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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I am the Abductor

This might come off sounding awful,
but here it goes.

When my new daughter comes into my arms, {18 days from today} I think it's ok if she cries.
Screaming, wailing, flailing... it's all ok with me.
And here's the awful part, part of me is hoping there will be "a reaction" of some kind.  Part of me hopes it's a big awful horrible reaction.
You may have guessed that we hope that Mimi will be happy and smiling, and everything goes smoothly on that instant that she is passed to our arms.
But we don't hope that at all.

You see, we have a child that was passed into our arms that had no reaction at all to being passed to strangers.  No crying, no fear, no nothing.  We were just another caregiver in what we assume was a long line of many.  And we've seen how that affects a child's soul long term.

Not that I want my child to suffer. I don't want Mimi to experience pain and sorrow and grief.   But if I'm to be honest, not only do we hope she cries, but I hope she's scared.  And frightened.  And maybe even terrified.  Maybe so much so that she throws up, even on me.  Or can't look at me.  Or pees on me.  Or kicks us and bites and tries to scratch our eyes out.  It's totally ok with us, if she tries to run away.  Or if she bangs against the hotel door, for hours and calls out the only woman she's ever known as mama.  It's ok if she does it for hours and even days, and I think it's good and true for her to be able to process the feelings and emotions.  I hope she has a reaction, any kind of reaction to what is happening to her.
It'll be heart breaking to see.
It'll be gut wrenching to watch this happen to our child.
But these things are reactions that we can hope for, if our daughter is having a healthy reaction to what is happening to her.  If she has had a healthy attachment to someone in her past, than these would all be normal reactions.  And I have prayed every single day since I saw her face that she has had an attachment to someone... anyone.

Let's take Trolley into the land of make believe.
We have a 9-year-old biological son, Boo.  He knows no other family.  He only knows himself by the name we've given him.  He lives in an American style home, wears American style clothes, and eats American style food.  He's a pretty normal kid.  (and pretty stinkin' handsome too if I don't say so myself, but let's not get sidetracked.)
And let's pretend that one day, that I drive him to the county court house and give him to a wonderful loving couple from another country.  {Yes, I said "give" him to someone else.}  And maybe they give him a piece of candy and a toy to entice them to their arms.  Surely I would cry as I handed off my child, that I have raised for years, to someone else.  I would cry hard giving my boy to these strangers.  But he didn't know any of this was going to happen!  I didn't tell him!  (And would it be any different if I did?)  And it soon would become obvious to him that he is being given away.  To them.  To strangers.  Forever.  And away from the only family he has ever known.  He would miss me.  He would miss his family and his home.  A lot!  Miss doesn't even seem to be the right word for such a life-altering event.

He would soon realize that he knows nothing about this new country, or its people or food or new family.  He doesn't look anything like them.  They have different skin and hair and clothes.  They smell different.  He doesn't speak or understand their language, or even know where it is or how he's going to get there.  The food is weird and he gets hungry.  He only knows that everything he now experiences in different.  Every smell, and taste, and sight, and sound.  And those loving strangers keep touching him.  Maybe they are stroking his cheek or insisting on holding his hand or rubbing his back.  Even his name has been changed to a new one that he's never heard of.  Nothing at all is familiar anymore.  Despite the fact that these hypothetical new mom and dad seem nice, it's all different, and it's very very scary for him.  And he does this all this while grieving his old family and his mama and his papa that he soon realizes he will Never. Ever. See. Again.  He remembers them.  He can't stop looking for them.  Or stop thinking about them.  And on top of being terrified of it all, it breaks his heart.

Lastly, take away all the ability for this child to process internally and rationally comprehend and communicate even to himself  like a 9-year-old would... because the child is actually only 23 months old.  Same feelings, same terror and panic about being taken away, and same memories about the love she once had for someone that is no longer there... but when you're a toddler none of it is processed with words and none of it can be explained.  All you know is the moment you're in right here and right now.  The overwhelming fear and the grief.

This will be my daughter as we get her on March 4.  I simply Can. Not. Imagine. the feelings she will have.  She will be taken from her foster parents, the only mama and baba that she has known since she was days old, and driven 3 hours to our hotel.  There she will be given to us. That word "give" seems so trite.  Like it's candy or a handbag or even a puppy we're talking about.  It's not.
It's a person.
A real live human being, one person being given to another.
A person with
a soul,
and terror,
and panic,
and memories,
and the possibility for anything in her future.
When this person, my daughter is given away, to us, I hope it rocks her world!  And if that means that it rocks her world to the point that she is physically ill, then so be it.  I'm fully prepared to accept it all.  Or at least I'm trying to be.  I'm praying like mad that she has attached so well to her foster parents that this transition to us will be momentous.
I'm praying to be prepared to be hit and pinched and bit.
Prepared for screaming.
Prepared for nightmares.
Prepared for rage and overwhelming depression in a toddler.
Prepared for terror in the eyes of a 2 year old being taken from everything that she knows and love.

And I'm prepared be the abductor.

Until the love can shine through.

This is Jude just a less than 5 minutes after he was placed in my arms, September 1, 2008.
It's with a bitter sweet heart that I look forward to this fast-approaching day of giving and receiving.  I'm so anxious to wrap my arms around her, to claim her {as nobody has done before}as my daughter once and forever, to plant my kisses on her cheeks, and feel the warmth of her head in the crook of my neck.  I want to touch her skin and feel her hand in mine.  But I don't want to won't will try really hard not to exacerbate her fear for my own peace.  A peace she will be so so very far from in those moments.
It will be a fine line of offering our love and not scaring her further.

I pray we navigate the line well enough for her.


  1. If it makes you feel better, Elspeth screamed for almost an hour and then whimpered all night. She went to sleep clutching the egg and cookie that she came with (Thank goodness it was a hard boiled egg). They were loved, perhaps not stimulated but loved. I wish you buckets of tears so that the light will come shinging through.

  2. There is no gain without some loss. What a good mama you are to be grieving for what your daughter will soon experience. And I agree, reaction is a good and healthy hard as it is. All adoptive parents should read this!!!

  3. What a sweet little bawling face! :'-) We had one terrified (stone quiet) kid and another that fussed and cried on and off for 2 weeks... the first night she was in my care the couple upstairs came down to see (I think) if I was beating her to death... she would scream at a level I have never seen or heard before every time I tired to lay her down (she was 100% asleep in my arms) but the moment she was out of them it was UNREAL how she screamed. I didn't really appreciate the condemnation from the other couple and wanted to go into a long description of how some kids grieve, but I am sure they figured that out later on... But now they are really well attached and seeming to be "at home" with us! Quite honestly this week our little one started hugging and kissing and thats all she wants to do! I didn't think we'd be "here" at 6 months so we are stoked!

  4. Emma did not cry when she was put in our arms - she cried through the nights for weeks. She was in shock and terrified of what was happening to her, while processing it all quietly. Not all babies will react the same way even if they did have a healthy attachment with someone. Some cry and some don't. But I know what you are saying - we want some sign I guess immediately that they are going to be "okay" in the long-term. We will be traveling 2 weeks after you guys to China. :D I can't wait to follow you blog!

  5. OH I WANT TO REPOST THIS ON MY BLOG WITH YOUR PERMISSION! So well said, and more eloquent than I could ever put it.

    I look forward to meeting you in Mazie in GZ!!


  6. It is good to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Our daughter was in foster care and adopted at 24 months and was traumatized! She screamed for days and called for her "MaMa" she also didn't want anything to do with me, only my husband, since I was the one to take her from the only place she knew. She is strong and has healed, but it did continue for months and months after we were home. This being said, our 3 1/2 year old out of an orphanage adapted instantly and amazingly well. I think she knew life was better right away.

    It is heartbreaking... the process they have to go through to come home!

  7. P.S. It also depends on the age of the child at adoption, too, I think. Emma was only 7-1/2 months old. She had no idea what was going on. She did the "flight" thing at first and fell asleep on the drive back to the motel. When we got back to the motel and she looked us over, that is when she started to cry and start to "fight." Then she would be "okay" during the days and cry through the night for several weeks. But really each child is different in how they react to the changes. Honestly none of us know really what our child went through before they came to us.

  8. This is beautiful. We've got some hard work ahead of us, don't we?

  9. I love this - we got two at the same time jsut hours apart (on 12/11/11). One was thrilled to go with us, he has been our challenge, although on some level I think he knew that we would provide for all of those things lacking in his orphanage,

    Our daughter, oh it still breaks my heart the gut wrenching scream (you could hear it down the hall in the elevator.) She greived, and mourned for her foster family, and then she molded seamlessly into our family. She still grieves for her past, but that's an emotion I CAN deal with and eventually fix.

  10. Ah, so many emotions swirling as adults, I cannot imagine how children process it all, but I am sure no matter her reaction, she will not be coming from the same place as T. Each child is unique and special and God knows your family and He knows Mazie. As usual I'm having trouble expressing my thoughts without making assumptions, so I'll stop...

    but in my own life I find this a powerful post. I have been thinking about how each of my children would have responded if their life had changed completely at 9 months, knowing the life they were leaving is considered pretty good by American standards. Maybe eventually I'll write a blog post on it, but it won't be as well written as yours. I just hope it all helps me be patient and compassionate towards my daughter no matter what her reaction.

  11. so beautifully written and so deep and heartbreaking. what our babies go through is hard to process as an adult, but unimaginable as a child. what a treasure of a mama you see such deep insight and be able to feel and walk this journey alongside your sweet babies. i prayed for my gal to have a similar reaction and we see now what a treasure her foster mom was for giving her the gift of attachement early on in her life. praying praying praying for your gotcha day to be filled with tears (and joy :)
    much love to you!!

  12. You don't know me - I stumbled onto your blog. When I met my daughter in Ethiopia in June she froze when I first held her - no movement, no expression. Over the next few days she cried when I would visit - loudly. When I went back in September to pick her up forever she cried during our visits again. I was worried - but I shouldn't have been. I loved her, looked at her picture all the time, she was mine! But she knew nothing of me (she was two). We've been together for five months and she never does the freeze out anymore. I look back at the first pictures and I'm so happy and she was, well, not. And that's ok. She is now. Hope your first hours together are blessed, no matter what her initial reaction.

  13. I am a hot mess right now. Thinking about that fear, that confusion, how much I'd hate the strangers touch because it felt different. Oh my gosh.

  14. When we adopted our son from Ethiopia at age 4.5, I was prepared for this. Instead, I got a kid who wrapped his arms around my neck like he was never going to let go. I was stunned & ill-prepared for that reaction. Later as he language developed, we learned that he had seen our pictures & knew we were supposed to be coming. That day he was told, "Today is your turn for a mommy." Mercy. Thankfully, his attachment & transition has been amazing.

    Like you, I am actually hoping for "the reaction" b/c I know full well that our son's was not the norm.

    BTW, thanks for the awesome thread & chart you have kept going for all us March travelers (I'm MamaH). :o)

  15. Wonderful essay Nancy which should be published in adoptive parenting literature for certain! Our B. grieved in a very quiet way. It's really only looking back at pictures later on that we saw how very sad and depressed she was the first few days, but it was not an extreme reaction at all (which I too was hoping for). Then there were the months of night terrors that disturbed her sleep until cosleeping eased her suffering. I'm confident you will do every single thing possible to forge a bond and it will strengthen with each passing day. As is often said, one day at a time.

  16. Wow. I hope your little one will not be that terified, though! :)

    I know it's easy for me to say, I know. But I sincerely wish a smooth transition for her.

    And, if it's going to be difficult at first, at least you are well prepared for it! And you know (from your own experience, right?) that it won't last forever. ;)

    You will be in my prayers, and I'm not just saying.

    Stay strong!! <3

  17. Oh Nancy, I'm so excited for you guys. We can't wait to see this next part of your amazing journey unfold.


  18. This is so beautifully written that it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for putting words to what I have often thought about. Will be praying for your journey here.


  19. Well said, my friend! Foster care is a blessing. (My little sweetie's bites and pinches don't hurt much and the hair pulling is why we have ponytail holders. Or maybe it's that as a mom, you know what's behind them so you don't mind. Like what the Horse told the Velveteen Rabbit about being real-- you don't mind being shabby and warn because you're real. You won't mind because she's real. And she's yours. And you're hers.

    If you need anything-- just holler.

  20. This is an absolutely amazing post; a beautifully written description of one of the most key issues of adoption (some of the shock may be lessened if it is a same-country adoption, but IMO the basic events are the same).

    I understand your "bitter sweet heart" -- so much pain for the child, yet leading to the amazing "thing" that is a loving permanent family.

    Mazie Jade does not know you yet; but after reading your blog -- especially this post -- I'm positive she will will be helped through that painful phase to a wonderful, loving, supportive family life...

  21. Wow - you really do "get it" - and I mean that in the absolute best way...this is, in fact, what adoption is all about. And for us - we're glad that you do "get it"...

    I once heard that "adoption is a perfect solution to an imperfect problem. Would it that adoption never had to happen, but that it does may it be done by people to know the trials and dangers and are prepared to love unconditionally." Good words - and they've stuck with me for this past almost 10 years, tho I forget who spoke them!

    So, here's to wishing that your family has a perfectly imperfect adoption day - and that the transition is difficult but brief!!!

    thanks for "getting it" - go and do!

    hugs - aus and co.

  22. I love this post, Nancy. We will see how our little boy will react when he meets us in just over a week. I, too, want my son to grieve, even if it only lasts a few minutes. I've heard some kids can grieve for up to 3 days solid as soon as they meet their new parents (and probably much longer, but none of us will really know), which is so heartbreaking.

    Can't wait for you to get your sweet girl!


  23. Beautifully written! So many don't get do!!!

  24. As someone who has never adopted, but hopes to do so someday, I appreciated reading this. Thank you.


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