Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Butterfly Slowly Spreads Her Wings

Last night Kim had her piano recital. She played beautifully and finished with that smile of hers that lights up a room. About half way through her first piece I thought of how far this sweet little angel of ours has come and I thought of her birthmother.

Kim came home from Korea at 6 months and soon began years of surgeries to repair her cleft lip and palate. I think most kids are resilient and get through hospitalizations well with preparation and time for healing. Kim did not. Those years made Kim an emotionally fragile mess. She had the greatest stranger and separation anxiety of any child I have ever known. She was such a fearful child she could not even handle being touched by friends at church or her speech therapist whom she saw on a bi-weekly basis. She didn't talk until she was nearly four.

She's come a long way baby!! We spent many years just "meeting her where she was at". We didn't push her to overcome her stranger anxiety, we kept her with a family member at all times, usually me. When her Child Intervention Services insisted she needed to go to preschool we said no. When they insisted she needed to learn to separate from us, we said she wasn't ready. We felt like we were labeled "bad, uncooperative parents." When the dentist said we would not be allowed to be present with her when she had a filling we switched dentists - twice.

We worked with the Child Life Department at the children's hospital, and spent countless hours before and after surgeries talking about her feelings, playing doctor and hospital, making picture albums of her stay so we could walk her through her feelings of fright and lack of control. When she had a hospitalization we made sure we got the same anesthesiologist every time, the one who would allow us to be in the recovery room with her before she was even awake.

When it was time for kindergarten, we hand-picked her teacher (we continue to do so) and we spent time in the weeks before school started to visit the classroom and teacher. Once school started, I stayed with her part of the first week. She thrived.

Basically, we let her go at her own pace. It was slow. Many professionals thought we were doing it all wrong-that was hard. But we knew what our little girl needed and we stuck by our beliefs. We surrounded ourselves with doctors, nurses, teachers and speech therapists who worked with us and not against us. We filled Kim's life with love and laughter and security and friends and loving relatives. It worked! We can't take credit for everything, LOTS of people helped our little girl blossom-and it worked!

Now, Kim exudes confidence! I wish every 10 yo girl was as confident as she is. She is confident despite the fact that she has a serious speech impediment, a noticeable scar on her lip and a nose that needs more plastic surgery. This little girl who wouldn't talk now talks so much we sometimes want to wear earplugs! She loves herself, she loves her many friends, she loves life! She has a shirt that fits her well. It says, "Yes, I'm perfect! So stop starring!"

As I watched her play her piano piece I thought of her birthmother and how I wished she were there to see how far Kim has come. I would love to sit shoulder to shoulder with her, our hands clasped; two mothers beaming with pride, as we watched our daughter together. I know she would be proud too-beyond proud. And she would know that she made the right choice. She wanted Kim to have a life she couldn't have in Korea, where she would have been hidden away her entire life, simply because she was born with a cleft.

And she does. Oh yes, she does!!


Christina said...

It's so heartwarming to hear how Kim has blossomed over the years. And what a great example and encouragement you are to have taken things at her pace and listened to her needs, regardless of what the "experts" said. I need to remember to do that more often.

tncornett said...

Even how close we are, I never realized you "protected" her so much. I appreciate how you did it without causing a scene, if that makes sense. It was your choice, and I respect that and think she is all the better for it. I also respect how you handle your parenting style, in an quiet, yet decisive fashion.


S. said...

Wow, what an awesome post in so many ways. Parents really do know their children best.