I received so many beautiful comments and a few really smacked me in the face if you will … all with the best of intentions and all ones I REALLY needed to hear. Several sweet readers reminded me that people need to hear about the realities of adoption. Wow. So VERY true. And these readers hoped that I would not forget that and would continue to share honestly and openly as I felt led. I really do appreciate their encouragement and felt like I needed to quit wallowing so much and share on here in a way that would hopefully help someone else after me.
I decided it is just not in my nature to keep it all to myself, and honestly I've been still and I do feel God wants me to continue sharing and being a voice for those children who still wait … in a way that will hopefully help future families who may face an unexpected need or a shut-down child or a child who is completely and utterly out of control. Or I may be able to help a Mom, who like me, is feeling completely overwhelmed with her new reality and perhaps even a bit disappointed in herself for feeling this way at all.
I think knowledge and education and UNDERSTANDING are so vital, because without it how can any of us navigate much of anything that is hard work?
I *hope* to do a series of posts here on No Hands But Ours as I am inspired. Honestly I don't have a schedule laid out or even a rough draft of topics, however I do have a few that I'm allowing to soak and a few that are just itching to get out!
Without further ado, I will jump right into Adoption Reality #1: When Your Vision Is Not Your Reality.
The day The Prez and I met our two sons in China, June 21, 2010, I was in total shock. And that reaction honestly shocked me.
First of all, I had stared at photos of our two sons for more than a year for our older son and nearly a year for our youngest son. I had VISIONS in my head … and tucked in my heart. I had studied the photos, read every line of every little morsel of information I'd been given about each one of them, talked to people who had met each of them, studied the photos again, and of course carried the photos with me everywhere I went.
I had the visions. I had it all figured out. I mean, I had done this before. As The Prez says, This wasn't my first rodeo. Oh but I had so much WRONG … in my vision of our youngest son. My vision of our older son was and still seems to be fairly accurate, but I had so much more information given to me about him by those who know and love him … and by other children who knew him in China. And while they all shared such similar thoughts, no one but me knew what the others had shared … so I felt it was fairly accurate and spot on. And it has been so far.
But our younger son … the information I did have was from people who met him for a brief time and several years prior. Of course he had changed and grown older … and lived that much longer in an orphanage without a Mommy and Daddy and a family to love him unconditionally in a HOME.
Some of you may remember he came to us with a large bandage on his head and just removed stitch scars (as in they took him by the hospital on the way to meet us to have the stitches removed). When we met him, he was silent, still one minute, trying to climb out of a 15th-story OPEN window the next, SILENT, unaffected by his caregiver's departure and SILENT. No crying, no words, no mumbling, no care in the world if we hugged him or not, talked to him or not, nothing in terms of a reaction really. The only reaction we got was with his little Fisher*Price camera. Meanwhile, our older son was everything we imagined and just the sweetest, though I now see that he was very scared and sad. I knew it then but I wasn't able to read his facial cues and nervous habits then … I suspected he was feeling all of this and he was but I couldn't say for sure on that day in that moment.
But our younger son. He just went with the flow. And that scared me. Now that I know him and his personality so much more, I now know he was in shut down mode. He had traveled a long distance, and he had no idea what was happening to him.
I had emailed back and forth with our agency coordinator about our younger son because we discovered what we thought and a doctor thought was a separate special need than the two which he was listed with: cleft lip and palate and repaired heart disease. I'll share more about that someday as we are honestly still not sure what is going on or if he in fact has another need, but alas our coordinator asked me how are YOU doing? to which I replied (and hence the subtitle of my post): My Vision Is Not My Reality Right Now.
And she understood with that simple phrase the state of my heart and the state of my current existence. I know this may shock many others that I was having such a hard time in China with our younger son, but honestly he was so WILD and uncontrollable in one instant and totally forlorn and silent the next and just … not who I had imagined him to be.
BUT, big BUT, he is still the same little boy for whom we begged God to allow us to adopt.
It was me who needed to get my heart righted, not him who was not right. A BIG difference.
I have to give God the glory for bringing to pass His perfect plan for our trip. I don't know that I ever shared on our blog that we were within a couple of hours of booking flights for the Prez and our 11-year-old son to go to China in April for our 10-year-old son when a door was unexpectedly and quickly shut. I realized very quickly in China that MY PLAN of them going in April for our older son and me going ALONE in June/July (whenever paperwork was done) would have been a disaster. Oh how God loves to PROTECT us and to bring about our best interests. While I was coming unraveled at the seams in China, the Prez was as cool as a cucumber and in complete PEACE about our new normal. And he was CERTAIN all would be fine, whatever that fine was. I took great comfort and REST in that, and praised God for bringing us to China together to bring home our sons.
As our time in China drew to a close, I was thankful. Yes, there was sadness over leaving the boys' birthcountry, over not having that BREAKFAST BUFFET every morning, over leaving dear friends we'd made along the way, over having The Prez WITH me 24/7 to help me find our new level of normal … but mostly I was just ready to come home. I missed our other two children and they missed me. And I just wanted to come home and navigate my way through the first days home, the myriad appointments (still working through those), the hard work of attachment and bonding, the laundry … finding my way as the mother of FIVE children. I know too some that sounds like such a small number, but to me it sounded HUGE. And still does many days.
I think I'd be lying if I didn't admit to enjoying the build-up to an adoption, the faith-filled reliance on God to bring it all to pass, the friendships you build with others who are waiting with you … the abandon to the unknowns … all of it really. And then it happens and you realize, THIS IS IT. This is what we've been praying and waiting and longing for … for the past 15 months ... with those photos in hand and visions in my head.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks this time. The REALITY of our new normal.
Now I want to be honest in saying our younger son is a beautiful little boy who loves match*box cars, noodles, squealing and smiling, and riding in any type of vehicle anywhere … whether it be motorized or not! He is a ball of energy, an accident waiting to happen, a little peanut who disappears like Houdini (and thinks it is funny to keep hiding when Mommy is frantic to find him), a younger brother to three older brothers and a *big* brother to one very confident little sister, who happens to think he needs her constant advice and direction. ;) He is also very affectionate, can be demanding, a little bit ornery and very much knows what he wants and when. And given a sword, a stick or just about any other object, he becomes a ninja warrior ready to take on his next foe … or his little sister. The sweet little boy I had envisioned had turned into a big boy with his own likes, dislikes, quirks and smirks, moves and a groove that did not necessarily fit into my order of how things are supposed to work.
Yet in the midst of all of this, he is the same little boy for whom we longed so deeply back in February when we received the devastating news we would not be allowed to adopt him along with his older brother. He is the same little boy who charmed visiting missionaries in 2006 and 2007 and who bravely endured life in a poor orphanage in China watching countless children go home while he waited for his chance at a family. He is the same brave little boy who endured three major surgeries in China alone without a Mommy and Daddy by his side.
And he is my precious son, my fourth son, my surprise blessing.
I don't doubt he will continue to fill our life with surprises and that we'll be surprised along the way just as we were earlier this week in the cardiologist's office. We knew our son's tetralogy of fallot had been repaired in China more than three years ago, and we knew he seemed to be thriving despite living in a poor SWI as an orphan. We also knew the reality of not knowing for sure, of not having any medical updates, of taking a leap of faith on a file dated more than two years prior, of the seriousness of his heart defect and the possibility that his heart was not as healthy as we had hoped.
Our cardiologist thinks our son's heart has a serious need that needs to be repaired as soon as possible. A need that can only be repaired with open-heart surgery. We have an upcoming cath on September 1 where we'll find out for sure, but it looks like open-heart surgery is in our … and our son's near future.
This was certainly not the vision I had imagined for his first few months home with us, but it may very well be our reality. And as I think of that possibility, my love for him swells even more as I just want to whisk him away from the realities he may soon face. But as we continue on I urge others (and myself) to remember that while visions are good, we all need to prepare our hearts for realities that may in fact not match up with our visions.
And I'm challenging myself and perhaps some of you to step back and take a fresh look at our realities … and thank God again for those realities in our lives who bless us in ways we never ENVISIONED!
In my next post, I am planning to share about Adoption Reality #2: Bonding Between Siblings.