Oh, Miss Delia… What can we tell our friends about you?
This girl is the great puzzle of our family, a puzzle we’ve been trying to solve for seven years now.
We first met Delia, as long-time readers may remember, on our first trip to meet Niko in 2011. She was just shy of five years old, and she charmed her way right into Trevor’s heart. He came home from that trip convinced that she was our daughter, and never once wavered in that hope. Even when I resisted the idea, even when another family committed to her before us, even when we finally read her daunting medical file. And he was absolutely right. She is ours and we are hers, whether she likes it or not 🙂
But this girl is a tough nut to crack. We know that she is a treasure, but boy does she ever resist engaging with us and living up to her potential! Delia has baffled every “expert” we have taken her to since she came home. We’ve tried traditional speech and occupational therapy, neurodevelopmental therapy, special online speech therapy for kids with autism, play therapy, ABA (behavioral) therapy, and we’ve dabbled in even more. Her autism isn’t quite like anyone else’s, and no one knows quite what to do with her.
She would like us to believe that she just isn’t capable of any more than what she usually gives us. She’d prefer to fill her days with little more than stimming and waiting for her next meal.
But occasionally, she slips up and shows us that she’s really in there. We get glimpses of the real Delia. She shows us that she understands way more than she lets on, and that there is a cheeky, funny, sensitive, sweet girl in there begging us to find a way to let her out.
We see it when she laughs at a joke. We see it when she cries after someone makes an unkind remark about her that they didn’t expect her to hear or understand. We saw it two years ago after her birthday movie, when she tenderly kissed Temple Grandin goodnight on our TV screen. We see it when Milo climbs up on her, and she smiles at him in spite of herself.
And so we press on, trying every single thing we can think of, and trying it for longer than it makes sense to, just in case that breakthrough we long for might be right around the corner if only we persevere.
There have been gains followed by losses in every area. We have gained and lost potty training twice. We have gained and lost words, smiles, eye contact. We emerge from one grueling repetitive stimming behavior only to replace it with another.
And yet this one thing is always true: Delia feels safer and trusts us more all the time. Seven years ago, we brought home a little girl who was terrified of us. She lived in a permanent state of hypervigilance, alternating between manically “flirting” with us to win our acceptance and get her needs met, then lashing out at us if we got close enough to receive her affections. (So many of the old photos I look back on longingly of her smiling and laughing, were actually taken in that manic state rather than one of true happiness.) Instead of sleeping, she spent much of every night rocking, laughing, sobbing, screaming, grinding her teeth. We felt helpless and inadequate to meet her enormous needs.
Now, by God’s grace, she sleeps. Some 😉 She has much better self-regulation over her emotions. And this is huge: she receives comfort from me and Trevor when she is upset or overwhelmed. She lays her head in our laps and lets us hug her while she cries. In those bittersweet moments, I “tell her the things”: that she is loved, that she is safe, that she is made in God’s image and has infinite value. That even if she never learns to talk, or play, or engage with us, we will still love her forever. That she is stuck with us. And in those moments, my heart echoes what my head already knows: that I am her mom and she is my girl.
Happy birthday, Delia Mary! We see you in there, and we love you so much.