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A little over a year ago something really important happened. We walked into a place that would change our lives forever.
We met two sweet angels. This is the first time we met Francesca. Francesca was exactly what I expected. A friend of mine had met her when she adopted her little one, so I knew a lot about her.
And little Victoria, who never, ever smiled. The orphanage director described her as having no spirit. When I first saw her, I was stunned. She was totally shut down and showed no emotions. We had to decide within a day if we wanted to adopt her. We could choose to leave her. In my mind, there was a huge risk involved.
Victoria’s eyes haunted me. When we left the orphanage that day, I couldn’t get her eyes out of my mind. We made the decision that we couldn’t leave her. No matter what her abilities would be, she deserved more.
We met with the girls twice a day for two weeks before our court date. Victoria never looked at us. She never smiled or opened her mouth. We thought she had a contracture in her jaw.
She was nothing like we expected. Her hands were clenched so tightly that she could only use her pointer finger.
Victoria didn’t know how to hold a toy. Everything terrified her. She would grind her teeth constantly.
I tried laying her down on the floor to see how mobile she was, but she was too afraid to move.
She would lay perfectly still and cover her face, protecting herself in the only way that she knew how.
The first thing she showed interest in was my sunglasses. She was so weak that she couldn’t hold her head up for long. Little did we know how malnourished she really was.
Francesca quickly came out of her shell.
Even Francesca was so painfully thin. She often had fevers, so we weren’t allowed to visit with her. She was so desperate for water that she would lick a drop of water off her hand.
My husband went home after court, so I began the daily visits alone.
One day they let me feed Victoria her bottle, which had a hole so big, she could barely swallow fast enough. They told me I wasn’t allowed to bring her any other food because she would only throw it up later. My heart broke as she wailed for more.
Finally, the day came when I could take the girls out of the orphanage. By now, I was worried that Victoria might be too weak to even make the trip home.
Victoria always managed to show a little spunk. Here she is trying to grab the cup away from Francesca.
The airplane ride was going to be tough, but I couldn’t wait to get them home.
When I look back on these pictures, I can hardly believe the changes in the girls. Francesca is starting to use the potty, well, sort of. She likes to sit there and contemplate things.
The speech therapist tested Victoria recently. She was at a 9 month level, which I find ironic, since that is how long she had been home. She has come to life before our eyes. (here she is pulling off her sock, which she finds hysterical).
There was a time I thought she would never eat more than baby cereal. Now, she eats everything! She has had to learn how to use her tongue and her mouth. When we talk to her, she always pauses for a moment, as if she is taking time to process everything around her in her new world.
She’s even eating with a fork on her own! Look at that tummy!
The girls have learned so much from their siblings (mostly good things!).
Francesca learned to walk once she was home and has gained some muscle strength.
Here Francesca is making the sign for cracker. She loves to eat, so she catches on to food signs lickety split!
Francesca is getting braver about trying new things. She is more genuine in her feelings too. She used to try to be happy all the time. Now she lets her guard down and screams out! She’s not afraid to show real sadness (I think she is sad in this picture because she is wearing a clown outfit).
Victoria is a daredevil.
I never thought Victoria would be so mobile.
They are quite a load to carry around now! Victoria is actually heavier than Francesca:
Since Victoria didn’t have her cleft palate repaired until she was over two, she has had a hard time learning to speak. She can say the “b” sound now, but only if we hold her nose! She will do it right on cue though, especially for a cookie.
Learning to blow into a harmonica has helped her build up her breath sounds, plus, it’s fun!
Here’s something else I didn’t think she would ever catch on to….blowing bubbles. I had to work with her for many weeks, but she figured it out!.
Here is she pretending to feed her cow some cereal, another huge step for her because she never used to mimic us. Now she follows me with her eyes where ever I go. She actually turns her head when I call her name. For the longest time, we thought she couldn’t hear us, but since she was never spoken to, she just didn’t know that a human voice meant anything.
Oh, yeah! She can open her mouth wide now!
We are so blessed by our angels! They have taught us so much, crazy hair and all!
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