“Maybe we are here to love wildly, passionately, and fearlessly,” whispered the heart.
“You’re going to get us killed!” yelled the brain.
This can be true for just about anything we find ourselves on the brink of but this particular quote, I believe, can be applied specifically to those taking the leap into the world of adoption.
Recently my heart has been broken over the issue of disruptions happening in China. There are big discussions on how to reduce the number of them and even better, how to prevent them in the first place.
After adopting three children from China on three very different adoption trips, my opinion is there must be a change. And perhaps the change is not one single solution but several things need to be addressed. Like spokes in a bicycle wheel, these pieces work together to make a wheel function. But take one spoke out and the wheel gets weaker… take several out and the wheel is at risk to collapse.
1. One “spoke” is the issue of our hearts as adoptive parents.
Sure, many parents’ stories of adopting have to do with their heart. I have often shared myself about how much my heart ached for my child we had yet to find… how our hearts felt like we had more love to give to a child. Very often in adoption our hearts are overwhelmed and burdened with the faces we see; the call to want to add to our families through adoption is powerful. All those “heart feels” go hand in hand when adopting.
And then there is that very special moment in time you’re matched with your new child. Whether it’s your agency sending you that sweet picture of your child through email or you running across a sweet little face on an agency’s website…. there is something that sets that child apart from all the other thousands of children available for adoption, something that tells you this is my child.
Some people get that butterfly-in-your-tummy feeling and “all the feels” over that picture they see in front of them. Some don’t have the butterflies but rather an overwhelming feeling of just knowing that child is theirs. No matter how the story of your match – of “finding” your child – plays out, you confidently tell your agency Yes. You tell them, “We want to move forward. This is our child.”
For us, our faith played a huge part in leading us to our children. Each situation was different. But each one had the same divine moment of clarity… the children who we saw on the computer screen, or read files on, were indeed our children.
I often refer to our latest adoption as much like a surprise pregnancy. When I saw this little two year old boy’s face on my phone, I felt like I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. Literally. There was no running from it.
He was un-planned for us.
We had not been looking.
But there he was – in all his little “old China man bald headed glory” – staring back at me.
My heart leapt.
He was mine.
Every time we’ve received our PA (pre-approval) for each one of our children, we considered this as our “positive pregnancy test”. We were having a child! They may not have been growing in my tummy, but they were grafted into our hearts and in our souls.
2. Another ‘spoke” is the connection… the bond before leaving on that plane to China.
For as it would unfold for us, and has for many many others… meeting your child for the first time can be anything other than dreamy. And that bond? That connection? That can be the lifeline you need.
Meeting our son Regis was not the moment I had been dreaming of for months. We walked up to a frighten, solemn tiny little boy who refused to make eye contact or interact with us. As soon as his nanny left, he cried hysterically for the remainder of our time in the civil affairs office. He kicked and screamed at the top of his lungs until we got into the van where he then passed out.
At the time I thought it was just exhaustion, but now looking back we know this was a “coping mechanism”. When he became overwhelmed, he would go limp and sleep for hours during our time in China. For the first 24 hours we had our son, he refused food, water, and was completely pitiful. By the next morning he was throwing up and limp beyond belief.
I didn’t know this kid. I had no idea if this was normal for him, or if he had some medical need we knew nothing about. I knew nothing other than what was in his medical file (and we all know that you cannot completely rely on what is in a child’s medical file). I left my kids and husband at the hotel and rushed him across the city the size of New York City times ten! We rode in the back of a hot and stinky cab, to a western doctor who told me nothing was wrong with my son other than he was dehydrated from throwing up so much.
I was stunned he couldn’t find anything wrong with him. It was days later when we figured out that it was the complete shock that took over his little body. At the time our son was almost four years old, he was very attached to his foster mama. He would prove to us pretty quickly how smart and quick-witted he was. Just the shock of the day, the losing everything he had learned to love, his whole world, was too much for him and his body reacted by shutting down.
This is very much a coping mechanism with newly adopted children. We still see the shutting down today three years later. But it’s much less, and he is learning steadily his world will not be turned upside down like that again.
Just eleven months after leaving China with our son we returned. This time to adopt our seven-year-old daughter Momo.
We knew her medical needs were more severe, we knew she was delayed and had not been exposed to anything outside the gates of her orphanage in the seven years she had lived there. She wasn’t allowed to even attend school with the other children. She only knew this very small world. And obviously, she had never even seen Americans!
We knew going in that meeting our daughter… things may look different. We knew she may be more delayed than we were told, but we had no idea what the reality of that might mean for our family.
We walked into the hot humid civil affairs room in May of 2014 and met our daughter. She came running to us, with the biggest smile on her face. Pretty perfect right?
However, within minutes we knew this was not only different, but that it was going to take both my husband and I to wrangle our girl, both of us would have to keep our eyes on her and keep her safe.
She would run from person to person, take whatever was in their hand and try to eat it or play with it. Once outside she would run off, just run! My big strong hubby would have to pick her up and hold her until we were able to get her in the van… where she wouldn’t escape.
Once we got to the hotel room she would grab anything within arms’ reach, she would head butt us, bite us, and growl – she basically resembled an animal that had been let out of its cage. We ordered room service because there was no way we could leave the room safely. She ate like she hadn’t eaten in days, she would hover over her food, shoveling it in her mouth as fast as she could. I bawled the first time I saw her eat. I cried through meals and bedtimes and while I talked to my husband about how we would do this. He was confident in us when I wasn’t.
I thought I was totally prepared, we had lowered our expectations and still… it was the one of the most trying times in my life. I had heard of families going to China who became totally overwhelmed with how they saw their kids act or been faced with medical needs they weren’t prepared for… and then not going through with the adoption.
3. The third “spoke” is discussing the worst case scenarios.
Be aware of the possibility of your newly adopted child having more delays than expected and more medical needs that anticipated. We knew this may be the case for us, but we were not prepared for what we were seeing in our daughter. However, we were not prepared to disrupt. This was something my husband and I had discussed before we traveled. Part of what we discussed before leaving for China was the fact that this child – regardless of how she came to us – was our child. No matter what she did or how she acted, she was our child. Come hell or high water, we were getting on that plane back home with our daughter.
Did that mean I had it all together and had a plan? Nope! I did not know how we were going to do this once home… I just knew leaving her there was not an option.
Even after educating ourselves, even with our agency asking us over and over if we were ready for a child with this level of medical needs and possible delays, we still were shocked. We were still fearful.
We were face to face with the reality of our world changing completely and irrevocably once we brought our child home.
Two years later, she is a different child. She is joyful and playful. She is learning boundaries. She is in school, and we are at a much better place than what we were while in China. Things aren’t perfect… we have a long way to go. Our daughter’s needs are extensive and life long. But as we have learned over time, we not only can do hard the things, it’s those very things that have shaped us as family.
I completely shutter to think what would have happened to my daughter had we decided her needs were too much for us… and left her there. It’s just not about us, and the life we think we should have. It’s about these kids. It’s about letting go of what we have planned for our family’s story and letting God weave a more beautiful and richer story into your life.
I haven’t shared openly in a post like this ever about what we faced with our children while in China. And there is still much of their stories that we will keep private. But in light of so many disruptions happening, I decided to share and hopefully give someone out there hope that there can be joy and blessings beyond what you see or experience on family day….