Our sweet Natalie.
It’s been over two years now that we’ve prayed for her to find a family and nearly one year since we’ve been racing to make her part of ours. In pictures I’ve watched her go from a baby to a toddler to an adorable preschooler.
While it seemed the wait would be eternal for a while, finally we are closing in on the end and the days are slipping by quickly. Most conversations with friends these days seem to start with them asking, “Are you ready?”
Are you ready?
Wow, that’s a loaded question…
Ready for the trip?
We’re close. Nothing is in suitcases yet, but clothing for the kids has been laid out, I’ve decided what I’m taking for me, and all gifts have been purchased. Our international air is booked, we have orders in for our train tickets from Beijing to the provincial capital, and we are talking with several guides about our add on days. So yeah, we’re pretty much ready for the trip.
Ready to meet Natalie?
You have no idea. While I honestly believed that we were to advocate for her when I first saw her in April of 2011, she simply looked…well…familiar to me back then. Over the months that passed I fell in love with that sweet child and eventually we embraced the idea of having five children within 3 1/2 years in age. At times during our paperchase it seemed that it was two steps forward, one step back, we just couldn’t get to her fast enough. My arms can’t wait to feel the weight of her and we long to hear her voice. Yes, we’re ready to meet our little one!
Ready for the transition?
This is where I struggle. Oh, I know that one day, in six months or a year, maybe more, maybe less, we’ll step out on the other side of our metamorphosis as a stronger, more resilient family of seven. But I also know that it isn’t an easy process…
Adoption is beautiful, but it comes out of something not so much so. And creating a family through adoption is amazing, but dealing with grief and fear in the beginning isn’t for the faint of heart.
I think back to my other kids transitioning into the family. One accepted us initially but cried silent tears for months instead of letting us know that she had needs to be met. It made me feel a failure as a mother that i couldn’t seem to find a way to get her to trust us…that we were there for her and would at least try to meet her needs if she’d just signal us.
Another appeared to be the most happy-go-lucky kid by day though nights in those first six months seemed endless. During the day he loved big, but when it was time for bed, and anytime he’d awaken while it was still dark, he poured out his grief of losing his beloved foster mother and having everything in his life change before his eyes. Initially he’d push me away and scream even louder if I tried to hold him and later he’d cling to me as if his life depended on it, screaming all the while.
We experienced a child who stayed close by our sides in China and ~ with the exception of our initial meeting ~ never shed a tear…until we got home and he’d stand in the corner of the room and scream the most pitiful cry of heartbreak for an hour at a time, slapping my arms if I reached for him. Unsure of what else to do, I’d sit on the floor at arm’s reach and cry right along with him.
And then there was one that never shed a tear at all (beyond those at our initial meeting) but couldn’t allow herself to let us help her. Such independence built into a little girl who felt the need to show us she could do it all herself. No tears, yet equally as heartbreaking…I’ll never forget the day within weeks of coming home ~ within days of her third birthday ~ when she proudly grabbed some of the laundry I was folding and showed me how well she could fold too, as if to gain approval.
Y’all, these days of transition are not my favorite time. They hurt. It is a difficult time where my husband and I have truly found out what we are made of. We have been stretched, sometimes to the point that we think we will break. To make matters more difficult, parenting a child who experiences such trauma isn’t a cookie cutter process. What worked to help one of my children as they learn what it is to be part of a family isn’t necessarily going to be the answer for another.
And now we are getting ready to bring home a child who has spent almost the entire first four years of her life in an institution. A good one, but an institution. She is in good physical condition, but right now she has no idea what it means to be part of a family. We’ll have to show her and prove to her that we are good…that we can be trusted. It’s a slow and often painful process.
But growth often is…
So are we ready?
Yes. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be. Just excuse us as we enter our cocoon for the last time as a family of six and re-emerge later as a family of seven. We’re probably going to look/act/seem a little different and It may be messy in the meantime. But we have hope and a promise from the one who directed us on this adventure and know that He has good plans for us…all seven of us.