Monday, 12 October 2009

The Babies

I've realised that I have written a lot lately about waiting, but I haven't really written much about the two big things: Ethiopia (after the first two days of shock) and the babies (ditto). So first: the babies.

The babies are beautiful. They are bright as little buttons, have wonderful eye contact and lovely little personalities. And if love can be measured by how miserable you are apart from someone, I can tell you now that I definitely love these babies.

The most noticeable thing about these babies is that they are SMALL. One of the things I was trying to think through and deal with during the year + that we were waiting was the fact that we might be referred an 'old' baby. Our age range was up to 12 months, and we knew that with time taken for court and travel that the baby could be considerably older than this by the time they came home. I'm not going to defend myself about finding this hard to process - I knew I should just deal with it, but dangit, I really, really love crunched up little newborns and that's what I think of when I think 'baby'.

So anyway, when our babies were matched with us, they were four weeks old. And twins. And a boy and a girl. This is a total jackpot situation, yes? Well, YES! Of course. And the babies themselves are unbelieveable, perfect, adorable. But suddenly I found myself faced with issues that I had never considered. I had been so concerned about the baby being big, that I never thought about what would happen if they were scarily small. As I write, the babies are 10 1/2 weeks old, and they are both only just past the 6 pound mark. Did I say they are 10 1/2 weeks old? They are not quite yet grown into 'newborn' size clothes. I know that 6 pounds isn't really tiny, in the scale of things, and there are much tinier babies than this out there, but we know about their new weights because we finally got a weight update on the weekend and we can now calculate that since their birth they have only put on 1 1/2 pounds (baby girl) and 1 pound (baby boy) and that doesn't feel like enough to me. It doesn't look like enough to the WHO growth chart, either, even when corrected for likely prematurity. I wonder - is this officially failure to thrive? Then I checked some definitions and wow yes, it is definitely failure to thrive. And then I think - why would I not expect failure to thrive under their current circumstances? I've been reading this cheery book , and institutional care is filed under the chapter entitled 'severe neglect'. And hey - I have to agree. I've been there. We have a great big album of photos from our trip that I bore people with, and I love to point out pictures of our babies' favourite nanny. "Look, there she is! She's pinching their little cheeks and talking to them!" And she is, and that's great, but let's face it, she has 10 other babies to look after too and I know that, pep talks aside, our babies are getting nutrition and hygiene but nothing that even remotely approaches mothering.

What will the long term effects be, I wonder? I know that brain damage is a risk. I don't want my babies to be brain damaged. I know they are being regularly fed, but if they aren't eating enough at each feed, or spitting it all up, or not absorbing it properly, I'm pretty sure they face malnutrition the same way as if food wasn't available. I can't bear to think about the fact that this is almost certainly unnecessary. With dedicated care, I know they could be bigger. I know they could be growing. I wish I could do that. It makes me feel dizzy just to think about it.

And I know that there is nothing that anybody can say to make this any better. Nothing that will fix this, now, and we probably won't know for years whether there has been any long term damage.

Hmmmmm. Not really an upper, is it?


  1. Claudia,

    Well, the issue of the babies' weights would weigh on my mind. When they are just born, that is just where the mama mind goes, eating, sleep, peeing, and pooping, and their weight. How I would calm myself about this issue is this: of course, they would weigh more if you were the one providing their care because it would be consistent and more often and completely on demand. But for now, they are getting enough. And getting enough would be the thought that would carry me through. I think of "failure to thrive" as more of an issue with the child, a child who has some sort of issue that prevents getting proper nutrition, something in their own body. Their not putting on weight now is really because they are not able to eat on demand because of the care. I am confident that there will be no long lasting effects on the babies. I'm trying to be logical and hopefully consoling, but I get that this is very difficult. Let court come and be done. Please.

  2. It's heartbreaking to think of our babies/children in an orphanage...that they are there right this minute. This time of waiting and knowing is almost unbearable. And for have been there and met them in person. Making the distance from them so hard. You are right...nothing can make you feel better until you have them home and in your own motherly care. Praying and sending positive thoughts that your babies will continue to grow and be nourished while they wait for you.


  3. Oh, C! I was up last night googling the health issue that scares me with our little one. We already went through a scare with the older one. This wait is hard in a whole other dimension from the wait for referral. All of the free time we have that could be dedicated to nurturing, mothering, loving our babies back to health seems like just plain unfairness! I know there is nothing that could be said. I just hope for some court movement!


  4. They're so resilient, the little ones. Tougher and more resilient than we ever expect them to be. They'll be all right, and as soon as they're home (soon, please, SOON) you can devote all your energy to fattening them up.

  5. I don't know if this is possible for you but you might try sending over some soy formula for them. I traveled with a total of about 4 families adopting infants and 2 of those babies were VERY tiny and developmentally delayed. Both were lactose intolerant and both are now thriving and catching up after being put on soy.

    If it isn't possible, also keep in mind that both of these babies were about 8-10mo at homecoming so they still made it OK, even if not great, for a lot longer than your little bits are likely to remain in ET.

  6. Our twins were put in our agency's care when they were 23 days old. They were severely malnourished and underweight (we assume this is due to being born prematurely but we aren't certain if they were or not, plus they had a serious stomach bug). They were 10 weeks old at referral and barely weighed 7lbs each. They have been home with us for a month and a half and just had their 6 month old checkups-- he is 18.5lb and she is 14.5! Both are, as of now, right on target in every way, are meeting all their milestones and are eating up a storm. While we were waiting to pick them up, we were panicked that they weren't growing, that we couldn't get a decent head measurement, that they wouldn't develop properly... and luckily, all those fears seem to be for naught. Our agency's case worker told us that we would be amazed at how quickly the babies would develop once they were in our arms and it was true. Babies are so much stronger than we think. Once they are exposed to your love and care every single day they will thrive by leaps and bounds. I know it's hard to believe this right now, while you are waiting, waiting, waiting, but I have two little lovebugs of proof sitting beside me right now. Keep the faith. And feel free to email me if you want to talk...I was right where you are just a few months ago. xo-Kat

  7. Oh sweetie. This is so hard, so much to deal with--from afar especially. I have high hopes that your babies will do just wonderfully and will make progress by leaps and bounds once they are in your tender loving care! Thinking of you.

  8. I can't pretend to know what you're going through, hun, so I'll just offer up some hugs while continuing to pray for your sweet babies to grow and thrive.

  9. I am sending you love! I feel very encouraged by the comments that have already been left here. I want you to be with them so badly. I am wishing for this process to go quickly for you. I think of you so often and am always sending warm thoughts their way.

  10. Certainly I'm no expert, but I've heard that when they are that small it is most likely you can catch them up nutritionally and developmentally once they are in your care. Olly is almost 14 months and still only has 4 teeth. I think he is teething now. But every single baby we've met his age has a piranha's worth of crunchers and here he is with only 4 which has worried me (and the Dr says this is totally no biggie), but conversely...the rapidity with which he gained weight and learned motor skills once he was home had us catching our breath to keep up.

    I have high hopes those babes of yours will catch up super fast if they are delayed in anything...


  11. When we met Jacob, he did not use his legs at all. He didn't seem to really know why they were there. We got him home and into early intervention very quickly. He made up for 3 months of muscular developmental delay in about 6 weeks. He RUNS around the house now. These little ones are so resilient! I know this is so hard. The wait is terrible. But you are going to provide for those little ones every need that they have and they will thrive.

  12. I was where you were with your concerns a few months ago- worried sick. We had a couple health concerns that kept me up at nights, all hours.

    Just know and remember- you aren't alone in these feelings, these truths.

    Next year I hope you can check back on this blog and see how far you and your children have come along- I pray for much joy and peace.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Hi!
    As far as I know the first two years are the most important for a child- like, they have to get attached to somebody and all that, in order NOT to get this braindamage you were talking about. So I believe, and hope, you and the lil ones are quite lucky, to get them home at such a young age! I wish you all the best!


Over to you!