March 7, 2010

The Ending and the Beginning

This is Part III of a series of posts - the last installment of our journey to adopt our daughter from China.  You can read Parts I and II by clicking the links below or scrolling down.

Said it before, sayin' it nice if you leave a comment.  That's all I got.

The word I would use to describe our arrival back in the states is trepidation.  I was fearful.  Run-down.  Tired.  Sick.  Emotionally wrung out.  Physically spent.  Bruised inside and out.  And so concerned about what we had just done to our family. 

Keira had worn me down.  Worn us down.  Every positive interaction (albeit few and far between) was met with bewildered stares between AB and I.  Almost shrugging our shoulders as if to say "I don't know what she's doing??"  There were isolated smiles or singular touches of her little hand.  Almost invisible if you were watching from the outside.  We were too wounded to see any of her positive behavior as a sign of healing.  Maybe that sounds strange to you, but from this seat it was even stranger.

We were constantly taken aback by how much our long-term ideas of Keira were so vastly different from our new reality.  Over and someone throwing ice-cold water in your face.  Dream...reality.  Dream....reality.  Our time in China was riddled with "cold-water" experiences and we came home numb.  Shockingly numb.  Even if she did smile, at that point we wrote it off as a passing fancy.

The first few days at home were terrible.  No, let me re-phrase that.  The first few days home were some of the hardest of my life.  That's truth.

And it wasn't Keira.  No, no.  It was Quint.  He had lost his mind in our absence.  I could go on and on...but just know that three weeks apart from your parents when you're a strange new place, with family you don't get to see too often...all the rules are out the window, the regular schedule and
routine...even the regular discipline - gone.  Then you come back home and the first thing you see is your parents holding this little baby and she's in your "spot" up there in Mom and Dad's arms.  

It was bleak.  Grim, I tell you.  He was one of the unhappiest two-year-olds I've seen.  The grieving moved from Keira to Quint.  While she, bless her heart, started to get comfortable in her new surroundings...with her new her new home and bed...poor Quint wailed for a week  straight.  Nothing consoled him.  He was completely affronted that this new baby was in his home.  He was trying desperately to re-acclimate to Anton and I - to his routine - to his life...and here was this new little person, always getting in the way, always needing, always there.

For whatever reason, this had not occurred to me.  This grieving and loss that my son would endure.  Perhaps because I was so completely overwhelmed upon returning from China - and what we had gone through - that I didn't think...didn't imagine that he would be anything but excited and glad to see us.  Instead he was angry.  Indignant even.  Pushing every limit.  Crossing every boundary.  Crying endlessly.  Whining tirelessly.  Wanting his own bottle (he gave them up a year ago).  Wanting baby toys.  Baby food.  To be held like a baby, rocked like a watch baby programs, to be babied.  And the tantrums...oh the tantrums.  

One afternoon I sat on the floor and cried, while he kicked and screamed and tantrumed beside me.  I said "I want my son back...I want my little boy...the one I left three weeks ago" and on and on I cried and he cried and we finally spent our energy on tears and just laid there exhausted from our mutual tantrum.  

There were other moments when I would feel so overwhelmed between the on-going grieving of both of my children that I would just crawl into bed at night and cry next to Anton.  Him sleeping and me trying to stifle my sobs so as not to wake him.  Puffy eyes the next morning while making bottles, pouring cereal and folding laundry.  So glamorous.

The stress level was a 10.  Forget that.  Level 10 doesn't cover it.  Call it 20.  Days this went on, and day in and out I felt like it would never, ever end.  

Keira was acclimating slowly...but she was acclimating.  She seemed to enjoy her home.  Seemed to really snuggle into her new bed.  She appeared to appreciate that we started a schedule right away - with feedings, naps and bedtime that now came at regular predictable intervals.  I could see right away that this routine gave her deep comfort.  It was almost tangible, in a way.  She was happier.  Rested.  More content.  And thus, more prone to laugh, smile, or touch.  But not too prone.  Just a bit.

Think what you will of us - but we were still brokenhearted.  Anton and I would check in with each other frequently...often several times a day - how do you feel, are you feeling any better about her, is she making progress, do you feel yourself bonding yet, do you love her, is she coming around, are you coming around, are we getting there?  I can tell you that each time and for several days...maybe for the first couple weeks - the answers were usually "not really" or "I guess a little bit" or "sort-of".  Not the dream...the reality.  Cold water...over and over.

The house was a royal wreck.  The laundry piling up.  The suitcases sitting, waiting to be opened and unloaded.  Even that felt too monumental.  Re-live that trip by unraveling those overwhelming weeks of travel from out of those suitcases?  No, thank you.

I was living Groundhog Day - the movie. Every day the same.  Four bottle feedings, Quint's meals, twenty-seven hundred diaper changes between the two of them, blankets and play-time, and tantrums, crying, toys everywhere, dishes everywhere, and grieving and napping and a blur of the same thing over and over and over again for days on end.  Lots and lots of sweatpants and baggy shirts and unkempt hair.  Oh the humanity! (heh)

And can I just tell you?  All those things I had collected for her over the four years we waited? Couldn't have cared less about each and every one.  Her outfits?  Whatever...  Her hairbows and frilly dresses...assortments of books, toys, purses...all of that?  Did not care.  I dressed her in clothing that seemed comfortable for her - and usually it was a plain onesie and cotton pants.  Or pajamas.  Sometimes just pj's all day long.  Seems silly maybe - but oh the dreams I had over those four years of dressing her in all those perfectly beautiful outfits...  The Dream?  No...sadly, the reality.  Ice cold water.  

So two weeks went by after coming back home and we saw people who had cheered us on prior to our trip...had encouraged us along the way, held us up, motivated and strengthened us.  We saw them...introduced them to Keira and we tried to smile.  Tried to put on a brave face and tell the good stuff that people like to hear.   But the pity-party we were having behind closed doors was vast.  I'm sad to admit that to you.  It's just the truth.  We were knee deep in change, and it wasn't feeling good at all.  Our lives were different, yes - but our reality was so different than the images we had conjured up for so very was painful to have to reconcile them to the truth. 

Keira started to make obvious emotional progress by week three.  We're on week five now, since coming home, so I'll share with you the overall view.

They were little things at first, like I mentioned.  A smile here.  A giggle there.  A wiggle/giggle here and there.  Then came the relaxed nature.  A sort of...I don't know...internal sigh from her.  She would sit and chatter away on her blanket during playtime.  She would smile more easily when I would talk to her.  She would reach out to me when I approached her to pick her up.  She was warming up.

Then came the laughter.  For so long, my attempts to make her laugh were met with a chagrin.  Literally.  She would wrinkle up her forehead and pull her eyebrows together in a scowl.  That morphed into a deadpan expression.  Followed by a slight grin.  Then...and without notice...a full-on belly laugh.  It took weeks in each others space to hear that deep, honest belly laugh. laugh.  One that almost made me weep with joy.

Slowly, so slowly...she began to touch my face during her bottle feedings.  Remember, she would not let AB or I feed her unless she was facing away from us or had no skin contact.  Suddenly, she was cuddled into the crook of my arm, and touching my face.  Gently.  Exploring and trying to memorize me.  Feeling my cheeks and my nose, my mouth.  Her little chubby fingers running back and forth over my lips.  I cried the first time.  Like salve on my wounded heart.  She was accepting me in her way.  Saying to me that she was getting there.  That she was trying...

Hold on to me, she said.  Don't give up.  I'm almost there...wait for me.

One night while she happily chugged away at her bottle and held my face in her hand, I said her name "Keira".  She immediately looked into my eyes.  I said "I waited a long time for you, did you know that?"  Her eyes stayed on mine.  "I love you so much...I would wait so much longer"...and I nuzzled her nose.  She smiled and cooed.  Then I realized what I'd said.

I love you so much.

Just like that.

I hadn't said that before.  Hadn't said "I love you".  It was too hard to say.  Too hard to mean it. 

Then I realized what else I had just told her.  I would wait so much longer.  And maybe what I really meant by that was "I will wait for you, even though we're together now.  I'll wait for you."

And I knew that I meant it.  What a peace came over me.

From that moment, we changed, she and I.

Call it what you like...bonded, falling in love, the "moment", the "magic"...whatever you like.  But she became to me what I had been waiting for.  My little daughter.

The past three weeks have been good to us.  Hold on to your hats...I've actually used the terms angel, sweet little love, baby doll, sweet baby, mommy's princess, pumpkin, and sweet-girl to both reference her and describe her.

The real progress being that I actually mean those things.  She is my princess.  My angel.

Anton loves to say "so do you think you're bonding to our girl, Mommy??" with a big grin on his face, as I'm covering her with kisses or tickling her chubby little legs, or squeezing her tightly to me and cooing at her.

I kiss her all day.  I snuggle her, squeeze her, and hold her close.  I love the way she smells.  She smells so good.  Fresh and sweet, just like a baby girl should.  Her hair is so soft.  Her skin is so soft.  Her feet tiny and perfect and adorable.  Her fingers perfect and chubby.  Her big and beautiful and her eyelashes...long and stunning.  Her cheeks, edible.  Her legs and tummy...round and full and so...squish-able.   Her smile melts my heart.  Her laughter...contagious.  You can't help but to love her.

Still, I could say none of this before.  Because I didn't see her.  It hurt too much to get close to her.  She wouldn't let me see those things.  Couldn't let me.  It hurt her too bad.

I will tell you, there are moments when I regress just a little.  When she regresses just a little.  When we panic just a little bit.  She still has moments of raw grief that are hard on all of us.  The hands will pull away.  The back will arc just a bit.  She pulls away from the kisses.  She cries too long...and won't be comforted.  I panic, I can't lie.  I'm always a step away from where we were.  Trying desperately to run the other way and get us as far away from that searing pain as possible.  We can't go back, I shout in my mind.  We can't go hurt so bad.

But sometimes that's how grief operates.  Regress.  and back.  Regress.  and back.  Like the waves.  Like that...for a long time until suddenly you can't really remember when all that crazy stopped.  You're just so glad it did.

We have a ways to go.  But I see now more than ever who she is and who we didn't see in China.  Who we couldn't see...through her hurt and pain and brokenness.  It makes me ache.  I want to go back and love her better in those moments.  Understand her more.  See her.  Hear her.

Maybe it wouldn't matter.  Maybe it would hurt just as bad, sting just as much, wound just as deep.  Because her pain is her own - and she did with it all she could and the only way she knew.  But oh, if I could only have side-stepped my own deep pain to love her better through hers.

I think we learn this way.  By looking back and using that view to better carve the one in front of us. It's how we grow and change and move on.  Experiencing my own deep grief over broken dreams while she experienced her own brokenness actually put us in the same place at the same time.  Crossing each other in our pain.  How could we have met in the middle and made peace with each other any other way?  Her with me.  Me with her.  I accept you.  I trust you with me.  Taking tiny baby steps towards finding comfort in each other.

People have asked me if I would have loved Keira sooner/better/more if she had behaved in China the way she does here at home...happy and comforted and giggling all the time.  Certainly.  I imagine I would have had a lot better bonding experience.  It goes without saying, I think. 

But there is something to say for the pain and how it carves you differently than joy does.  It marks you differently.  I look at Keira and I say "look how far we've come" every day.  I think  "you can do it, baby girl!  Keep trying...keep reaching for me...I promise to meet you there" and I feel my heart expanding deeper and wider when I'm with her because I'm so proud of her and how far she has come.  How much she has overcome to be present with me.  How much she has parted with and yet still can smile, laugh, and learn to love all over again.

It's the path we're on - and there's no use wondering how different it would have been had she been a different baby in China.    Had she grieved differently or not at all.  Had she been healed instead of broken.  No use because we'll never know.

We only know where we are and how far we've come.  And it's a long, long way from those hot, frustrating, agonizing first moments in Civil Affairs.  A long, distant way from those hours that felt like years in each of those hotel rooms as we struggled to keep our heads above water...struggled just to hold her or to speak any words of comfort.  From those tangibly painful moments of rejection that are etched in my memory.  We're far away from that.  Safe.  Sound...and recovering. 

We're reconciling ourselves.  Righting ourselves. 

Reconciliation is a strange thing.  Trying to bring two things together.  Two lives, two kids, two parents, two countries.  In our case, once again, it was the dream versus the reality.  We HAD to reconcile them.  Make peace with them.  Find a way to have them meet in the middle, make amends, and try to move forward.  Everything in you says "no, it's not possible" and yet...

Our journey would involve grief.  That was that.  There was nothing to do for it, but let it happen.  Our daughter was her own person...had her own feelings even at her tender age, whether we could accept it or not.  She was broken in her own rite.  There was not a magic wand to wave and make her pain or her humble beginnings disappear, as much as I wished for it in those first days together.

Quint, though only two, could not be convinced his sister was safe or would be a good and happy part of his life.  He had to and still has to figure it out for himself.  Learn how to grieve and let go that he is no longer the sole-center of our attention.  Accept that he has a sister who will depend on him as they grow older...and hopefully learn to depend on each other as the years go by.

Anton and I are no longer parents of one amazing boy.  We are parents of one amazing boy and one amazing girl.  Each different, each unique, each special.  Each abandoned...breaking my heart to type those words.  But each found.  Each a part of us forever.  That's reality.  Reconciled, painful, endearing, beautiful reality.

We wanted children.  That was the dream.  We have two beautiful children.  One little boy from Ethiopia.  One little girl from China.  Two countries.  Two parents.  Two children.  Not what we thought.  Not even what we dreamed all those years ago when we said "I do".  But so much better than the dream.  So much better. 

As for the future, time will tell.  Right now, we're certainly still in recovery.  Still healing.  Still finding each other.  Still learning.

But we've committed ourselves to a goal that involves adoption.  A goal that involves children.  I have no idea how it will pan out - what it will look like - or even if it will involve us adding to our own little family.  I just know we are certainly listening for God's timing and His will.  And not getting rid of any baby clothes just yet.

In the meantime, it's just the Beginning...

Posts Coming up:  "Redeemed" and "A Letter of Thanks"Don't miss them!


Eloise said...

Beautifully expressed, Christie.

I have no words as eloquent or thorough as yours to praise this installment of your story, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing it.

Love and hugs to everyone but especially to you.

Unknown said...

well all I can say is "wow" you are a great writer!

Anonymous said...

Times like these, I so wish I was much more articulate than I am. That touched my heart real good, Christie! Wow, wow, wow. Love the pic of Keira w/the flower, btw.

Will keep your family close in my prayers as you journey on. Piper still likes to be held like a baby, and I just do it. I cradle her big, almost four body, and tell her she's a precious baby. It seems to fill her cup and she's off to go do her thing. Quint will eventually learn that his world will feel normal again, which of course you know. I'll be praying that happens sooner rather than later :)
You are a beautiful family, and as you so eloquently conveyed, the pain is in some strange way a part of that beauty.
Lots o love,

Grandma Sherl said...

Very BEAUTIFULLY written!!! Thanks for sharing!

Leah said...

Such a beautiful post. I'm so happy that your family is making strides, one day at a time.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Again, a beautiful eloquent expression of your journey. I really love your honesty and your examination of the process. I love that you are able to look back on it and pick it apart and think about the parts as a whole, now.

If I may: please, in doing so, try not to be too hard on yourself. Be as gentle with your thoughts and feelings and reactions as you are with your daughter's here. You are so compassionate and understanding of her grief - be kind to yourself in that same way. As respectful as you are here of Keira's grief and healing, be that respectful of your own need to grieve the differences between your dream and your reality. You deserve it.

I wish I was there to hug you and bring you some meals and clean your kitchen and bathrooms and do some laundry for you. That's what would have helped me the most in the first days home, so that I could focus on re-couping lost sleep and lost moments with my other kids. I hope you have some physical support even now.

And seriously, you ought to look for a publisher for these three installments - you are that good with the words, friend.

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your children are beautiful and I know will continue to bring you much joy and some heartbreak as they grow. Your journey is just beginning and I can tell that the compassionate way you respect your childrens' unique ways of learning will be rewarded with hearts made of gold.

God Bless You.

Ani said...

So well written! Could've, should've... don't antagonize yourself over the past, there's nothing you can do there. But the fact is that you KNOW in your HEART what needs to be done to be the mother your children need, that is such a powerful thing - don't doubt yourself as you move forward as a family of 4.
Thanks for sharing such a private and intimate story with us.

Anonymous said...

HI. I have followed your story for a while. I have a 7 year old girl from China and although our journey seems easy in comparison, I remember being a new Mom, home with a baby instead of teaching Grade 3 in a cold,cold snowy winter in Ontario, Canada and thinking could I really do this when me leaving the room for a second seemed to set her off because she panicked that I was gone. (that was at 11 months) I remember bundling up in -15 C temperatures to go outside for a walk after my DH got home because I needed that few minutes of alone, quiet and time to regroup before another day.
Things can move slowly but as long as they keep moving in the right direction, things will be better in time.
IN China, she only wanted me and was scared of DH and that was an overwhelming feeling too.
Fast forward 6 years and I am still the favourite for snuggles, crafts, story-time, bedtime etc. They have a good relationship but it is a different one-around board games, Wii, playing outside, tickles. But he can still carry out tall and strong Chinese princess and she seeks him out when she needs to be lifted up in new places. Bed-time is about feeling secure so I usually lay down with her till she is asleep because she still needs that. She has said she worries I will just go away and she won't ever find me again so if those extra few minutes make her calm before sleep, I do it.
Thanks for sharing your journey. Adopting is not all amazing feelings from the beginning and people will say because Keira is so young she won't grieve like an older child would but you can't predict that.
People who are still waiting need to hear stories like yours so they have an idea of what to expect when it's not so wonderful from that first moment in China.
Don't be hard on yourself. Everyone will find their way and concentrate on making your family enjoy some nice times each day-bits at a time until you will wake up one day and think it was just always like this.
We have an amazing daughter and we are blessed to be her parents. She amazes me everyday with what she can do and her ability to love us, while she still thinks about China and the people who are there unknown to her.
Good luck, Theresa in Canada

Debra said...

I'm glad you are all on the road to love now.

Unknown said...

Dearest Anton & Christie,

I have been following your journey, the pain, hope, love and all your trials. You are amazing parents and your children will be amazing individuals.
Christie, you have amazing writing skills and should consider writing a book about all you have experienced. I have so enjoyed reading all you have written. Thank you for sharing.

Love, Tante Liz

julie said...

How brave you were for doing the live-online-chat while you were in China. And, unselfish, because I'm pretty sure you did it for us, not you.

Debbie said...

What an amazing story. What an amazing journey.

It is so hard to see joy through so much pain and sorrow, but it can also be difficult and at times impossible to truly appreciate the joy without experiencing the sorrow first. No, it's not easy to go through and I'm absolutely sure it was not easy to put down into words. However, you did an awesome job expressing the emotions you were feeling.

Have you considered submitting this to the adoption magazines? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not the only family to have experienced a similar path and it could prove so helpful to other families who have been there or will find themselves in the same type of situation. Sometimes knowing that someone else has been through it helps tremendously.

Also, we are leaving Saturday for Ethiopia to pick up our baby girl. We are taking our 2 year old with us and while I'm certain there will be times it would have been better to have left her home, you gave me a good reminder of one of the reasons we wanted to take her with us. She will be able to go through her adjustment with the rest of us in Ethiopia. It's certainly not possible for families to take their other children with them, but I'm so happy we'll be able to take her. I have not doubt that she would have serious problems having us gone to only return with a baby sister in our arms.

Valerie said...

Time, patience, tears, laughter and love, mix together and apply throughout the day liberally = a very happy life.

It is as it was meant to be; TO LIFE!

Love Valerie

Stefanie said...

Thank you for sharing in such a raw and honest way! Your transparency will undoubtedly bless many who will walk in your shoes one day...
What wonderful news that you all are on the road to healing.
P.S. She is so lovely :)

Lisa (Briana's Mom) said...

I look forward to hearing all about the adventures you will face (ups and downs) with your new family of four.

I am a person that is not really all that fond of change. I am not a person that thrives on it at all. Going to China and bringing home a baby that I was still getting to know was absolutely terrifying. Talk about BIG time life change - heh. Time, healing and trying not to beat myself up too much definitely definitely brought me to where I am today in my life.

I am sure there will be big life changes in my future again one day. I just hope I can remember that I managed to make it to the other side and found my comfort level zone.

Anonymous said...

kudos to you for being courageous enough to talk about the "not so pretty" parts of adoption. I think sometimes, God uses struggles to make us hold on even tighter.
Thanks for sharing your story!

Truly Blessed said...

Wow. I'm speechless. Trying to take it all in (maybe I shouldn't have read all three parts in quick succession?).

As a fellow AP who also followed your journey in China, I am stunned at the story that was unfolding behind-the-scenes.

I think that the three parts of your story should be REQUIRED reading for all potential adoptive parents. Not just China adoptive parents, but across the board for everyone who is even considering bringing a child born to another into their home.

It's like a Master's Level class in bonding and attachment.

Thank you for telling your story, Kiera's story, Quentin's story. Hang in there, Mama, you're doing a GREAT job!

Joe and Renee said...

Christie, thank you again for your honesty!!!! You have made us step back and re-evaluate our PERFECT expectations. We are still really excited but I think you made us face realality a bit. Your post forced us to think about our fears. I am so glad things are settling down a bit for you. Everything is not roses and daisies in REALITY.

JoAnn in NJ said...

I think you should turn this into a book - one commenter was so right - this should be required reading for all AP's!

Even though my experience was nothing like yours - we would have been stunned (as you were) with the amount that poor baby grieved.

I sit here crying big fat tears rolling down my face for your beautiful family and hope that every day it gets better and life is mostly beautiful in your world.

Thank you for sharing this story. I am so thankful that Keira's parents are you and Anton as not everyone has the internal "stuff" to handle what you have had to endure.

God bless :)

meme said...

I LOVED it, and tears as usual. Though it hasn't always been pretty, it has a happy ending. Thank you so much for sharing this most amazing journey. Prayers for all of you as you continue to heal. From your Kentucky Friend.

trustandobey said...

Hi, I arrived here from The Baker's Sweets blog. Really appreciated your honesty in telling of this adoption journey. I have 2 bio daughters and 2 adopted(China and Guatemala). My first adoption was a dream and my second was a nightmare (for different reasons than yours, but a nightmare none the less)that God has slowly but surely turned beautiful. I love how God has worked through your situation and has shown himself to be faithful. He is Faithful and True, afterall.
Enjoy your beautiful little girl.

Holly said...

I LOVE love love the way you have written out this part of your story and your daughter's journey to healing.
I wish I too could write out about some of our adoption experiences, but I cannot because of privacy issues involving other people.
It's complicated.
I followed the links from the Baker's Sweets, which I followed from another bloggy friend of mine!!
I read your journey to Ehtiopia back when we thought we too would be going to Ethiopia...God had other plans. VERY different plans.
Thank you again for sharing.
You have a gift with words.
Holly-Purpose Driven Family

Cathy NJ said...

Your kids are beautiful, and I am glad that it sounds like everything will be OK! Thank you for writing your blog. From, Cathy (home w/dtr 5 yrs)

Jen said...

Your story has touched my heart, thank you so much for sharing.

tiffany said...

First, she is just LOVELY!! Oh my goodness. :) One time, flying home from China after our third adoption, with all three on the plane, a lady said "oooohhh! you only choose the beautiful ones!" I briefly explained we dont choose at all but anyhow, I am thinking she would say the same to you. :)

When I first started reading, I thought I was reading a disruption story and one that was hard to relate to because YES many of the babies are very upset, inconsolable, distraught, for hours or days. I did start to feel upset that you might have disrupted! By the time I understood that you did NOT disrupt but instead turned the corner with your sweet girl, I was about to jump out of my chair! Soooo glad that you are all feeling the love a bit now. These kiddos go through so much and it is amazing to look back at the depth of sadness in the first days and compare to the smiles that come a week or a month or so later. I love the process of all that actually. I love that it is dramatic enough that we feel it, notice it and even can celebrate it.

I am rambling, but I was so touched by your story as I could relate to different parts of it in each of our three adoptions. I think good honest posts like this better prepare parents to be and are necessary for us to put out there here and there. Sugar coating does not help anyone at all.

Thank you for your well written, honest post. And thank you for sticking with her in her grief. That is going to pay off BIG. :)

Congratulations to your family!

bytheriver said...

Hm - Wish I had not said it took years. It may be less for you. Adopting a toddler, this was a long hard won battle (still is - attachment exercises all the way). The first 9 months were hardest. Dd called her dad Aiee! when she wanted something - he felt abandoned for the first couple of years I would guess - now they are closer, he is a loved daddy. Though she was young, she was able to verbalize some of her pain and loss as she got older. We could discuss it. Now she is Ok with her history (we go with true - known but complete history) She is finding out not what her history made her, but what she is making of herself - she is a great, self confident kid.

Nicole said...

Christie, THANK YOU for posting this. I linked to your posts from my blog. I think everyone needs to read this. We experienced this in some form during our last 3 adoptions and we are going through it right this very minute. Would love to chat via email!


Aus said...

I don't know you - we have nothing in common but international adoption - but I can't thank you enough for your brutal honesty!

I have an expression I use when talking to other prospective IA couples - you have lived that expression - and I Bless you and your husband for it...the expression is:

Fake it 'til you make it

You guys did great - and eventually the switch flipped - and you are on the road - couldn't be happier for you!

One word of caution - our 'oldest' adoptive child has been with us for 6 years now - and once in a while she will still 'backslide' and say things like "I wish I still lived in Korea" (from a 7 year old no less). Hang tough - it's supposed to happen and probably always will - our kids have a built in 'hurt card' - and as kids will do, they will play it from time to time. Love them through it - you will - and you can!

One last thought - in IA there's the debate about healthy kids vs. SN kids - yada yada. I would submit that ALL of our kids have a special need - they've been abandoned and now adopted - and that wound can be the hardest of all to heal. In adoption - it's all about special needs - there is no such thing as a 'healthy child' - it's just that for some the needs are invisible.

hugs - blessings - prayers - and just lots of joy for you here in Cincy!

aus and co.

Tammy ~ Country Girl at Home ~ said...


I saw the link to your blog on Nicole's blog and came over to read your posts!

Thank you for your honesty because I know it's not all fairy tales! We have a 21 year old adopted from Korea at 5 1/2 months. We are waiting to bring home our 2 year old son from China. (We have an 11year old biological daughter sandwiched between). I could just feel all the emotions you expressed and was crying myself as I read your words. I have to admit that I'm very nervous about adopting a toddler and feeling a little guilty about removing him from a loving foster family, so I appreciate your sharing raw and transparent feelings. I worry about how he will react to us!

People say it, but I know it's hard to mean the words, until you live them..."Prepare for the worst, but hope (and pray) for the best." I hope I can truly do that.

I'm so happy to see how bonding and loving is coming for you in your family. I like the fact that you held on to the words of caring for her first and the love would come!

Hugs and Blessings to You!

Shawna said...

Christie, I found your blog from Nicole's blog. I am going to post the link on our FCC site. I think so many people need to read this. Thank you for your honesty, boldness, and raw revealing of your feelings during these last days. I have a friend that just arrived home from China and she is experiencing many of these things I believe and feeling so abnormal. The truth is --this is more normal and common than not. Having adopted two from China and leaving in two weeks for our 3rd, I know this reality. Our first took 18 months to bond with us. There are still times that will trigger a grief for her. Now , it doesn't reveal itself as grief but other behaviors that appear over the top. But, as a mom you just know that it is related to the past. I just encourage you as you grow. I have to constantly remind myself of how far we've come --sometimes easy to forget in the moment of tantrums, screaming, etc.

There are so many people that don't know or are not prepared for this reality. Many people are not willing to stick it out and help a deeply wounded, hurting baby through the most difficult trauma anyone can fathom. It is TOUGH but oh so worth it. Thank you for your revealing of this precious bonding happening before your eyes.

By the way--you should write a book.

Awesome posts and congratulations on your amazing little boy and girl.

living4him5 said...

Hi there,

I found ya through Baker's Sweets. I LOVE Nicole at Baker's Sweets because she helped me by posting her bonding/attachment issues with her son Luke and I found myself in the same boat when we brought our Linzhi home at age 2 1/2 in November 2007.(she loved daddy instantly, me...not so much) The journey was up and down for a good 6 months...I would do it again in a heart beat because the Lord revealed so many precious things to me during our time of getting to know each other as mother and daughter. It also gave us the courage age to step out of our comfort zone...We are DTC for a sweet 8 year old little girl from China. Thank you for keeping it real! I love when truth is told and not all the "fluff." adoption/child rearing is not pretty all the time and we all need to lean on each other for encouragement.

God bless you and your family is just precious!

Amy <><

Dan, Misty & Ashar said...

"But there is something to say for the pain and how it carves you differently than joy does."...There is so much truth to that statement. I can relate on so many levels and I appreciate your expression of your process. Our road was very similar. It was about 2 months of rough stuff - zombie stage alternated with screaming- when we got home. It's so good that you are writing about it. The encouragement that I would give is to try not to always put on the happy face. Especially with those that you can really trust. If you can let them in now they will be able to bring some perspective and hope. I didn't do this very well, and I really wish that I had. If I only had a "do-over" :) But I have been carved by the pain, and it is good.
I am so happy for you guys and to see your pictures finally after all these years is amazing. She is a beautiful girl and you have a beautiful family, which is sure to endure more carving along the way!

blissfully caffeinated said...

"I waited a long time for you..."

That's when I started sobbing. I'm so happy for all you. You AMAZE me.


Nicole said...

What a wonerful post! Only if we were all prepared for the reality of this process!
Our first adoption was defintely the honeymoon phase while in country. I was totally unprepared for the reality of arriving home and going back to real life. I think with having had this exsperience I am preparing myself differently for our next daughters arrival.
Thank you so much for putting yourself out there and sharing your entire exsperience.
Blessings to you and your entire family!

Unknown said...

What an amazing post--so glad I found your blog from someone else's blog today. As we prepare to travel to bring our daughter home (soon, hopefully), I will remember this post and try to keep my expectations where they should be. Blessings to you-- Kelly

Becky and Naing said...

I just wanted to save bravo for sharing your pain and joy. So much of adoption is the waiting and wanting and when you have to adjust to this little being it is not easy for either of you. We have all had diffuculties with are children and by sharing the good and bad it makes adoption more real for everyone. The adoption community is so wonderful and will be there to prop you up when you feel like you can't go on.

KO said...

I am so glad I stumbled across your story. We have 2 adopted sons. The 1st went great, and we expected the same from the 2nd - it was not meant to be.

The greatest blessing we received was a visit from our SW who said - you are thinking you messed up your life with our 2nd son - we were! The transition was awful, and now, 6 years later all is better. We now wonder how the 3rd adoption will go.

Melanie said...

I so enjoyed reading your story even through all the pain and tears. This is what we need to hear as adoptive parents and need to talk about. The truth. Because that is sometimes the way it goes...with infants and with older children. They grieve, we grieve, and that is a normal thing to happen. Not always what we want to happen but sometimes that is how it is. Thank you for sharing your story. You have said things that were so hard for me to say and admit to myself. Really beautiful story. Your son and daughter are just extremely beautiful!!
Blessings to you.

Dawn said...

This is the most powerful series of posts I have ever read! God bless you for putting into words what so many of us on this journey have felt. Amazing!!!

Valerie and Jeff said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us! ... your writing is beautiful and the story is one that, although painful at times, shows the reality and not the dream. I'm at a point of God revealing to me the dream that I hold onto with adopting and that there is a reality that sometimes and in many ways is so much different than I imagine. There were points of your story I was taken back to those first days and months with the birth of my first biological son ... yes, he was from my body ... but after a LONG labor the first exchange of glances between us was not one of deep love from either of us and the crying ... oh the crying! ... and that left me feeling so ashamed and scared and rejected and let down from the dream of what I thought being a new mom would be. Things didn't happen naturally or easily ... But how funny that our other sons' arrival into the family was so different and so instantaneously bonding ... yes, babies are not blank slates and in the case of adoption there is much grieving and letting go and healing ... by both the child and the parents. Thank you again for revealing the reality beyond the dream. I love that God has you growing so deeply and so freshly in a shared pain and release from that pain. I hope that the shattering of "the dream" will lead to more people adopting and being prepared for a little bit of chaos ... as room is made for love. Best wishes to you all as you continue to grow as a family. Stop by our blog.

"Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

That is an AMAZING story in that it is real. It is not always the case, but it happens, and your feelings were tangible. So real to me. After going through 7 adoptions.....and praying for number 8 - there have been some really raw moments. Grieving, trembling moments that hurt! Moments that you never wish to experience again- except for the sake of following Christ! Moments that everyone prays will not happen, but they do.

Thank you for being so honest & up front. Thank you for having the heart to get through it. Thank you for continuing to answer the call- even though it was soo painful.

May God continue to BLESS your family, to heal, to comfort, to bond, and support you all through HIS LOVE! You are an amazing family!!!!

Kelly & Todd said...

Thank you so much for sharing the honesty and reality of your journey with us. You never cease to amaze me and I was once again blown away.

-- kelly

rubythread said...

The raw feeling in your story touched me deeply as we are right in the middle of our own adjustment. We just brought 3 toddlers home from Haiti at the end of January and reality has definitely slapped me in the face. I want so badly to love my kids but most days I can barely stand the sight of them. There is no mother love there yet but I am holding onto the "happy ending" of your story. It WILL come if I can just hang on... Thank you for being so real and saying what so many fear to say. I wish that more people would talk about the reality of adoption instead of the fairy tale. I did so much reading and research on attachment and thought I was prepared...but I had no idea that -I- would be the one with attachment problems :{
Thank you for showing the rainbow after the storm - With the Lord's help we will be one of the success stories that will someday encourage others!

Amy said...


THANK YOU. Your words are comfort and reassurance to me (and so many others). We have not met our daughter. We are still waiting for referral. I long for her by day, and sometimes at night I am terrified. We have a "good thing" going. We have children already with enough needs to fill our parental plate. What are we thinking? Why would we take such a risk? And yet we will. We want to. We need to.

So often only the rosey pictures are much to live up to. It is important for us all to be aware and be prepared that the reality may not live up to the dream...but to have tucked away in our hearts the knowledge that others have walked this path and with patience and committment and compassion for our children (and for ourselves) we will reach a point of grace.

Thank you for sharing honestly. Your family is so very beautiful.

All best wishes and prayers as your family continues to grow in love and trust...the grace, you've already been granted. Thank you for your example.

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

Wow Christie, I commend you for your brutal honesty. It is NEEDED, it is NECESSARY as so many adoptive parents have NO CLUE!! Our first Chinese adoption WAS rainbows and butterflies (like your Quint) but our second was TOUGH and gut wrenching! NOTHING could have prepared us for the emotional turmoil we felt. AND, we thought being adults we would be able to handle it with ease! HA!! It is a season though and we are so grateful to have had the experience and would NOT trade our son for the WORLD!!!
Thank you so much for sharing your heart.
Jill from Killeny Glen

Tony and Rett said...

I felt many of the same emotions you did/do. Panic, heartbreak, anxiety, commitment. Our story has some similar threads. Thank you for being brave enough to share yours.

Tina said...

Oh wow, ok I am glad that part of the story is over...the whole time I was reading I was thinking, "Oh please let this have a happy ending!" Thanks for sharing and keeping it real!

Sophie said...

This is such a touching story coming right from the heart, I appreciate your honesty.
When we brought our daughter home from Guatemala she wouldn't even look at us, she seemed terrified, it took months to even get a smile out of her, I did every thing short of standing on my head. I felt so deeply hurt for my daughter, they do go through a grieving process. It's so difficult when you wait so long and you want to pour your love on them and they reject you. By looking at the pictures now she looks so happy and content in her new family.
You have absolutely beautiful children, God bless!

Shannon said...

Wow! Reading your blog has been so interesting to me. I think your daughter is from the same orphanage as two babies in our travel group. Those little girls also had a tough time bonding initially with their moms. The other girls (from my daughter's orphanage) seemed so fragile, overly and anxiously attached, delayed and just longing for bonding. I just wonder why? I also realize that I chose to ignore my daughter's delays because I just didn't want to focus on it. I realize now that she was by far the most delayed of all the babies and she seemed like a little wounded animal in some ways to me. But I was just so worried for her emotional well-being that I went on auto-pilot for the two weeks. Returning home was also very, very tough because she and I got very sick. Thank you for your posts. They have been very thought provoking and very close to me because of our recent return and seeing you in China.

Michal said...

These three posts were amazing and more adoptive mama's should lay it all out there. It's the only way that some folks will see what a struggle it can be to get your kids and your self into a place of peace after adopting.
I tend to not write about the hard times myself. I don't know why, maybe because I am not brave enough to relive it? Maybe because it was 5 years ago? Maybe because I think no one is interested in struggles?
But I know that talking about these things can help. I was all alone after we brought E home. I had no other adoptive families around that seemed to ever struggle. If it hadn't been for some blogs I read- I never would have made it through. Just to see "oh I am not the only one having a hard time"
I too honestly worried about what I had done. I worried that the struggle was so intense that my husband was going to leave (laughable even then but you know how it is), I thought that there wasn't much in this kid that I could see to hang on to. It was made even more difficult by the fact that we were home for two months and then had to pack up and move across the country, arrive at my parents house and desperately try to cover up the fact that we were having a tough go. We met E when she was 10 1/2 mos old, I would say that I felt no relief, no loosening, until she was 19 months old. That was a long 9 months.
Our bonding and trust issues carry over to this day- 5 years later. No longer a part of daily life but there enough to keep me on my toes and searching for ways to help her heal.
Thank you for being brave enough to write this all down. Thank you.
May your load lighten daily and may your family evolve into what you have pursued these many, long and dark days.

Flamingo said...

I think only parents that have been there and have done that can really understand your words. Before I left for China, i would have thought someone was just being emotional or didn't handle things well. however, i've been there and done that and KNOW exactly what you are writing about. We have been home for 1 year and oh my...what a year. we have 3 bio kiddos and our daughter was 3 when we brought her home so it was a little different. however, the crazy chaos our kids went through upon our return from being seperated is an understatement. it was VERY traumatic for our 3 year old son. it has taken us almost this entire year to really start bonding, so you are way ahead of the game. actually, she bonded with us was us with her that we are still working towards.

your honesty will be a blessing to others!

Shari said...

Thank you so much for sharing your ENTIRE story. I know how hard it is to put it out there; I admire your strength in doing that.

My daughter was relatively easy in China, but the first 6 months she was not bonded to me...we spent those nights with very little sleep (horrible night terrors). I was so blissfully in love with her that I didn't recognize that she wasn't bonding until the first time she really hugged me. I will never forget in that moment how aware I was that she trusted me - she knew I was her mom and it had never felt that way before.
I would love to say that the night terrors ended then - they did come less frequently, but it's been nearly 5 years and my daughter still has terrors.

Although those first weeks were horribly hard for your family, I think you are lucky. The fact that your daughter grieved so hard shows how much she can love. It will continue to get just does.

Mommy said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH! I could have written about 90% of your story word for word. It has taken us months to get where you are as of Part 3. I had a really difficult time when we returned because it seemed everyone had peachy stories to tell...and ours was NOT peachy by any stretch. Many families will be blessed by your words. I just know it. Again, thank you for your honesty. It is needed much more often in our community.

Rebecca and Andrew said...

Christie, GIRL!!! You never cease to amaze me with your beautiful way of writing. You touch my soul. When your children can one day read this amazing journal, they will KNOW how much you loved them, cried for them and fought for them from the very beginning.
You bless me, sister! I know God will continue to bless you and your precious family.
Thank you for being so candid and honest. I adore you.

Amy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I can't help but think that part of the reason God allowed you to go through this is because you seem to have a gift for sharing your experiences in a way that will surely give hope and encouragement to others. With that in mind, I'm planning to pass this along to my sister who adopted her daughter from Haiti a year ago. I'm sure she will relate and be encouraged by your words. Bless you and your family. Amy