Today is day five, post op, of Hannah's lip repair. So many have asked us how she is recovering and we are so thankful for your loving concern for her and for our family.
Hannah's surgery went pretty much as expected, including our overnight stay in the hospital. Her cleft is wide and therefore the surgical trauma a bit greater than I think I anticipated, but Hannah is strong and she is recovering well. Much like her surgery, her recovery has gone mostly as anticipated, though there have been a few things that came as a surprise to us.
Hannah began eating almost immediately following her surgery, but she'd been given a tremendous amount of local anesthetic, so her lip and face were entirely numb in those early hours of eating. We are thankful she ate as much as she did during that time (enough to feed a grown man!) because once sensation began to return, her thoughts on food and eating began to change. Rapidly. She struggled in the first day or two to take in much food and really ate only macaroni and cheese for two days. As she began to feel better, she's been eating better. She will remain on a "soft food" diet until we see the surgeon for a follow up on Wednesday. Then we will discuss letting her go back to her more typical diet. She continues to refuse to drink from any of her cups or her bottle, so we give her drinks through a syringe. She is content to accept liquid this way, so we will just follow her lead on this and offer the cup as she feels ready to accept it. Quite honestly, I don't blame her for not wanting a sippy cup smashed into her lips!
Hannah's pain has been manageable and she is now down to just taking motrin and tylenol, though we are having doubts that this is enough for her right now. The narcotics were providing great pain relief, but intensified her night terrors. They were more frequent, longer in duration, and far more intense. They have diminished since stopping the narcotics, though she's always had them, so I do not expect them to go away altogether.
Since coming home from surgery one of our greatest struggles has been sleep disturbance. Hannah is no longer sleeping in her bed and is unable to go to sleep on her own. Her "lovie" has been rejected because it causes her to want to suck her fingers and she knows she cannot do that right now with the pain she is feeling. No lovie, no fingers....she's struggling to find ways to cope and soothe. Her solution right now is to sleep only ON someone, in the ergo carrier, or in a moving car. She starts most nights in the pack 'n play, but has thus far not yet been able to get through a whole night sleeping independently. She fusses and needs a lot of cuddling. Night terrors have invaded our night time sleep (she used to only get them during nap time) and then afterward she will just moan and toss and turn the rest of the night. We know she is capable of sleeping independently and we know her sleep will return to normal habits, eventually.
The difficult thing with surgery with any child is that it introduces trauma into their life and it is trauma that they must overcome. For an adopted special needs child, surgery is an unfortunate necessity and is simply trauma added to trauma. We had to press forward with Hannah's surgery and she will have to have her next one in a few months. More trauma added to a child who has already endured far more trauma in her short two years of life than a lot of us will face in a lifetime. While this new trauma has provided lots of opportunities for us to solidify our bonds with Hannah, it has also caused a few set backs. Hannah's fear of being abandoned by me is back in full force. Her fear that I can love only one child at a time is back. Some of they ways she manifests these fears are reminiscent of our first week home from China. I told Chris it has a "fresh off the plane" feel to it right now. She is needy, she is fearful, she is doubtful. We are just trying to scale back to the basics we had when we were first home. We are keeping her close, meeting her needs immediately, and providing as much reassurance to her as we can. We are seeing behavior that we haven't seen in a long, long time, but we know that she's just so afraid. This is such a big change and she truly doesn't understand what is happening to her. We also know what she is capable of and we have no doubt that as we continue to move forward through her recovery, we'll see her quickly return to the Hannah we had pre-surgery. We don't feel stuck in this "fresh off the plane" spot and know that progress will come and should come faster than it did the first time around. Of course, with a second surgery looming so close, my personal sense of urgency to help her return to her pre-surgical state is pretty high. I would love to be able to progress forward and make even greater strides before we go back for our second summer "vacation" at the UK Children's Hospital. The benefit now versus when we were first home is that there is history for all parties to draw upon. She knows we can be trusted and she knows she can fit securely into our family. We know she has the ability to express herself in appropriate ways and be content to do many things independent of Mommy. We will all get there--together.
As for me and my mama's heart? I am adjusting to the new Hannah. Her appearance changed drastically and yes, I cried the first time I saw her, simply because I didn't recognize her. I have yet to see what her new smile will truly look like. There was a tremendous amount of pulling on the right side of her face and a great deal of surgical trauma and swelling. Due to this, her face on the right hardly moves right now and pulls in a bit of a downward direction. She cannot smile, even if the pain wasn't a factor, due to the lack of mobility she has on that side of her face right now. It is all expected and should return within two weeks or so. I think part of me will always miss her wide, open smile. Right now what I miss the most is the light that radiated from her eyes, telling of joy, peace, tranquility and a sense of understanding she is right where God destined her to be. I can adjust to a new smile and fall in love with its sweet post-cleft quirks. I long to see the life return to her eyes.
In the meantime, please continue to pray for our family. Pray that peaceful sleep will find its way to our home again soon. Pray that Chris and I are able to adequately gauge Hannah's pain management needs and that we can find a better solution for her next surgery--without increasing the night terrors. Pray that the new wounds from surgical trauma will rapidly heal and that we will have the stamina and compassion needed to help those wounds heal quickly. Pray that her sense of peace and security will return and that we can move beyond and through this time of recovery so newer, deeper, more meaningful bonds can be made prior to her next surgery.
Our family is strong. Hannah is strong. Our God is yet stronger than any of us. We know He will see us through this time of recovery. We are eager to see Hannah's light return to her eyes.