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Monday, November 5, 2012

The visit

I've had a moment to look at the photos from the day we visited Mimi's orphanage.  Due to a computer snafu, I hadn't seen these pics for quite a while  I'm not sure where God is leading me in this little trip down memory lane.  Certainly there is something to be learned by seeing them and remembering, but for me some of the images are so painful.  Heck, much of the trip was painful.  Yet... I do it again in a heart beat.  It was an amazing incredible blessing.

We knew we would visit with Mimi's foster parents.  In her CWI, (Children's Welfare Institute) many of the younger children live in the orphanage with foster parents in apartments.  This is an unusual set up for China's orphanages...  unusual and an amazing gift as the children reap so many benefits from living 24/7 with foster families.  So we knew that we would be able to see Mimi's foster mom and dad and more importantly she'd see them.  I approached that day with a flexible attitude and lots of prayer.  Lots of prayer.  Did I mention I prayed a lot about it?  I prayed in the 3-hour van ride there to have the strength to "go with the flow" and do everything I could to help my daughter with yet another huge transition in 3 day's time.
Please God, help me show Your grace.  Please help me give her peace.  Let me know what to say and when to say it.  Let me know how to help my daughter.  When to step back.  When to step in.  When to be strong.  
I had heard from the many women who traveled this very road before us that this visiting of the orphanage was a good thing.  A tool for transition and closure, and maybe it could be a pivotal point for our daughter who seemed to be grieving almost nonstop so far.  On the other hand, it seemed cruel to bring her back to the orphanage and her foster mama, just to take her away again.  All over again.  My heart broke to make her do it.  But they said it was a good thing.  A good difficult thing.  So we went.

Mimi was quiet on the way there. In hind sight, I think it was much more than that.  She suddenly had diarrhea  in the van.  She hadn't had it before then and hasn't had it since.  Now I wonder if she had remembered the car ride just 3 days earlier that took her from all she knew, and I wonder if her body was in knots with stress.

We got to the CWI, and more than anything I just wanted her to have some peace during our visit.  When the nanny swooped in, even before I got out of my seat in the van, I let Mimi go to her arms.  I could see it all over Mimi's face.  Her body relaxed in the nanny's arms.  My body was tense.  But Mimi had her peace.  And for the following hours, I let her have it.  I let her stay safe with in the arms of her mama that had loved on her before me.  Arms that knew far more about my daughter than I did.  These wonderful generous arms blessed gave her comfort and peace that I couldn't.

We toured the orphanage. We were invited in to her foster family's apartment (located in the CWI).
We saw her bedroom and her crib, still with her blankets and her name and photo above the bed.
We met her foster sisters.
We saw the empty shelves for the toys that did not exist for these girls to play with.
We witnessed the smiles and love that her wonderful foster parents shared with "their children" and the smiles and the love that the girls shared with them.  I sensed the ease in which they were knitted together.  I saw the way her foster mama held her and seemed to anticipate her needs before she even had them.
She changed her pants.  She took her to the potty.  She brushed the hair from her brow as if to touch a child she had so been missing.  She pulled up a sock and filled her hands with her favorite treats.  And my girl was at peace.
Then it was time to go.  The part I had been talking to God about the whole trip there.  Foster mama held Mimi as we walked out to the lobby.  This is where it would happen.  Our guide stepped in.  Our guide asked foster mama to tell Mimi that she loved her and would always remember her and that it was okay to go with her new mama.  And foster mama leaned into Mimi's ear and gave her the most wonderful gift we could have ever prayed for.  She leaned into Mimi's ear and whispered to her, giving her permission to go to her new family.  This woman was so amazing.  She was giving me her child, and she was going to give her everything she could right up till the very last moment.   I don't think if I would have had such composure. What does a 23 month old understand?  I don't know.  Mimi's body became tense.  She leaned into her foster mama... away from me.
Our guide instructed the 3 of us, foster mama, Mimi, and me, to hug one another.  We did.  Mimi wanted nothing to do with it.  Nothing to do with being that close to me.  But we hugged, and it was awkward.
I didn't know what to do next.  I ineptly stood there not knowing.   The our guide instructed me to take Mimi {from her foster mama} and get into the van.
And I did.
 I took my daughter from arms of this amazing woman that was able to give her love and peace.
And I got into the van.
We were all crying at this point, myself trying to hold it all in, Mimi, who was not afraid to let her rage out, and foster mama, who own tears had now come.

I will not show you the pics of what happened next.  Actually I was unaware there were any photos being taken, but one of my teens was still snapping away.  These images are too much to share.
Our girl who had been filled with grief for days, then short-lived peace for just a few hours, was finally angry.  Taken for a second time in 3 days from her "home" and foster family, everything in her was full of rage.  Everything I had been fearing finally came out in those moments.  The biting.  The hitting.  The screams.  Nobody said anything.  It was so in the open for all to see.  For the next hour in the van, she raged until she finally collapsed asleep in my arms.
When she woke, as we were pulling up to the hotel, she was back to her quiet stoic self.  Except for just a little lighter.  In the days that would come, quickly, we'd see more of her heart.  Her smiles came more easily, and we were privilege to see who our new daughter really was under all that grief.  Was the orphanage visit a turning pint?  I'm not sure, but it certainly marked a time that Mimi started allowing herself to open up, feel joy, and I think to be vulnerable again.

7 months later, we looked at the computer screen, and she saw the photos.  She touched her little finger to the screen and touched her foster mother's image.  She looked at me with a smile on her face like she found a long lost friend.
She pointed to her and said Granna.  I can only guess why she called her Granna instead of Mama.
Then her finger moved to her foster father saying, Baba.  She was happy to see them again.  I was surprised she remember them.  We looked through the photos together.
Mimi's bed, she pointed out in the pic.
Then she looked up at me and pointed to her bed here at home.  Mimi's bed!
And then pointed to my bed next to her's.  Mama's bed!
Yes, sweet amazing strong girl.  You have a bed here too!  And it's right next to mine.  In her heart I am her mama now, but there's still definitely a happy place for her first family too.  Love and good memories from both coexisting in the same little beautiful soul.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to help her keep these sweet memories alive.  As we flip through the photos, we come to the ones when she leaves her foster mama.  I didn't mean to go that far, but I did, and then she saw the photos of her anger and her tears.  
Mimi sad, she said.  
She gets it.
Yes, we were all very sad.  Foster mama loved you very much.  We were all sad to say goodbye.  

And then there are the questions...  Should we have gone back to visit the orphanage at all?  Could we have orchestrated the final hand off differently?  Was it okay to leave her with her foster mama while we looked around?  Should I let her see the photographs?  Is it okay for her to see the images of when she was "sad?"  Should I have said something or done something differently?  Do I need to do something more?  Can I say something else to help her understand?  I guess these are just more of the unanswered questions that are part of the journey of adoption.  The journey is full of unanswered questions and no promises, except the one that if we fully surrender and  follow where God leads then there is peace that we have done His will.  
So I'll say it again.
Much of the trip was painful.  Yet... I do it again in a heart beat.  It was an amazing blessing.



20 comments:

  1. Wow. What an amàzing story! You are certainly fortunate to have had that experience, although I can't imagine how hard that must have been! Thank you for sharing:)

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  2. what a beautiful post. heart wrenching really....Janie keeps a picture of her and her yaya next to her bed and will say she misses her and that she knows yaya loves her :)so sweet and sad at the same time. Bless little Mimi!!!

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    1. I'm considering framing a pic for Mimi. I'm not against it in the least. She just hasn't expressed that much of a desire. I think I'll do it anyway. Thx for the reminder, Paige!
      nancy

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  3. Wow. What a wonderful, hard, beautiful, sad post. Thank you. It is such a good reminder that adoption always involves loss, sadness, and pain...leading to such joy.

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  4. Beautiful post. I think the pictures mean something to her and even as her memory of the day fades she will always have the pictures. Especially the one of you with her foster family. It's good to remember everyone who once loved us.

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  5. What an amazing story to share. As mothers we always have doubts about the should haves, and could haves. You do the best you can and all she asks for is your love. Again, thanks for sharing your story and letting us in on such an overwhelming moment in time. Prayers for you

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  6. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us.

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  7. This post TRULY touched my heart. Thank you for sharing and showing yet again, that although ADOPTION is a wonderful and beautiful thing, beneath the "thin surface" there lies hurt and loss. Being an adoptive mother of a now 5yr old who lost her mother at the age of 4, and deciding whether to "take her to the funeral" was a MAJOR DECISION that I chose carefully. I let her attend the funeral and let her grieve the loss of her bio-mother as well as talk openly and freely about it often. I love that my girl knows she was DEEPLY LOVED by her FIRST MOTHER. It makes me feel good that she talks about her openly and freely all the time.

    Thank you from all the adoptive parents who wrestle with the "SHOULD...OR SHOULDN'T I" decisions. We sometimes forget in our haste to protect them from "sadness and loss". However, this is THEIR story and THEIR journey to you. but protect our babies) .The "NEED TO KNOW" is a natural thing and in no way intended to hurt or deny us a their parent but a way to show your babies you will ALWAYS BE LOVED by many both near and far....even if "far" is the OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN.

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  8. I think you did just what Mimi needed...both in China and at home looking at the photos. Our visit back to the orphanage was a turning point for us too, although Amelia wasn't as bonded to any of her care takers I do believe it helped her trust me.

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    1. Isn't it amazing how many different reactions there are to the visit. There was another little one on our trip back. She was not stressed or sad or anything. Her whole China trip was like that. And I truely don't believe that she "shutting it out" or anything. She just took it all in stride and was fine with it all. The children each handle things in their own way. That shouldn't surprise me. Don't we all regarless of age?!
      Nancy

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  9. The lady at Starbucks was trying to figure out why I had tears running down my face but this post brought back all of the emotion of that day. I think I was distracted in the moment at the time but now your words and photos have really brought all of the emotion of that day forward. Lord thank you for the wife you have given me.

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  10. weeping. i don't know how you left there. i don't know how Mimi survived. how do we make it through these things?

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    1. S--how did YOU leave? It's all the process of grief and loss that leads to the blessings. We are the lucky ones in it all.
      N

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  11. Nancy this was an amazing post. One that brought tears to my eyes, how such a small soul could remember that and how important the first years of a child are. She is very blessed to be in your loving family and so blessed to have people who loved her and cared for her in her first years of life.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your incredible journey with Mimi. God has blessed you and your family for the amazing things you have done!

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  13. Oh, you have me weeping. Such a treasure your little Mimi is. I am glad you have all these photos and that you shared them with us.

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  14. As I sat here and read this incredible journey of yours, your family and precious Mimi's I cried. I cried for the love you and your family had to opening your home and more importantly your hearts to this special child. I cried at Mimi's emotions at reuniting with her previous family and the place she called home and the love she shared with her foster parents. I cried about her final goodbye, I cried, cried and cried.

    However, in the end this beautiful daughter of yours is now forever part of your family which brought a huge smile to my face. Love, love, love.

    Thank you for linking up to the Empowered Living hop. This is truly a post that exudes what inspiration and everything empowering is.

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  15. I can't come up with the words to say how incredible I think this post is..

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  16. Thank you for sharing. I love reading the details of Mimi's adoption, she is truly blessed to have her foster mom and you. Two great moms in her life.

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