Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do …
But how much love we put in that action.
Our exhausted family arrived home from China on Sept. 26. The next morning, we took Eisley to a pediatrician in our neighborhood. It only took a quick look for the nurse practitioner on staff to know Eisley needed to go immediately to the ER. We rushed to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where we were admitted to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU) to begin treating Eisley’s para-influenza. I was sad that our new daughter had to spend her first seven days in America in the hospital, but I believe I was protected from knowing just how sick she was at that time. My sister later told me she didn’t think Eisley would survive her stay in the PCICU. Shawn spent most of his days at the hospital while I was at home recovering from my own para-flu and a viral rash that had covered my body. Thankfully, though, a week later, we were all at home together! We were excited to finally begin to find a normal life as a family of four.
The next three months were spent at home “cocooning” as they call it in the adoption world. Because Eisley had such huge stranger anxiety, we kept her world intentionally small. We wanted her to learn to trust that we were her permanent family and that she could let down her guard with us. Our weekly outings consisted of visits to the cardiologist or pediatrician. At night, Eisley would only sleep for one to two hours at a time. When she woke up frightened and full of grief, I discovered that she found comfort in rice. Though the nights were punctuated by rice and congee snacks more than sleep, we managed to make it through.
Eisley loved to dance, eat guacamole, and visit playgrounds. We took lots of family walks through our neighborhood and celebrated Halloween with a special party at home. Since she didn’t have words yet, we taught her sign language, which she picked up quickly. We were delighted at how many signs she used to communicate with us, and we loved watching her try her best to make her mouth and tongue produce sounds. You could tell it wouldn’t be long before words would come. She grew stronger and braver and learned to roll over and sit up, and pull herself to standing. She even began to crawl. Though the scale didn’t reflect it, she began to fill out and looked so much healthier than when we first met her. She began eating more, and I could only laugh as I discovered that her favorite foods were the ones that were on my plate! I was immensely proud of the progress she made in just a few months at home.
Eisley’s first heart surgery was initially scheduled for Dec. 15, but we learned the day before that it would be postponed because the PCICU unit was full. Our new date was Dec. 28, which gave us the opportunity to celebrate Christmas and big sister’s birthday at home. It was so much fun to watch Eisley get into the gift-opening experience. I hadn’t planned to get her any gifts as I assumed she wouldn’t know what to do and wouldn’t realize she was missing out, but I decided at the last minute to get her a few small items. I’m glad I changed my mind! As it turns out, opening presents was no problem for our girl! All Eisley had to do was observe her big sister for a minute to get the knack of it. She wanted to try opening everything herself first, but would sign for “help” if she needed it. To see her and her big sister laughing and giggling together was such a delight. I’m thankful that we had those moments to share together. What a gift!
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