When a family welcomes a child from a hard place into their hearts and home, they have to “go back to the beginning” as The Connected Parent says. This doesn’t mean that this child or even teenager is actually “baby-ish” (sometimes these children actually have higher IQs than their peers because they need to use their wits to survive), but that issues of sleep, food, sensory processing, behavior, attachment, etc. might need to start at ground zero.
Two years ago today, our hearts stopped as a little bundle of yellow in the arms of a nanny proceeded down a dark tunnel into a stuffy government office in Zhengzhou, China. Two years goes by in a blink and it feels like this not-so-little-anymore bundle of joy has been a part of our family forever.
Some days cannot be described in words, only emotions. And Titus's "Family Day" (what we refer to as the day we first held him in our arms) had all the emotions, from him, from new big sister, and especially from us parents. If I had to wrap a word about this momentous day, it would be...bittersweet.
Sometimes, I think advocating for adoption feels like trying to get your friends to climb Mt. Everest with you. You've summited the peak once before and you know it's worth it. But try telling that to your friends who can't see past the miles and miles of white-ness, freezing temperatures, and physical and mental exhaustion. You tell them, "Trust me, it's worth it. You don't want to miss this." But all you see is fear, fear, fear in there eyes. And understandable so, as you remember being paralyzingly scared yourself not too long ago. But each step was worth it. Each step, though painful and draining, brought you one step closer to something bigger and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.
So, how do you "get past" the big, bad Boogie Man, Mr. Fear. When I picture "fear," I somehow think of "Marshmallow" in the movie Frozen. (Let's blame that on the fact that I have a Frozen obsessed daughter who loves to sing "Let it goooooo!" as loudly and persistently as possible!) He's massive, volatile, and wants to keep you away from the very place you want to be. And, no matter what you throw at him, it seems like you can't demolish or shake him sometimes!
I wrote this letter at the end of 2018, as I reflected on how far we'd come in a year. I'm sharing it again, as we are knee-deep in the adoption journey once more and battling the very same fears of the unknowns and knowns.Dear Year-Ago Self,It is the end of 2017 and you are staring at a new year full of unknowns. You are elbows-deep into dossier paperwork and up to your eyeballs in emails. You don’t know which paper to start working on, which appointment to start making, and which email to start responding to. And you are afraid. Afraid of the unknowns, like your son’s possible medical needs, and the knowns, like the dollar amounts next to each step in the adoption process. But, oh self, I wish I could fast forward time to let you see a glimpse of December 2018! I wish I could tell you that you will literally laugh at your fears in twelve months from now and that your only regret is that you wasted so much precious time and energy fearing the ominous “Goliath” you’ve concocted in your mind. And I wish you could know you that this “Goliath” will turn into the most adorable little boy you’ve ever seen. As you kiss his cheeks every day and hear his sweet little voice say “mama,” you’ll just smile and ask yourself, “Why in the world was I afraid of this?” But right now, right now you are consumed with an almost paralyzing fear. Fear that this unknown“Goliath” will somehow destroy your finances, your family, and yourself. But, just hang on, you don’t want to miss this.
"Mom, can we adopt the loneliest boy or girl in China?"
I turned from making dinner a few months ago and ran over to our precious daughter coloring at the table. There will be so many moments I'll forget about this adoption journey, but that question. Never.
"Yes, of course sweet girl. God will show us who the loneliest little boy or girl is and He'll bring him or her into our family."
That's how long he's been in our arms. 365 good night kisses. 365 good morning snuggles. 365 days of smiles and laughter.
365 days seems like a long time to have a child in your life, until you calculate how many days there were before you: 1,020 (or somewhere close to that). 1,020 days divided between his birth family, the hospital, and his orphanage.
And all the sudden, those 655 days we didn't get to hug or kiss or snuggle or watch him grow seem like a long time. But we're grateful that for one year he's been ours. We still have time to make up, but each day with him is precious. This year has flown by at lightning speed and yet it seems like we can't remember life before this little ray of sunshine entered our lives. We have 365 days and ways to be thankful we didn't miss out on this precious blessing in our lives.
"Pregnancy brain" is hitting hard these days. In the last month or so, I've forgotten...
...to write a church event on the calendar (and scheduled to work instead!)
...a doctor's appointment (and then realized I wrote it on the wrong day anyways!)
...a meeting for work (that I was supposed to speak at!)
...what I really needed at the grocery store (but leave with a cart full of everything else!).
...to write a check for notarizing important documents (Praise God, I remembered right before the envelope was sealed and sent!)
And these are just a few of the things I realize I have forgotten lately! Who knows what other balls have been dropped the past few months as we journey on this adoption road again, with all the papers and deadlines and appointments and important information we need to juggle! I distinctly remember about a week before we flew to China to bring our son home opening our refrigerator one bleary-eyed morning and being perplexed why an ice cream container was sitting in there (insert face palm and then sad face!). Yep, adoptive moms crave ice cream and accidentally put it in the fridge too!
But there's one thing I honestly forget every day and I'm OK with it.
"Mom, come play with me!" I heard a little voice plead from the backyard.
"Sorry, honey, I can't. I'm busy," I responded. Again.
Some days, that's all I feel like I say. Busy with adoption paperwork. Busy with grant applications. Busy with business work. Busy with working to make extra money. Oh, and then there's cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, and the list of endless chores a mother juggles every day.
The adoption process is hard and it takes tolls on your body, just like pregnancy. But the difference is the tolls are invisible. You can't look at a woman and say, "Wow, you really look like you're adopting!" Or "Adoption looks good on you!" (But I'm actually glad no one comments on my appearance these days, because if they were honest, they would probably say, "Wow, you really look tired!" Or "Adoption makes you look exhausted!")
"Can't you make your own children?"
"Is your daughter really yours?"
"Isn't it a lot cheaper and easier to have your own kids?"
We've quickly learned that no question is off limits when you adopt and especially in regards to the family planning department. We know that people are naturally curious about adoption and genuinely want to understand more about. But sometimes the questions can be just painfully awkward, as well as inappropriate for our children to hear. We never, ever, ever want to our son to feel like he's "expensive" or "not ours." (Personal tip: Don't ask an adoptive family a question in front of their kids that you wouldn't want someone to ask you in front of your kids! Please and thank you!) That being said, we do want to answer people's questions as honestly as possible, because we truly believe that if more people understand how adoption can be a beautiful part of their family's "plan A," then more and more precious children will have forever families.
"We'd like to adopt, but we just don't want to hurt our biological kids."
"We think adoption is great, but maybe when our kids are out of the house.".
"We know adoption is Biblical, but we're just not sure how our kids will react."
If we had a dime for every time we've heard these, we'd be able to fund our own adoption. But, if we had a dime for every time we personally have worried about how adoption will affect our children, we'd probably be able to finance a hundred adoptions. So, if these serious concerns have flittered across your brain and put the brakes on diving whole-heartedly into the wonderful, mysterious, difficult world of adoption, we are right there with you.
When I see my two precious children finally playing nicely together (51% of the time, at least!), I get anxious thinking about adding a third to the mix. How will they react? Will having another child tear their adorable best buddy relationship apart? Will one become attached to the new sibling while the other might not? What if this next child messes up all the hard work of bonding and attachment we've worked on for months? Ugh, yep, we're right in the boat with you.
But, the funny part is that I have to actually remind myself that this is deja vu. I was worrying about this same exact thing last year: Would my daughter attach to her new brother? How would he treat her? What if he hurts her? What if we can't give her the attention she needs? Wouldn't it just be better for her to have a biological sibling?
What are we doing to our child?! Are we crazy, irresponsible parents to bring a completely foreign child into our house?!
And I can't help but smile now. I can't help but laugh to think that we "messed up" our daughter by adding our son to the family through adoption. They are more alike, from their dislike of bread to their love of dogs, than they are different. They play, and yes, fight, just like any "normal" siblings do. Thank God, by His grace, He carried us through our first adoption and now our daughter is completely "messed up"...and oh, are we thankful for that!
What did you do for your 14th birthday?.Did you have a party, cake, gifts? A singing family surrounding you with love on your special day?.Honestly, I don’t remember my 14th birthday (I must be getting old!), however I do know without a doubt that I was enveloped with love, support, and most assuredly a chocolate cake and ice cream on my special day..I know this isn’t the case for everyone and I am very blessed to have a loving family who has always been there for me. There are so many precious souls who go year after year without their special day being celebrated. And some, like those sweet ones in China, view birthdays with fear. Each year brings them closer to that dreaded birthday: fourteen. If they do not have a forever family by age fourteen, then they can no longer be adopted.