We've spent months trying to teach Olivia to do things that most babies learn pretty early. While the specific process is slightly different for each "thing" we try to teach her, it basically involves us (my mother currently, my father when he was taking his turn here, the four therapists, myself) physically moving her body to do the "thing" over and over again; all the while doing the "thing" ourselves.
If anyone has a better word for me right now than "thing" please comment. It's 2am and I'm tired and literally at a loss for some words.
Months = Since she's been born. Since before she could actually move any part of her body on her own.
We = we, the team of people- my fabulous therapists, doctors and family
Besides the obvious physical skills, we've also been working on social movements - waving hello, goodbye, giving kisses. Over and over again, kiss the dolly. Kiss, kiss, kiss. We say the word, make the motion, bring her dolly to her face. She's recently been bobbing her head toward the dolly for a kiss with her nose and sometimes with her mouth open. I keep telling her she's not allowed to kiss like that until she's married.
Back to the breakthroughs. Olivia has always had this connection with her daddy, even in the hospital when she wasn't too responsive to anyone else - but especially not me. She would respond a bit more, slight responses that you could barely detect at first, but more as time went on and she became stronger. Maybe it was just a blink, or a slight focusing of the eyes in his direction, or a twitch when he spoke. Rafe was the first person to make her smile (when the smile consisted of the tiniest of upturns of her mouth), the first to get her to laugh. She did those things very rarely, but when they did happen it was with him.
This past week, Rafe called from Afghanistan and had some time to talk/play with Livie on the phone - not so many people waiting in line to talk at that time. I put the phone on speaker and her whole face brightened up when she heard his voice. She got this huge smile on her face and was reaching for the phone. I assumed she just wanted to punch the buttons. He kept talking and I said, not expecting a response, "Livie, do you want to kiss daddy? Give daddy a kiss". Rafe was telling her he loved her, asking for a kiss and (most important) making kissing noises in the phone. She leaned forward, bobbed her nose on the phone and leaned back. I thought it was a fluke, but we kept on doing it. She did it 3 more times! Each time I told her to give daddy a kiss, and he made kissing noises, she would lean forward to the phone to "kiss" with her nose; she held out her hands and brought the phone to her face like she would with her doll and deliberately touched her face/nose to the phone. It all happened in slow motion because of her muscle issues, but it was amazing to see how purposeful she was.
And... the significance of her recognizing his voice 5 months after he left is not lost on me. Not just in a familial way, but in a cognitive, she's got brain function kind of way.
Not quite as exciting, but still cool, is that she waved goodbye to me today. It took a few minutes for her to process what she needed to do, but she finally did it in slow motion again.
She also recognized her speech therapist and her OT this week and got very excited when she saw them, stopping what she was doing and crawling toward them immediately (for the ST) and leaning toward the OT when she was in my arms. She actively seeks me when she is crawling around. She will crawl to the feet of someone and slowly "climb" her arms/hands up your pant leg to indicate she wants you to pick her up.
She's so stinkin' cute.