Thursday, January 14, 2010

Something Perfect...A Beginning

Watching the Oborn's and listening to the Yager's as they go through bringing home younger children has been a real gift, as it has taken me back to the precious time of the adoption of our own infants in Matthew and Joshua. Each was a very different experience and yet utterly priceless. Stern, quiet little babies begin to blossom with one on one attention, infants who were a year old and couldn't hold their heads up due to lack of physical interaction began to gain strength and soon were up and toddling around. Shy smiles started appearing...OK maybe with Josh that is a stretch but the rest is not...Hahaha! By the time we got home, we were utterly smitten, even if it was not the truly deep, abiding love that eventually followed.

Some people are surprised when you say honestly "No, I didn't really love them." about your initial reactions to your newly adopted child or children. You act in a committed and loving way, but abiding love takes time. At first you love the image you have created in your head of the child you find your way to, then that all comes crashing down as you then build a new image based on the very real living and breathing child in front of you. That takes time.

I haven't blogged much about the deeper stuff going on for me as I work my way into the transition of being the girls' "real mom", of what it feels like to embrace the idea of being a mommy to 5 kids overnight. I have had a couple of concerned comments about "You aren't talking about them much, is everything OK?". After our challenging first couple of weeks, I think it is natural for those who care to be concerned.

It also can be hard to make yourself "go there", and you all are so used to it flowing freely from me that the expectation bar has been set very high!! Hahaha! Sometimes though, it is that I don't have the words readily available on the surface to share what is going on in my heart or maybe even that I want to keep it all to myself for awhile, but tonight I will try.

I know so many people were shocked and totally dumbfounded by the girls' initial reaction. After all, ours was a fairy take in the making if ever there was one!

While it certainly wasn't what I had expected or hoped for, I wasn't at all shocked. Some may call me a liar, but the fact is I have been reading others' stories and researching for 10 years now, let alone having done this a time or two ourselves. I was well prepared by all those who have gone before us and graciously shared their less-than-perfect first meetings. While our history with the girls was definitely unusual, this was still our first real meeting as a family...we were familiar strangers to one another and I have always kept my expectations of first meetings very, very low so as not to come unglued should something uncomfortable happen. Well, I guess ours was about the most uncomfortable you could have!! Hahaha!

How did it feel? Strangely and oddly detached, as if I was watching it from the sidelines and had already seen the final play. I think it was how I managed to hold it together even through the very painful last day, or what we thought would be the last day. Oh I was hurting and confused, don't let me fool you on that one, but there was some part of me that just still felt calm and THAT bothered me almost more than what was going on around me, as it made no sense at all and was extremely and totally out of character for me. I can attribute it to only one thing, God and the prayer of hundreds that literally enveloped us. I don't know if I have ever really understood or internalized the real power of group prayer until this trip.

Then I went through what I felt was a very normal and healthy period of stepping back, giving myself time to regroup and reassess so that we felt confident and comfortable moving forward. A lot had happened in a very short period of time, we were all over the map with our emotions and just needed to slow the bus down, make sure Angela in particular was who we had all along thought her to be even though we had seen such an extreme reaction.

So where have I been the past couple of weeks? Hmmm...that is the hard one to describe actually. I have been more of an observer, picking up on clues, interacting here and there, watching as the kids play with one another. I have been neither high nor low, not really stuck either, and yet not making much progress in building relationships. Maybe I have been letting myself just be present, which is not something I usually allow myself or even am very good at. No judgments, no serious assessments, no hard work, just presence. And maybe waiting for The Presence. the One who counts.

Today, "it" happened.

I don't understand the whys or the hows, I don't know the mysterious ways of Adoptive Love Building. I only know that, for me, each and every time there has been a moment at which you begin to feel "it". You can't force it, you can't jam it into place no matter how hard you try. It just happens.

We were at Yannik's birthday party at the Turkistan this afternoon, we arrived before the girls did, and they walked in and Olesya ran at top speed into my arms with this huge grin plastered on her face with Angela walking behind her. The joy on her face at seeing me was genuine and full, and so was my heart. Three or four times she came up to me and just leaned into me, wrapping her arms around me for a quick hug, then off to play again.

With Angela it is less a physical expression of love, yet she doesn't pull away...she is just not as huggy, For her, it is glancing across the table at me and the two of us cracking up at something someone else did or said. (And by the way, Girlfriend can BURP!!! YES!! She IS her mommy's daughter!!!) She did it today as they were playing a joke on Matthew hiding his shoes from him, and I was the only one who caught on. She watches me to see if I am watching her, she has started to look for my approval and to desire it.

Today, for the first time, they started to REALLY feel like my daughters. Today, for the first time, I held each of them close at different times, I took Angela's face in my hands and kissed her forehead and said "I love you", and she let me, and she grinned. I kissed Olesya's cheek, and she grabbed on to me and held tightly. I finally was comfortable enough with them, and them with me to offer more intimate mommy touches...slowly, gradually...we begin the process of moving from entirely committed strangers to loving parents.

These are older children, they are not babies you can grab hold of and nuzzle their cheeks within a week or fling them with glee into the air. They have been so terribly scarred by life, intimacy of any sort is such a risk. While I wish I could just wrap them up in my arms, snuggle with them next to me and whisper about all the things I share with the boys, that will take a very, very long time to achieve the closeness necessary for that to occur. If I have unrealistic expectations and begin pushing, it might never happen.

Presence. I keep reminding myself, special others keep reminding me without knowing I needed to be reminded. Presence has more meaning that we give it credit for.

Another thing I know contributed to my feeling more Momly was I felt the time was right to start asserting my Mom authority. We have all healed enough to begin to start the arduous task of breaking free of old ways of being and creating new ones. Kids who have never been consistently worked with on manners will not be particularly mannerly. That is not their fault, but it can be off putting and offensive to those who don't stop and think to themselves "Hey, how many times did my 11 year old hear 'Did you say thank you?' in their life?". We are starting 11 and 9 years behind in the Hounding Department!! I reminded them to say "please" and "thank you" to the Oborn's. I corrected them on a couple of other Minor Manner Misdemeanors.

Watching them as they were fascinated with little Anna, the Oborn's new daughter, was a heart melter as well. Who can not be touched when they see their own child show kindness and gentle care to a younger one? We have two very tenderhearted daughters we are bringing home. Matthew started to cry a bit today when he had been promised a small stuffed animal by a vendor manning a booth and Kenny and Josh got one but he didn't. I don't care if he IS 10, he LOVES stuffed animals, always has and always will. Olesya explained to us what happened but the booth attendant wouldn't give Matt a little prize. Olesya happened to have won 2 and she went running to get one of hers and quickly gave it to Matthew. Matthew turned around and offered her a big hug and a thank you, and they were off and running to play together.

Angela and Olesya both are trying out their English, with Olesya being a tad bit bolder and Angela a little more reticent but trying it on for size. Olesya is answering "thank you" in English only now, and Angela tried it a couple times today along with "please". They sang Happy Birthday in English as they had learned how to do in school, and hopefully will soon be over the fear of trying lots of new words.

But you know what? This may sound so strange to those of you who read this and have not adopted but they will not feel like they are fully mine until we get them with us full-time, and they have showered and smell clean, and they are wearing clothes we picked proxy...hahaha...but at least that come from OUR stores and are styles we recognize and Angela isn't wearing boots a woman would wear that make her 2 inches taller and make me feel more like I am staring into the eyes of a 2o year old.

I want them to SMELL like my kids, to be lotioned up and FEEL like my kids, to LOOK like my kids. I want their hair to be trimmed and shiny, their faces to be blemish free because they are no longer oily and can shower more than once a week, I want them to be wearing the familiar styles that I have imagined daughters of mine wearing.

I think we all walked away feeling somehow as if we had crossed another bridge, that we had taken one more step towards becoming a family today...we were more familiar and more comfortable. We are building, slowly but surely, some shared experiences to look back on. Thinking back to our disastrous first trip to this place, it was hard to believe we had the same children with us. These smiles, these hugs, these were the ones I had been waiting for.

There was a song I found months ago that was written by a popular Mormon artist named Michael McLean. It is titled "Something Perfect" and is about adoption. It is a lovely melody and I loved the lyrics and I share them with you here:

Something Perfect

There's an ache that's missing today
There's an emptiness that's been filled
There's a cloud that's lifting and drifting away
There's a ragin' storm that's been stilled
There's a joy that's real
There's a wound that's finally healed
There's a future replacing the past
There's breath of new life in the cast

And there's something perfect happening here
And this moment will bury the mountains of fears
And through countless tomorrows
It won't disappear
This something that's perfect
Happening here

No one knows, so no one can say
That tomorrow all will be well
Will the brightest promise that shines on today
Shine tomorrow? No one can tell
But one thing is sure
And will be forever more
When such unselfish love has been given
The world just made more room for heaven

And there's something perfect happening here
And this moment will bury the mountains of fear
And through countless tomorrows it won't disappear
This something that's perfect
Happening here

It is the first 2 lines that resonated so deeply with me, it was so well crafted and fits our situation beautifully..."There's an ache that's missing today, there's an emptiness that's been filled.". It's not always about "love", that comes later. There was an ache on both sides of the world that has been banished...there IS an emptiness that has been filled. That is what I felt for years, it is what the girls felt for years. For the first time someone expressed so well what I have felt and couldn't explain when saying "I have never loved my kids at first sight not when we first met them.". I have been taken to task for that one over and over again, and yet I maintain that for me, it is true.

But there sure was an ache and emptiness that ceased to exist.

We are not all the way to Something Perfect yet, not by a long shot, but we have a Beginning. Eventually. there will be moments that will bury the mountains of fear and FINALLY there WILL be countless tomorrows that won't disappear.

Because Something Perfect really is happening here.

It is God's perfect love.

In God's perfect time.

5 years in the making.



Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

Love in birth children is exatly the same.
We don't love them because they are biologically ours, we love them after we bring them home, when we start bathing them, changing them, choosing their clothes, when we care for them, then we do care and love grows.

I think being a parent is just that, it doesn't matter if you met your child in an orphanage or a maternity, they become ours through day to day care and efford.

I feel extremelly happy all is well with all of you, now that it will not be too long until D. is back and you can start thinking of heading home.


Heather said...

Cindy, Thank you for the post. Ya know, with Grant, I really did fall in love with him the first time I saw him there lying in the crib. With our upcoming adoption, I decided not to put any expectations on myself as to when that "moment of love" happens. I sincerely appreciated the post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Love each of you (but not at first meeting),

Joyce said...

Love this post and its sooo very true. There is this expectation that the love is there from Day one, but for me that true deep heartfelt love from the bottom of my heart comes slowly and builds all the time. As time goes past I think I love him more and more each time. Even though I loved him a baby (when I was one of his nurses caring for him in the neo unit and didnt have any idea I would be adopting him 4 years later) the love I have for him is bigger than that.
Thanks for bring honest and real once again.
I just have to add - when you talk about the non verbal connection with Angela across the table - I think about the photo of her and she reallly looks like she has a little twinkling look in her eye.

Carol said...

Hi Cindy,
I really enjoyed this post. You spoke from your heart, and it was full of feeling... and meaning. You described the "love takes time" concept very well. It is so true! I can relate to much of what you've described, even though I didn't even realize it... until now.

By the way, how do you pronounce "Olesya"? I thought it was "o-Less-a"... until I googled "Russian pronunciation of Olesya" and got more different answers than I expected ("O-less-ia", "ah-LYE-sya, "O'l-i-zy-a", "O-lees-ya")... so now I'm confused!

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Thanks for the tears, and may none of us ever forget the millions who will never feel those hugs and gain that trust. May God's people step forward for all orphans.

Kelly and Sne said...

Well said. Our boy cried when he first came to me at the orphanage - not exactly a storybook meeting! We stayed the entire 2 month trip and felt quite bonded by the end of it. But it was nothing compared to what developed within the next year of being home. The depth of the trust and love that has built over time continues to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your story since I discovered your blog recently. I've enjoyed reading about your family and new daughters. Having brought home four children from Guatemala, I can relate to much of what you posted about love growing. We waited from 14months to three years for our kids. Our sons both came home as 4yr olds, our daughters as 10 and 11yr olds. Each meeting and each journey has been different. The girls were older, and I identify with all you shared. Though I knew I would love them forever as my children, it's also a process, as we share history. Just like I love my great husband more today than I did when we were married 28yrs ago, my love for my kids grows as we share life together. If I think about it, I also had those moments of fear, as I got to know and understand my husband more in our earliest years of marriage. I even remember the "What have I done" moments, as does he! We also have three bios (grown) and one adopted as a US infant (grown). I have to say that I felt our new 12day old was still a bit more of a stranger to me than the children I birthed. Love was there, as love is an action. But the emotional feelings of attachment, even with an infant, still had a bit of a feeling of "stranger" to them. And when kids come older and we have to deal with little attitudes or "tricks" they sometimes play on us to discover the depth of our love, that can be scary.

I'm glad to read that things are going better and better for you. I know there will probably be difficulties ahead for the girls and your family, as "real life" sets in, but your committment to them will get you through, as will your dependence on the Lord. Someone once told me, "I don't think I could love another person's child". I can't understand that comment, and I know it's not in you to understand that, either. You and I know that it is possible to claim that child as our very own. We've lived it.

Best wishes and God's blessings to the wonderful family He has made you. Your sons are amazing young men, and your daughters are very brave and courageous.

Anna said...

As I sit at the computer screen and read these words they bring comfort to me. I may have to re-read this post a time or two to soak it in. Yesterday I had a thought that maybe our adoption has taken so lond so that we would learn how to "fight for our little one". I long for the day that the red tape is cut and we can fly. But have had a deep fear and dread too. I have a mental image of who I think she is by the updaes and medicals. But who is she really? Will she like us? Will she be afraid? As she grows older while we wait the fear has a way of taking the excitement away. Thank you for sharing the song... I agree with you. Its beautiful.

Karen said...

am iming with Dom on FB and wanting to say "hi"