A post by our artist Laura Kirkland (Part 2 of 2)
We met Lucy for the first time on July 29, 2013. Sean, our oldest daughter, Zoe, and I went to China to adopt her. We were gone two weeks, returning home on August 8. While in China we were in awe of the fact that you could walk into a room in the civil affairs office and be handed the child that you had only seen in pictures for the last nine months. Just an hour later, she walked out of that building with us hand in hand, and never looked back. She knew we were her family. She embraced, trusted and loved us in a way that was authentic. On August 6, nine months from the day we had received approval to adopt her, we took an oath to say we would love Lucy as our own and never abandon her.
That, too, was miraculous.
A few days after we returned home, we went to visit our ENT doctor to find out more about Lucy’s deafness. As it turns out, Zoe happens to have a classmate (who is also adopted) whose mother is the surgery nurse at Children’s Healthcare for our ENT. She was able to help us meet with our doctor right away (another miracle). We discovered that Lucy was in fact, profoundly deaf. She could not hear anything without the help of hearing aids. Even loud banging noises sounded very soft to her. From the first day we met her we started teaching her sign language and found she was very expressive and unbelievably smart -- it was amazing how much we could communicate! After the first few weeks with Lucy, she could say, “I … Love… YOU!” Every night, I would hold up the sign for “I love you,” and we would work on the words together --shaping her mouth, her feeling my lips with her fingers.
After a series of tests, we discovered that Lucy was a candidate for cochlear implants. Although we saw this as yet another miracle for Lucy, we needed to gather information and make a decision quickly. Most deaf children who choose the road to listening and spoken language receive cochlear implants as early as age one. Lucy was already four years old. After your brain does not experience sound for between four and seven years, it starts to atrophy in that area and focuses energy on strengthening other areas in order to adapt. If we did decide to go the cochlear route with Lucy, it would require a lot of therapy and education before she would be able to rely on listening and spoken language to communicate.
We did our research and found that not only is there a Deaf and Hard of Hearing pre-k in our school district, but that the educators and specialists at this pre-k are incredible. In fact, the woman who would be Lucy’s teacher worked at the Atlanta Speech School for years as a coordinator, and trained instructors all over the country how to teach deaf and hard of hearing kids to listen and speak. She even authored books on the subject.
What incredible provision for Lucy! And, just five minutes down the street from the school my other kids attend.
Lucy received her first cochlear implant on December 23, 2013 and had it activated on January 7, 2014. On the day it was activated (or turned on), Lucy had an incredible response! Not only did she demonstrate the ability to hear sounds, but she liked what she heard! We have been progressively turning up the programs over the last two months and not only can Lucy hear us speak, she is starting to speak some words herself. Miraculous.
Lucy’s grafting into our family has been nothing short of a miracle. It has taken some time – she has been home seven months now – but the transition went as easily as humanly possible. It truly feels like she has been with us since the beginning of our family. She is our own. Grafted in, but one of our own.
A few weeks ago, our babysitter picked Lucy up from school while I was at work. Lucy was visibly upset that it was not me who was picking her up, so she refused to get into her car seat -- she can be strong willed at times. We were able to FaceTime so I could sign to Lucy to get into her seat and to come see me at home. She got right into her seat and buckled up. Oh, the benefits of modern technology! As soon as they arrived home, Lucy busted through the front door, ran and jumped up in my arms, looked at me and verbally said, “I… Love…. YOU!”
Our story has really just begun, but this little girl has stolen our hearts. We cannot wait to see where the path leads next.
We hope Laura’s story of adoption has inspired you and has warmed your heart as much as it did ours. Take a look at the Laura designed on our website.