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Saturday, December 29, 2012

First Christmas!

Brigita is doing fantastic! She amazes me with how well she is doing. It feels like every time one thing "clicks" for her, something else does as well. We are finally finished with the 3rd ear infection (the first 2 were both double ear infections) and a very heavy antibiotic that delivered poop everywhere! Then, as it quickly left her body she immediately was constipated again. So frustrating but the Miralax is kicking in again.

Last week as I was getting her bath together, I said the word "bath" but did not sign it. I turned the water on and when I turned to look at her, Brigita was signing "bath" completely on her own! I was ecstatic! She is also trying to sign parts of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." She was watching a video of little girl signing "Jesus Loves Me" and signed "yes" with the little girl. When we go outside, after swinging, she will explore the fort part of the swing set and also walk around the yard a little, even going to check out the dogs. Previously she was almost oblivious to anything else existing. She gives me kisses, laughs more, plays with the beach ball by herself, and snuggles a lot. She loves for me to hold her and will laugh when I pick her up or snuggle her against me. She is appropriately oppositional at times and testing boundaries. We are working on learning to be gentle with toys and not just throwing everything. Also, part of our educational time is learning how to play. I literally have to show her over and over again how to roll a car, put things in and out of boxes, etc. I never realized how much we teach kids gradually as they grow. We repeat, repeat, repeat everything, every day.

We had a wonderful Christmas. Brigita was completely overwhelmed with the activity at my mom's house and wanted to just hit and bite everyone. Eventually, I introduced her to an empty bin where she was the happiest little girl for quite some time. She was pretty uninterested in what Santa and mama got her. But she did sit in my lap while I unwrapped gifts and tried to show her and get her interested. Then she just wanted to throw them. She did let me read books she received to her.

Today we were playing with a board puzzle she received. It has 5 animals on it. I was showing her the animal, doing the sign for the animal and making the animal sound. She mimicked me making the "baa" for a goat and the "quack" for a duck! This is awesome. When I call my cats, she will sometimes make a noise that seems to mimick me calling "kitty kitty." Brigita also blew a kiss today. I am so proud of her. She is a remarkable child and such a pleasure. I love her so much and am so proud to be her mom!

So, here's few pictures...



Monday, December 3, 2012

Another update

Brigita and I have had a lot going on since the last update.

First, Brigita had her surgery to drain fluid from her ears, put tubes in, and complete a sedated hearing test. Turns out there was no fluid, so no tubes needed and she can hear! Not hearing impaired at all!

Before surgery

Before surgery

Waking up

Waiting for surgery. Brigita played with one of these for the first time!! We've tried before but she only threw it. She quickly picked up on moving the beads around and played for about 10 minutes.
Next, we had Thanksgiving with the family...good food, good company, and a pile of leaves!!

Thanksgiving weekend, we got our Christmas Tree!

(This is not the completed look, but I haven't taken another picture yet)
Then, we went to see the pediatric gastro specialist. We haven't gotten any answers yet, but had to do another cleanout (Brigita was given one partial clean out by enema in country; then in October I had to do 3 at-home enemas within a 24 hour period; now she's backed up again). Can't show you how big her belly got due to some inappropriate parts showing. But trust me, it was swollen! Like one of those seedless watermelons under her skin. So we had a long morning @ Duke but then spent some time with Aunt Liz and Canon that afternoon.
Licking the pinwheel

Even Canon is curious about the Pinwheel

The clean out process this time was to give her large doses of Miralax and a laxative. Poor baby. I felt like such an abusive mom mixing her drinks and knowing it would make her sick. Brigita is such a trooper! She hung in their Saturday and Sunday did so well we went to see her first parade.

While we were standing there I noticed a smell not like exhaust fumes...she had a full explosion all over this outfit and the stroller. Luckily mom was prepared with another outfit in the diaper bag.
After the parade we went to Grandma's house for Grandpa Garry's birthday. Brigita did not feel good after eating. Her tummy was very bloated still. So off we went home to put on our christmas jammies. See the little buddha belly? Not super big but big enough considering we had a clean out :(

Brigita tossed and turned most of the night with her swollen belly. But a massive poop at 12:45am helped bring that melon tummy down! She looks pitiful laying on the kitchen floor, but has a normal belly! Brigita wouldn't even eat for nearly 2 hours after waking. She usually demands food upon waking. I stayed home with her today. She has been so sleepy and weak. She's still napping now and has had plenty of pedialyte and some food.
I now have to wake her up and get her ready to go meet with the Exceptional Children's specialists as well as someone from the School for the Deaf in order to start the assessment process for school. Hope she wakes up happy and is nice and behaved while we are there.
Overall, Brigita is doing great! She is very healthy. She is becoming interested in signs: knows "eat" well and occassionally does other signs. She understands so much that is said to her. She is hitting and biting less but still pushing and throwing her toys. She is very snuggly and is loving some momma time!! I love me some baby time too!! She is a wonderfully, resilient, strong little girl! I'm so grateful to be her mom!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Heart and Ears

Brigita had her appointment with the cardiologist today. She was born with a hole in her heart between the two champers (Ventrical Septal Defect) that healed on its own. Now she has a very healthy, strong heart! Also, her cardiologist is a part of the Down syndrome clinic here. I have called about getting Brigita into the clinic but have not heard back. The cardiologist sent an email to the clinic to get them to call back and schedule our appointment quicker.

This weekend, Brigita started taking my hands and my mom's hands and putting them on her ears and pressing our hands on her really hard. I wasn't sure if this was something new she was doing or if there was something going on with her ears. She started to this more. However, she wasn't running a fever, didn't have any cold symptoms, wasn't ill or cranky, wasn't crying, etc. I decided to call her pediatrician and have her checked out anyway since she doesn't communicate and doesn't generally cry about things. Good instincts because Brigita has an infection in both of her ears. Her right ear, which is the side she hits the most and had the hearing aid for, is much worse than the left side. So, she is on her first antibiotic since being with me. However, as of right now it appears she can still have her surgery  next week to get her ears drained, tubes put in, and hearing test.

It ended up being a long and busy day. I'm exhausted from having to hold her down for all the pocking and prodding. But she did great! I'm so proud of my sweet girl. She is such a trooper. I have so much admiration for her.

Ignore how high up her car seat clip has moved.
She's figured out how to move it.

There is a wonderful "all abilities" park about 20 minutes from our home. Of course, Brigita only wanted to swing.
We had a beautiful, warm weekend.

This picture was taken tonight. She brushed her teeth for about 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 4th Orphan Sunday

Last year I heard of Orphan Sunday for the first time. I was aware that orphans existed all my life. I have always had a heart for orphans and children that had been abused or neglected. But last year, I really found out about orphans. And that was that...

In spring 2011, I was searching a book called "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis. I plugged it into google and a link to Reece's Rainbow popped up www.reecesrainbow.org. And that was that.
Then I saw the below videos:
From Orphanage to Institution: Serbian's Mental Institutions
Bulgarian's Abandoned Children: From 2007
And that was that...
Proverbs 24:12 "Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act."
This may mean different things for different people. For me, I thought it meant sponsoring a child and/or family through Reece's Rainbow. That's what I thought...but then I saw that smile!
But, I didn't think that was what I should do. So, I prayed for her. I prayed "Brigita" would find her family. I prayed God would keep her safe. I prayed her grant would grow. And I checked on her,daily.
Then one day, God spoke to me and told me "this is your daughter."
And that was that...
So, what does that mean for me now? It means Orphan Sunday takes on a whole new meaning. It also means that this Orphan Sunday, I don't just know about the statistics. Because there is a real, living breathing Orphan in my home, in my arms, and in my heart!
But for her, its means so much more: mommy, love, acceptance, family, pets, a home, her own clothes (that fit properly too!), daily baths, snacks and drink whenever you are thirsty or hungry, church, God, school, doctors, medication when needed, dentist, toothbrush and toothpaste, snuggles and more snuggles, and learning to communicate and self-care.
Brigita is a wonderful little girl! I cannot imagine my life without her. Although her adoption is not yet finalized, she is my daughter in every other way. And she knows it! She knows she is loved. She knows someone cares for her. She knows what it means to belong.
In the past 2 months, she has riden on trains and planes for the first time. Attended a birthday party. Played in a bounce house. Went to a pumpkin patch. Attended church. Been to several doctors appointments. Tried many new foods. Learned how great bath time is (every day). Dressed up and went Trick or Treating for Halloween. And swings and swings til her heart's content!


Combining her 2 favorite pastimes: Swinging and dangling/chewing Luvie
Please really think about Orphan Sunday.
Think about the Orphan.
What it means to be an orphan.
What it means to have no family. No mother or father. No home to call yours. Only a bed or metal crib that is quickly replaced if you move out. What it means to go to bed hungry. What it means to learn to stop crying because you have learned it doesn't matter. What its like to know no one cares if your ear hurts, if you have a fever, or if you got hurt. To live in a place where you rock just to have something to do. Where you hit your head for stimulation. Smack yourself on the side of the head because there is so much fluid in your ears you cannot hear well anymore. What it means to have no one teach you how to speak or communicate at all. To live in a place where you learn to make odd clicking noises and to hit/bite/push/pull hair to get your needs met, to communicate, to play. To spend hours and hours doing nothing every day. To be deemed unadoptable and worthless at the age of 5 and sent to a mental institution where you will spend the rest of your life. To have your life span shortened due to all these conditions as well as malnutrition and dehydration. To be smaller in size because the lack of stimulation causes your brain stop producing growth hormones correctly.
That was Brigita's reality. And she was in a good institution.
Please consider adoption, sponsoring an orphan, or helping an adopting family this Orphan Sunday.
Look at the blogs of the families. Read the stories of the children. Watch the videos above. If they are too hard to watch, try to imagine how hard it is to live. Because they are true and unfortunately exist today. Places where 10yo girls weigh 10 lbs. Where they are intentionally underfed to keep them small. Where children are treated like animals, to be cleaned, fed, and placed in metal cages, and even tied at times.
Don't close your eyes. Don't look away. Don't forget the orphan.
"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes."
-David Platt

And that isn't the end for many kids. Here are 2 of my favorites



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We have a surgery date!

The first ENT we saw suggested Brigita return in 1 month, attempt the behavioral hearing test again, and assess Brigita for tubes then. I disagreed, explaining that she would not make enough progress in a month (after 7 1/2 years institutionalized) to complete the behavioral assessment and that Brigita needed every advantage she could get at this point in order to make more progress. After talking with the pediatrician, we both decided I would call for a consult now. Well, it went well! I love the new ENT. She works with the Down syndrome clinic here and also felt it was most beneficial to Brigita to go ahead and move. Unfortunately, we do not have know Brigita's heart history. We know she was thought to have been born with some issues that either healed or were never there when she was examined months after birth. Though all the doctors have agreed her heart sounds good, with the risks associated with down syndrome on the heart and with sedation, we all agreed to wait for the surgery after her cardiological assessment and ECHO, which is scheduled for 11/14/12. So, Brigita will have surgery on 11/20/12 to clean and drain her ears/ear drums, complete the sedated hearing test, and most likely put tubes in. I'm still struggling with the insurance company about getting an ophthamology appointment for Brigita. She is also scheduled to be seen in the GI clinic on 11/30/12. Lots of appointments.

On the home front, Brigita is doing well. She is doing self play more often. We are working on dressing and undressing and mostly she is cooperative and tries to help. We have been practicing with the toy where you stack the round donut shapes on the pole. She can now do this herself, though she doesn't notice the size differences/order. But initially I had to do everything with her hand. She can brush her teeth. She likes to "wash" dishes with me but gets very stressed out as to why she cannot get in the sink. She just doesn't understand this bathtub that the dishes go in. She loves bath time! That and swinging. She still loves to swing!

Please, put me in the swing!!
Here's some pics of her self play from this week so far
                                         Talking to her bear

Mom made me play in the wagon. I wanted to swing some more! I'll throw her sweater out!

Mom, just let me do it, okay?

 Self play with the swings


This camera case entertained her for about 30 minutes! She also hid
behind the curtain and under the high chair while playing with it.  

 Playing on the deck, because mom won't let me swing anymore! We were only out there for an hour!  

She will also sit on the bike, not just pull it. She doesn't know how to push yet but lets me push a little bit 

This is what she does when                  Mom doesn't see me sneaking
she gets in trouble                                down to the swings, does she?

                                  Every chair gets tried and moved

We had our first post placement visit. With the guardianship, we had to have one within 30 days and then one completed every 3 months until she is adopted. The paperwork has been submitted from her country so my agency and I are getting the I800 completed to be sent. It will take 3-4 weeks to get that back after its submitted. Then we can get a court date and 2nd travel date for the actual adoption hearing!! I'm so excited! The remainder of the fees are due now (which I do have right now).

The final costs will be:
  •  travel for the 2nd and 3rd/final trip (Brigita only comes on the 3rd/final trip)
  • lodging/travel/food for both trips
  • cost of travel and other fees from first trip
  • passport, medical, visa for Brigita for 3rd trip
I think that's it, but I'm probably wrong. In getting the paperwork from her country, I found out she was transferred to a children's hospital due to medical issues (she had jaundice, was diagnosed with Ds, and had suspected heart issues). She stayed there for about 2 1/2 weeks and then was sent to the orphanage. I know have the name of the orphanage she stayed in for her first four years of life. I love being able to put the pieces of her life together as best as possible. There is so much that I will never know about her and she will never be able to tell. Knowing anything about her life makes me feel like I have more for her and for me. I'm hoping to find someone that visited her baby house during the time there in case they may have a picture of her. The earliest pictures I have of her is from 2009 (she would have been 4). I feel very blessed to have the pictures I  have though. I have pictures from 2009, numerous pictures from 2010 thanks to another family, a few from Dec. 2011, pictures from 2012, and then my pictures! We will be getting professional pictures done soon.

Reluctantly, I have to return to work next week! Its been a cloud hovering over me since I got home. I want more time with Brigita. I've missed 7 1/2 years of her life and don't want to miss anything more. She is so wonderful and I just love being with her. I've never been so happy!