The first week home was rough on us- at least Maylee, Joe and I. Liam and Nolan were extremely easygoing about the chaos that ensued. It wasn't until our fourth day home when Maylee had a fever, that we learned that she had an ear infection. This was probably a contributing factor for our traumatizing travel experience, as well as her extreme sadness the first week. We knew that she would be sad and grieve, but the first week was spent with her in my arms, alternating crying, whimpering and screaming. She refused to eat, wanted nothing to do with Joe or the boys, and was only truly calm when sleeping.
This was so hard for us. We thought we knew why, but all of the skills we had spent over a year learning were not helping and we had no idea why. Maylee had been such a happy playful child in Korea and she had warmed up to her brothers instantly, but once home she seemed like a different child.
Again, we were prepared. We knew about the grief, we knew about the confusion and frustrations she would be feeling, but even as newly adoptive parents, this all seemed somehow "not right". Hearing news of her ear infection brought down our stress levels and our hearts were once again at ease. Our intuition was spot on.
Within a couple of days of antibiotics, the little girl we knew from visits and photos began to slowly emerge. She started smiling and giggling now and then, her appetite grew, and the very best sign- she began bonding with Joe and the boys.
Although she was so happy to play with the boys and interact with Joe if I was around, she continued to be upset when I left her sight and when Joe returned home from work. She would whimper or cry, which broke my heart. Of course, I was sad for her. All of this must have been so unnerving and confusing, but I was also so sad for Joe. Like me, he had waited so long and loved her so much and now she was rejecting him over and over again. He was so patient and understanding of her needs, where I found myself being increasingly more frustrated. It hurt me to see her dismiss her daddy.
For the sake of my sanity and out of pure desperation, I decided to tune out her screams and head up stairs to take a bath and read for a bit after Joe returned home from work one day during week two. The first ten minutes were torture. She screamed so hard and called for me in a voice that could only have come from a place of pure fear. But Joe and I held strong. Soon her cries quieted and by the time I came back downstairs, she was fine- happy to be sitting with her daddy, eating a snack. Every mommy fiber of my being and everything I know about adoption-based trauma told me what I was doing was wrong, and yet it was the right call.
She still whimpers a bit and protests my husband's presence each time he returns home from work, but if I leave quickly, she warms up quickly. During our post-placement meeting, our social worker told us that this is extremely common. She is upset with him for leaving her each day and her response is a direct effect of that frustration. In short, she does it because she loves and trusts him. Such good news for this worried mama!
Now, our little lady loves legos, playing chase, stickers, and rolling around on the floor with her brothers. She gets sad at every oppa drop off and when she needs to say goodnight to them on our way to bed. She loved to eat anything and everything (except extra crunchy carrots and lettuce without ranch). She is sassy and smart. She is cuddly and creative. She loves being outside and snuggling Maizy.
Each day is a bit better than the last. Each day, our bonds get a bit stronger. Each day, our family of five solidifies a bit more.
Last night, when putting Maylee to bed, I kissed her cheek and told her that I love her. Then it hit me, "I actually do!" Not that I haven't loved her all along, but until now, I have loved the idea of her. I have loved the future that I imagined. I have loved a picture and words on paper. Now, I love HER. I love her for the child she is. For the personality that she has. For the new future I see.