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Sunday, August 22, 2010

September 2, 2008

Day 4
Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam
September 2nd was a national holiday in VietNam, Vietnamese Independence Day.  Lots of red banners and flag waving and even more Uncle Ho everywhere, in posters, and statues, if that was possible.  It was the perfect excuse to hunker down in our hotel and just try to get to know one another.

We started to discover many of Tess's "self soothers."  When babies don't have a caregiver to help them feel better in times of stress, they can develop techniques for soothing themselves.  For example, thumb sucking is a typical healthy example that many typical kiddos develop.  Worst case scenario were the stereo-typical orphans of Romania who rocked and head banged.  I expected both babes to come to us with self-soothers, 'cause it's almost inevitable when a child is institutionalized and has no one to help her feel better.  What I didn't expect was for Tess to have SO many of them.  It broke my heart.  She had little scratches on herself.  At fist I thought she just needed her nails trimmed.  But then observed that when stressed, like when we'd try to play with her or if we tried to force eye contact, she purposefully scratch her legs, arms, or in her ears.  She also pulled her hair... out.  And jokingly we said she was narcoleptic.  In hind sight, she used to (and still does to this day) sleep to escape stress.  One moment she's awake, and then suddenly right there, she falls asleep in a second or two.  That finger thing she did, that we noticed the day before, fondling Papa's zipper or a seam, was also a self-soother.  She'd fixate on some texture, often just the texture on the wall, and stroke it, staring at it, for up to 60 minutes.   Sadly, those were the times that she was the most at peace, laying in her crib, alone, fingering the texture of the wall between the slats of the crib.  She wanted it this way, to be left alone.  I wondered how many hours she spent doing this in the orphanage.  My heart was breaking for her.  Lastly, her finger sucking was by far her biggest self-soother, and I had witness it in the videos even before we got her.  

We also realized that both babes still had an infant gag reflex, likely indicating that neither had much or any experience with solid foods.  Jude gagged repetitively when we tried to offer a spoon or cheerios or Gerber puffs.  Eventually, within the day, he was eating solids.  Then he was craving them, making up for missed time.  Not Tess.  It would be a while before we could get her to eat her first puff.  
Physically, at 12 months old, Tess was developmentally about a 4 month old.  She could roll over and push the front of her body up, but not sit or bare any weight on her legs.  I must say that I was shocked learning that she couldn't even sit at 12 months old.  It was sad, and I was pretty angry about it, mad at the people that made her wait 3 extra months to have a family.  Building muscle strength in her core and legs became my first objective.  OK, I tried to work on her eye contact too, but it obviously made her so very uncomfortable, (and honestly it upset me so much too) so we didn't push her.

Amazingly, Jude was close to being on target developmentally.  It was becoming apparent that he was loved and stimulated at the orphanage.  But then there were his feet.  We started to piece what we think happened.  Two months prior in June, I got updated measurements for Jude and noticed his weight had dropped a bit.  After some questions to our wonderful caseworker, I was told that Jude had been sick.  In fact I learned from my caseworker that most all the babies at the orphanage has been sick.  Probably a virus went around.  Up until this time, I had photos and videos of Jude in his brace.  And falsely assumed that he was wearing it all the time.  From what they had said the day before at the orphanage, and their reluctance to give us the brace, we guess that the nannies either believed that the brace was causing his illness, or that he needed a break from the brace to recooperate.  Similar to a retainer after orthodontic work, his feet quickly reverted to their original deformed position without it.  And although his left foot wasn't as bad as the right, there was no getting the brace back on once his feet now.  So we had his brace, but it would never go back on even though we tried.  Poor little man cried when we tried, and I don't blame him!  Papa and I decided not to worry about it, and consult with his surgeon when we returned home.
Jude, standing on clubbed feet, as flat as I can make them
Jude's feet as he normally stands on them
Despite his lack of braces,we learned that Jude could pull himself up, "cruise" furniture, and even take a step of two... all on clubbed feet.  It looked painful to us, but he didn't mind a bit.  If fact he seemed to open up some and was excited to have room to explore, something I'm sure he never had in that tiny metal crib.  He also finally started to drink from his bottle on this day, and we started to see his smiley personality.  That sure did make my heart rest more easily.

In hindsight, the babes were still so scared, sleep was still in short supply, we were still getting used to being together, and the Crazy Mama was using a bit of denial to get through the days without worrying herself to death.

To be continued...


  1. I spent the better part of an hour rereading parts of the blog. I look at J's feet and think back to the older man with club feet in front of the hotel in VietNam and I am saddened by the fact that the older man never had the joy of running and jumping. All my kids run and jump but for one of them it is just a little more special. Love ya little guy. (papa)

  2. These photos tell so much. Thanks for sharing these photos and the words. The photos of Jude and the director - wow you can really see how much the director cared for Jude - not sure if Vietnam orphanages stay in touch with the families - but hope he has seen how happy your children are.


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