I have wanted to write in my blog for weeks now, but my mind seems to always get distracted, or I just don't make time to write. Who can blame me? Ryan and I have stayed busy binge watching all six Star Wars movies and episodes of House Hunters at night, and during the day, I have 1-3 children hanging off my body at all times. So today, I finally feel ready to write. And when I looked down at the date, I realized that today is our 3 month anniversary of Tyson officially being adopted into our family.
The thought brings tears to my eyes. My precious son, born to a woman across the world, has been in my arms for three whole months. A quarter of a year. Praise God for calling us back to China last summer! What would I do without this baby? Seriously. How did I ever live one single second without him? He is a joy and a gift to our lives!
Every night, I hold Ty in my arms, wrap his weighted blanket around him, and sing sweet songs to him. I nearly cry every single time as I think about the woman who gave birth to him. I feel such deep sorrow for her that she cannot put this precious boy to bed each night. All of his slobbery kisses and tight squeezes that should have been hers are now gifts to me. She gave him life, and now we get to live with him.
Ok, have you had enough of the gushy love stuff? Well, I can't any promises, but let's see what else I can share with you.
Brothers for Life
Let's talk about how Tyson's presence has impacted our other three boys. I know this is a huge question for parents when they consider adoption. They wonder, "How will a new child impact my other children?" This is our experience with Tyson. Every single day when he wakes up, I carry him downstairs. Noah, Liam, and Tucker stop whatever they are doing, and with the goofiest grins you can imagine, they begin waving both of their hands as fast as possible and saying, "TyTy!! Good morning, TyTy!!" in high pitch voices to which Tyson replies with squeals, a huge wide smile, and intense waving. Liam kisses Tyson about 45 times a day. He honestly has a compulsive kissing problem, but fortunately, Tyson and I are the primary recipients at this time. Noah is like me - he thinks that everything Tyson does is the smartest, most adorable thing any child has ever done on the face of the planet. We used to wonder if a relationship between Noah and Tyson would be difficult given their age difference of 5 1/2 years. Believe me when I say, they have such a beautiful connection. Last night, Tyson was sitting on my lap (of course), and Noah came and sat beside me. Tyson, who often sticks to me like glue, got up, walked to the other side of Noah, and plopped down next to him. The smile they shared when their eyes met was priceless. Adorable! Tucker continues to be so patient with his baby brother who is always curious about Tucker's toys, books, and projects. He has this sweet compassion for Ty, and his prayers deeply reflect his heart. When it is his turn to pray, Tucker will often say something to the effect of, "Dear Jesus, thank you Tyson's home. Please heal inside his mouth and help him feel better. I just love him so much. Amen." Needless to say, all four boys are all head over heels for each other.
Tyson had surgery on July 16th to repair his cleft palate. Had Tyson been born in the US, he would have had his lip and nose repaired first as a baby and then his palate repaired after that. However, since he is nearly 2 years old now, our surgeon recommended repairing Tyson's palate first so that he could begin making progress with speech and expressive language. I wholeheartedly agreed! The morning of the surgery, I was very concerned with the trauma that Tyson would experience. Having not been in our arms since birth, we were still (and are still) working to gain his trust and build security with him. As our attachment grew stronger, I noticed that his anxiety actually grew stronger, as well. I spoke with some other adoptive mommas, and we all agreed that this was possibly due to his fear of losing our family as he was growing to love us. I shared my concerns with our surgeon, Dr. Tholpady, and he invited me to put on a white suit and bring Tyson back to the OR myself. This was such an unexpected gift, and having the ability to hold my son, place him on the table, and stay with him until he was asleep was more than I ever could have hoped for that day!
Unfortunately, Tyson's trauma post-surgery was much more significant than he appeared to experience post-adoption. His stress and anxiety levels were off the charts. Ty would panic if I stepped one toe away from him. He needed prescription pain medication every 4 hours for the first 7 days, and I believe he had completely moved to Tylenol and Motrin by Day 10. For the first three weeks post-op, Tyson clung to me for dear life. He was resistant to Ryan and the boys, and by Day 21, I finally cracked. I realized how completely depleted I felt and told Ryan that I didn't have anything left to give. I had been with all four boys, cocooning, playing at parks, riding bikes/scooters outside, swimming, playing video games, making meals, cleaning up, etc. every single day that summer. I had poured my heart and soul into our family and our home for 9 weeks, and I had finally reached my max. By the grace of God, two days later, Tyson began reaching for Ryan, seeking him out for comfort, and playing with him. It honestly felt like he had reached a certain level of security with me and was finally ready to let Ryan into his heart again. I was elated to finally have a break, and Ryan was so happy that his new son was willing to spend time with him again. We started using a weighted blanket and some new essential oils, as well, and both seem to have made a big difference in his emotional state.
We have had two post-op appointments so far and have the last one next Monday. Dr. Tholpady has been extremely pleased with how Tyson's palate is healing so far. I cannot believe that this man has created such a functional, normal looking palate after having a moderate-to-severe cleft there previously all the way from his hard palate to his soft palate. I fully expected it to always look different, but it honestly looks like he never had an issue to begin with. What a miracle! Tyson has had to wear arm restraints for 6 weeks in order to prevent him from putting anything in his mouth. He is also on a completely pureed diet, so thanks to a friend who has let me borrow her huge steamer, I have been making baby food once again! Tomorrow we will hit the 6 week mark since surgery, but Ty's last post-op appointment is Monday. I am very hopeful that we can resume normal foods and lose the arm restraints that day!
Tyson started speech therapy through First Steps two weeks after surgery. He is eligible for 1 hour of therapy each week. When he first came into our arms, he could basically vocalize the schwa sound ("uh") at different intonations. He was picking up several basic signs very quickly: more, please, thank you, eat, drink, milk, mommy, daddy, good boy, sorry, help, and all done. He was even putting three signs together after being home just a couple weeks (more eat please). It was obvious that Tyson was ready to communicate! He has had five speech therapy lessons, and I cannot believe how much progress he has made already. Ty's therapist is AWESOME! She has such great presence with him, is knowledgable about her field, and knows just when to push and when to pull back. I am learning so much from her! The first session focused on his imitation of pretend play with the idea that if he imitated those motions, he would hopefully imitate sounds and later words. The next session introduced more pretend play, as well as cause and effect toys. If Tyson communicated through sign language, he would get the "reward" of playing with the toy. He learned the sign for "go" and "open" and uses them spontaneously and frequently. The third session began more focus on signing and using sounds to request. He was a rock star and attempted to make any sounds that the therapist requested! He is now able to make several sounds: k, d, g, h, l, m (though this is tricky with his lip), n, t, w, and y. Tyson is attempting the sounds for -s, -z, -p, and he is beginning to add some variation with vowels. We heard a pretty good -oo and almost a long -e the other day! So far, he is able to say the following words: momma, dada, Kya (surprise!), and Gēgē (older brother in Mandarin). He woke up saying "Tucka" on Sunday morning and began saying "dog" last night! During breakfast, he will show his preference by trying to say "congee" (kuh-kuh) and "yogurt" (yuh-yuh). It's adorable! I am amazed by this progress! Tuesday during speech therapy, I was showing the therapist pictures of Tyson's orphanage on my computer, and photos of the baby room caught his eye. I initially worried that he might become upset - I hadn't shown him any pictures since leaving China yet. Instead, my concern was quickly washed away when he began excitedly pointing and waving and squealing when he saw photos of his daddy and Noah in the baby room. It was PRECIOUS!!! He was saying an approximation for "hi" while waving and then started to say "Noah" and "dada." Even though the pictures were filled with people he lived with at his orphanage - nannies and children - he did not acknowledge them at all. Instead, he kept finding his daddy and brother in each picture and waving and vocalizing. I am not sure I've ever seen a bigger smile and more joy for so long. My heart felt so much happiness - he knows his people and clearly has positive feelings about them! I started showing him pictures of Liam and Tucker, and he again attempted to say their names (EE-um and Tuh-kuh). It was absolutely adorable, and I wish I would have recorded it. I might have to try that for next time.
The past three months have challenged us as we've transitioned into a family of six, especially with surgery in the mix, but they have also brought us so much of joy. I think everything Tyson does is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I'm like a first time parent except that I'm totally not...haha! I look forward to the days when he feels even more trust and security in our family and when he feels more permanency with us. I can only imagine how things might be in another three months! With that said, mid-November he will be facing another surgery to repair his nose and lip, as well as get tubes placed in his ears. Will you pray with us that Tyson's trauma will be as little as possible, especially after what happened after his first surgery? We are hoping that after almost 3 more months together, he will feel that much more secure and safe in our arms. Appropriate pain management at the hospital will be very helpful, too! I am going to miss his big, wide smile, but after seeing the progress he has made with his speech in just five weeks, I cannot wait to see further progress after his lip repair.
Tyson, I can't imagine our family without you! I love you and cannot wait to see what God has in store for your life. So thankful that I get to be your mommy. You are a gift!