In the first few days that Mea /Mee-uh/ was home, we worked to develop a new balance as a family with a new member.
For Liam, not much changed. I cannot say that he really “noticed” anything different. Every once in a while, he would look over at his new sister, smile, then go back to doing whatever it was he was doing before.
Mea’s stomach issues continued. We actually thought that she was allergic to milk, so tried out a variety of other products we had not known about before: soy, rice, lactose-free. We made an appointment with an allergist to figure out why her tummy was so upset.
While we were in country, Mea started to say many English words. She added: mom, dad, hi, nana (for banana), more, and a number of other single words to her vocabulary. We were so impressed with how quickly she was learning English. She didn’t say any Amheric words, that we could tell, on her own. She spent her time repeating the words we said to her. In retrospect, I think she thought she was just learning the same language the whole time. She didn’t recognize these single words as being from one language versus another.
After a visit to CHOP only days after returning home, we started the process of getting her signed up for PT, OT, and speech. Because of her nourishment issues, she was about 18 months, just starting to stand on her own and take a few steps with support. She only had four teeth. Her body protected the most important parts while she was conserving her calories. So things like walking and teeth were not the priority. Again, we were extremely grateful for early intervention services that started within a few weeks of her coming home. We were grateful to have doctors prepared to get her the services she needed, right away.
Then there was Kieran. I believe that he struggled the most during this time, as many children do who were in his family position: baby turned middle child. He was only three when we went away. I think he experienced some extra stress while we were gone. He was extremely clingy, did not want to go to school, cried at the slightest provocation, reverted to wanting to sleep in our bed, sucked his thumb a lot, and most dramatically, did not like Mea at all. I do see similarities between his reaction to her and other big brothers and sisters who have a baby added to their family. No matter how we tried, Kieran wouldn’t play with Mea, wouldn’t hug her, and wouldn’t really acknowledge that she was living with us. He has a very strong personality, one that fills our home. His decision permeated every room.
While I was getting to know Mea and taking care of her medical/physical needs, I also made sure that Kieran got as much attention as I could offer. He was always “my guy.” I knew that he needed me, emotionally, as much as Mea did, to maintain that bond and his feeling “safe.” I wish they had been old enough to realize how much alike they were in their needs – so they could bond through the journey. Instead, they became fierce cometitors for time and attention.