“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.” – Unknown
The day Lydia was placed in my arms (what many call “gotcha day”), I had so much excitement and anticipation. I was about to become a mom for the first time and see my precious daughter in real life. During the months prior, I had fallen asleep staring at a photo of her sweet round face. I wondered what she would be like, how she would smell, and what her laugh would sound like. But on the day she was placed in our arms, I also felt tremendous grief and sadness. I was so sad because, in order to become a member of my family, it meant she lost her first family years before, and then on that day, it meant she said goodbye to important people in her life at the orphanage. People, I imagined, she loved. I ached because for her to become a part of my world, her world was turning upside down. The emotions involved in adoption — and “gotcha” day — are complex, weighty, and at times conflicting.
On the day I met Lydia and became her mommy, I learned just how much she adored a little girl, Nina, from her orphanage who had been adopted five months before Lydia. I brought photos of Nina and her adoptive family to give to the orphanage director. Immediately, Lydia yelled out Nina’s nickname and scrambled to see all of the photos. With the orphanage director (her past) and me (her future) on each side of Lydia, we explained that I became friends with Nina’s new mommy, and that the girls would play together again. My heart ached, I promise, you will play together again. That’s a lot to comprehend.
Those first several days in China, my daughter wanted Nina’s photo either in her hand or tucked safely inside her backpack. Clinging to her photo meant clinging to someone familiar, someone she knew was safe.
The photos the orphanage director gave me of Lydia’s time at the orphanage show that Lydia and Nina were inseparable.
Over the next 14 months, I would bring up Nina and I would talk with Lydia about the orphanage, but she did not want to talk about it. Until one evening recently, Lydia melted into my shoulder and said…
“Mommy, I want you to come with me!” she whined in her sleepy voice as I was trying to get her to go night night.
“Okay, where are we going?” I asked enthusiastically, anticipating the places my precocious three year old daughter’s imagination might take us.
“We are going back to the orphanage in China. I want to see my friends, but mommy, I want you to be with me at the orphanage. You are my favorite mommy.” I snuggled her in closer to reassure her.
“Oh sweet girl, are you missing your friends at the orphanage?” I asked.
“Yes, but I want you with me!” she said with concern. I reassured her that we always stick together.
“I bet you miss them. You spent a lot of time with them.”
That night, my heart ached just like it did on the day we met Lydia, I promise, you will play together again.
Earlier this month, my husband, Lydia, and I travelled across the country to reunite Lydia and Nina. We were enthusiastically welcomed by Nina’s adoptive family. Lydia and Nina played together again.
Meeting Nina was like meeting another part of Lydia. The moments I had the privilege of witnessing over the next several days were breathtakingly beautiful, emotional, and precious. I often watch my Lydia try to find her place with a group her age — but sweet Nina and Lydia are a perfect fit.
They insisted on holding hands everywhere they went and even on busy sidewalks in our nation’s capitol, old men in stiff business suits stopped in their tracks to comment on the sight that is Nina and Lydia together. Strangers saw the bond, and that was not lost on us. Curious friends and family were eager to know, “Do they remember each other?” Yes, absolutely yes, even though Lydia was only 19 months old when Nina was adopted.
Nina’s brother, an intuitive and kind six-year old boy, watched Nina and Lydia play one afternoon. He wisely said, “Mama, Nina and Lydia are special friends, aren’t they?” in a tone that indicated more of a statement than a question. For all of us, the beauty of this friendship was something to breathe in and cherish. Reuniting Lydia and Nina gave my daughter an important and missing connection to her past.
Lydia’s life did not begin when we adopted her.
Adoption begins with loss and grief (and many times, multiple losses). But adoption also involves these beautiful images of restoration — of placing two children from an orphanage in China into families, of becoming two beloved daughters who are thriving, of reuniting friends, of uniting two families together and of turning strangers into friends.
Adoption brings people together in unexpected and life changing ways. We become friends with people we might not otherwise because of this common bond we share. We speak a common language. Though adoption involves loss, adoption also involves addition beyond adding a child to a family.
It is such a privilege as Lydia’s mommy to help form an important connection to past and present together through her friendship with Nina. When I think of the gift of Nina and Lydia’s friendship, I am reminded of the Ancient Chinese Proverb, “An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.” Without a doubt, there is a red thread that connects my daughter with her precious friend she made in her orphanage in China and reunited with in Washington, DC.
Lydia Grace, I promise you and Nina will play together again. Always.
Have you connected your child with his or her crib mates or friends from the orphanage? What were your experiences?