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Friday, March 4, 2011

Levi, Month 1 are my reflections on the first month. Don't worry. I'm sure I won't have so many thoughts in the months to come. But, the first one is the biggest adjustment! Sorry it's long, but I wanted to record all my thoughts for posterity. we go:

It's only after a month that I'm starting to realize how overwhelming all this has been! That's probably because it has been going very, very well and we already love little Levi so much. After you do all the training required to bring home a child from a 3rd world orphanage you expect the worst. When none of that happens - no developmental problems, no parasites, no bad test results, no attachment problems - you would think it is life with a normal 10-11 month-old.

Ha! That's when I realized that we brought home a 10 month-old who could crawl and almost walk (therefore requiring a spotter all day) who is also teething (as you all know, that means wild mood swings, biting, drooling, waking in the night) who is quite a bit underweight (which means eating every 2 hours, sometimes as much as 3 jars of baby food and huge mounds of whole milk yogurt) who will then need a diaper change every 1-2 hours (and who had never had a bowel movement before you fed him baby food - yikes!) who has never slept in a quiet room by himself and also needs a feeding once or twice a night (which means I sleep in a twin bed in the nursery and haven't slept through the night in a month either). Thank God all the doctors, physical therapist, and developmental therapist say he is above and beyond where he should be! After a day at Riley at the end of the month we found out that he gained over 2 lbs in just the first month and also grew a couple inches!

And that is just the physical aspect. When you bring home an infant there is this idea, which granted you are somewhat cautioned against, that you get to start a bit more from scratch. Again, Ha! All the sudden I realized the gulf of the language barrier, even though Levi can't talk yet. A child born in America hears English from the moment they enter the world. They start to notice patterns in words and actions along the way, even if they don't yet know the meaning. To Levi words like "more?" "Bye Bye!" "No" and, oh yeah, "Levi", "Mommy" and "Daddy" were just random sounds until recently.

Everyone who brings home a child from an orphanage is concerned about attachment - will they know we are the parents? Well, Levi definitely knows I am mom and he isn't letting go. Ever. A moment in the pack 'n play, a swing, bouncer, highchair if I'm more than two feet away are all unacceptable to him. I have a 17 lb. attachment and he isn't letting go. (Well, unless there is a great toy or some crawling to do and I promise to stay right by him.) Lately, Levi says Dad is allowed to hold him too, but sometimes not. Or even better, if we could both hold him at the same time. (It's normal to have a child attach to one parent first and then the other. Easier for their brains to take in.) And then there is the fact that we can't accept any help. Not even from grandparents. Definitely no babysitters. And no one else can feed him or change him for quite a while so he learns we are the people that will care for him.

It has also been interesting getting to know his personality. Usually you see the baby's personality develop from birth and have a hand in it. (Actually, they learn a lot of their expressions from mirroring the parent, we learned. Cool!) Levi already had things that made him laugh, sounds and expressions that had meaning, a schedule and body clock, none of which did we know. They handed him to us with some food and medicine as soon as we arrived and then we were on our own! Now, after a month I know the cry for "I want to stand up, not sit in your lap" "My teeth hurt" "I'm tired", how he likes to be rocked to sleep, and on and on. Quite the learning curve.

So, we have a personality-filled, mobile, teething, 11 mo-old with the eating, sleeping, diaper habits of a newborn who won't let go of me and I couldn't let someone help even if we wanted (which I really don't right now anyway). Whew! But you know what? It really is great. He's worth every 11 p.m./2 a.m./5 a.m. wake-up, the 12 diapers a day, the food spit on me, the naps that almost always only last 30 min, the teething, the language practice in English AND Amharic, and everything else I can think of. He's a fabulous little guy as you'll see from the pictures and I wouldn't trade our adoption experience or time in Ethiopia for anything, literally. I highly recommend it. There are 5-6 million orphans in Ethiopia ALONE! If you, or anyone else is interested in this wild ride, check out our FABULOUS agency:

Enjoy the pictures.....(I'm biased, I know, but what a RIDICULOUSLY cute and SWEET baby. Lord, you picked us out a really, really good one!)

This was shortly after coming home. We were all very tired for that first week. The very night we got home I even "slept walked" - Woke up after passing out on the couch, looked at Brad and said, "I don't know where I am either." And went right back to sleep. Yikes.

Fist picture with Nanny, who came to do help us out a bit when we first returned.

Levi's first guest! Cindy, an dear family friend, was kind enough to have mom stay with her so that Levi could get used to just us in the house.

Getting to know the dogs! They adore him and will put up with just about anything - pounding toys on their heads, grabbing fur, ears, eyes, whatever. They frequently go in his room to check on him while he sleeps.

One of my favorite pictures so far:

Fun with the grandparents! They got to start holding him a few weeks ago, which is really fun. (For a while it could only be us and primarily still is.)

This looks sweet, but what is actually happening is Levi is chewing Bob's knee. Ah, teething.

We let Nanny snuggle with him some while he was sleeping right before she left.

Meeting Ryan and Monique, who brought us a very yummy dinner a couple weeks after we returned. I also wish I had taken pictures of Levi meeting some of our other friends for the first time, Tyler and Adrianne Smith, Jen, Miriam and Ellen. Next time!

We are very thankful that Levi, overall, likes his car seat.

While I practice Levi enjoys pulling my music off my shelves. Whatever works!

For a while Levi couldn't take in all that was outside. He would zone out when he saw the snow and bare trees. Then one day we had a bit of a blizzard and he actually enjoyed watching the snow fall. He didn't get to play in it this year, but that is something to look forward to next year.

I'm always amazed by what is going on in his brain. One day he looked through all three of his toy baskets, found his drum, walked directly over the the fireplace and started banging it there. Okay.

Levi meeting Abby, Bill and Lincoln for the first time. Lunch at Paradise.

His first balloon! He couldn't believe it.

I was inspired by some friends who each month take pictures of their kids in a chair to show their growth. It wasn't easy getting him to sit and look at me, but here is the end of month 1!

And here are some favorite videos from the first month.

Levi laughing and showing his new skills

What happens when Dad feeds Levi rice cereal

Not for the faint of heart...Levi working, um, very hard. We laughed until we cried.

Levi and his dogs days after we got home.

One of the first times Levi practiced with me. And the first time he gave me kisses!