Happy 5th Birthday – and other long-overdue updates!

OK – so I have been a blogging failure for almost 6 months but will try to redeem myself a little this evening by giving Meili’s blog some love tonight. :) There is a lot to cover so we will start with the big news first…

Meili is now 5 years old!!!!

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Nothing makes her happier than a HUGE cake!

Meili requested a "Frozen" themed birthday cake.

Meili requested a “Frozen” themed birthday cake.

That’s right – on this very day just five short years ago our sweet little Meili was born in the river city of Jiangyin. We think her parents were migrant workers with little education based entirely on the only possession left with her when she was abandoned – a small strip of newsprint with the date of her birth scribbled on it. Who knows what kind of emotional toil produced in her Mom the awful choice of abandoning her newborn daughter that cold evening – social pressure, political pressure, hopeless fear for her medical needs? Whatever the motivation may have been, we are so thankful that Meili found her way into our lives through that tragic beginning five years ago today.

We often marvel at what it took to survive a long cold night wrapped only in a tattered blanket and papers as a newborn. It has been even more amazing to see that fight manifest itself over and over again in the blossoming life of Meili – from doctor visits to wrestling with her big brothers, she is so strong both emotionally and physically.

Speaking of doctor visits, I guess I owe you an update from her surgery in June. Can you tell this is a topic I often avoid?!?

Unlike the other surgery’s, this one was to be an outpatient procedure thus saving Meili from having to spend a night in the hospital. You would think that the entire process would be a couple notches less intense then the procedures requiring overnight stays but you would be fooling yourself… just like us.

Encouraging us was the reality that this was going to be less intense than the other procedures and it could be another couple years before we would need to take her in for the next major corrective procedure. This time, they were only going to do some repair work to the scar on her upper lip, adjust the muscle behind her nose to correct the sagging of her left nostril, remove long strip of scar tissue inside of nose to open up breathing and take a look at last years repair to her mouth. That might sound like a lot but it is a far less intensive experience than her last two surgeries. Our hope is a quick in and out trip so we can get her back home to heal.

The day started like all the other surgery days with that long, silent drive to the hospital. Nobody talks on surgery day for fear of emotionally breaking down in front of each other. We all know what is about to happen, including the patient herself yet we all force one foot in front of the other finding encouragement in the hope that one day Meili will show no evidence of the fact that she was born without a roof in her mouth. The mouth – is there a worse place for repeated medical procedures?!?

We decided to bring Leila with us this time to help Meili feel a little better – Meili absolutely adores her big sister and Leila loves her right back. It’s deeply heart-warming to see Leila do all she can to take Meili’s mind off her surroundings. But like a storm on the distant horizon, the breeze of nurses in and out of Meili’s room reminds us that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We are now just counting down to the appearance of the “happy juice” lady to give Meili a break from the anxiety of it all.

Meili does not want to put on the hospital clothes because she knows it means the surgery is imminent.

Meili does not want to put on the hospital clothes because she knows it means the surgery is imminent.

Since the first surgery, Tracy and I have been taking turns being the one to actually deliver Meili into the arms of the nurse who takes her back for surgery. If you have ever had to turn your precious baby over to a nurse for what you know will be a painful and traumatic experience, then you know why we take turns doing this. She did the first, I did the second so in all fairness – this walk is Tracy’s walk. I want to do it for her but these moments, we both know, are important parts of the lifelong bonding process in the heart of our daughter. Besides, I will get the next one.

It took a few minutes for Tracy to return to the room and I will never forget the look of horror on her face. In the past, we would hand off Meili to a nurse in some nondescript corridor in the bowls of the surgery wing – leaving her with a gentle kiss on the forehead. However, this time was much different. Maybe because it was outpatient or because Meili’s anxiety was very high and they had already given her 2 doses of “happy juice” just to get her surgery gown on but they had Tracy walk Meili all the way back to the operating room and lay her frail little body on the surgical surface and hold her hand until she was under anesthesia! What?!?! Without a doubt one of the most difficult things a parent can do and we were both completely unprepared for it. Tracy did very well with it but the memory will be long burned into her conscious. She quietly took her seat in the waiting room and we both turned to watch the SpongeBob episode Leila had turned on. It would be quite some time before we would talk, much less look at each other.

Meili is back with us right after the surgery. Leila is still with us to cheer up her sister!

Meili is back with us right after the surgery. Leila is still with us to cheer up her sister!

Right before the surgery

Right before the surgery

Right after the surgery

Right after the surgery

 

Two days after the surgery - already healing nicely!

Two days after the surgery – already healing nicely!

Three months after the surgery

Three months after the surgery

And a special note from Tracy on a particularly difficult day of recovery…

The next day after the surgery. We are home. Meili is swollen, hurting, even with meds.  She’s walking around trying to play but unsettled….she turns to me.  “I’m hurting” pointing at her lip.  I tell her I’m sorry and just hang on that hopefully the medicine will start to help. She stops and starts to stare off.  Uh, Oh.  This is how they start…the panic attacks.  Meili’s eyes glass over, she’s frozen.  Then she turns, with tears in her eyes and points at me… “you not from China, you not have cleft lip”…then bursts into tears.  I’m speechless.  No words.  She’s right.  She takes one step and falls into my arms.  We sit and cry for a bit.  What do you say?  “I love you” is all that fits.  Leila comes over to help.  She told Meili that her lip will get better like the booboo on her knee, then makes a silly face :)  It’s always nice to have an older sister that loves BIG.  Thank God for Leila!!

It’s amazing how deeply Meili grows in our hearts.

As before, Meili did very well in the surgery and healed quickly – and more importantly, correctly! There are many procedures yet to go but each one of these difficult moments bring us one step closer to completing our medical journey with her. I am not sure who will be more happy – Meili or Mom and Dad!

So many wonderful things have happened during the late summer and fall of 2013 for the Davenports and especially Meili. We were able so spend some time at the beach thanks to friends of the family offering their beach house to us for a long weekend over the summer. Meili started her final year of preschool already able to writer her name and recognize most (if not all) of the ENGLISH alphabet! Common – that girl is flat smart! In the early fall, we took a long-anticipated trip to Disney World so Meili could meet as many princesses as her little legs would walk her too – and she did exactly that. :) In her ballet class, Meili performed in the yearly nutcracker for the first time and was extremely excited about that. As of this writing, we are in the closing days of December with Santa on all the kids minds. For weeks now, Meili has been walking around the house softly singing Christmas carols to herself. She has grown to love this time of year.

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Below are some pictures of the last several months as we continue to chronicle the beautiful journey of Meili coming home.

Meili enjoys the mad tea party with her crazy siblings.

Meili enjoys the mad tea party with her crazy siblings.

First day of school 2013 with Tristan and Leila

First day of school 2013 with Tristan and Leila

Meili enjoyed the color run with Leila and the rest of the family with a special appearance of Aunt Amy and cousin Jeffery!

Meili enjoyed the color run with Leila and the rest of the family with a special appearance of Aunt Amy and cousin Jeffery!

Meili is an angel in the Nutcracker!

Meili is an angel in the Nutcracker!

Meili, Leila and myself meeting the characters from Reck-it Ralph.

Meili, Leila and myself meeting the characters from Reck-it Ralph.

Halloween at the Davenports - Meili is Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph. Thank goodness Mom is ultra creative! :)

Halloween at the Davenports – Meili is Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph. Thank goodness Mom is ultra creative! :)

Nothing like a good thunderstorm on the beach!

Nothing like a good thunderstorm on the beach!

Mom and Meili are shooting up the place on the Toy Story ride.

Mom and Meili are shooting up the place on the Toy Story ride.

Finally - she meets Mulan!!! Now we can go home...

Finally – she meets Mulan!!! Now we can go home…