Question: What’s the hardest thing about caring for Katie?
Answer: For me, the hardest part is laying her down in her bed at night, turning my back, and walking away.
Not because it bothers Katie. Her days are full, and by bedtime, her eyelids are drooping, and she’s happy to hear me say it’s time for jammies. We have our bedtime routine and our snuggling time, and then she lets me know when she’s ready to stop snuggling and dive into her bed. A Bach CD is always playing as she and Verity drift contentedly off to sleep.
So it’s not that.
It’s just…well…I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable putting her down in her crib, turning my back, and walking away.
Question: How do you deal with your grief and anger over seeing the effects of the neglect on Katie?
Answer 1: This is a good question and one that made me think, because I haven’t experienced grief and anger about this since bringing her home. I don’t think any of us have.
I’m not sure why that is.
Perhaps it was because we were very prepared for Katie as she was. We really did fully accept the Katie Before as the child we would love and care for until she reached the end of her life. We understood that she might not grow, gain any skills, or love us back. There was so much joy in simply being allowed to have her as our daughter.
Maybe too, it’s because a mother of a large, homeschooling family learns to meet each of her children where they are, with their individual strengths and weaknesses. None of our children are being compared with a peer group. We don’t want to compare the weaknesses of one child to the strengths of another, or to see children in terms of their weaknesses.
A fetid odor rose from every part of Katie Before, mingling with the horrid odors of the top floor in August with all the windows closed. A stench that comes back to my memory when I look at these photographs.
So I think at least part of the answer to this question must be that we accepted Katie completely as she was.
We still fully accept Katie. We just don’t view her as lacking. If she stops progressing, we will not be sad, angry, or disappointed in her.
Our joy in her and love for her are not conditional on her progress from the child we picked up from the Pleven orphanage last November. The joy in our hearts that day cannot be put into words. If we tried, it would sound something like…
“We’ve just been given one of the world’s greatest treasures.”
Answer 2: There is no room for grief and anger in our life with Katie, because Katie herself is so thoroughly filled with the joy of life! We say that she’s the most grateful person in our family! As Joseph observed, “Katie likes being Katie.”
She has no understanding of how different she would be if she had been tenderly loved and cared for by her family from the time of her birth. She just knows that she is surrounded by people who love her, and she loves it! She loves to be loved.
Grief and anger are legitimate and appropriate emotional responses to some things, but they just aren’t part of having Katie in our family. Her care may be time-consuming, but she herself, the person who is Katie, only adds to our joy in life.
Katie’s progress is a source of celebration. She keeps progressing, so we get to keep celebrating!
She’s still growing! She just went through yet another growth spurt, putting on two and a half more pounds and adding on another inch. She’s growing into 4T clothing and size 7 shoes!
She feels free to explore and try to get in on any action that interests her, and she feels comfortable anywhere we take her.
Even the hut some of our children built in the woods. Goes nicely with our study of early America…
People who have seen Katie recently after not having seen her for several months all remark on how much stronger and more active she is. We definitely plan to buy an Ergo carrier before we take her on any more hikes!
She goes up onto her hands and knees more frequently than she used to.
She lights up when I come into the room, and she isn’t happy when I leave the house without her. She accepts more affection from me, enjoys it more, and sometimes even initiates it herself.
Over the past month, she has shown noticeable progress in how much eye contact she makes with me. As a direct result of her increased ability to focus on visual cues, she is expanding her vocalizations!
To her “B,” “P,” and “M” sounds, she has added a soft “TH” sound, an “S” sound, and a hard “G” and hard “C” sound. She also has a “DZ” sound as she tries to say Joseph’s name, and a “D” sound for “Daddy,” “Daniel,” and “done.”
She’s more likely to attempt to imitate sounds. For instance, I might be working with Verity on the word, “cup,” and be saying, “Verity, C, C, C!” And suddenly realize that Katie’s making a guttural hard “C” sound!
Her new IU 13 speech therapist observed after her first session, “Katie’s going to be verbal.”
She is learning to complete some very small tasks, like picking up a diaper from the pile before I lay her down to put it on her. She holds it in her hand until I extend my hand and ask her, “Katie, may I have it please?” Whereupon she proudly puts it into my hand! Not too long ago she would shake the diaper out of her hand seconds after picking it up. When we first brought her home ten months ago, she refused to allow anything to touch her palms, and would attempt to push all items away with the back of her hand, in irritation.
Until the past few weeks, this vibrating teether irritated the living daylights out of Katie! I helped her get used to the feeling by pressing it to her mouth while making it vibrate. She always jerked her head away.
Then one day, I glanced over at her to see this. Now it’s one of her favorite toys.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention above that I occasionally see her attempt to chew her food after I withdraw my hand. For a long time, she only chewed as long as I held the piece of food between her molars.
(She’s not imitating someone talking on the phone; she’s listening to the music.)
She’s begun to seek out toys. Now we sometimes see her attempt to play with a few of them appropriately rather than just tapping the side of her head with them, or tapping a surface and putting her head on it to listen. She loves noisy toys.
The xylophone is still her favorite toy. She can get a lot of sound out of that thing!
Daniel doesn’t mind sharing keyboard space and practice time with his little sister!
(If you look closely at this picture, you can see that Katie was receiving her third set of IV treatments for her fragile bones. In December, she should receive the fourth treatment, and then at the beginning of the new year, she is slated to receive her second DEXA scan to check her bone density. We are still handling her as though she has extremely fragile bones.)
Thank You, God…
…for sending us such a little sparkle.