Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yesterday marked one year.

It's an amazing thing to witness parents and their adopted children unite for the first time. I remember watching one of the families we traveled with meeting their new addition. It was at a stop prior to ours, so we were free to stand back and observe. It was a breathtaking moment, full of tenderness and eagerness and willingness and joy. It brought tears of happiness to my eyes.

On February 15, 2010 we arrived at the orphanage in Ethiopia to meet Masso and Tamene. Looking back, I suppose it's safe to say I hadn't the foggiest notion what to expect, although I was relatively certain I did. Like a good adoptive parent, I had played the image out in my mind of this exact scenario time and time again as we waited.

I figured I would know exactly what to do, how to conduct myself, when I first saw my precious children's faces. After all, I was a mother to 5 already. I was quite comfortable in the mommy to young ones role.  This is how mommies behave. I will do as mommies do. I will lovingly swoop them into my arms, whisper in their ears, and cry sweet tears of simple joy. Then we will walk off into the sunset together ready to face any challenges that come our way.....

Except that's not at all how it happened.

I was caught off guard. The whole experience was stunningly surreal. Seeing, in real live little people, the children whose pictures we had been gazing adoringly at for what seemed like months on end, the kids we had prayed for, saved for, fought for, hoped for, longed for, right before our very eyes, was a lot to take in. It felt as if I was watching the whole thing unfold from the outside, trying to prod myself to do what I was convinced I should be doing, but I felt stuck, unmovable, unable to produce the touching moment I knew ought to be taking place. We are meeting our children! Why isn't this going right?

They were not as I had imagined they would be. They were taller, bigger kids than I anticipated with different mannerisms and responses than I dreamt up in my mind. Flint wouldn't, couldn't look us in the eye. He appeared completely uninterested in our presence, and he demonstrated it often throughout the trip and in the airport on the way home by literally running away from us at every opportunity. Meadow was clearly distraught. Her tears poured. She mourned. This made me cry. And cry. And feel even more stuck, at an utter loss for how to comfort, to communicate, to reassure this little girl who was leaving life as she knew it behind. She spoke only Amharic. I, only English. I had no gentle words to whisper in her ears. No mommy instincts were guiding me in the right direction. Where were they when I needed them so desperately? As much as I thought I was prepared for The Adoption Experience, my mind would not seem to concede I was these children's mother.

In the year that followed, I continued to struggle with that concept. Everything I had come to learn about mothering over the past number of years no longer fit. My bag of tricks was illsuited for these kids' unique needs. The service required didn't flow as easily as it had with our biological children. The immense foundation of love didn't have time to naturally, mercifully, form the way it had when we welcomed newborn babies. It was more of a thrust. I underestimated the huge role the vast communication barrier would play in our lives. A level of darkness came over me. It covered my days. Taxed and weary, my compassion grew faint.

Yet, as the days waxed on we somehow managed to make astonishing headway. There were breakthroughs and setbacks, streaming tears both of sorrow and of joy. There was grief and anger and happiness and hard won milestones. There were high mountains and deep valleys and moments when I grieved for who I once was, wondering if that woman would ever return to me.

I now realize the answer is no.

I am forever different than I was before. I have been transformed through the trials and triumphs of a heart scouring process unlike any I have known. It has not been an easy path and we still have far to travel. My compassion has not fully recovered, my view of myself is irrevocably altered. I find both consolation and distress in this. But, I'm coming to terms with living amidst that type of tension.

When I hear news that a willing family is adopting, I sometimes wince, knowing the road that lies before them may be rocky and difficult, that they may go in looking one way, and come out on the other side without the slightest resemblance to who they once were. Their expectations may be blown to smithereens, become scattered all over the hillside, unable to be pieced together again.

Still, to them, I smile and say congratulations. You will rarely have the opportunity to engange in anything so overwhelmingly worthwhile. God be with you. Although I don't always see Him clearly, I am sure, He has certainly been with me.

Yes, I'm showing myself doing the ugly cry.
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Lisa Stucky said...

I love how real you have been about your journey. You know of my hope to adopt one day and I thank you for painting a real picture, a honest picture about the struggles, the challenges, and the joys. Bless you my friend, as you continue to mother your kids the best you know how.

Bonnie Nieuwstraten said...

Tears came as I read this. I was in Lindy's travel group, a little over a year ago. I makes me feel so normal (something I haven't been feeling much lately!) to read what you've written. The journey is not what we expect, but so worth it. I have been struggling with a loss of compassion, and an inability to rejoice with others who are adopting as I used to, But like you, God has been with me every step of the way.

Thanks for being so genuine.

Carla said...

It's amazing how much your words are mine too.

Jaime And Drew said...

Thank you for sharing this. You were able to describe things that my heart has been feeling. January 29th was our 1 year mark. I truly appreciate your honesty. I'm slowly gaining perspective but for months I was caught in the mud. This is a necessary truth that needs to be told.

Holly said...

God is using you...your 'different' heal and to bring Him glory...

that's all I have - other than I am and will always be addicted to your writing.

Tim and Sara DenHartigh said...

I very much appreciated reading about your adoption experience. An adoption forum friend shared your blog with me. We have been home with our 17 month old daughter for about a week now and I have been blown away by unexpected emotions. The most valuable thing to me right now is hearing from others who have gone before me. I am learning quickly that I am not the only one to experience these complicated post-adoption emotions.

You are an excellent writer by the way!

Courtney said...

this is one of the things i am currently struggling with so much:

will i ever be the same person?
i think not.
and i'm grieving that.

and i'm still in the middle...yikes!

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