Six months. Hannah has been home, forever home, for the past six months. I wish I could somehow adequately verbalize the transformation she has undergone. Had you met the child we met in January 2015, you would not believe her to be the same child we present to you now. From blank stares, stoic faces, fighting with all her might, and the inability to laugh to bright smiles, deep belly laughs, and free, unprompted hugs and kisses. From fighting to hold onto strict routine with all her might, to slowly learning to accept the free flowing way of life with a little give and take (as long as we don't mess too much with planned snacks and meals!). From refusing to go near Baba to begging him to hold her up high on his shoulders and flip her around like a gymnast. From despising her siblings and the work and challenge they presented her with to intentionally seeking them out and preferring to be with them than alone. From screaming outside the bathroom door when I had to use the potty to happily asking if she might shut the door for me and patiently waiting outside. From sleeping in our bed to sleeping in a pack 'n play in our room (yeah, we still have a long way to go in the sleep department, but we're heading in the right direction). From eating all that was on her plate for fear the food might run out, to trusting there is enough food to express her likes and dislikes and not eating all that is there. From not knowing who we were and feeling fear each time she laid eyes on us to losing sight of us at the playground and intentionally shouting for Mama until she can be found with an urgent and extra tight hug once she sees that she is not alone. From truly believing we were kidnapping her to desiring to be held near and a part of it all. From tantrums and biting and hitting and cussing to finding new ways to regain self control in record breaking time and expressing herself with true words rather than the ugliness of cussing. Really. I wish you could be here. To see what God has accomplished in her--what your prayers have helped us accomplish--in just six months time. We loved her then because we made the commitment to do so and our hearts broke at all the trauma she was experiencing. We love her now because God has planted seeds of true, deep, passionate parental love in our hearts and allowed it to take root into a firm attachment and begin to blossom into the love that only a mother and child can experience. She may not be of my flesh, but she is still very much one of my babies--and no longer out of duty or commitment, but only what can be born from time, effort, and much focus.
Only God's love and His love poured out through a loving (yet totally imperfect and blemished) family can accomplish this. She is a different child. And she brings so much to us. We simply couldn't imagine our lives without her in it.
It has been six months since Hannah joined our family. So much has happened in the months since she came home. So many things have changed--many of them in barely perceptible ways. Hannah's trust and confidence in us has grown dramatically. She looks to us for comfort easily, with no hesitation. She calls us by name, "Mama" and "Daddy." She voices her likes and dislikes and pleasure or displeasure with complete freedom and comfort now. She has no fear of telling us she "no like it" at meal time because she now sees that food will be provided and she trusts us to do so. She's discovered what it means to have something, for your very own. Just this past week she figured out the use of the words "me, my, mine, and Hannah's." She now needs to state ownership of all things. "That Gracie's!" "My dee-dee!" "Hannah lovie!" She sees that these things are hers, for her to keep and take care of. No one will take them from her. She loves to proudly declare they are hers. She has no fear in asking for what she wants and needs. My current favorite is her daily request for "Mama rock you" at nap or bedtime (rocking has kind of drifted off and I had accepted that independence from her, but I am also very happy to oblige these recent unprompted requests). She laughs...freely now. When we first got home she held back any hint of giggle. No belly laughs or shrieks of delight. Now? She has this deep alto chortle that comes from way down in her throat and I know when she lets that one fly she is really having fun. She has come so far. So, so far.
She is a Burris! She acts just like the big kids. She laughs at their silly jokes and asks for them to clown with her again and again. She needs a book with her everywhere we go (to nap, in the car, to the bathroom, to a diaper change). She loves to look and read and tell you about the pictures. If you know our family "in real life" then you know that this by far is one of the greatest indicators that she is indeed God designed to fit into our family. Love of books is mandatory. She loves to help. Each day I get out the sweeper to work at cleaning the kitchen floor and she rushes to get her own toy sweeper to help me. When I fold laundry, I will never fold for long without quickly hearing, "Hannah help you!" She is comfortable and at peace. She sees where she is fitting into this picture of family.
She still has moments of doubt and insecurity that creep in. Often her only way to communicate her frustration and dissatisfaction with things is through tantrums and screaming, but oh, how I have to tell you how much this has improved! She is learning how to cope, how to take two deep breaths to regain self control, and how to ask for what she needs rather than shouting about it. She still feels unsettled when the environment changes abruptly or if I do a poor job of preparing her for what is going to happen. She still thrives on the routine and safe and familiar. We eat at regular intervals. We sleep at the same time. The routine is always the same and there is so much security for her in that. She still almost daily asks me to carry her in the Ergo and I do enjoy giving her this closeness she desires.
When we first got home, those early days were hard....for all of us. The adjustment was difficult, overcoming the trauma seemed impossible, and we were sleep deprived and jet lagged. It was hard. We sought out counsel from adoptive families that had walked the road before us and asked them for their insight and encouragement. We contacted our post adoption department at our agency and worked through strategies to help things improve. We prayed. A lot. The common thing we heard? Just wait until you are 3 months home. Things will be better then. Just hang on until you get there and realize that you can make it. Three months and things will improve, but then....then comes six months home. At six months you will look back and not recognize the child in your home because she is nothing like the child you brought home. Six months and she will begin to emerge from the darkness and you will see that life without her would be impossible. At six months you'll have a new groove to your routine and you'll really begin to start finding the sweet spot. You know what? They were right. Six months home and yes, we still have our struggles. I still lament over things we have yet to overcome or get frustrated at issues I thought we had conquered, but overall, they were all right. We are finding our stride. Our sense of "normal" is returning. We're beginning to hit the sweet spot.
Hannah, we couldn't imagine this life without you here. We are so thankful you are part of our family. You blow us away each day with how you change, grow, learn, and explode with new knowledge. You are one of the greatest blessings in our family. We simply cannot wait to see what lies beyond this so called sweet spot and see you grow for another six months to come.