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. If you are joining me in the midst of the series, you can access the whole story by clicking on The Silent Months on the top menu bar of my blog. 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 .
Before I begin the story of my painful fall, and I phrase it that way because it was I who had the attachment disorder, not Eliza. She loved her home from the beginning. Of course she struggled in the transition of it all, and she and our oldest daughter had some difficulties sharing a room. But even only weeks home, every single time we would drive up to our house, “Eliza would chant in her somewhat loud, vigorous, determined voice, “I love my home! I love my home! I love my home!”
Early on she attached to Mark, but it wasn’t long until she loved me, loved to be in my arms, loved to rub her hands up and down my body as I worked, loved to be so close to me that I would trip over her, and it felt as if she wished she could climb inside of me, loved me with a fervor and intensity that drained me. Even today, when things are good, and I have grown to adore my precious Eliza Jane, she daily says to me, “Mommy, I wish I could be in your tummy too.”
I’ve heard it said that no matter what age child you adopt, attachment begins at infancy, and having walked this journey for twenty two months, I can say that I heartily agree. I have held and rocked the girls, given them sippy cups of warm milk, sung lullabies to them as they have drifted off to sleep, and I have cocooned them from the world as much as I have been able, and I still do.
I eventually came to realize that I no longer could homeschool all of our children, and I will write more about that later, but for now I want to say that Eliza started school one week before Evangeline had her surgery on June 4th. She is doing well, and even going to an extended summer program. She has begged me to send her to school, and has frequently said, “Mommy, I want to learn! I want to learn. I can learn Mommy.”
Many of you have followed my blog from the beginning and are aware of much of our early confusion and inability to identify where Eliza was cognitively. We travelled to China believing we were adopting a neuro-typical child, and soon realized that she was anything but neuro typical. You can read about all of those stories on my blog in the months after we travelled in September of 2012.
Having said all of that, Eliza has made AMAZING progress in the past months, and I do not believe, after more intensive schooling than I have been able to give her, that she will be classified as even borderline MR. She may have some mild “institutional autism” as a result of the years she lived in an orphanage, but she is amazingly capable and extremely bright. She can read and write Mandarin at a gifted level. We have had her letters and writings translated by various translators, all of which have exclaimed that she writes extremely well, and many have added, ‘I can’t write like that.”
Recently, we had some wonderful visitors from the Midwest who have also adopted children from China, one of which was the little girl, Emily, who shared a bed with Evangeline before she was adopted, and who was the reason Evangeline has become our daughter. From the time Emily came home to her mother, she asked her if Dang Mian Fang had a family yet. It was her continual prodding of her mother which caused Emily’s mother to call her agency and ask them to find Evangeline’s file. Her picture then circulated through Facebook, and the rest is history. I have told that story too. You can read it here in a post called, The Whole Story.
I also share pictures from their visit here. Their visit blessed our family in so many ways, one of which was that it was very affirming to me that we, as a family, had been right to cocoon the girls, and to hold them close for as long as we have.
One of the children who visited was adopted from a disruption. I believe she is now sixteen. She kept saying to her mother about Eliza, “Look at all she can do. She can do that? I couldn’t do those things when I was only home that long.”
Her sweet and attentive mother kindly said to her daughter, “Honey, she has been home with a mother who taught her and kept her close for all these months. Your family left you alone in your room.”
I share that not to brag about my parenting, or my strength, for as you will see as I share this story it was I who fell short and wore out. Yet even in my weakness, Eliza is doing far better than I ever could have dreamed she would. In the early days, she was sitting under the table hiding from me.
Now she is an integral part of our family. She is quick and efficient. If we lose anything, we always ask Eliza because she usually knows. She cooks. She cleans. She loves. She loves her mother with a sincerity that any mother would be blessed to know. She sets her timer every night so she can bring me warm milk while I’m writing before bed.
She loves the dogs and cat and takes care of them without fail. She is kind and thoughtful, and so very thankful to be a McCaslin. I have grown to depend on her. She can feed our enormous crew and clean it all up with an efficiency that is exceptional. She is capable and considerate.
And I love her so very very much. She has become a child of my heart. My skin no longer bristles when she touches me, and I don’t recoil from her presence. God has blessed me with a mother’s love for Eliza, and I have grown accustomed to her presence in our lives. I miss her when she is away at school.
I share this now before I tell the story of the valley we walked through because I want to make it clear that no matter how dark it felt or how impossible the situation seemed, God was making beauty from ashes, streams in the dessert. I couldn’t see them. But they were there, and I have arrived at this place only through faith where I can share with honesty the pain I felt and consumed my days.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. ~ Isaiah 43:19
As I look back over the dark days when my faith was faltering and my flesh was weary, I can see clearly that God carried me through those dark days, and it was His faithfulness that brought us through the darkness. It was God working in our hearts, “to will and to do of His good pleasure,” even when we were at our weakest.
I welcome you and invite you to share in this story of our humanity and weakness for God’s glory, and if you are walking a similar path, that you might know that you are not alone, and that God is faithful to finish what He has started in your hearts.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. ~ Romans 11:36