Most days I sit down and blog right when I get home from our visit with Jacob. Yesterday, I needed to feel like a real person with a real schedule so I skipped the blogging and set out to create a Mexican dinner. I learned from my time overseas in Indonesia that ANYTHING can be made from scratch if you are willing to put in the time and effort. One Christmas I made homemade marshmallows to go in chocolate fudge just to see if it could be done.
Last nights dinner was not on the scale of making homemade marshmallows, but it did take a little more prep than just our normal omelet dinner. We made flour tortillas with caramelized onion and garlic pulled chicken. We even found an avocado for guacamole. It turned out to be really delicious. You never know when you are trying new cooking experiments. Our friends who are also adopting stopped by and brought the most wonderful strawberry layer cake to complete our feast.
Each day that we visit with Jacob is intense: intensely wonderful to see him and delight in the progress we see each day and intensely heart-wrenching to realize just how far behind developmentally he is because of his environment.
When they bring him to us he has the glazed over shell shocked look that we have started to think of as the institution look. After a few minutes and a very helpful bag of toys and snacks, he begins to relax and smile and play. Yesterday he ate almost an entire apple off the core and was so obviously thrilled that we let him have the apple and his water anytime he wanted. I was glad that he is well fed enough that we are not seeing hoarding behavior, but it is obvious that he has no control over his own life. Elijah and Anna can get a healthy snack any time they want it without having to ask. Jacob has never had that option and it makes me sad when I remember that even if emotionally and socially he is not yet 5 years old, that chronologically he IS 5 years old.
Today, we realized that giving Jacob almost the entire apple was maybe not the best idea. About 5 minutes after feeding him today he pooped. No big deal, we changed his diaper with the one I always bring with me for him. Not 10 minutes later, he pooped again. We called his nannies over and they took him and changed him. They told us through lots of pantomiming and a little broken English that they did not have any more diapers so he was just in regular clothes. I was a little concerned but though, well he has already pooped twice, surely he can't poop again!
I was wrong.
About 10 minutes later he pooped again and this time we had to tell him goodbye and that we would see him tomorrow since our visit was almost up and cleaning him up would take much longer this time.
I was encouraged that the nannies hold him gently and take him without complaint. He wasn't scolded that we could hear. I stood out in the hallway and listened just in case.
What we did see after his nannies changed him and brought him back was the effect of social and emotional neglect. We always thought that he was a little dazed and glassy eyed when they brought him to us in the morning because of the sedatives. But today, he had that same look when they brought him back after the diaper change and he was only gone for about 5 minutes. He took a few minutes to warm back up to us too. He lets his guard down with us (not all the way, but better each day) and just emotionally shuts down when he goes back to his room. Its heartbreaking to see.
Children simply can not thrive and develop without emotional connection and love. Jacob braces himself against the emotionally cold environment he is in, even though all his physical needs are met perfectly. He even smells good from his bath when we get him. His physical needs are met in a way that is very surprising for an institutional setting. He is regressed and almost infantile in some ways simply from a lack of love.
I wish that I could explain to him how much his little life is about to change. He will have love in spades. We will love him, his brother and sister will love him, he has grandparents and more cousins, aunts and uncles than he can count who will love him. Only a few more short weeks sweet Jacob!