I'll never forget meeting our Daniel for the very first time. We had met both Caleb and Darcy around the same age and while Ian and I were thrilled, it could be said that neither of them were... I was prepared for a similar reaction from our youngest.
As we approached the courtyard, the red door across the way opened and he stepped out. I froze in my location, overwhelmed with the emotion of finally seeing him in person after watching him "grow up" in pictures via the New Day website. His squeals of excitement snapped me out of it. I could hardly believe my eyes and ears as he ran just as fast as his little toddler legs could carry him, but I managed to squat down and open my arms to him. His joyful little giggles and precious voice calling "Mama, Mama" were such a blessing. When he finally got to me I stayed at his level and gave him a hug, because I didn't want to overwhelm him. That however wasn't going to be enough for him and he wouldn't let me stand up without picking him up in my arms. It was obvious that he had been well prepared ~ and even more importantly, well loved ~ by his foster family and we were so thankful.
Now, some two weeks after that joyful first meeting, we are deep in the throes of experiencing the raw grief that comes with leaving those precious foster parents behind. I think that I had forced Caleb's grieving process (2 1/2 years ago) into the recesses of my mind, but now that we're in the trenches again, those memories have come flooding back. The first weeks home with him were gut-wrenching as he cried out for all he had known and lost. Darcy grieved too, but hers was much different. She was simply reserved and quiet until suddenly one day it was like she had "arrived" in the family. Daniel's process is very reminiscent of Caleb's except that it started in China where Caleb's didn't come full force until after we were home.
Each day with Daniel brings progress in him trusting us. He happily toddles along side either Ian or me 90% of the time unless he is chillin' in the Ergo carrier. He's allowing us to help him eat, bathe and dress, and is even starting to make eye contact for a few seconds at intimate times. But when he is tired or even already asleep we catch glimpses of just how broken hearted he is. It is in those times that his guard is down and we see the heartache he is experiencing.
Take for instance our last night in Urumqi. The bedtime routine went well enough that night. Just a few whimpers when we turned off the lights and I pulled him into bed with me.
It was around 3:30 when he slid off the bed that the sobbing started. He sat there on the floor of the room for what seemed like forever reaching out his arms and calling for Mama. Each time I'd reach for him he'd pull his arms back away from me and look me straight in the eyes as if to say, "please, won't you get her for me?" Eventually he did let me pick him up but he resisted being held close and continued the full body heaving sobs until well after 4. By that point both Ian and I were in tears too.
It was one of those moments where I felt like we should take him back to Anna, not because we don't love him, but because we do…
Or last night, our fourth night home, when he woke up inconsolable at 3am. To avoid keeping Ian up as he whimpered, I scooped him out of our bed and walked him through the upstairs of the house. He indicated that he wanted to go to the boys' room. After he pushed several times, I let him down and by the glow of the nightlight, he grabbed two cars and sat down on the rug in the middle of the floor and just sat there, looking around as if trying to figure out his surroundings and how exactly he got here. He didn't cry, but he looked so tiny and pitiful sitting there in his confusion that my heart was breaking with him. I knew he didn't want me, but I also couldn't just sit and watch. The first few times I tried to rub his back he swatted at me, but finally he relented and leaned back into my chest and fell back into a restless sleep.
His referral talked about his congenital heart condition. We researched the defect carefully and learned all we could in order to be as prepared as possible for his future. And while I take that information very seriously, right now I'm more concerned about his heart for another reason. Today it is still broken for the love of the wonderful foster parents he had.
I do know that eventually we'll come through on the other side of this process. We have three other children who have become integral parts of our family. But right now it feels as though we broke up a family to expand ours and I don't like it. Kylie, who has been thrilled to have him with us and has been going out of her way to be patient with the new brother who doesn't know our family rules yet even asked why we had to take him away from his foster parents after she heard him cry for his foster mother.
Yes, I know that Anna and Joseph are likely too old to have adopted Daniel themselves. But I also know that they loved him deeply and cared for him well. I pray now and will continue to pray for them in the days and weeks to come as they adjust to life without him.
Adoption can be a wonderful beauty from ashes story. But it is often also raw, emotional and difficult in the process.
I share this post in hopes that it will encourage others who adopt a child who's been in a good foster home. I'm so thankful for the start that he got that has allowed him to trust and love. But for today, it is hard.
One thing I can say for sure, I'm committed to walking this journey with Daniel one tear at a time...