In the middle of August in West Virginia the weather is hot, steamy, and muggy. The mosquitoes have been bad this year, but stepping outside in the heat reminds me of Guangzhou. This beautiful, tropical city is the third largest in China. It was China’s capital three previous times and today is a strategic port city. Guangzhou possesses a subtropical climate that is mild in summers as well as in winters. It experiences plenty of rainfall and stays green in all four seasons. Located in the south of China, adoptive parents know this as the city for adoptions. The U.S. Embassy is located in Guangzhou, so all U.S. adoptions must be finalized here. It is the last stop for the in-country adoption process.
For me, it is the city where I went from doubting God’s faithfulness to stepping into a new life; a life of living one day at a time. God did a work in my heart in that city. While we were waiting for adoption paperwork to be done, I was in the hotel room; my newly adopted daughter was sleeping. Scrolling through messages on my phone, I came across a blog post from a future friend. In it I read how God would meet me in my everyday needs.
From that moment on, I decided this little eighteen pound two-year-old would be my daughter – no matter what.
So began our attachment journey. Over three years ago, I was handed a very sick little girl. Her heart had been broken emotionally and in turn, my heart shattered as I was told by my Heavenly Father: You will be her mother.
But me? How could I do this? Her special needs were way too much. I had three other little children (ages 6, 4, and 2) back home.
How would my life change?
How our lives changed as we stepped off of the plane into the small little country airport in Charleston, WV! Soon our entire family would step into this attachment journey. At first I called it a process, but that implies an end. A process means “a systematic series of actions directed to some end”.
Attachment doesn’t end, so it is not a process….it is a journey.
The journey of attachment (notice I didn’t say “to attachment” – attachment is not a goal, but a state of being) has been a rocky one for our entire family. And we’re doing it twice now! Two years after we brought home our little girl, we were back in China adopting a little boy.
Although our journey will not look like anyone else’s, I’ve learned a lot about attachment with children – whether you’ve adopted or not. Some of the lessons include living one day at a time, its ok not to feel attached, making the choice is a necessity, feelings will come and go, and the attachment will never end.
Living one day at a time was super hard for me to learn. I’m a planner by nature, so I’m usually a few steps ahead. It frustrates my husband, who is just living in the moment and trying to enjoy life. Planning ahead also means worrying ahead. To protect my heart, I learned a long time ago to try to control everything I could. God has taught me attachment isn’t something I can plan – it is something I have to live out each day and each moment.
The little moments to build attachment are the key. Each night choosing to spend an extra 10 minutes rocking my little one (who is far too old to be rocked) was a must at first. Saying yes as much as possible and looking to for ways to say yes has been huge for our second little guy’s attachment. Each day will provide opportunities for attachment (and sometimes failures). The good news? Every 24 hours we get a new day to start again.
The biggest lesson (and hardest) was that it was ok I didn’t feel the love at first. I expected her not to love me; she didn’t know me! I forgot that I didn’t know her either. So went the slow-growing movement toward love.
The first step for me was to be ok that attachment wasn’t going well.
Acknowledging the fact that attachment was non-existent at first felt like a failure. Only it wasn’t. It was the beginning (everything has to start somewhere).
The next hard lesson was to make the choice to love. In fact, I realized I had to do this with all of my children at one point or another.
Many women have described how love came suddenly. When the baby was laid on their chest after hours of pushing, pulling, and pain, their heart just burst from the love. When I was a new momma, I didn’t have those feelings. Of course I loved my children, but it wasn’t a burst of feeling. It was a deep choice I was making.
At first I felt something was wrong with me. The guilt was watered with tears of disappointment. Was it the c-sections? Was it because I didn’t birth my China babies? Why didn’t I feel this overwhelming feelings of adoration?
Attachment is much like a tree, growing and strengthening over time. A tree never stops growing, so our attachment will never stop growing as well. Three years later, I have fallen completely and utterly in love with my sweet China-girl. Her heart, her smile, and her sweet but sassy disposition is a joy. It is no coincidence her name is Liana Joy.
Our dragon China-boy filled with personality was easy to love at first, but as time has worn on his attachment has gone so differently than hers. Most of his issues are underneath the surface, but we still work on digging up the old weeds of abandonment and pray for God to plant good fruit of attachment in his life.
Do you struggle with attachment? Even with your biological children? Let me remind you: growing love is a choice we make daily. Choose to love, let go of guilt, and get going on this journey. Although you won’t find a road map, you will find yourself not alone in this way; reach out for help and keep close to the Father.