After One Month Home
Hey Y’all! Sorry it has been a few weeks since I posted! Many of you have been asking about a new post for some time now, and I’m glad you have enjoyed following along with our journey and praying for us! The main reason I have not been able to post is that we have been struggling with sleep the last few weeks. The first week home, the girls did ok with sleeping…They woke up a couple times here and there, but they fell asleep fairly easily and napped well during the day. Well, for some reason, something clicked in their brains after that first week home, and sleep just became a thing of the past. So since I spent my nights rocking crying babies to sleep (over and over again), I wasn’t able to blog at night, and nap time became my 1 hour of the day to get other things done!
The sleep issue has been a roller coaster type situation. Sometimes one girl will sleep great and the other won’t, sometimes neither of them sleep, sometimes we’ll have a few nights where things seem to go smoother and we feel like we’re improving, and then we take several steps backwards. There really has been no pattern to it that we can discern! As difficult and exhausting as it’s been the last few weeks working on little sleep, at least I could say that we were adequately warned about how sleep could be a struggle once we got home! Nightmares and night terrors are common in kids who have experienced trauma, which are the main causes of the girls’ constant waking. Their unique brain chemistry makes them “hypervigilant”, meaning the slightest sound, movement, or change in their environment will wake them much, much easier than a child who has not experienced trauma. So sometimes we’ll get them to fall asleep but we can’t get them into their beds (or our bed or the floor or the couch or anywhere) because that wakes them up! So some nights I just have to hold them all night long (which makes for one tired mommy).
However, I think we are making some progress, especially with Noella! Three nights this past week, she has actually been able to fall asleep WITHOUT BEING ROCKED! Praise the Lord! What a huge step forward! We can’t wait until the day we can just put the girls in their beds and say “goodnight!” and let them fall asleep on their own. Honestly, that day seemed SO FAR OFF when Blake and I were having to rock them all night long, but this new development with Noella has been SUCH an encouragement to us that this stage will not last forever! Noella has still been waking up at night and needs to be rocked after a nightmare (who wouldn’t!), but her falling asleep on her own is awesome progress.
As with other areas of attachment and adjustment, it is taking Mercy a bit longer to overcome that falling asleep hurdle, but we are taking that in stride. She FIGHTS sleep with every bit of energy she has. To be honest, I would too if I knew I’d have nightmares like she does. She has also developed a new behavior lately where she will wake up in the morning and immediately have a meltdown. Previously, she would wake up and then lay in the bed with me for a bit until we were ready to get up. But now she wakes up, starts crying pretty much immediately, and once I pick her up, she won’t let me sit or lie down or put her down or anything without her screaming bloody murder. It’s a tough way to wake up (for her and for me – I don’t have my kind and patient face on that early), so I have been trying to develop a morning routine that gets her engaged and distracted in other things (like making breakfast) to try and stymie the crying. I’ve seen some improvement with that, so let’s hope we kick this morning meltdown habit SOON!
There are a few other areas where we’ve seen LOTS of progress with both girls. The last couple weeks, they have been soaking up English like a sponge! One of their favorite activities is looking through picture flash cards and books and naming things. They are putting together more full sentences, and have begun to speak a little bit to each other in English too! (Though they still mainly speak Kirundi to one another). We CAN’T WAIT until the girls are proficient in English. It will seriously make parenting SO MUCH EASIER. They have also REALLY started to show affection to one another lately. At first, in Africa, the girls acted like the other didn’t even exist – like they had no idea there was another child in the room. Then, they noticed one another but just fought to compete for my attention, and got jealous/angry when the other one received that attention. Now, we’ve finally entered the much more pleasant stage of them actually playing together, holding hands, and giggling with one another. They still ignore each other or fight more than they play nicely together, so I’m hoping the pleasant times will eventually outweigh the unpleasant ones! Blake and I can’t wait until they are able to play independently (by themselves or together) without our constant hovering/intervening/teaching. Right now, they still need us to model how to play, but they are definitely getting better at it! They’ve also been making improvements in potty training! We honestly haven’t been pushing it much, but the girls, of their own volition, suddenly stopped pooping in their diapers and asked to go on the big potty. Sweet! No more poopy diapers! Now we are working on doing the same for going tee-tee, and they’re occasionally asking to do that too. We are hoping they’ll be fully potty trained soon!
Another area where we’ve seen great improvement since the last blog is the girls’ attachment to Blake. In the last post, Noella was just starting to show some affection towards him and Mercy was still holding back. Well, Noella is now in LOVE with her daddy, and appreciates all the attention he gives her! Mercy has actually let down those walls a bit and has started giving Daddy kisses and hugs and says “I love you” (all things she would not do 2 weeks ago). She also really loves to rough house with him! So being tossed on the bed or pretending to fly is her favorite thing to do with him. She still has some barriers, though. She still won’t let him hold her when she’s tired/upset, in need or something, or if she feels the slightest bit unsafe (like when we are in the pool or going down the stairs). So we are continuing to work on her attachment to him. They’ve also been attaching to their grandparents, Bibi, Poppi, and Sitty, who have been visiting more frequently. They still feel unsure and shut down usually right at the beginning of the visit, but then pretty quickly open up and enjoy spending time with them. That has been sweet to see!
This past Saturday was a big day, because it was the girls’ birthday! They turned 3 years old! They have been singing the birthday song to themselves for a whole week now, so I’d say they definitely understood that we were celebrating them! We left up their birthday decorations because every time they see them they says “oooo! beautiful! happy birthday!” and clearly are still getting enjoyment out of them. They also ate cake and ice cream for the first time! Noella loved both. Mercy loved the cake WITHOUT the icing, but wouldn’t try the ice cream. We had a small party with just family, and the girls met some new family members! As always, they were “frozen”, totally silent and mostly unmoving, around new people, but overall they did really well at their party! I was impressed that it went as well as it did! We are looking forward to the girls eventually coming out of their shells around family and being their “true selves” all the time, not just when they are with us alone.
Noella and Mercy have shown great progress in attaching to Blake! They’ve shown progress in attaching to one another! They’re learning English well!They’re starting to use the big girl potty! The Lord allowed us to be together on Father’s Day and their 3rd birthday.
FOR SLEEP! Please pray that the girls fall asleep easily each night, and will sleep deeply and restfully throughout the whole night, free from nightmares or night terrors. Please pray that Blake and I will be supernaturally energized, despite the lack of sleep. For Mercy to continue attaching to Blake and grow to fully love and trust him. For Mercy to wake up in the mornings feeling safe, secure, and happy. For the girls’ fear of other people to subside, especially so they will begin to feel secure and open up with other family!