Eliza Jane

Eliza has been with us for six weeks now.

She seems more comfortable.

She smiles a lot.

She points about things that need to happen on schedule.

She hoards pretty much everything in her bed.

She likes routines, and gets very upset when things don’t happen on time.

And, after six weeks, I have to say that is pretty much all we know about Eliza. I don’t know what she likes. I don’t know what she likes to do. I do not know if she is learning much English other than a word here and there.

I don’t know if she had relationships in the orphanage that she misses.

There is not one thing we have done together that enhances bonding.

She has never colored with me, or played a game, or looked at a book.

There is not one activity I have been able to engage her in, and it is not for lack of trying on my part.

She has never cried.

I talked again with the doctors at CHOP this week. They explained that there is a high likelihood that Eliza is mentally retarded, but there is no way to evaluate her with her unwillingness to cooperate and her lack of language. Other than brain scans, which will not give us any idea of what she is capable of, there is nothing we can do but wait and pray that we begin to discover who she is.

I try constantly to understand her. I make eye contact whenever I can, and I smile. But no matter how hard I try, I can not begin to know what is going on inside her mind.

Eliza is not bad, but there is a resistance to her that I just can’t put my finger on.

Even after living with Eliza for forty five days, I am no closer to getting to know her than I was when I met her. I feel like we are living side by side lives, but we have no relationship other than that I meet her needs and serve her.

I can’t help but feel like I am an object in her life that must do things at the proper times.

I long to know her.


Praying for wisdom,

…and patience to wait this out.



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  1. David Robey says:

    “I feel like we are living side by side lives, but we have no relationship other than that I meet her needs and serve her. ”

    Diane, I wonder if that’s because that is the extent of all of the relationships she’s had with adults. Whether or not she has mental issues this “habit” may be hard to break.

    You have taken on two little girls that are giving you some extreme challenges. I know that if there is anyone who might eventually break down those barriers it is you – for all kinds of reasons. Hang in there!

  2. Donna says:

    Diane! I understand how hard and heartbreaking this is. Of course I have no way to assess Eliza’s cognitive abilities, but what I *can* tell you is that I have seen everything you describe. Every.single.thing. These are classic orphanage effects for older kids. Not one thing you said would raise a mental capacity issue other than the normal (ugh, how can such ugly deprivation be *normal*?) deficits due to institutional living. It takes time. A lot of time. A lot a lot of time to see the child she could have been and hopefully still can be. Hang in there. You are doing all the right things. One day at a time. It may never be the relationship that you dreamed of, but I am sure it will get better. Take another look at 450 days.

  3. Karen Mateeff says:

    I’m going to write you my very first and honest thoughts as I read this. The first thought is you have a clean slate of faith, if I can call it that. A beginning where you can pray in faith that she be all God wants her to be and all that he prepared her for. I don’t think she is mentally retarded and it is unlikely that China would adopt her out under that status, not to say that has not happen. She may have some issues but nothing that God can’t deal with. Children from institutions often have behaviors that can be mistaken for more serious delays. Keep the faith for her! Even though you expected more by this time frame, it is still very early. Just keep the faith for her and know that God knows what he wanted to accomplish and loves her and you so much. Hugs and prayers!

  4. Pat says:

    It took my 13 month old daughter from China 5 years to become who she is. She spent the first 6 months screaming almost constantly day and night. If she had been our first child we would have thought parenting wasn’t our cup of tea, but since she was our eighth we knew it was;) It is awfully hard for us to comprehend the effects of institutionalized living or coping mechanisms kids have found to help themselves deal with it the best they can. James 1:5 and Eph. 6:9 are my “go to” verses for moments like these. You know God brought you here and you know He is just beginning to fulfill His purposes in doing so.

    Watching my daughter brought me to the foot of the cross and helped me to meditate on the fact that I responded to Him the way my dd did to us- He drew me while I pushed Him away screaming and kicking; He loved, I resisted; He came to a world to give His very life for the needy and the world hated Him to the point that they nailed Him to the cross…. Just meditating on that helped draw me closer to understanding the heart of God and there was balm in that understanding.

    These are early days. “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

    I know it’s not easy! Praying for you.

    Pat recently posted..Fun with Chinglish- Restroom EditionMy Profile

  5. Jennifer P says:

    HI Diane, I feel this way a bit with my six year old (same time frame home). Although, she likes to be held, we haven’t had the melt-into-my-body comforting hug yet, nor the big cry. Ditto that she is not bad, nor has she learned much English. I wonder about delay as well. We cannot undo years of habit in such a short time.

    A rule of thumb that I have seen play out to be true (Think margin here) is that it takes as long as they were NOT with you to build a connection and allow the onion peels to fall away, to see who they really are. My first foster child (age 2) didn’t smile from the inside out for 2 1/2 years. My child who came at five didn’t really connect until 10 or so (she is on the spectrum). With older kids and therapy, I would hope it would happen sooner but time is essential. I read a great post from an adoptive Mom once about coming to terms with being a caregiver versus Mom. Not that that is where you are headed but if we change our expectations, we can fight discouragement (not from the Lord) much easier.

    It’s early on. Keep loving her every day. God knows what’s best for Eliza and she was meant to be part of your family where she will see Him each and every day.
    Jennifer P recently posted..Joy-FilledMy Profile

  6. mary says:

    Got to your blog via Eagle’s Wings, and I feel your pain! My son was 8 1/2 when he came home in 2005. The first 2 years are now a fuzzy memory (I have blocked out the worst I am sure) but I know we had more screaming tantrums and violence than you are describing. But I KNEW there was an amazing kid in there somewhere! And I knew I was a good mom (he has 2 little sisters from China too, home at 1 and 2 years old) and that I was up to the task. You are too! I couldn’t be more proud of my handsome, engaging, polite (to others anyway 😉 athletic, smart, ambitious, responsible, popular 15 1/2 year old son. Was it worth it? Yes Yes Yes! Was it hard? Definitely.

  7. Judy says:

    Jaelyn was the same for about a yr. she still is not what i expected. She still wont kiss anyone but reluctantly learned a hug. I felt like we were her ticket to america. No love feelings. She is a good kid n smart just never learned real emotion n will not cry. Thgs are better. I feel like we had to meet half way. I had to except her very different personality. Her sister 9 months younger has been like a mentor. Peers at school are socially more advanced. She will talk very little to them n doesnt really know how to mske friends. But she is fine with older people. Hang in there Hugs judy. This seems more like social retardation not mental

  8. Stacey says:

    Diane, there is a scripture running around in my heart for you.

    1 John 4:19, We love because he first loved us.

    I think there is a BECAUSE coming for your sweet Eliza. You are loving her so well. Until we are truly loved, there can’t possibly be a “because”. She is just getting started.

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