We have been home for 2 weeks as of tonight and this is the first chance I’ve had to write. I’ve been so wanting to document this homecoming and have been blogging in my head but it’s been a huge adjustment for all of us, with very little sleep and no unoccupied time:-) There is so much to just stop and enjoy and lots to figure out for the first time. SK has been really struggling with jet lag, teething and had a small cold. We recently decided that SK should stand for “Sleepless Katie”. I just realized last night that some of what we’re experiencing with her through the night are the ‘night terrors’ I’d read about some time ago – different from nightmares and common in children adopted as Katie was. Intense crying but still asleep. Not sure how long she may experience these but apparently they happen in a different part of the brain than nightmares and she won’t remember the feeling in the morning. Last night was a rough one so I’m glad to understand a bit more of what’s happening and how to handle it. I’m just now beginning to feel a bit more rested but it has been a little like having a newborn…so much for the 12 hours straight we were getting from her in China.
We have been together, SK and I, for just almost 4 weeks. Coming home to Toronto was so wonderful for me but incredibly stressful for Katie. Our flight was very good overall but landing and getting that bloody car seat, SK and our bags out the door was no small feat. Big thanks to Jeff who hauled both car seats from the plane all the way to where we picked up a porter to help us (felt like miles). We also had to go to Immigration where Katie officially became a Permanent Resident….yay! More paperwork ahead now to get her Citizenship.
I have travelled a lot and quite far away but never been happier to land in Toronto. Tim and my Dad were waiting for us on the other side and it was so exciting to come through those doors with Katie in my arms and see them waving…Still makes me teary. Katie was getting fussy in the Beco by that point and she completely freaked out once Tim leaned in to hug me. From then on it was mostly screaming as we managed to get bags in the car, her into the car seat (pure torture) right up until she fell asleep a few minutes before we got home. There was no way to get her in the house without her waking up so the screaming continued. Another new place, another new face (Tim) and also Greta…Tim’s bulldog. Katie actually thought she was pretty great and they have formed a beautiful friendship ever since There was a big sign in the living room that said “Welcome Home Risa and Katie” a big “Welcome Home” balloon, beautiful flowers and a card. Sweet!
Katie’s early relationship with Tim was a bit challenging. We realized that in foster care Katie didn’t have a mom and dad, she had a mom and a grandfather. We firmly believe that she can sense the difference in our kind of relationship and felt that Tim could get in the way of her bond with me. In one way this is good news because it emphasized that there is in fact a strong bond forming between Katie and me. However, she wouldn’t let Tim near her that night. What a tough thing for Tim, who has been anxiously waiting and preparing for us to come home. But he is so patient and understanding, he knows it’s only a matter of time before she accepts him. More on that later…
We quickly made up the crib with her sheets from the hotel and did whatever we could to calm her down. All I could do was hold her close and lie on the bed with her where she finally fell asleep on top of me. I was starving so Tim made me the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich ever and we ate on the bed so I didn’t have to move. What a surreal feeling to suddenly be back in my room with the crib we’d set up and the decorations I’d put up imagining SK and now she’s here, breathing and sweaty in my arms! And the three of us suddenly a family:-)
The night was really rough. Katie was experiencing so much distress once she woke up that I eventually gave her a bit of gravol as the doctor had suggested. I didn’t want to have to do it but after everything she’d been through on the long trip and now another new place there was no reason for her to go through much physical and emotional distress. I really don’t remember much about at night a this point. I was so exhausted and so grateful to be home safe and sound with Tim. Katie finally slept and had a good long sleep well into the next morning.
Highs and lows of our first 2 weeks home…
1. Watching Katie take her time, assess her new situation and begin to be comfortable. She wouldn’t walk or crawl around for about 3 days but then slowly decided it was ok to explore and very soon has made us glad we did all the baby proofing before I left. She is into everything! She’s back to playing with toys both familiar (stacking cups and bath toys) and new ones (drums, shaky eggs, puzzle pieces). To our surprise, we learned she knows how to climb the stairs! She thinks she’s pretty hilarious when she does it.
2. Her reaction when my parents come over. She is so attached to my mom and because we Skyped with my dad so many times when we were away, she has taken to him very quickly. Lots of laughs and smiles but it was good to take things slowly which my dad did beautifully. After a bath one day they had about an hour of playtime on the bed and my parents just wanted to eat her up…such joy! Wow. Katie gave my dad kisses and grabbed his finger Dad was in heaven. I know it’s hard for my mom not to see her every day after our time together in China. Each visit got more and more smiles and yesterday we finally went to their house for the first time. SK could see my mom at the door and was grinning from ear to ear from her car seat. She was very comfortable exploring and playing with new toys and met some new friends. Really fun!
3. Watching her try new foods! Tim had the kitchen fully stocked when we got home and it was also Passover. Turns out SK will have no trouble being Jewish. She loves chicken soup, matzoh balls, gefilte fish and carrot tzimmis (sp?). Apple sauce rocks and her most favourite new snack are the soft little balls of buffalo mozzarella! She also loves our favourite broccoli quiche, the same quiche that we gave to little Timber (my 14 yr old dog who passed away last Oct) when he couldn’t eat regular food anymore. What a shame that Katie will never get to meet Timber but truthfully, Timber would not have been as patient as Greta…he never liked kids much. Anyway, ironically I am deeply grateful to that quiche once again! What a great feeling to finally have all the food right here and to know exactly what we’re feeding Katie!
4. Doctors appointment for Katie. We managed to walk there on time and look presentable! She did beautifully, no tears until the blood was drawn. Oh dear. So hard for us all but she recovered like a champ and now it’s done. Whew! Lots of tests need to be done for children who are adopted from China so we can get a baseline for everything and double-check tests that were done back when she was 8 months. This was also our first encounter with an inappropriate outsider in the doctor’s office. Very “in your face” who thought she knew a lot about adoption in China and wanted us to know about it too. She hung around far too long. Afterwards we stopped for her first sushi lunch:-). She tried everything and didn’t squawk too much. Glad the restaurant was mostly empty since she can be such a vocal eater:-).
5. My first walk down Yonge street with SK in the Beco. Kept checking myself out in the store windows to see how I looked…reality check…yup, that’s really me carrying a baby!!
6. My first day alone with SK was very stressful just because I hadn’t figured out to do anything on my own yet and she was really needing to be held all the time. Thank goodness for the Beco. I was grateful that our friend Alana came over with her little boy Cameron (her first buddy). Katie thought he was pretty terrific. Alana lent us a stroller for a while (enormously helpful until we got our own today) along with some things to help keep Katie warm on our walks. I thought we were coming home to Spring…oh we’ll. Researching strollers is like buying a car…honestly! Glad that’s done. While stroller shopping at Toys R Us, Katie strolled around on her own two feet and people were so amused by how cute she looked…me too!
7. We took in the disposable camera to get delivered. The one I sent to the foster orphanage to forward to Katie’s foster home so we could hopefully get photos of where she lived and who took care of her. I was incredibly thrilled to get the camera back when we got Katie but once we developed the photos we realized that the camera was never sent to the foster home. It looks like the photos are from the day her foster mom brought her to the orphanage in FengCheng to be brought to us in Nanchang. We did get some photos of her foster mom but none of where she lived just several of Katie playing outside that day. We will treasure all of them but considering all that it took to get the camera there and the amazing fact that it made it, I’m disappointed that we won’t have more details to share with Katie later on.
8. By far, the most fascinating and rewarding thing to observe has been the beautiful growth of her relationship with Tim. At first she wouldn’t look him in the eye but would only watch him when he wasn’t looking. Then she would cast him a little glance under her lashes after he’s handed her a much desired piece of banana. Slowly, slowly she began to engage with him. The firsts big step was our sleepless evening having potato chips on the couch… I know, not exactly appropriate baby food but the chips worked some magic and before we knew it, Tim was feeding little pieces to Katie and she was feeding them back to Tim! He managed to get a few smiles here and there but she was very selective with her responses. No question, food has been the key to bring the two of them together. She will let him give her a bottle if I am holding her and occasionally I can sneak off for a shower if he’s feeding her breakfast…but not always. Our most fun sleepless night was when we accepted that there wouldn’t be sleeping for quite a while so we all watched Modern Family. SK was wide awake and engaging both of us to play. She laughed when we laughed at the tv and had full “conversations” with us in her cute, funny sounds. She knows the “Clap Your Hands” song and when she started to clap we’d start singing and stop when she stopped and keep going when she did. She thought we were all hilarious and I was laughing so hard I was crying. Can you say exhausted? Katie is really coming around to Tim and we feel like such a family. Some of our cuddle time when she’ll reach out to him or snuggle up to him when she sort of forgets herself just melts my heart (and his). She has slowly started to touch his face, she has allowed him to touch her, she’ll snuggle with us all together and will lean into him for some repeated silliness she’s enjoying. She laughs like crazy when he pretends to chase her. Tim is a stellar new dad! I’m deeply grateful that he has the patience, instincts, intuition, humour, gentleness, generosity and huge heart that make up who he is and why I love him. He is an integral part of why I have been able to carry through with this long process and adopt our girl. When he is done with his MFA this year we’ll be able to make a home together and start a more stable like with SK but until then his support of us both has been an indescribable blessing. One day very soon, Katie will voluntarily give him a hug and turn to him when she is upset…and he will be there when she’s ready.