A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one post in a series of posts that will share the story of how I came to know and grew to love my daughters who were adopted at fourteen years old, mere days before they aged out of the adoption system. It does not reflect my feelings now. I choose to share my story to address a topic that is taboo in the adoption community. I share it to normalize the feelings that so many feel and yet are too ashamed to share. I share it to provide support to those who feel alone because there’s a big white elephant in the room, and no one can talk about it. I share it in support of adoption, in support of every single precious child waiting for a family, every one of which deserves to be loved and is lovable, every single one. Why can’t we talk about it? The feelings are real. The process of attachment can be easy and it can be painful, and the more we support parents who experience the painful side of adoption, the more we help the children. There are far too many disruptions, especially of older children, and if we as a community can come to see the feelings and the process as normal, perhaps we can provide support to those families and in doing so, help the children. Adoption is rooted in pain and loss, and often the process is painful. AND it’s okay. Before you offer your criticism, please read, Eliza Today, A Preface, and God’s Heart and Workers for His Harvest Field .
The night before Eliza’s gotcha day, we found an open wound on the the bottom of Evangeline’s foot, right on the knuckle, oozing infection with rotten flesh and opened down to the bone. Evangeline’s gotcha day was on the 9th of September, and Eliza’s was on the 12th. Evangeline was as tiny as a six year old, yet she was nearly fourteen, and I was giving her space and allowing her to choose when she would shower.
Our guide in Xian was a man, and we didn’t feel as comfortable with him as we did with our guide in Guangzhou. We arrived in Guangzhou about 11pm the night before we were to get Eliza. I mentioned in passing to our guide that Evangeline had not taken a shower yet, and asked her to talk to her about it.
Within moments our guide came out to the living room area of our hotel room and told us she wasn’t taking a shower because she had a wound on her foot.
She sat Evangeline on the bed, and spoke in Mandarin to her. Evangeline took off her shoes and unwrapped her tiny foot with the adeptness of a child who had cared for herself for a long time. As she unwrapped the wound, I could see the dark yellow stain on the bandage. Was it infected?
Then she took off the last layer of gauze. The wound was deep and raw. This was no new wound. My mind raced in fear for her. How had she walked all over the streets of the cities with us and never complained? Did she feel it? Why was it there? How long had it been there? And then, how do I care for it until we get her home?
At midnight, our guide and Mark ran off to a pharmacy to get gauze and antibiotic cream to re-bandage it. Evangeline and I waited at the Hotel for the gauze to wash and re-wrap her foot. I helped her bathe while keeping her foot dry.
Soon our guide, Rebecca, and Mark came back with dressings for the wound. We put antibiotic ointment on it and covered it again with bandages. We discussed whether to take her to the hospital the next day or not.
We were to get Eliza at 10am that very morning.
I tucked Evangeline in bed and tried to sleep. My mind was so full of the days events. We bonded with Evangeline immediately. Her needs were big, even bigger than we had expected, but caring for her felt natural, easy, as if I had birthed her myself. The feelings flooded me, and surprised me at the same time. It was Evangeline I had worried about meeting. We’d only decided to adopt her a few months before we travelled and had had no contact with her or updates. We had sent a care package, but had no idea if she had ever received it, or if she knew she was being adopted, or even if she wanted a family.
I had lain awake the night before we met her praying, wondering, so filled with excitement and anxiety all mixed up in one tumultuous mixture of feelings that rushed through my mind like water rushes over the falls. And then the moment had come, and I felt as in love and proud as any new mother with our newest daughter.
The hours were short that night before we met Eliza. I lay wake then too. Praying for our sweet girl I felt I already knew. We had even skyped with her. We had walked her through our home and shown her the bedroom we had just redecorated for Victoria and Eliza. I felt I knew her. My feelings that night were more excitement than fear.
But now, here I was in the hotel room with both of our daughters, and I felt such anxiety and exhaustion and confusion.
The phone rang, it was Rebecca. “We can take Evangeline to the hospital now.”
Oh, I thought, and wondered how Eliza would feel about spending her first afternoon with her new parents at a hospital. This wasn’t how I’d wanted it to be either. I wanted to stay in the Hotel and begin to know Eliza, our newest daughter. Yet this was real life, not my dreams or thoughts of how Eliza’s first day with us should be. “Yes.” I said to Rebecca. “We’ll be down in a few minutes.”
We left the room, locked the door behind us, and turned to walk toward the elevator. Eliza was yards ahead of us, almost to the elevator. She had run the length of the hall with her left arm straight out to the side, touching the wall, and moving it up and down as she ran in a wave like fashion.
“Wait!” We hollered, and Evangeline said something in Mandarin.
Eliza kept going and by the time we had reached the elevator, had already pushed the call button, and the doors to the elevator were beginning to close. I stuck my arm through the doors. They stopped and opened again. Eliza ran in and began pushing the buttons in the elevator.
I grabbed her hands, breathless, “No. Wait.” I said afraid to take her out on the streets.
Her lovely dark eyes, looked at me, deep and penetrating. They reflected something, not defiance, not anger, not even disappointment. Perhaps it was sadness, or the first pieces of a wall that was forming between us, right there, in the elevator.
My hands began to shake as I let go of hers. I longed to make her comfortable, to ease her fears, to tell her I wasn’t so bad, that I would love her and never hurt her.
The elevator door opened, and we all walked together into the lovely lobby enshrouded in the opulence, rich mahogany and gilded mirrors, of the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou. Rebecca was waiting. We exchanged pleasantries, and I asked her to explain to Eliza where we were going and why, and to add that I was sorry we had to go on the very first day with us.
Rebecca began to speak to Eliza in the beautiful rapid, tonal language that they shared. Eliza shook her head as if she understood. We walked to the van. Eliza climbed into the back, as far away from us as she could.
Her fear was palpable, and mine was too. I longed more than anything to ease her fears I wanted to tell her that I yearned to know her, to love her. I wanted her to know that more than anything I loved being a mother and that I considered it an incredible privilege to be the one who would have the privilege of mothering her. I wanted to tell her that I was scared too.
And I wanted to tell her we would keep her safe.
Yet I didn’t know her words, nor did she know mine. I could have asked our guide to tell her those things. Yet, somehow, sitting a row ahead of her in the van with the driver dashing through the crowded streets of Guangzhou, I felt lost in the rush of the moment.
The hours long hospital visit proved to be a disappointment. They could offer us no information, and only told us they’d fix it when we got to America.
Tired and a bit dejected, we went back to the hotel and ate noodles for supper. Eliza showed me a cd of pictures she had brought with her from her orphanage of her life from as far back as when she was three years old. Somehow, with our bodies, we communicated about each one. She told me about each of the children in the pictures, what their special need was, if they had a family, and other details she thought of. She told me about the nannies, the ones she liked and the ones she didn’t.
These moments with Eliza were precious, the pictures priceless. We had begun to bond, and I was so thankful for her willingness to share this part of her life with me.
It was late. We’d all had a long day, so we went to bed. I was so thankful that both of our girls were in our arms, and aware of the incredible miracle we were in the midst of.
For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. ~ 1 Samuel 1:27