Bringing our little girl home from China was all that we had thought it would be: hard, messy, loud, heart-breaking, joyful, hopeful, exciting, exhausting, and worth it!
Adoption is born out of tragedy. It is gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, and HARD. Our babies come from a place filled with unspeakable loss and trauma. Yet, God takes all of the broken pieces and creates beauty in the ashes. In His goodness, He redeems and we overflow with love.
Our agency had prepared us for the many things we might find when we finally had the opportunity to love our daughter face to face. We had read all of the books, attended all of the classes, and after meeting our daughter, we felt it would be best to cocoon as a family for at least 6 months. She had faced struggles that we could only imagine and her scars ran deep. She needed that time to learn that we were safe and could be trusted. We needed that time to bond with her and show her how much we loved having her in our family.
So, our world became very, VERY small. Visitors were few and far between. Our little one would put on a lovely show, but would melt down as soon as our friends or family had gone. Hives would break out along her shoulders, neck, and back, and she would wake up bleeding from scratching herself so much. Her anxiety made it very clear that our world, for a season, would be small.
Before traveling to China, we were blessed by such amazing support from family and friends. My best friends would spend hours talking to me about the adoption and lifting up our family in prayer. They brought by sweet gifts, helped me organize fundraisers, and brainstormed ways that we could stay connected during our “cocooning” period. I had heard from the adoption community that friendships take a hit after an adoption, but this would not be the case with my friends. We were in this thing together and would weather any storm that might come along, or so I thought.
We had been home about two months when the exhaustion of not sleeping (the only way our little one felt safe was to sleep on top of me) caught up with me. One day I tried to quietly sneak outside to the mailbox by myself while my daughter played happily with my husband. I had not been alone since we had traveled to China, and I just needed a moment to breathe and pray. However, my sweet baby girl heard the door open, and the flood gates of the fear in her heart came crashing down.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to sneak away for a few moments alone that day. I closed the front door and gently scooped up my baby girl. She needed my comfort more than I needed a break. As I sat holding her, I prayed that God would meet me where I was and fill me with the energy and love I needed to get through the day. In His goodness, He did just that.
After about 4 months home, I was antsy to start socializing again. My sweet baby girl was now able to play almost 3 minutes by herself, so I could send a text or make a phone call to one of my friends just to check in and see how they were doing. I still could not leave the house without major meltdowns, but was working closely with our social worker on attachment strategies. I felt like I could finally meet friends for coffee during my daughter’s nap time on days when my husband was home.
Joyfully, I started making phone calls to the sweet friends that had helped me bring our baby girl home. I was anticipating laughter and fun stories; a time of cherished fellowship with friends that I had desperately missed while caring for my traumatized baby girl at home. However, most of my friends couldn’t be reached. Only a handful even returned my texts or phone calls. I was devastated and heart-broken. I felt alone and exhausted; shocked and confused. What had happened?
Hindsight is always 20-20. Now that I have been home over a year (and have slept), it is clear to me what happened those first several months home. I was a terrible friend! Instead of returning calls and texts, I spent the days carrying around my two year old that had the needs of a newborn. Instead of having a girls’ night out, I was lying next to my traumatized child as she battled nightmares and deep trauma that broke my heart. I was worn so thin, when I did manage to talk to a friend, I usually cried and then had to leave suddenly when my daughter’s screams would begin. I sporadically called my friends, and very rarely was able to hear about their lives before having to get back to my very needy toddler.
When someone has a newborn, people come over with food and enjoy snuggles with the baby. The baby takes multiple naps throughout the day, and no one expects to hear from the new Mama for a month or two. When she starts coming out of her cocoon period, everyone passes around the sweet infant and are able to express the love they have for this baby they have prayed for such a long time for.
When a traumatized toddler comes home from a foreign country, the scenario plays out very differently. And no matter how much you prepare your friends and loved ones with letters/videos/books on attachment, cocooning, and brain development, most people just will not understand why they can’t come over and hold that precious child they dearly love and have been praying for. They don’t get why you can’t just leave and get coffee, or at least go for a short walk. It isn’t like you have a newborn or something!
My friends pursued me when we first got home. The first month or two, they understood our family’s need to cocoon. But, as the weeks turned into months, people no longer were patient. To be clear, they still loved us. It was just that as our world came to a grinding halt, their worlds kept spinning. Some got new jobs, others moved away. Some met new friends that had a world spinning in the same direction they were going in. There was no anger or animosity, it was just that the seasons had changed.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
God whispered Ecclesiastes 3 to me one day as I was crying out to Him over lost friendships. He gently reminded me that all good things are from Him, but that we don’t get to decide how long we will have those precious gifts. We gain and lose friendships in all different seasons of our life: going away to college, getting married, having children, moving, or losing a spouse are just a few examples that cause friendships to change. We may not have a choice in the timing of friendships gained or lost, but we do have the option of praising God when we face trials of many kinds. When I stopped pouting over friendships lost, God revealed to me His redeeming love and the beauty from the ashes.
I have a few sweet friends that mean the world to me. They were my before-the-adoption friends that were tenacious and didn’t let me stay hidden away for too long. While I wouldn’t let them in my house for MONTHS, they dropped care packages off at my mailbox or sent sweet texts without the expectation of hearing back from me. They showed me God’s unconditional love. They took moments out of their busy day to intentionally perform acts of kindness for my family. They were a source of encouragement that brightened my day and warmed my heart. I have always valued their friendships; but now I see them as true treasures from God.
Another unexpected blessing was the number of sweet adoption mama friends I now have. These are the women that would stay up late in the US while I was in China so we could send emails back and forth with words of wisdom for me as I tried to comfort my traumatized daughter those first few days after meeting her. These are the mamas that understand when I suddenly have to end a conversation (no matter how important) because they hear a certain deep cry that they only know too well. They too have a little one with the same trauma. These are also the women who just “get it.” They understand when I talk about sensory processing issues and the stash of chocolate I have hidden in my bathroom. We can laugh and talk and sit in silence together knowing that our worlds are spinning in very similar circles right now.
In this world, we will have trouble, loss, and pain. There is a time and a season for every activity under heaven. Friendships will be lost, some old friendships will be found again, and new friendships will be formed. I am so thankful that we have a Heavenly Father that sees beauty in the broken and creates masterpieces from ashes. My cup runneth over.
– guest post by Kristy