It's been a month since we came home with Francesca. I won't lie, because the point of this blog is to be honest. It has been a bumpy ride.
First, I should start out by saying that there are lots of happy moments of playing and laughing. Secondly, I should say that I do not expect for things to be going smoothly yet. Finally, I want to write an open letter to everyone saying, "Dear Friends: I do not routinely take pictures of our daughter when she is crying or inconsolable for hours on end. Rather than grab my camera, I try to console her or cheer her up in those moments. Therefore, she is not always happy as the blog or Facebook might imply. Neither am I. And, really, who is happy all the time, anyways? And who wants to look at pictures of grumpy people?" My hope is that this blog is a "real" medium for people to learn about our family, adoption, and thalassemia. And I wouldn't want some "newbies" to stumble on here and think, "Wow, that Linguine Lady's kids are always happy from minute one!" Because that's not how it really is.
All our kids are different and beautiful in their own ways, so I hate to compare them to each other. But since comparisons are inevitable, Patrick and I are sure that Frannie has been the toughest of the nuts to crack. I don't know if it is her age, or that she hates strangers (which we were repeatedly told), or if she just wants to exercise her prerogative to take her own sweet time to warm up to us. But in any case, we are still waiting as patiently as possible for her to open her little heart to our love.
Other than running over to me and hugging my legs, Francesca does not offer any affection towards me. She doesn't return hugs and squirms away from receiving them, and she turns her head away if I try to kiss her. If either of us ask her if we can kiss or hug her, she looks away. She will let us hold her and will relax briefly, but as soon as she feels herself relaxing, she will sit upright and squirm away. She does not make eye contact with Patrick and I. If I put my hand out and motion for her to put her hand in mine, she refuses, but if Emmie does the same thing, she plays along. It takes quite a bit of work to get her to laugh or giggle at Patrick and I. She is the happiest and smiliest around Emmie and Rosie, which is heartwarming to see. She laughs with them and plays with them and seems very relaxed with them. When she gets up in the morning and it's just her and I awake, I get no babbles, no smiles, and just sideways glances until Emmie or Rosie gets up. Then the babbling, smiling, and playfulness starts. I am happy about her comfort with her sisters, but I also look forward to the day when she is able to be comfortable with me.
While she is not generally affectionate with me, she does like to have me around and is very comforted by my presence. She knows I feed her and take care of her, so she likes to have me nearby. For instance, at the hospital, when I stepped away for a minute and left her with the girls and our Child Life friend, she started screaming for me the second I was out of her sight. So, even though she was with her sisters who she favors, she knows I am her caretaker and protector and wants me close. She knows that her sisters are not a replacement for me. This is a good thing.
Francesca seems very comforted by food. (Who isn't, right?) She will sit and eat and eat and eat long after she must be full. Sometimes as soon as she finishes a meal and I put her down, she starts crying and points to get back up. Some of this might be that she is just a good eater (which she really is!), but some of it seems a bit extreme and as if she is using her time at the table as comfort. She screams if she has to wait 15 seconds for her food to be ready, even if she's on her 3rd bowl of something and can't possibly be starving. If I try to feed her while I am up and about the kitchen doing other things, she will scream and point to my chair, wanting me to sit down and feed her and give her my undivided attention. This is when she seems to enjoy my attention the most.
She is not a good sleeper right now, despite the fact that she desperately needs her sleep. I think this is because she hates her crib and does not like sleeping alone. Even though she is sharing a room with Rosie, she still would prefer have me there. But it's simply my presence and not my affection that she is looking for. If I reach in the crib to hold her hand or comfort her, she turns away. In the morning I bring her into my bed with me for some cuddle time. Sometimes she just lays there stiffly and looks up at the ceiling. Other times she'll cuddle a little bit, but she doesn't really relax or enjoy herself until Rosie gets up and climbs in bed with us.
All of this is hard on a mother's heart, but this is about Francesca, not about me. I think the worst part is feeling like she is not truly happy in our home yet because I want so badly for her to be happy. Patrick and I remark that she sometimes seems "lost" or just out of sorts. That makes us feel sad. I also feel sad that she is not enjoying our hugs and attempts at comfort because, let's face it, hugs should feel good and I want her to feel good! I know in time she will lean into us instead of leaning away from our affection, but I want to be honest and say that it's hard being patient. When you give, give, give and just get a frown or diverted eyes in return, it's hard not to take it personally. And when you love your baby so very much, it's natural to want to hug them and kiss them and cuddle them without being pushed away.
While we wait for her world to settle down, we will continue to patiently work at it and love on her the very best we can. At least I can look at Emmie and Rosie and know that this does get better, and that time is the only way for that to happen. And we'll continue to enjoy and photograph those special smiling, happy moments we have together.