Our girl has been a part of our family for one year.
A year ago, we entered a dingy office building in China and dotted a few more i’s and crossed a few more t’s. Before we were even able to prepare ourselves, our daughter was ushered into us. So scared and afraid and frail.
There are so many emotions I’m still unraveling and processing.
I’ll be totally honest, I was absolutely terrified. The night before, I though I might be ruining the family I’d worked so hard to create.
There are so many unknowns to adoption. If you’re smart, you educate yourself and prepare yourself for the possible outcomes (and yes, I think it’s really stupid to not walk into this fully prepared for all the “worst cases”), but with that education comes the knowledge, and that knowledge is weighty. It never leaves you either. I walk around a little more heavy hearted that the average person because of how much I know. I knew about RAD, and sensory issues, and the grief tantrums, I knew the level of love and care that TBRI required, and I felt so afraid of the potential affects of all of that on our family and ME.
I wasn’t sure I had enough love and selflessness and endurance.
But then there’s this child that’s in front of you. And at first you go through the motions and do the things you’re supposed to do, like bathe them, feed them, dress them and take care of them. You learn their reactions and read their body language. You see their fear and anxiety, and you keep practicing love in action, and one day it turns to love in emotion.
Continuing the theme of honesty, that wasn’t instantaneous. I didn’t feel overwhelming love for this child right away. It felt a bit like I was going through the motions, and just acting the part. I was acting love, but not feeling it yet. I was learning her and she was learning me. It was about 6-8 weeks in that love hit. After the shock of it all, the jet lag, the Asian flu I was recovering from, after all the doctor appointments, rounds of meds, packs of diapers from the parasite that wrecked her system (and often her clothes, and bed linens), when American food started to taste a little normal, when the kids were back to school, and it was just her and me and we had a minute to breathe. I remember when it hit me, in the girls room in our old house, rocking her, looking at her, thinking of all she had been through, and weeping over her. I knew I would knock down any wall put in her way and fight for her in the same way I would my other children. Mama bear, on.
Just because love in feeling comes, doesn’t mean it’s always easy though. There’s still fall out from a life of trauma lived before. Her story still starts in brokenness. Our fall out comes more in the form of “fits” (I hesitate to use that word because it’s so much deeper than that), and shame. Any time she gets in trouble there’s this shame I see on her that is so much more than one instance. It’s like she’s almost a little afraid we won’t still want her if she doesn’t obey, or that she’s afraid something else is coming.
And those people that say going from 3-4 is nothing? Clearly, they have not done it. Because I promise you, adding one more mouth to feed and another body to clothe (and wash clothes for) DOES make a big difference. Especially when you are far from family and the only relief comes in the form of a sitter you have to pay. And it turns out 4 kids IS a lot of kids. Especially with the spread of trying to find things to appease a middle schooler and preschooler simultaneously (that you Jesus, for the pool!).
It was a hard year. There were so many demands on me, most of which you can’t even verbalize or help people understand. I went from having a life, and almost having all 3 in school all the time, to being back in the toddler phase (really baby in those first weeks), and that was a HARD tranistion for me. It was also very isolating. No more lunch dates or meet ups (I tried, and those didn’t go so well with my still adjusting daughter in tow). No more time for myself or self care. The only way to self care was to press into the Lord in brief free moments, and the daily morning calls with my BFF. This year stretched me about as far as I’ve ever been stretched, and in a lot of ways it feels like I’m just resurfacing and gulping for breath. I’m thankful for the friends that have had grace in that and have stuck with me through the hard even though I suck as a friend right now. And continuing honesty, I’m also realizing there are some people who are just more selfish that others, or lack patience and love and weren’t willing/able to stick with me through this journey and totally bailed. There’s been a lot of relationship fall out, but the ones that surround me now are the real deal.
Our kids were rockstars. Day 1 they accepted her in and rolled with the changes she brought. We had lots of talks about what life might look like leading up to getting her, so I think that helped, but they really were pretty selfless for awhile, and stepped up in needed ways. I mean, they are still kids, but they started asking about 3 months in if we could adopt again. EvaKate has been amazing. She has selflessly loved her sister from day one, giving up the spotlight and putting her in it, showing her the ropes and sharing everything with her. I’m so in awe of her. The boys love and adore their youngest sister, and show her off. Josh gives her piggy back rides and does almost anything she asks. She fits the youngest mold quite well, and with her history, it’s our delight to spoil her a bit.
In some ways it’s been the best year, getting to see her change and grow, and see what love can do; but it’s also been the hardest year weathering the growing pains on multiple levels and learning to adapt to how those fit into our life. Plus we also threw a sale/purchase/move/renovation of a house and job change into that, which I don’t recommend.
But we did it, and we survived, and I CANNOT wait for this next year of our normal. The best really is yet to come.
My biggest regret in the process was how much fear overwhelmed me in the months and days before her adoption and shortly after. I wish I had more faith and trust and was willing to let go of control. I didn’t even realize how much the cloud of fear had settled in on me until the unknown became known and the cloud started to dissipate.
The biggest joy has been watching her become who she has always been. Her file said she could talk, but never did, only necessary one word answers. They said she was shy and reserved, but observant and aware. They just didn’t know HER. She is strong and brave and resilient. She is SO smart and aware of everything happening around her. She talks ALL the time. She is full of joy, loves to laugh and play, is a little ornery and sassy, which is absolutely the best balance. She is radiant and beautiful, and has the best eye dimples that pop up when she REALLY smiles. She is our daughter and we adore her. We are so grateful for the gift that is getting to love and parent her.
Is adoption hard? YES. Any story that starts with brokenness and abandonment is. But is it worth it? YES. I honestly think it’s one of, if not THE best things we’ve done. We took a risk, said yes, obeyed the calling and stepped out of our suburban mold and dared to make a family that didn’t look normal. And I’m so glad we did. I love when people ask about our “different” looking family because we get to share about the radical love Jesus showed us in coming to earth and sacrificing himself so that we might be adopted into His family. From a God that showed us extraordinary love, why would we not pass that on? What a gift to not be an ordinary family, but extraordinary one! She really does perfectly complete us.