Join us in the adventures of our family, with our Belarussian Prince, Guatemalan Princessa and Ukrainian Princesses!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ups and Downs!

Here Gerri is ready to go show off her feet at school on Wednesday!!
This picture all gives you an idea of how tiny she is! Gerri will be7 in a couple of weeks and Victoria is 4!!

Showing off :)
Yes, Victoria is in pj's still - she doesn't go to cubbies for 1 1/2 hours

As I took her out to the bus I could hear the kids on the bus all yelling at her!! They were ALL so excited about her sneakers!
She had a great day and was very happy when she got home.

Thursday morning she wore her second pair of shoes. She was very quiet in the am and when I kept asking what was going on she said nothing. I asked why she was sad and she said she didn't know. She got ready to go and headed off to school.
15 minutes after she left on the bus we got a phone call from the school nurse. She said the bust aide called to say Gerri was in tears and her feet hurt. She said once she got to school they would bring her to the clinic and she would let me know what was going on.
So a half hour later the nurse called. She had loosened Gerri's shoes and Gerri got on the phone to tell me she was ok. I asked her why she didn't tell us at home taht her feet hurt and she said they were ok.
An hour later I got a phone call from Gerri's teacher saying Gerri was fighting tears and obviously in pain. She wanted to be able to take Gerri's shoes off if that was ok. I told her it was ok. Gerri was sitting on the floor cause her feet hurt less. I asked the teacher to let me know if it didn't help and I would come get her.
In the mean time I called the ortho dr's asst and left a message that something was wrong with the AFO's.
An hour later her teacher called again to say Gerri was saying she was ok but the teacher could tell she was not. Gerri was insistent that I not come get her. She even asked the teacher to lie and say she was ok!
I told the teacher that I was at W*lm*rt and as soon as I could check out I would be down there to get her. I also asked her not to tell Gerri I was coming so I could see what was going on.
They were heading off to lunch so I finished up and drove to the school. I waited in the classroom for them to come back from lunch.
Gerri just looked at me and I could tell by her face that she was in pain. I held her hands and asked her if her feet hurt. Gerri looked me in the eyes and said "no". I tried to talk to her for a couple of minutes but she would not open up to me. The class was very distracted by me being there so I told the teacher we were going to head home and I was trying to get her into the ortho clinic. On our way out I called the asst again and got voice mail so I switched to the operator and asked her to hand deliver a message to her.
Gerri got hysterical as we left the classroom. I got her to the car and picked her up and hugged her and asked her what was going on. She still could not tell me. She kept saying she wanted to stay in school.
Once home I took her AFO's and socks off and she had big red indentations on her feet. I gave her some medicine for the pain. She was still upset and seemed mad at me. I just sat and rubbed her feet. I told her that I was so sad that she was hurting and she didn't tell me. I told her that mommie's and daddie's take care of their kids when they hurt. I then asked her when her feet started hurting and she said last night! She said that is why she was sad this morning. I tried to explain that I would have given her medicine this morning if she had told me. I explained that I was so sad that she was hurting. Once again we reminded her that we can't help her if she doesn't tell us. She looked SO miserable!
Luckily I then got a phone call from the ortho asst saying the AFO guy was in today and could we come right down!  absolutely!! Dan had to stay home because he had to pick up Ms V from school and then wait on Danny's bus. Gerri was still sad on the way, but the pain meds seemed to help.
While we waited to be called back I explained to her that we were seeing the guy that made the splints and he was going to fix them. She asked how do they do that and I said I didn't know, but I am sure it is pretty simple. She then said how will they cut them? and I turned and said what?? She said how will they cut my feet? while she was crying :( I looked at her and suddenly realized what she was saying! (big lightbulb goes on) I explained to her that they were not going to cut her feet!! just the splints! She cried more and said "will it hurt?" (another light bulb) and I said oh honey!! we will take them off while he fixes them!! It never even dawned on us that she would think this!!
Here we are thinking this is a bonding issue, not telling us she is hurting, not complaining, not asking for help! Turning to her bus aide and teacher and not us! Turns out she was terrifed that the pain meant she would have to have surgery again!!! She figured as long as mommy and daddy didn't know it wouldn't happen.
I am SO happy that I was able to figure it out! It was really eating at me that she didn't trust me to tell me she hurt! Now I look at the picture from the start of the day and can see that she is not smiling but grimacing!  We are SO busy in the morning that I could not see it.

Gerri is so smart and so verbal that when she shuts down it is SO frustrating cause you don't know what she is thinking. She has been home 8 months now and we still deal with this a lot. It is SO hard to get her to be real about her feelings.  She can be so bubbly, but it is not always real. We keep trying to tell her that it is ok to be mad, sad, happy whatever. The last 4 months have focused on her feet and taken away her independence. I really think she is depressed. Gerri thought once her casts were off she would just get up and walk. I kept telling her that it would take work, but she didn't believe it.  I could tell she has been mad at me and assume it is cause of her feet but of course she won't tell me :(

Poor Bob, the AFO guy, came out to see the 2 of us hugging and crying in the lobby :) He thought Gerri was crying because of her feet hurting and I had to explain that it was because she thought I was taking her to the dr for surgery.
He was absolutely amazing though! He took one look at each AFO, made some marks, ran off for 20 minutes and came back with modified AFO's that fit SO much better. He also took the hard plastic front piece off and gave us a soft piece in its place.
Here is a much happier Gerri!! And with her shoes back on!

The kids colored some pictures that Auntie sent

the boys had to go to cub scouts, they were singing carols at the new veterans home :)
Danny is middle back row

They got to decorate cookies and eat them!
While the boys were out, us girls took a nice long tub together.
It also gave me a chance to talk to Gerri again.
I asked her if the medicine I gave her helped her feel better, she said yes.
I asked her if the medicine I gave her was yucky, she said no.
I asked her if mommy or daddy got mad at her for hurting, she said no.
I asked her if mommy came to get her when I heard she was hurting, she said yes.
I asked her if mommy and daddy helped her get better, she said yes.
I asked if we let the doctor hurt her, she said no.
I asked her if we told her what was going on so she would know, she said yes.
I asked her if her feet still hurt, she said no.
I asked her if she now understands that mommies and daddies take care of their kids, especially when they hurt! and she very softly said yes.
I asked her if mommies and daddies can help their kids booboos if they don't know about them, she said no.
So I tried to wrap it up with a lesson.
She hugged me and kissed me and told me she loved me :)
I could tell she was exhausted so we all laid down to watch a holiday movie.

Older child adoption is SO different than adopting a young child. In some ways it is easier and in some ways it is so much harder. It has been harder to bond with Gerri, just being honest. She can be very moody, she is hard to read, she is SO closed up. I had a very hard night last night. I was so sad to realize that we still had so far to go till she really trusts us. I was SO hurt that she could not tell me she was hurting, but told pretty much everyone else at school. I thought it was a reflection on us :(
These past 3 weeks have been tough on all of us. I am SO glad we are getting past the physical part of it. This pain she has been in has really closed her off to all of us. I just did not see it coming. We tried to explain to her that this would be part of a bigger plan, getting her more mobile. But 4 months is a long time to a  year old and we do understand that. But because she doesn't complain you tend to forget.

 Now if we could just get that darn walker so she can get more mobile I think she would feel SO much better!
She did sleep well last night and was in a much better mood today. I had her wear slipper boots to school instead of shoes to give her feet a break.  She came home happy :)
I asked her how her feet were and she said much better. I did check them to make sure the red puffiness was gone and it is!
The kids were so happy to go swimming! This is Gerri's first time all in and standing in a long time!!!
I think I finally see the twinkle coming back!


April said...

Poor Gerri! Don't take it personally. You are a GREAT mama! (and congrats for figuring it out!) My 19 year old still doesn't talk to us if things are bothering her, it's just her personality.

Anonymous said...

Oh, poor Gerri! That story brought tears to my eyes.

I'm glad that she opened up to you about being in pain and that she's feeling better now. In the pictures, her feet look so good! Incredible!

I found your blog a while ago but just went back to read about your journey to Ukraine to bring Gerri home. Seriously, looking at the pictures from then and comparing them to how she looks now is like night and day - she has really undergone a transformation!

You guys really inspire me. I'm not old enough to adopt yet, but when I am, I will certainly look to families like yours as an example. :)


Jill said...

I ditto what April says (we have to do things together you know). You are a GREAT MAMA! I'm so glad you got it figured out and I pray Gerri will continue to open up and trust you. It is a blessing she is so verbal, even if she doesn't always tell you. :-)

MoonDog said...

sophie still doesnt always trust us. we had to tell her that we have a RULE and we must all follow it carefully. do you know what the rule is? no babies falling down. I wont drop her, I wont let her fall off the pot, I wont let her fall off the counter, or the bed or anything else. we talk about this rule so often, its as if no other rules exist(*yknow like no hitting and all that)hugs. I know how hard it is. you are doing so great though figuring her out. its just that you are the mom and it is never really "enough" when you are the mom. you gotta know more, do more. Right now sophie who cried all night is sleeping. little twit. time to leave in a couple hours! your girls are so darling. remember with a pregnancy you have 9 months to bond with a child, adoption give it at least that long. hang in there.

Lisa said...

I can imagine why you felt sad that Gerri didn't tell you her feet hurt, but it makes a lot of sense after understanding how she must have been processing what was happening. You have all been through a lot in the short time since she's been home. Once more of the medical issues are behind you, you will have more "normal" days to continue to get to know each other and bond. Hang in there! You are a great mama!

maggie said...

Nan, Please contact me I would love to send our walker to Gerri.


Diana said...

Ah, I love a good, honest post. :-) I so get this roller coaster, too! Lots of people have said not to take it personally. I believe they are right. You are a great mom and are doing amazing things. But I'm going to take it a step or two further. I think YOU and your instincts are right, too.

Speaking from an outsider's perspective, but one who's BTDT and still doing it, I would HIGHLY recommend doing some research on both PTSD and attachment. For PTSD, use the search string "PTSD children" so you pull up all the sites specifically relating to PTSD in children. Though it is similar to adult onset PTSD, there are some unique things that happen when children are exposed to trauma. One of the big differences between kids and adults is the ability to dissociation. Adults can do it to an extent, but kids are MUCH more prone to it, especially if they were exposed to significant trauma at or before about the age of 6. With all your sweet girl has been through in her short little life, she's unfortunately at pretty high risk. It also sounds a lot like what we deal with with our older son, too.

In regards to attachment, don’t let this scare you!! The most important thing to understand about attachment issues (something I believe that almost all non-infant adoptions are affected by to some degree) is that THEY AREN’T ABOUT YOU!!! If you have a child who struggles with attachment, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or are doing something wrong. You’re not! Nor is there anything wrong with your child. Attachment issues are purely trauma based and are the result of insufficient, inadequate, and/or unpredictable care during the first few years of life. That’s something none of us adoptive families can control or change. Indeed, the better the care they received, the less severe the issues will be and the faster previously learned attachment skills can be transferred to the new caregiver (aka mom) and life. Given the level of trauma your daughter has experienced though, (abandonment, orphanage life, international adoption, language transition, big medical stuff...and all the other stuff I don’t know about) it’s not surprising at all that it’s been harder to bond with her. In fact, IT IS COMPLETELY NORMAL!! And honestly, I’d be really frightened for both you and her if you told me differently.

I hear people saying all the time that their kids are securely attached to them after just a very short time. I cringe when I hear this because I can so easily see through what they're saying and what their kids are doing and can plainly see they really don't understand attachment (and in far too many cases, are afraid of it, so they ignore it!!) It makes me really sad for these families who so readily dismiss attachment issues as a possibility when the kids are young, or even fresh home, because in so many cases, it's pretty likely those issues will end up biting them HARD in the rear as the kids get older and aren’t so easily reversed.

Unfortunately, most professionals don’t get attachment either. I find this completely inexcusable because attachment is something that affects EVERYONE. It isn’t just an adoption issue (though that is where you see it most pronounced.) So many “disorders” and “ailments” that are diagnosed in life both for kids and adults actually have roots in attachment. Until those issues are properly addressed and healed, people aren’t going to get better. You can throw all the pills and cognitive behavior stuff in the world at it you want. There might be some improvement, but not a real cure until the roots are addressed.


Diana said...

I also find it absolutely appalling when a “professional” tells a family, especially one who has adopted an older (meaning non-infant) child, that their child is securely attached. Seriously? Any professional who truly gets attachment WON’T tell a family that. First of all, they don’t live with the children and don’t see enough one way or the other to make that kind of assessment. They’ll see RAD because it’s so obvious, but even the best ones won’t see the kids enough to know when the attachment is truly secure.

In reality, it takes up to two years for a normal, healthy, wanted, loved, and properly cared for since conception birth child to form a true secure attachment to their parents. It will take at least that long for our adopted kids to do the same. It is important to note that even under the best circumstances, ALL adoptions involve abandonment and loss and are traumatic to a child. It will take time for them to recover and fully embrace it. If there are other traumas (abuse, neglect, deprivation, and even pre-birth trauma caused by the birth mom living in a stressful or traumatic situation during pregnancy) on top of the adoption, it will take even longer for them to fully be able to trust that love is a good thing, that parents really do take care of their kids, that they are worth of being taken care of, that their parents really do love them even if they aren’t perfect, and that generally speaking, people are good and the world is a safe place.

All that said, I would start first by researching "healthy attachment" and/or “secure attachment”. Even with having a bio child, I found this really helpful. It gives you a really good picture of the attachment cycles and what healthy attachment REALLY looks like and how it happens. You’ll also be able to see where you’re really at in the process and what milestones have been hit and which ones haven’t. Once you've done your research on healthy attachment, then start researching "insecure attachment" (use that search string). Inevitably, you will find some info on RAD in that research, but you’ll also find the most accurate sites that will help you understand the whole attachment spectrum.

If you feel the need to go further, (though I’d give it at least 6-8 more months before even going there with’s still way too early to even consider full blown RAD) use the string "reactive attachment disorder" rather than the RAD acronym. Better yet, email me. I’ll send you some links to the best sites. There are a few good ones out there, but there’s also a lot that are inaccurate and misleading. Unfortunately, NONE of the sites I’ve found are complete. Some are too scary and too negative, some omit information on the various TYPES of RAD and how they present, many offer a checklist of symptoms of attachment issues as a lump thing rather than breaking them down into stages or severity or type categories, thus leading people to believe that if their kids aren’t killing animals and burning their houses down that they don’t have attachment issues when in reality, they probably do.

Even if you suspect your child might have some attachment issues, realize they aren’t a life or a death sentence. With the right treatments and interventions, they CAN be reversed and kids CAN and very often DO go on to live fairly normal and productive lives. Under the “resources” tab on my blog, you’ll also find a LOT of great therapeutic parenting resources that offer all sorts of wisdom and how to’s on helping our kids heal and attach.

Hang in there, my long time friend! You’re not alone and you’re doing a great job! ((HUGS!))

Sally-Girl! said...

Oh Nancy, I can relate to all those feelings with older child adoption and with the arthrogryposis and it's ramifications on clubfoot and hip dysplasia. You brought back so many thoughts and feelings reading your post.

It has only been 8 months, seems much longer when you are in it though. Gerri is right where she is supposed to be. You guys are such great parents for her!!!

Kylie Mc said...

i've been following your blog for months now. i just love your day to day posts. i have my 4 yr old following ur blog is a wonderful way for me to teach him about adoption. he enjoys the video clips. he was very upset about gerri's feet and was wondering how they could be fixed. he was afraid that she was in a lot of pain. i assured him that you and ur husband, along with the drs, were doing amazing things to help her.

i can see the amazing job ur doing. i can see the ups and the downs, but hang in there, bcuz as someone else mentioned, gerri's progress is amazing. just look back at old posts if you ever feel discouraged. the proof is there.

i'm sure that gerri is afraid to fully trust, afraid to fully love. in the back of her mind, and in her little heart, she must fear the possibilty of this new wonderful life being taken away from her. she still has her protective shell that helped her survive through orphan life. just keep on talking to her and loving her up. one day, you'll break through that shell.

God Bless! ;)

Lauren Hubbard said...

Oh that last pic is sooo sweet! I hope she is feeling better. Thanks for being an awesome blogger- even when it must hurt to share- I really appreciate all of your honesty!

Somewhere Behind the Morning said...

Aww, poor Gerri! And, poor you for feeling like you did something wrong. I am amazed at how she can speak so much English to you- did they teach her English in Ukraine? We dream of Victor being able to tell us if something hurts him... He chatters all day in Russian but isn't at all interested in any activities to teach him English. How lucky that Gerri can tell people when she hurts. I hope her sparkle continues to come back!!!

Happy Holidays!!!!!!!!!!
xoxo, Kari :)