It is delurking day. The day where we come out of the internet’s shadows and comment on a blog we read but maybe never acknowledge. I don’t know if this post personifies that theme well, but I sat down at a blank screen and this is just what I wrote.
Chick at 5 months (before our referral)
If the world could look past the preconceived idea that love is instant when it comes to a child, if they could see all the pain and the suffering and confusion, in each persons eyes, the child and the parent, then maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge. If we could take an honest look at what adoption feels like, I think most people would be shocked. It is not an instantaneous love, a perfect joining of child and in my case mother. I didn’t look at her as she screamed and cried in my arms, straining for her nannies, her familiar bed, the only one she had ever known, and say I love you. I couldn’t comfort her in the weeks and months to come. The betrayal in her eyes as I held her down for the nurses while they repeatedly poked needles in her arms and x-rayed her liver. All so we could know that in the future she might have to go through it all again.
The nurse asked me to sing her favorite song. How would I know what that was? I wanted to say, I’ve known this child for two weeks, I know nothing about her, about what comforts her. I don’t know how to hold her hand or rub her head the way she wants me to. At fifteen months, she is a stranger to me and I to her.
Our first hours together in Taipei
I had nine months to prepare for my son. We started our journey together from day one. From the first moment of life, we were in this thing together. We had time to learn about each other, how hot he liked his milk, what soothed him to sleep, how he seemed to love music straight from the start.
Pregnancy months and adoption months are very different. Adoption months are much longer than nine, my adoption pregnancy lasted sixteen months. I know I’d do it all over again to get the same little girl who’s laugh makes you smile and who’s hugs melt your heart. The process is painful and long and it seems never ending. After eight months of staring at her picture, watching her grow ever bigger before my eyes, first steps, first teeth, first laugh, first birthday…I almost did give up. Some people do. And I commend them for even having tried. Adoption can take even the strongest and turn them into a sleepless mess. You even start to hate the people whose names get called before yours. They got your referral or your travel call. They flew through the process while you remained stuck, stuffing down week after week of heartache every time someone cared enough to ask if there was any news. No, there’s no news.
At a very precocious, bossy, charming four and half, I love my daughter. Even when she screams at me, and stomps her feet up the stairs, and yes, even when she slams the door to her room making me count to twenty, and then count to twenty again. I love her because we’ve had all this time together now, over three years to learn about each other. I know she loves spicy foods, can steal your entire bowl of rice before you can even blink, she loves dogs and wants to pet everyone she sees, and she dances and claims Supermassive Black Hole is her favorite song. And while she might not always be easy to understand, as her mother, I know every word she speaks because that’s just how it is with a mother and a daughter.
I wish so many other adoptive parents would share what it’s really like those first months, because for most of us, it is the same. It’s hard. It is not what you thought it was supposed to be. It is not the story so many tell of everything just being perfect from day one. If we could step back and say, here is the honest, hard, painful truth about what adopting a child is like, we’d be better prepared for it. It would not have changed my decision to adopt for a second. But maybe it would have helped me feel less like a failure, less like I was doing something wrong and more like what was happening was okay. In fact, it was normal.
If you know someone who’s adopting, thinking of adopting or has adopted, remember that not everything is always wonderful, even if they tell you it is. It is a long process to feeling that love…and the thing is, in the end, that really is okay.
If you thought this post was worthy of delurking I hope you’ll leave a comment and let me know.