Don’t you hate when you anticipate something for so long and when you finally get it, it’s a letdown? Me too. Thankfully, I am not writing about such an event. No! It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Our unification as a family was, in a word, brilliant. It did not unfold as I had imagined, but it was everything I had wanted and more. The feelings of holding my son and being with his father were overwhelming at times in the best way possible. At the same time, though, I wondered if we were really going to be good at being parents. Us? Role models? Are you kidding me? What if we do something wrong? What if we drop him on his head – would he then turn out to be just like us? God help us all if that last one happens.
All those stories we heard from other parents thankfully had us overly anxious. Diaper changing is really not bad. Feedings are fine. His crying is minimal and always has an obvious purpose. This kid is as happy as they come. We are lucky and blessed that after all of the pain we went through to get him home, we can sit down and enjoy all of these wonderfully special moments with him. He makes our days so easy and joy-filled. I love my little Monkey.
What worried me the most was the fact that he was so small and so far behind. From the get-go, we knew that would be the case. When we accepted his referral on March 3, 2011, he was four weeks old. He weighed 5.5 lbs and was 12.5 inches long. He had abundent lanugo (fine hair covering the bodies of premie babies) and was clearly malnourished. When the agency director said she was sending us his pictures, she told us they were scary and to be prepared. We tentatively opened them, only to find what we thought was the most beautiful child we ever saw. (But yes, he was scarily small. We were just too smitten to be overly worried.)
The next photos we saw of him were from late March (7 weeks old) and showed him sleeping with what must have been a cold. There was snot everywhere. We got a video too, but he was just fidgeting in his sleep a bit.
We got a few more photos and video when he was 11 weeks old and he was bright-eyed and alert. He looked so good, and we were thrilled by his progress.
The next time we saw him was in August when we met him in person. He was so tiny and fragile. He didn’t smile, and looked sad and a bit sick. I was so worried that if he got sick he’d die. Well, he got sick and then we were told that he died, but he is tougher than all of that and obviously got through it.
When S picked him up in November he was still very small and was very lethargic. He couldn’t hold up his head. He didn’t have much energy. After a few days with daddy and some food, he was able to hold up his head and sit while supported. He gained energy, strength and ounces. The pictures showed marked improvement in just days. Our little guy is such a fighter.
When I picked him up in December he hadn’t grown much, and he could still only sit when supported. He could, however, roll like a freight train. I had no idea! I left him on the rug while I went in the other room to get a diaper and returned to find him 3 feet from where I had left him, in less than 20 seconds! What the? Then I witnessed it. He rolls so fast! I immediately started working on sitting with him. The other girls said I was acting like a physical therapist. I guess all of those sessions at First Choice Rehab (too bad I can’t tag them) helped in more ways than one. The first day he couldn’t sit for even a second. The second day he sat for 2. The third day (12/22) for 7.
By the week after Christmas he was sitting well. He was eating like food was going out of style. The purchased baby food went out the window and I started making my own. He started eating more and more. We made up a sign for “more” and I did it with every bite (every single bite). He was babbling incessantly, and was really soaking up his surroundings.
A week or so later he was saying “Dah” when S came around and “Duh” when Spiro came around. Not a peep of an “mmmmmm” sound, but that was fine. One day, he did the “more” sign on his own when I paused during our feeding. Then we taught him how to clap. Then he made the more sign when we were sitting and playing. I went to the fridge and got food and he got excited. Now we know that the “more” sign means that he wants food – whether during a feeding or to indicate he wants to eat. He started babbling “mama” and sometimes sort of says it to me. He holds up his index finger when I ask him how old he is. He has learned his new first name. He can sit like a champ, and fights to get back up. He bops around to music when it’s on, and gets very excited when playing percussive instruments.
Looking back at the last 5 weeks, I am amazed by his progress. Some rude woman at the eye doctor yesterday was asking me all sorts of questions about him and kept pointing out how far behind he was. I really hoped at that moment that my son would discover his middle finger and shower her, but that didn’t happen. I don’t care what people like her say. I know what amazing progress he has made, and that is what is important. For him to survive premature birth, severe malnourishment, exposure to chickenpox, measles, mumps, and TB and to be where he is at now astounds me. We knew he looked like a fighter, but we had no idea. I think he’s going kick ass in life. Just sayin’.