing and would never be the same.  As our plane departed Wuhan, Little A cried because she did not want to wear her seat belt and Mama cried because my heart was breaking for my little girl, her birth family and her foster family.

We have said goodbye to Wuhan and are now in the final leg of our journey in Guangzhou.  At the end of this week we will say goodbye again as we leave China and begin our new adventure in the US.

I have never liked goodbyes and I am sure this one will be hard but I cannot wait to begin our life as a family of 4 at home.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Words cannot express the events of this morning.  Two worlds collided as we met our daughter for the first time.  It was a whirlwind of action and excitement and nothing at all like I expected it to be.

Daniel and I were filling out paperwork with the rest of our group when we heard some noise from behind.  As we turned around our daughter was being carried into the room.  Immediately the tears began to flow down my cheeks.  Of course we were told to finish our paperwork and that they would call us one family at a time to meet our children.  As we completed our task the caregiver who brought Annalise in was showing her our photo book and pointing to us.  After a few minutes while we were still at the table the caregiver took A over to meet her Jie Jie.  Annalise immediately began calling Eleanor,  Jie Jie (Big Sister).  My heart was bursting with joy. 

We finally walked over to meet sweet Little A.  Our girl was timid and definitely scared.  We have her now.  She is ours.  There are no more sleeps separating us and no more distance.  We have a long road ahead of us as we begin our attachment and bonding but we are on the road together.  

A happy road.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Today as we landed in Wuhan I was suddenly overcome with emotion.  We were finally in the same province as our daughter.  As we drove the one hour from the airport to our hotel my eyes were fixed upon our surroundings.   I wanted to take it all in.  To remember. To embed the sights in my mind.  This is a piece of her.  As we crossed the Yangtze River on the First Bridge, caught our first glimpse of the Yellow Crane Tower, drove to the city center, all I could think of was our girl.

We received 2 new pictures of her today and tears welled up in my eyes.  Big sister said, "she looks so happy it makes my eyes a little teary."  Our sweet girl did look so very happy.  She is healthy and growing.  Joy radiates from her little face.  Again the rush of emotions swelled up within.

Tonight as I prepare to sleep I am thinking of our girl sleeping in her bed in her foster mother's room.  This is the last night she will sleep there.  Tomorrow she will be in our hotel room in the crib that is awaiting her.  Tomorrow morning her foster mother will take her to the orphanage and say goodbye.  I can only imagine that bitter-sweet moment. My heart is breaking for my girl and for her foster mom. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for the woman who has cared for our daughter for the past 22 months.  As I look back at the pictures we received today I know that Little A has been well cared for.  She has been loved.  She has been wanted.

We will most likely not have the opportunity to meet Little A's foster mother but if I could meet her I would say thank you.  Thank you for loving our daughter.  Thank you for investing in her life.

So tomorrow begins a new chapter in our journey.  A page will be turned and we will no longer be a family of 3.  We are here Little A and tomorrow we will no longer be apart!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Our Way

Today as we board a plane to the other side of the ocean we will begin the journey to the culmination of this almost 2 year adoption process.  Words cannot begin to express the emotions we each are feeling.  I am not the same person I was on September 18, 2012 when we sent our first application to Holt International.  God has stretched me and changed me, buffed away some rough edges, pointed out some areas that need work and taught me to trust in ways I have never trusted before. 

This evening we will be on our way to our youngest daughter.  A child we have longed for over the past 4 years.  A precious little girl whom we have prayed for and fallen deeply in love with. 

I cannot help but think of her birth family today.  A mama and a daddy who for whatever reason knew they were unable to care for our girl and made a tremendous sacrifice.  I wish we could meet them.  I wish we could tell them that we love their child.  That we will always try to do what is right for her.  That she will be valued and cherished.  We pray for them often, knowing nothing of their circumstances, but thankful that they chose life for their daughter so that she can now become our daughter. 

As I write this my heart breaks for our daughter.  As much as we long to bring her home we know that she is losing much - her birth country, birth family, foster family, language and more.  She will gain much as well but we do not want to overlook her loss.  Her loss is our gain.  She will grieve and we will grieve with her.  She will find joy and we will be joyful with her. 

So today as we board the plane that will bring us to our daughter my heart is a little heavy.  Of course we are excited and so very thankful but this joyous moment in our hearts is possibly at the expense of great sorrow for others. 

We are coming Little A.  We are coming!