In the course of six weeks, the rhythm of life in the Fletcher family has changed irreversibly! Four entrenched introverts have undergone a change of pace and a raise in volume… and are emerging exhausted, but much better for it!
Bow has brought to our home much singing, dancing, questioning, observing, laughing, frowning, protesting, accepting and loving. She is an extraordinary girl who wins hearts everywhere she goes and we still have to pinch ourselves to believe we have the honour of being her forever family. She is a much longed for daughter and sister and she is beginning to relax into that knowledge.
The handover of care has to be one of the hardest things we have ever done, I think her foster family at Hope Home would agree. Navigating our emotions, hopes and insecurities against the unpredictable backdrop of a foreign system was heavy stuff. Through lots of tears, we leant on God’s sustaining and guiding as we worked together to protect the most vulnerable and aid Bow’s transition. The more we get to know Bow, the more we realise how much we have to thank her previous carers for.
Much of what we had been preparing ourselves for regarding early childhood trauma and attachment disorder has just not shown itself to be a big issue at the moment. God is good! With enough consistency and explaining, Bow takes most things in her stride and, despite language limitations, is very perceptive. She likes to know what’s what and keep a close watch on us but we can relate to this anxiety.
For us parents, it has been surprisingly similar to our previous experiences of adjusting to a new family member. Thankfully, this one sleeps!
Some of the best shared experiences of the time spent together so far have been:
- Learning to swim – Bow is a fearless and determined water baby! We especially enjoyed a long weekend at the beach.
- Making new family routines – singing ‘Captain Clean Plate’ at the top of our lungs every time someone finishes their food (in Bow’s case after at least an hour but she has decided it is worth it for the song!)
- First trip to the cinema to see Aladdin; distracted by popcorn, totally captivated, uncontrollable sobs through the finale, constant requests to go again!
- Learning some basic sign language together to widen communication and enjoying Bow’s sense of humour as she signs ridiculous sentences to make her brothers laugh: ‘Elliot is a baby goat, Sam is a baby pizza!’
- Riding on the motorbike together – she loves it! Everyone hears us coming and gets out of the way as Bow sings at the top of her voice… and then falls asleep! We now have a special harness!
- Making friends; our team, church family and local community have been wonderfully welcoming and Bow has slotted right in. She is much more sociable than us and already widened our circle of acquaintances in the neighbourhood!
- Sharing dance moves – Elliot and Sam have taught Bow to floss but she has taught them so much more! We have no idea where some of her more unusual moves come from!!
- Taking it in turns to help Bow choose what to wear in the morning! She is a very adventurous dresser but pink and pom-poms tend to take precendence!
- In the past week or so, seeing Bow start caring tenderly for the doll that has been in her room since she moved in but didn’t initially elicit much interest. She must be feeling increasingly secure to pass along some nurturing!
Managing Bow’s health has taken a lot of our time and energy and it is good to be getting a clearer picture of her metabolic condition so early on. We are thankful that our UNOH team here have freed us up to attend literally dozens of appointments and given us the time and space to adjust our expectations. Bow is now registered at 6 hospitals in Bangkok and has been compensated with more coffee-shop dates than we care to count!
She was admitted to hospital for an overnight stay at the end of her first week with us after developing a mild cold and some vomiting which reduced her calorie intake. This was a bit of a wake up call as we saw how quickly she can deteriorate into hypoglycaemia. Her bloods showed some anomalies with the working diagnoses that she received as a baby. This necessitated further testing and led to a new (not entirely conclusive) diagnosis of Glycogen Storage Disease 1a, a rare genetic condition that means Bow cannot regulate her glucose production. It has some severe implications that we are still getting our heads around. She takes regular cornstarch solution, avoids fasting, and follows a strictly controlled diet as she did previously.
Bow’s audiograms and language assessments, required for school registration, have confirmed that she is profoundly deaf in both ears (although she was almost certainly born hearing) and has the receptive language ability of a child age 1.5 years. Hearing aids help a bit but not enough for noisy environments and certain pitches. She fools most people that her hearing is better than it is because she is so motivated to communicate and so attuned to visual cues. Huge respect to her! She is picking up new words in English even when many of the sounds are out of her hearing range. Mummy is still ‘Puppy’ though and I don’t want that to change any time soon!
The big news is that Bow has been approved for a cochlear implant operation. This is an expensive business even in the government healthcare system and we have approached a Thai charity for help towards funding it. We will still need to raise a lot of money for the operation to go ahead. Ideally it could happen in a couple of months time since language acquisition gets so much harder after the age of 6 and Bow could get off to a good start at school.
We see the image of God reflected clearly in our beautiful Bow and embrace the grief and brokenness knowing that it is part of a beautiful pattern of mystery where all things will be made new. We also commit to fight for her as others have done before us. She is teaching us so much about trust and persistence every day.
Please pray with us for:
Elliot! He is doing great at life with a little sis but also possesses the capacity to totally switch off from her when he needs to. Sometimes I think he is the only person within a square mile who hasn’t noticed that she is calling his name for the tenth time! It is a significant time for Elliot as he transitions from primary to secondary school and gains greater independence. He is showing signs of being ready for this and has had to be patient as we re-introduce ‘childish’ things at home. He has regular band practices with friends and school responsibilities which balance things out. He recently won first prize in a country-wide short story competition and is glowing. Pray that he feels understood by us and that we remain available and approachable. Pray for increasing depth of engagement with Bow. Pray that he experiences the faithfulness of God for himself at an impressionable time.
Sammy! Sam has felt every up and down of the rollercoaster ride and made a deep connection with Bow. He rose to the responsibility of being her first safe attachment in the family, even sharing a bed to help her settle for the first few nights. While the two of them have a lot of fun together, they also get fed up of each other easily! We’ve had to work quite hard to make sure Sam gets his fair share of attention and processes his emotions. The routine of school and the straightforward friendships that he enjoys there have really helped preserve some normality. He is enjoying playing football, writing stories and being an eco warrior! Please pray that God’s love will anchor him and that his depth of empathy will be a blessing to everyone around him. Pray that he will have increased patience and know his worth.
Other things for prayer:
- We are feeling incredibly torn between work and family responsibilities. We didn’t take official leave as we wanted to stay connected. We’ve really needed our team and colleagues but feel guilt at how little we are able to offer of ourselves to them and to our shared work. Our days are take up with appointments, admin and entertaining Bow. There is very little energy leftover. Please pray for RoyRak in particular as Elise is less active in supporting the staff and pursuing sales opportunities. Pray that God will provide enough income for the project and preserve good relationships.
- We have been asked by the child adoption centre to do a media interview this week as they begin a campaign promoting adoption in Thailand. Elements of the process have been good but there were also a lot of delays and inefficiencies that we passionately want to see removed. We are taking the opportunity to advocate on behalf of children like Bow and perhaps gain a voice within the system. Please pray that our words will be represented accurately by reporters and that we can draw the right line between encouragement and challenge. Pray that the kids won’t be distressed by cameras or unfamiliar faces but that God will use the whole encounter for his purposes.
- Pray that God will protect Bow’s health as we consult and settle on the best ways to manage it. Pray that we will make decisions that will set her up for the best possible future whilst also trusting her future fully to God. Pray that Bow will have good immunity and not need any more hospital stays as we get more attuned to signs that her body is under strain.
- Please pray for provision of the money needed as we fundraise for Bow’s cochlear implant device. Pray that God will give us wisdom in decision making around the technology/cost/compatibility of the investment. Pray for the surgeon driving this procedure and for timing that is right for Bow. Pray that she will have God-given peace and understanding when we start to talk with her about the op. She will have an initial CT scan on the 12th June. In the meantime please pray for improved communication between the 5 of us as it is a source of much frustration.
- Pray that our neighbours’ interest in Bow will be a good opportunity to strengthen relationships and witness to God’s love as Father. Pray that we will make the most of new opportunities to chat, usually initiated by Bow!
- We have received permission from the child adoption centre to take Bow to meet her new extended family in the UK this summer whilst still in our 6 month probation period. This still depends on getting her a visa but our hope is to be in Shropshire for 3 weeks at the end of July and start of August! Family have blessed us with flights and are so excited to meet Bow. We are excited to meet our niece India for the first time and to be in the same country as Elise’s brother Adam and his partner Babi who will also be visiting from Cuba.