Today we got to visit Avery! It was the first meeting for Steve, Kacey, and Evan. When I was here on my second trip adopting Julia and Aaron, I met her as she kept escaping from her groupa to come out and play. She obviously wanted a mommy and daddy and she got my attention! We are back here to bring her home.
We were picked up at 9:45 this morning by Tatiana and her son, Edward. We drove out to the orphanage, they dropped us off to wait, and they left to pick up someone from the Department of Children's Services. This person is supposed to observe our first visit with Avery and give us the go ahead to proceed with the adoption process.
When they returned, Tatiana first asked us to come inside and sit down in the office of the head doctor. This was not done the last time we were here adopting. The doctor wanted to talk with us about how Julia and Aaron were doing. I think we spent about 20 minutes talking about and showing them pictures of them. The doctor remembered us and had many questions. The conversation was slower, as Tatiana had to translate everything between the doctor and me. After we left, Tatiana told me she thinks the doctor was very shocked at how well Julia is doing. He also seemed to understand the type of surgery Aaron had on his legs. He also inquired about how our insurance covers Julia's medical expenses. It was a very different and interesting experience. I do not think it is usual for a family to start out the first visit with the head doctor. In fact, the last time, I only saw him on our last day at the orphanage. We were very happy to have the opportunity to show pictures and share how well Julia and Aaron are doing. Tatiana even said that of all the children she has seen adopted, Julia has transformed the most. My hope and prayer is that through this, the eyes are opened to these caregivers as to the worth and potential of many of the children whom they write off as incapable of any meaningful life.
After we were finished visiting with the doctor, we were taken down to Avery's building where she was playing outside on the playground. She was wearing only a pair of pink stretch shorts and sandals. I think they try to keep the children cooler in the summer by not putting shirts on them, even the girls. I hope nobody is offended by Avery being topless in these pictures. When Avery first spotted us, her eyes locked onto the ball I had in my hands for her. She ran up and took the ball and ran with it. Everyone laughed. She knew what she wanted! To play! Despite being cross-eyed, she has great hand eye coordination. When Steve threw the ball to her, she caught it EVERY time! After a while she was intentionally trying to throw it over the fence to the road. She did manage to accomplish this task and the guy from Children's Services kept kicking it back over the fence to her.
As I sat down to listen to another orphanage doctor go over her medical history, Avery came over and wanted to check out what we had in my backpack. We did not bring all of the toys for her today, as we knew this would be a shorter visit and did not want to overstimulate her. We spent quite a bit of time talking with this doctor, while Tatiana translated everything. The head lawyer and one of the nannies also contributed to this meeting. We learned about Marina's medical history and spent quite a bit of time learning about how much she has progressed just over the last year. Our guess is that one or more of the nannies have been working with her. While we talked, Avery was off playing with Kacey. She really liked Kacey! She loves being picked up and played with. She stands in front of you and puts her hands up, meaning "Up!" Evan was off running around doing his own 3 year old thing, not paying too much attention to Avery. (Although when we left, he exclaimed, "Hey! Where's Marina? Why did she not come with us?")
So, what did we learn about her? Well, contrary to the DAP office telling us she was a single child of her biological mother, we were told today that she was from the fourth pregnancy. She was born full term on April 4, 2005, so she is 7 years old. She weighed 2 kg 800 g, which is roughly 6 lbs. 3 oz. and 50 cm or 19.7 inches long. Her birth mother (bm) gave her up on the very first day. For some reason (I could not exactly understand in the translation), they have lost all records or information on the bm. No name exists anywhere in any records. There is no information on her pregnancy either.
Developmentally, she progressed normally prior to 6 months old. After 6 months is when her delays were noticed. Since then, she has always been noted to have mild mental delays. She can understand complex sentences and commands given to her. She can repeat one word up to two syllables at a time. If she is trying to repeat a 3 or more syllable word, she condenses the sounds to two syllables. The nanny indicated she is learning more and more everyday. Avery enjoyed looking through our photo book of our home. Everyone was explaining for her what was in the pictures. She was saying the word "piano" and everytime she came back to the page with the picture of it, she remembered the word and repeated it. The nanny said she can draw shapes, such as circles and squares.
They say she understands emotions and intonation in spoken words. At times she gets upset and has crying/screaming fits and they do not know the cause (maybe frustration?), but that these tantrums have lessened over the last year. They also say she gets headaches and holds her hands over her ears and screams. This makes us wonder whether she may be experiencing migraines. She is significantly cross-eyed, so this may be part of the headaches as well. Overall, we are encouraged by everything we learned about her today. We are more optimistic that in time and with therapy, she will be able to communicate verbally. The nanny says she sometimes takes her shopping and she is very good about following instructions while in public. I hope so!
Enough of my rambling......here are pictures: