Medical Appointments, the Good and the Bad

stella shamrock

I was a teacher for many years. While student teaching was a positive experience where I learned a great deal, it was not until I stepped into my first classroom that I really learned how to teach.

Lifeline, the adoption agency we worked with to adopt Stella, did an amazing job educating us on how to parent a child from a hard place, but not until we actually had her in our hands were we really learning how to be the best parents for Stella. And what we are realizing is that some days we are failing to implement those amazing strategies that we were taught. Not intentionally, of course. Stella appears to be doing so well throughout the day that we lose sight of the amount of new things we are introducing Stella to and the level of anxiety that comes along with all things new.

And then BOOM! It’s night time and emotionally, she crashes hard.

This past week our family made a trip to Birmingham, AL for two medical appointments for Stella. We met with a family therapist (FT), occupational therapist (OT), and pediatrician at the International Adoption Clinic (IAC) on Wednesday and the Cleft Team at Children’s Hospital on Thursday. Both appointments introduced us to new faces that will be part of Stella’s medical team and we feel honored to partner with each of them. They understand an adopted child and for that we are so grateful!

Physically Stella is adjusting well. Though she is a tiny little thing, she is on the American growth chart {barely, but there}, which is not always the case with a newly adopted child. She is eating well, loves a variety of food, and is growing. Amy, the OT, was amazed at her fine motor skills and coordination and did not have any therapy recommendations for us. Missy, the audiologist, said she passed the hearing test with a perfect score. {She prepped us for a different outcome, which is often the case with a Chinese child that was born with a cleft palate.}  Laura, the speech language pathologist, was blown away how much language she has acquired in less than two months and though Stella will probably need some speech therapy later, right now we’ll just practice a few sounds at home and focus on bonding as a family. Dr. Grant, her plastic surgeon, was in awe that she was singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in a manner that he could truly understand so soon after coming to America and not too crazy long after her initial palate surgery for her cleft. The super exciting news he shared with us was that Stella would not need to have any surgeries until about 2nd grade, when a bone graft would be needed. Whoop! Whoop! We’ll take it 🙂

Stella’s least favorite part of these visits was the vials of blood that the nurse took from her on Wednesday. {Can anyone blame here? I know I can’t!} Mine and Paul’s least favorite part were the three poop samples that needed to be collected. {Can anyone blame us? Haha!} We have some medical records from China, but analyzing her blood & poop will help us build her medical history a bit more.

Emotionally Stella is still struggling and now we will regroup and retreat back into a stricter world of cocooning. We pray that even if our family/friends can’t understand why, that they will respect the needs of our family and honor them. We need your prayers, encouragement and understanding. Understanding that our daughter is not a typical 4 year old, experiencing typical 4 year old behaviors. She is a child that lived a traumatic life for almost 4 years and is still battling the anxiety that has built up from these traumatic experiences & change in her life. While she does not understand the love of Jesus Christ right now, we will pray through these anxious moments for her [Philippians 4:6; Isaiah 35:4] and make decisions for our family that will minimize the amount of anxiety in our precious daughter.

On the day we were returning from China, I wrote a blog post titled Change… with a few requests we had with respect to interactions with Stella. After living as a family of three for almost two months and talking with Kelly, the wonderful Family Therapist at the IAC, we realized we need to address specific behaviors we are seeing from Stella so that the attachment/bonding process of our family can strengthen more. The behaviors that we need our community of friends/family to respect are:

Tossing Animals: Stella has a sweet, compassionate heart. She loves her stuffed animals very much and at least one {more if she has it her way} of them is with us at all times. She will often see a person that she does not know or at least not know well and will throw her stuffed animal at them, creating a game of it. She finds it fun and laughs. This is an indiscriminate act and creates a situation where an emotional need of hers is being met by someone other than myself or Paul.  If you are around Stella and one of her animals come flying your way, please do not throw it back to her. Instead, give it to myself or Paul and we will be the one to return it to her. This actually happened the other day at the IAC. Stella threw an animal to nurse Jennifer. Jennifer caught the animal, but nicely said to Stella, “Why don’t we give this back to Baba.” Stella’s focus went back to Paul, which is where it needed to be.

Hugs/Sitting on Laps: In the last month and a half, Stella has had the opportunity to meet several great aunts/uncles, her only great grandparent and dear friends of Mama/Baba’s. While these moments will always mean a lot to us, Mama/Baba slipped and broke their own rule. {Rule: Only Paul and I will hold Stella.} It felt natural, Stella was cooperative, seemed like no harm was being done, and made for a good picture, but we have recently been reminded {by the FT and Stella’s anxiety levels} that acts like this hinder the bonding process. UGH! With this realization my heart sank. Not our intention at all!!

Gifts: Stella has received some amazing treasures since joining our family. They would often come along with a meal or an initial meeting with friends/family. For the most part we have been the ones that gave the present to her, but in a few cases we slipped and were not. Lessons have been learned and like the above, we need to revert to stricter measures. If you’d like to give a gift to Stella, Paul and I will be the ones that physically give the gift to Stella and we welcome you to to share in the joy of seeing the excitement the gift brings because our girl WILL be excited!

Will these requests be forever? No, but could they be for the next several months? Absolutely.

We started strong, but hit a few bumps. We are back on the correct path, looking at life through Stella’s eyes, making choices of what activities to do and not to do based on what she needs to feel safe and loved by us.

So….in six months we will return to Birmingham to follow-up with both teams of medical professionals. And, to add a little *fun* to the road trip, we’ll be having lunch with Ashley & Mally {another beautiful China girl that came home a week before Stella} and then play at a park before heading back to Atlanta.

stella-baby buggy


One thought on “Medical Appointments, the Good and the Bad

  1. Praise God that so many things are positive. Thank you for being so specific about the things you’re working on as a family. I continue to pray for all of you as you as you bond. I’m also praying specifically for Stella as she adjust and heals emotionally. And for you and Paul to experience a peace that passes all understanding. Love and prayers from the Hills!

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