February 24, 2010

The Beginning

This is not a "pretty" story.  That's the first thing I want to make clear.  It's not brushed with rainbows and smiley faces - it's the truth.  Sometimes ugly, actually.  Sometimes painful.  Sometimes beautiful in its pain.  I think it's fair to start by saying that you are here because you clicked here.  Although I invite you and appreciate you taking time out of your day and life to check in on us, I want to issue a small request for this series of posts (3-parts).  I have found the adoption community to be, on the whole, very supportive.  However, over the fund-raising issue - we had many people in that community who felt it their personal obligation to let us have it with both barrels.  And by "have it" I am of course referencing overtly negative and mean spirited opinions of us. 

While this blog is public, it's also a place where I hope to encourage and speak into the lives of others by revealing my heart, thoughts, and life experiences through truth - a truth that does not sugar-coat or seek out to lead everyone to believe our life is happiness and roses all the time.  It's not.  My hope is that you will read my words and either take or leave them.  If you feel compelled to leave a comment, all I ask is that you would be gentle and supportive. ~ Thanks - C

So I had this underlying sense of "ugh" going on for a while.  Maybe because we had waited so long for that referral to get here.  Technically, we waited over five years if you count paperwork to travel.  That's such a long time, sometimes I can't believe we actually stuck it out.  So, I think maybe, going into the trip..I was kind of underwhelmed with the whole process and it sort of robbed me of some of the joy I might have had otherwise.  I mean, I was excited in the arena of "let's get this over with and move on, for crying out loud", but I wasn't "oh freaking joy...let's meet her already!"  Sounds horrible, but it's true.  I wanted her.  Otherwise I would have given up long ago.  But I was so tired of everything, I was still waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop and ruin the whole thing.  Even after we had her picture. 

See, now if you're already annoyed with me, which is ok,...there's the little "x" up there in the corner....just sayin' - it'll get worse before it gets better.  You've been warned.

Looking back, I would say with clarity that anxiousness (among other things) kind of sums up the entire thing.  Start to finish. 

We had been fund-raising, and that was stressful.  I was sure the money would be there somewhere deep down, but I was scared to death it wouldn't.  O ye of little faith.  I know.  But still.  What if we didn't...and then what?  And the many nasty e-mails and comments people recklessly flung at us during that time.  Making us feel bad for even trying.  Making us feel guilty for pursuing her the only way we knew at that point.  So many blessings though...so much encouragement to keep on keeping on.  So many kindnesses and extensions of love.  That's what kept us in the place we needed to be in order to get on that plane.

Have you ever heard of "loss aversion"?  It's like this...and hold the offense until I explain how it applies:  you're at an amusement park.  You hop in a very long line for the best ride.  You know it's a great ride.  You hear the squeals of delight of the riders.  You see them smiling and laughing as they exit.  So you wait.  And you wait.  And the line moves ever so slowly.  Forever it seems.  But there is the lure...  About 3/4 of the way through, the ride shuts down for an indefinite amount of time.  You have to decide.  Leave or stay?  Wait or jump ship?  You figure you have already waited so long, and you're 3/4 of the way there...to leave now would be foolish.  It's a "loss" to bail out.  So you do what avoids the loss of the time you've spent.  You stay in line and wait.  Loss aversion.

I think this applies a little bit to those waiting for the China program to come through.  Loss aversion.  You've already waited so long...to cut out seems too painful.  Such a waste of time.  Your time.  Your life on hold.  Loss aversion.

Don't think for a minute we didn't think of quitting, because buddy we did.  Many times.  Many, many times.  There were so many instances I wanted to bail out and run for the hills.  We have a beautiful amazing wonderful boy...I think I could have left the process a dozen times over since the day he was put in my arms. 

But we waited.  Loss aversion.

I waited on a dream.  Of her.  Of what I thought she was, would be, could be.  I waited...

I've said before how many times I had wandered into her room just to stand by her empty crib or to run my fingers along the dresses in her closet.  Sometimes I would pray in that room, asking God to give me patience, or peace, or clarity, or longevity.  Sometimes I would cry.  Sometimes I would just be still.  Sometimes I would close the door and leave it that way for a few months.  It got too painful to walk by and not have her there.  Sometimes I would fling the door wide and open the shades and enjoy the sunshine and the way it hit those pretty pink stripes on the wall.  I would admire her things...the things she didn't even know she had, in the room she didn't know she had, with the Mom she didn't know she had - weeping off and on for her to come home.  So many days and nights that they bleed together into one long story of heartache and missing her.

Getting on the plane was easy.  The packing was easy.  Preparing those final things to do...all easy.  I guess because we had done them before.  Not even two years earlier.  Done them all and boarded a plane for a certain far-away place...and knowing the whole time that your life was about to take a sharp turn towards a new family portrait. 

The flight was long and I found myself twisting and turning in my seat.  There was no sleep.  I was anxious.

The airport was huge, imposing even.  The architecture grand.  The security...overwhelming.  And the cough I tried to will away before passing by some 20 guards all wearing face masks.  I've covered before that I was sick.  Very sick.  And so I'll leave it at that.  It didn't get better.  It got worse and never improved until a week ago.  But it's neither here nor there.  I was sick and that was that.  And no, it certainly did not help my frame of mind.  But it's not all there is or why or how.  So it's somewhat irrelevant, but bears some mention in this telling.

There was an eclipse of the sun.  That's the first thing I remember about riding to the hotel from the airport.  It was stunning, but paled through all the smog. 

The traffic reminded me of Ethiopia - wild and unruly.  Here and there and everywhere and sharp turns followed by tight squeezes and near misses. 

There was the hotel, filled with cigarette smoke from the moment we scrambled in from the cold and through the revolving door until the moment we left through that same door and into a cold blast of air.  I'm not a smoker, and so for me it was depressing.  That was the moment I can say with certainty that my breathing issues began.  The room key could not come to us quickly enough.  Tired doesn't cover it.  Exhausted?  Run down?  Beat up?  And also...anxiousness.  Not worry, not excitement...my anxious heart was sensing trouble.  I couldn't even put my finger on the reason - I was ill at ease.  Physically, I was not well.  But emotionally, I was shocked at how...underwhelmed I felt. 

We did the sight-seeing and it was amazing and wonderful and cold and miserable...and I thought it would never end and I wanted it to keep going.  The history was breathtaking.  But I was so sick.  Had no business being out in 20 degrees, barely able to take breaths in, standing on raw nerves and no energy and no sleep to back it up.  But oh the sites to see.  The Great Wall...the Forbidden City.  It was all amazing...

The next morning we flew to her province.  I slept on the plane, sweet sleep.  But landing I could see that once again the smog was ubiquitous.  I was disappointed, as I had been looking so forward to deep breaths. No lie.

The hotel was nice, much nicer than the one we had come from.  The room was cozy in a hotel sort of way.  We had a crib delivered...made up for her with little blankets and a tiny pillow.  Unloading suitcases...clothes, bibs, bottles, diapers, toys, emotions, years of waiting, carefully prepared paperwork that was years old, all unpacked on that hotel bed.  Some put away into the small dresser...but some left out to sink in and permeate the air.  And it did.

She was within reach.  She was arriving tomorrow morning.  She was real now.  No more excuses or renewing this or that.  Her time had come.  Our time had come.  And here we were, just like we always imagined we would be.  Here we were to take her home and make her a part of the "us" that had always been two, but had become three while waiting for her.  Now three was becoming four.  Only nineteen months in age separated one child from the other.  Could I do this?  Was I sure?

You might not think you would be having those thoughts on the night before the end of such a long wait, but let me illuminate my exact thoughts for you...

Can I do this?
Why did I do this?
Are we sure?
We have a good thing at home...are we nuts doing this?
Can I do this?
Are we sure?
What if...(enter a thousand things here)
and so on and so on and so forth...

I think you might be normal to go through this type of thinking a handful of hours before your life is turned on its ear, don't you?  It might be normal to be anxious before you change your life for the rest of your life.  I was anxious the day I got married.  I was anxious the day I met Quint.  Or  maybe I was nervous...and maybe the difference is that there IS a difference between nervous and anxious.  I do know that several times it went through my mind...what am I doing?  I'm barely cutting teeth on a toddler...and it was hard work getting this far.  What am I doing going back to the starting gate?

Loss aversion, that's what.

Come too far for too long with too many tears...and GOD BLESS we are not quitting now.  Holy cow!  You better suck it up and make it work sister!  That's what I told myself.  Looking in the mirror in the hotel bathroom...splashing water on my face and giving myself a shake.  Get yourself together.  What's the matter with you?  You can't get cold feet now!  Snap out of it!

I know it sounds harsh, because even to my own eyes reading what I just typed out...it reads harsh.  But I implore you to stick with me.  No stones.

I didn't sleep well that night.  I wanted to.  God, how I wanted to.  But I couldn't.  The bed was too hard.  I'm convinced that had it been a more comfortable bed, I could have slept through and through.  Down comes to mind.  Feather.  But not rocks or slab or Flintstones.  No.  I can't sleep like that.  So went the rest of the trip.  Sleep was no friend.  Shame on him.

The next morning, I awoke feeling cavalier.  Not really, but I acted all cavalier.  Like "I know what I'm doing and I've been through this like only a 'blink' ago and so big deal".  I "knew" what to expect and what to feel and what would happen and what we'd experience.  Been there.  Done that.  (cavalier...see I told you).  Also, I felt the rest of our group was not in our boat.  They had older children or no children.  It was either their first time, or they were no longer living the diaper/schedule/nap-time/feedings/baby life that I was still carrying on at home with my new toddler.  After all, he had "just" turned 2 in November.  We had "just" left the 1-year old stage.  I was still VERY familiar with what to expect when you're expecting...even if it was through an adoption.  We were still living it every day at home.  I felt this made our situation unique in that, unlike everyone else who was nervous and filled with jitters and wonder and amazement at what was coming...I was calm.  Relaxed even.  Cavalier, I believe is the correct term.  Arrogant even.  (bah...I'm cringing)  

It should be noted, we had a wonderful travel group.  They were some of the loveliest people and we miss them.  So this in no way reflects them.  It was me.  Stupid anxious-relaxed me.

And I was relaxed.  Dumb relaxed.  "Know it all" relaxed.  I would love to go back and punch myself in the mouth, but couldawouldashoulda.

We boarded the bus and off we went to the Civil Affairs Office.

Still, there I sat with that cavalier (I know, I've said it many times now, but it's so true...and I can't think of a better word for it) attitude.  Our guide had repeated several times over the previous days and even now "remember to be patient with your new baby...she is trying hard to please you, but she has been through a lot".  I felt for the other families.  Wondering how hard it would be for them. and hoping they had an easy time of it.  Knowing they might not.  (Please, hold your snickers...ok, go ahead...I'll join you)

I can snicker now.  Because now I see.  But then, all I had was a "gotcha" moment from a year and a half prior that was like gold.  If you need to relive it, you can HERE.  He was a lovely, lovely well-adjusted and happy baby.  He was.  And he was one month younger than her at the time.  And that was all I had.  It was like liquid courage to me in this moment.  Because it was my proof that these things go well (snicker) and that babies this young are impenetrable, resilient, and unaware. That they smile and laugh and coo...because they know no different.  That they're naturally happy. 

Right.  Moving on.

On the elevator, I was calm.  Smiling.  Resolute.

When we got inside the babies were already there.  We were escorted past them and into a somewhat small room.  A couple of people rushed over to me "did you see her?  did you see her?  Gawd, you can't miss those cheeks anywhere!"  Truthfully, I hadn't seen her.  Hadn't even looked.  I guess I was trying to save the moment for THE moment.  I didn't want to steal a glance - I wanted magic.  Magic.

One by one they called the families forward.  I finally felt the butterflies kick in.  Finally.  And I was nervously darting my eyes around, checking for her behind the heads of many.  I was sweating.  Profusely.  I was issuing anxious orders to AB like "make sure you're filming...are you filming?  Well, don't use all the tape...wait for her!  Are you filming?  Well, film for crying out loud...we don't want to miss it!"  I know.  I've apologized.  AB does really well under intense pressure and the constant nagging of his wife.  Bless that man. 

Then I heard the name.  Her name.  The name we were made to memorize so we would know when they called it.  Her Chinese name. And it doesn't roll off the tongue.  And it's hard to say and unnatural.  But it was hers.  And we knew it when we heard it.

It was time to see her.  Touch her.  Hold her.  Five years felt like it might start to drift away slowly...like a clogged drain...slowly, slowly...and hearing her Chinese name...almost like slow motion but very fast so you could barely make it out and know that it was HER they were referencing. 

AB filming and me...moving forward somehow.  Somehow.  Making my legs round that corner until I saw her.  Handing over our passports with shaky hands.  Waiting because we were told "you must wait until everything is verified before you can take the baby".  Waiting. 

We made eye contact, she and I.  For what felt like a lifetime, but was only a few seconds.  Just staring at each other.  Deep down staring.  She was in the arms of a nanny.  The director  of her orphanage was close by, observing...watching.  Our guide translating and talking back and forth.  It was hot in that room.  She had on layers and layers.  AB...I could hear him saying things like "there she is" and "she's so beautiful".  I wasn't saying anything.

I was just staring into her eyes.  And she was doing to same thing.  Staring into mine.  Her eyes boring into mine with questions. 

And I've come to know that it must have occurred to her.  Must have hit her right in the heart.  Must have simultaneously stunned her, scared her, and overwhelmed her...

She was coming to me. With me.  She was for me.  I was for her.

And you must believe me when I tell you, she knew....somewhere down inside she knew that it was permanent.  You must believe me when I ask you to throw away every notion you might have now that insists a baby doesn't  or can't know.  That somehow they are too young, too infantile to feel or experience or understand on some level.  You must believe me when I tell you that babies this young are not impenetrable, not always resilient, and not unaware.

So began, there in that small hot room in the south of China...in that tense and long anticipated moment...in those life-changing seconds...a deep and utterly painful cry from that little baby girl who would be my daughter. Who already was my daughter, though neither she nor I had accepted it.

A frightened, anxious, pitiful and unbelievably knowing cry that would last many, many days forward...

Believe me when I tell you that she knew

And oh how her little heart would break

To be continued


Kristy said...

CHRISTIE!!!! You cant do that!!! You just cut me off!!! I have shingles and have been in bed for days and this was the highlight of my day and you just stopped!!! Your killin me!!!!

Anyway ....awesome writing!!!! Although my heart is breaking and that whole amusement park ride analogy....I so know what your talking about!! We have never not once in all this time thought of backing out because we know that our daughter is in China, we know that God has a plan BUT with our "baby" being 17 now , we or I have had those thoughts, what the heck are you thinking????? and so on and so on and so on...... WE are probably ALOT older than you and AB! But we also know that wherever she is , she is our baby.

And I know everything that you are saying is so true, but you kind of put it all in the back of your mind somewhere. That is the scared part.... you have brought it all to the surface (thanks for that...lol) and I know I need to prepare myself for the heartwrenching crying and heartbreak of our girl. So I am gonna ck back to see the end of this story so please dont make me wait very long....ok sister!!!

Love ya, Kristy

JoMama said...

You have been blessed with gift or words Christie!


Thank you for including me in your journey.
I cross -shared your blogs (with above link writer) as you are both going through a passage in life that takes courage, faith and time.

Valerie said...

Sigh....I know how hard this journey is. So many mountains to climb and valley's so deep.

You are telling your story, as only you can, and I know it and I am captivated in the retelling of it.

The truth is not always easy, but it is honest and deserves to be told.

I look forward to going back there with you and know there is always light at the end of each tunnel.

I love you.


Ani said...

Thank you for sharing this journey in such a candid and open manner. Blessings to you and your family of 4 :-)

Leah said...

What a beautiful story. I love your honesty, and as I sit on the waitlist to adopt from Ethiopia, it makes sense to me. There is SO much anticipation, that when the moment finally arrives. . . who knows how we'll actually feel.

Beautiful post.

Dawn and Dale said...

(((HUGS Christie))))

Thank you for sharing!

Lacie said...


Your story is captivating. Thank you so much for your candid writing. Even though this is your life, and you are going through so much as your write this, I am relishing it. Your story is important. I am glad that you are sharing.

By the way- Are you published? You NEED to be published if you are not. Girl, you are talented. Just thought I should tell you, it was the right thing to do!

Stacey said...

It is hard to tell I am sure, and hard to read. So much of what I felt is in black and white in your writeing. I so understand where you are coming from, and have asked the question so many times How can something so beautiful feel so awful all at the same time? Wonderful writing, and I too look forward to your next chapter. Thank you so much for sharing.

meme said...

There you go again! I love your writing and your story. I can't wait for the next part. Your honesty is real. Just let time pass and love your little angels. From your Kentucky Friend

frogglet said...

Wow, such honest writing and wonderfully told.

Now, just trying to process what I am doing and why. So do I keep going because I'm just too stubborn to stop? I never expected a fairytale but I never expected this.

I really appreciate your sharing and I am not critizing at all, I hope you do not see it this way. I feel like that will be me and it scares me so much and I don't know if I am strong enough to handle it however I am just too dang stubborn not to. Is that fair?

I can't wait to hear the rest of the story but I might have to wait a while to read it, see I am full of contradictions.

Take Care,

Anonymous said...

Finally! I've been clicking and waiting. I'm impatient, sorry. But I must have some kind of patience to still be waiting on this roller coaster ride. I love your writing and honesty. It's not negative...just real. Can't wait for the next part. She is soooo cute! God bless you all.

Carrie said...

Thank you for your honesty. You are much braver than I was and am. I have never told the story of meeting my son for the first time and feeling truly terrified that we had just ruined our lives. Adoptions trips are NOT vacations and are full of good moments and horrible ones. I'm holding you up as you work through yours. ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

WOW! We waited in line for China for a looong time and decided we just couldn't do it anymore. I feel like a quiter in alot of ways. Fast forward to January...we became foster parents to a newborn baby girl. Driving to the hospital I was praying so hard that I'd be "good at it" and be what she needed me to be. I was so filled with fear. Still am sometimes in the middle of the night when she cries. I wouldn't dare tell anyone this cause everyone thinks it just comes naturally. I am exhausted, and out of sorts, but we are finally finding our groove! Thanks for being honest cause all the stories of rainbow moments at gotcha day are just not real for every family.

Kayce said...

Beautiful and oh. so. true.! Thank you so much for sharing your honesty with us all. Thank you!

I remember asking myself all those same questions you were asking yourself the morning of our family day. For me I thought I was out right nuts for starting all over again as a parent. In 3 years I would have been an empty nester with my husband doing what ever, when ever we wanted. If and when we decided to adopt again (yes I said it) I'm sure I will ask myself again those same questions. :)

Thank you again Christie for sharing with us who have walked this path already AND for those who continue to wait in line for this incredible ride. There are things I've been wanting to write about but haven't had the courage to put it "out here" yet. You've inspired me girl! Looking forward to part two.

Marie said...

Courage. That's what you need to go in int'l adoption. You see grown up kids, cute adjusted with their parents but what we miss to see is the beginning. We have to darling daughters and the greiving was huge, difficult. More for one than the other and I am happy to say, that the girl that grieved more as a baby (and for the first year) is more adjusted now and secure that the other one that we thought went smoothly. They do their grieving one day or another and it is much better when they are babies. When things were too rough I used to call our international adoption clinic in Montreal, there was hotline and wonderfull ears for us... one thing is for sure I was ofter reminded that as hard I thought it was hard for me, it was so much harder for her, for them. They lost all notion of what they knew. They are trying hard to please us, but when the grieving hits them, I would tell myself I was one step closer of getting through it. If she was letting me know how she felt, at least we were communicating honestly...in her own cries. Hang in there, you will have a great family but the first year might be tough. Do not be too hard on yourself. I find parents are much too hard on themselves. Our oldest in 12 and thriving, our youngest is 5 and is a little spitfire with a constant grin on her face (and an opinion on everthing) and I would not trade, or go back. Reading you made me read back my journals of these first years and your getting the real picture and being honest, but give yourself a break. You are aloud to just let time go by and enjoy the smiles without over analysing, enjoy your blessings.

From Montreal
Marie :)

Betsy said...

It may not always be pretty, but I really appreciate your honesty. As a younger woman who someday hopes to adopt internationally, your blog is really inspiring to me. Sharing the difficulties you experienced will really help those of us who may go through something similar in the future. Thank you.

Lisa (Briana's Mom) said...

I totally get what you are saying. TOTALLY. You know I understand about the being sick part. I was sick going and sick coming home. Somehow I pulled it together during the middle of the trip, but I definitely had a few melt down moments during those two weeks.

When I got home, I got sicker and sicker. One night, I asked my mom if I had made a mistake and was I even meant to be a mother. I felt LOW.

So I really, really get it. I'm glad you are being so honest because sometimes the adoption experience can be romanticized. It is wonderful, but it is so HARD at the same time - for the parents and the child.

Great post...

The Gang's Momma! said...

Such powerful honesty. Seriously. You should publish these things.

We didn't have a hard time of grieving or adjusting with Li'l Empress to the same degree, but looking back I can see the difference btw. her trying to please us then and her being her self now. As hard as being her self now can be on us (her real name means little fiery one and SHE IS! In spades!), we rejoice in it. She feels safe enough to be herself.

And once you and your little one are settled in with each other, and she is herself, you too will rejoice. You are doing the hard work now - being real, being honest, and loving her through it all. Hang in there - the rewards for that kind of investment are eternal and of heavenly proportions. ;)

Praying still. . . And admiring you for your bravery and honesty. Amazing truth and courage here. Can't wait to read the rest!

Cindy said...

Wonderful post.

JoAnn in NJ said...

I had such a different experience from the same jump off point (Changsha) as you. Your story and experience is raw and beautiful in a sad (to me) way.

I'm sorry you had to experience the beauty of China being so ill. It's such an amazing place to have a child.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of your experiences. Keira Joy is certainly a Hunan beauty.

JonesEthiopia said...

I have two ET girls. We had an amazing experience with our first from start to finish and started the process to bring home her sister last Feb... We thought our older daughter would be something like 3 when we brought her sister home. We got our referral in Oct. for an 8 month old girl! So in the end, the adoption went more quickly than we thought it would, and our daughter is older than we thought she'd be. Our girls are 15 months apart.

And, yes, she definitely knew, too. She screamed and screamed and screamed. It was not the magical moment the 2nd time around that it was the first time... So I'm right there with you!

M3 said...

Beautifully written, and such powerful honesty.

Sue said...

As always, your honesty is appreciated and captivating.

Sue : )

blissfully caffeinated said...

Blown away. Absolutely blown away. I may not comment on all of these posts, because I don't have the words. But trust me, I am reading them. So proud of you my friend.

bytheriver said...

Bringing it all back - for us the what ifs, the last day as just husband and wife, the tension, and the hysterical terrible sadness of loss and confusion that continued for years. Now home 4.5 years, our dd, who was older at adoption has overcome most of those things and understands the details of her past and is making her mind up about who she wants to be and what she wants her future to hold - but it has not been easy for any of us - blessings to you.

kitchu said...

what a stunning, beautiful, authentic post. i feel like i wrote every single word.

for me, it was more like terror than anxiousness though. i have to go pick up my daughter :O) from school. i can't wait to read the next 2 excerpts.

Michal said...

I just linked this entry on my blog. I am struggling right now and I am trying to be open and honest but I needed a little help. I hope it's ok. If not, let me know and I will remove the link.