February 7, 2012

Learning to Cry

"It's normal," said our international adoption doctor.  "Normal, at least, for where she's come from...."

Our daughter was 11 months old when she came home from China, young for a special needs adoption.  She had spent 10 months in the orphanage and one month in foster care.  Overall, she was doing very well and was on-target or perhaps even beyond in every way.  But one behavior worried me.  Or more accurately, it was the lack of a behavior that worried me.  When she got hurt, she didn't cry.

In China, during one of our first days together, she was cruising along the furniture, tripped, and hit her head.  It wasn't a terrible injury, but one that should have hurt.  Had to hurt.  Yet she didn't cry.  She laid on the floor and very deliberately breathed deeply in and out.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.  In through the nose, out through the mouth, like she was attending a Yoga class.  Then she pulled herself back up and continued her cruising.  During our first weeks together, I saw this repeated many times.  Any little injury and her eyes would glaze over and the Yoga breathing would begin.  In and out.  In and out.  Sometimes she put her thumb in her mouth, hugged herself with her other arm, and gently rocked.

Her paperwork, written when she was 6 months old, said, "she's learned the ways of the orphanage and does not cry to interrupt adult's work."   Even before I met her, I knew what that meant.  She hadn't learned, "Oh, I see that you're busy; I won't interrupt you."  She'd learned, "when I cry, my throat hurts and my eyes burn and my wood mattress gets wet.......and no one comes anyway."

So when I talked to our doctor, herself an adoptive mom, she said I should overemphasize the owies.  Every owie.  All the time.  With our other kids, who had no trouble at all producing a healthy wail, a typical response to a little trip and fall was, "Up you go!  You're O.K.!"  With Cholita, those tiny owies became hug and kiss fests.  We snuggled, we coddled, and I'm proud to say, within a month, she was screaming like a banshee just like our other children.

And as much as my husband and I joked that we'd created a monster, I was happy to have my work interrupted by a crying baby who was looking to her Mama for comfort.

After all, Yoga will still be there when she's 40.


  1. Wow! Love this! The victories that seem so strange to the BA (before adoption) parent that now become a part of our everyday. And although our issues have been different, I totally get the we've "created a monster" thing. But, like you, I will take it any day over the coping mechanisms we've see them struggle with before. Great post!

  2. Tiana came home at 26 months. She also did not cry. People would comment and say what a big girl she was and then yell at me for making such a fuss. UGH! Her first real fall was face first into some little rocks at the park - she had been home for 2 weeks or so. Got up, blood gushing, and kept walking. My hubby and I just looked at her with our mouths hanging open. I mean, we'd already brought to rough and tumble boys and they would have been SCREAMING - but not this little cookie - nope! Yes, we taught her how to cry and she seeks us out now for any real or preceived boo-boo that she has! I too love the interruptions!


  3. This is so true in many adopted kids. Our daughter was like that too. I also made a big deal of ouchies and gave our Maylie lots of kisses, hugs and band-aids. After a while she began to accept them. I love every minute giving her that extra special mommy love. Thank you for sharing your story! Your daughter is so beautiful!

  4. as sad as this topic is for these children, I totally love the way you wrote it