Way Back Wednesday

Mommy Diaries, star date March 2008
What's Way Back Wednesday?

It's official. I am an idiot. (Most of you are going, "What else is new?!") No, but seriously. I thought I had recovered nicely from pregnancy brain and was well on my way to my former all-together, organized self.

Lately it seems like I have taken 2 steps backward. This morning I got to the end of my normal shower routine and honestly could not remember whether or not I had bathed! (Have no fear, I re-washed, just in case!) Last week on my way home I was turning right at a green light and could not remember whether the person across from me trying to make their left turn in the same direction as me was supposed to go first or second. Basic traffic rules!

 Earlier this week I made 2 or 3 slip-ups with paperwork at school. Nothing life altering, but it bugged me nonetheless because I have always been on top of things.

I think ahead.
I plan and schedule and make lists!
I declared when Sassafras was born that I wanted to be The Mom Who Thinks of Everything.

Yeah, so much for that... How come I seem to be losing it?! Someone PLEASE tell me it gets better!

*Ha. Haha. Hahahahahaha. Yeah, no. It doesn't get better.

Way Back Wednesday

*Adoption blog, star date January 2011

What's Way Back Wednesday?

One of the many unknowns in adoption is your child's medical history. You don't know if his or her biological parents had cancer, asthma, high blood pressure, chromosomal disorders, genetic blood diseases, or diabetes.

I did not like this particular aspect of adoption, not one bit. I thought that not knowing what health problems Pearl might get in the future, and her lack of medical background would cripple our efforts at caring for her health. I thought it would be hard filling out papers for the pediatrician, dentist, therapist, whatever and not having a single thing to mark down for her medical history. I thought it would be hard on us and on her, not knowing if minor symptoms were indicative of major illnesses to which she is genetically predisposed.

I thought not knowing her biological inheritance would be really scary.

Hey, so it's really not. It's not scary at all.

I mean, when you think about it, so what if your grandmother had cancer. (I am NOT being flippant about people having cancer. Please know me better than that. I AM being flippant with medical histories.) That doesn't mean you will have it. So what if your father didn't have diabetes. It doesn't mean that you won't. What I'm trying to say is that in the grand scheme of life, a medical history just really isn't all that essential. It actually simplifies paperwork. Instead of checking or unchecking a zillion boxes on a form, I can just write "unknown" and go back to playing with my kid instead of filling out a sheet of paper that would just help a doctor make assumptions about her anyway.

Plus, it helps me to not worry about what she "might get" and instead focus rather intently on who she is and how she is right now. I like that Pearl's physicians have to think very carefully and specifically about every one of her symptoms. Her lack of medical history actually means that she gets some pretty individualized attention. I like that doctors can't make assumptions about her based on her biology, but rather are forced to look at her as a little person and treat her as uniquely as she deserves to be treated. 

Let's talk hair

Although maybe sometimes all I want to do is buy my groceries, I am grateful for the scores of opportunities we are given to talk about adoption. 

The ladies, (of varying ethnicities, some who say it out loud and others who just want to), all wonder about Pearl's hair. What do I DO with it? Do I KNOW what I am doing with it?

So let's talk hair. 

The most important thing I want anyone to know about Pearl's hair is that I.LOVE.IT. Her tiny little black curls are among the most beautiful physical traits I've ever seen in any individual. I tell her often how pretty those curls are and how thankful I am that God made her hair so perfectly hers.  

Long ago, when we knew we were paper pregnant and that God was sending us to a girl, I decided that despite what I (Mrs. Lily White) knew and was comfy with in the hair department, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure my African daughter loved hers. 

And y'all. That part? It hasn't even been hard. I haven't had to work to convince Pearl to enjoy her hair because deep down to my marrow, I truly delight in it. Not because it's different. Not because I just want to survive it. Not only because I want her to love it. I truly love it because I love every bit, every cell, every atom of my girl.  

When I run my fingers through her curls, I marvel at just how tight they are. I'm in awe at the surprising length of it when a piece is stretched from scalp to end. I adore the cutie patootie way her headbands always offset her rich skin and growing poof. I am positively infatuated with how good her hair smells after a wash or styling.

White people don't get to smell like cookies, y'all. 

Dealing with four very different sets of girl hair in my house is like running a computer lab blended with Macs and PCs. Each head of hair has its own unique quirks and elements I completely adore. Obviously, Pearl's African locks are the most unique in the house, and over the past two and a half years, I've been thoroughly schooled. Maybe you're a transracial adoptive mama, too, and what I've learned the hard way can help you and yours in some small way. Maybe you're just curious because all you have at your house is all PC or all Mac, and to you I say wow. I bet your hair gear is way better organized than mine.

Although every African American individual's hair has its own unique characteristics, texture, and tightness, I'd love to share a bit of what I know so far about my Pearly Pearl's curls.

Ready? Let's talk hair. 

The flip side

Tonight we saw some dear friends ride down the airport escalator with their new son in their arms. Others are headed home soon and very soon with their new little ones.

Since coming home with Pearl about two and a half years ago, we have seen child after child come home with their new mamas and papas. Sassafras and Pearl have been to the airport as much as they have been to hospitals to welcome our friends' new additions, and always help me remember to pack the tiny little American flags to give to our new fellow citizens.  

You'd thinking that surely by now I can keep my silly little self together at these airport homecomings, but I absolutely cannot. Tears, every time. The why-even-bother-with-mascara kind of tears. 

It's knowing these people's life journeys as well as their adoption journeys and just all the victory that is displayed in those tiny little hands clutching their mamas' shirts. 

It's knowing that some of the countries these sweet children arrive from have made worship of Christ illegal...yet seeing them in the redemptive arms of their sweet mamas and faith-filled daddies and realizing that now they'll hear about Him daily. 

It's knowing that for God to have moved these children halfway around the world to be with a family who will adore them, He must have some seriously big plans for them. 

It's knowing that much unlike their experiences as orphans, these kiddos now never have to worry about having disease-free water or a place to sleep or enough food to eat or clothes to wear or someone to love them and say so by standing up for what is right for them.

There's just so much to take in, seeing a former orphan (and breathing in what that really has meant for that child) in the arms of a mama and daddy who will love that sweet kiddo in all the best ways. And so I overflow. 

And then we follow them out the front doors into reality. 

The culmination of the adoption journey might be felt at the airport or standing at the crib seeing a new little inhabitant, but it is at this out-the-door moment when real life begins for an adoptive family. I watched them head on out and began to pray for their first weeks and months together, hoping that they're not but knowing the transition and that they could be headed for hard. 

Now those new families are beginning the back-breaking work of bonding and attaching with their new children. We've walked through some fire in that area, and know that parenting adopted kids is a bit trying in some pretty unique ways.  

Now that we've been on the flip side, we are seeing that supporting adoptive families is hard, too. When all we've wanted is to grab those new kiddos and squeeze the goodness in them or kiss all over their perfect faces, we have to practice self-restraint because we know that  these children need help learning that they aren't in an institution anymore and now need to develop a sense of trust and dependency solely on their parents. 

When after praying for these kids for so long we want to grab their arm and get them to look at us so we can try to see their smile, we have to resist because we know that parent-only attention is what will help knit their families' hearts together.

Taking care not to ignore their siblings is an important way to support newly-adoptive families as well. Some of our closest friends knew this was an issue in our family, and they deliberately made sure to speak to our Sass first when we saw them. It made all the difference in the world for a sensitive little something who was confused about why everyone literally ran to dote on Pearl but most of the time just shoved or elbowed her out of the way. 

Directing these freshly-home little ones back to their mamas and papas is the best way to love these families right now. And wow, it is HARD...because they are CUTE, y'all. 

But if a little hard for us takes away a lot of hard for those families, so be it. 

Way Back Wednesday

*Adoption blog, star date November 2010

**We had been home for about 2 weeks when I wrote this post.
What's Way Back Wednesday?

I once read from an adoptive mom that as hard as the adoption process is, the real work begins after you get home with your new child.

Obviously our process could have been way worse, but it’s true that we had several difficulties along the way. It was a rough process. But even with all of those glitches, some days I have to agree with that mom. Some days are really hard work.

Today was a hard day for Pearl. She has been showing some signs of teething, and seemed to have a bit of trouble with her tummy as well. We are still waiting on results from the International Adoption Clinic, so she could have more going on in that wee widdle body than we realize. The girls and I had spent the morning out running errands, so her nap was pushed back by about an hour. That added to the, um, grumpiness.

She woke up about 45 minutes into her nap crying. I waited a few minutes to see if she would whimper herself back to sleep, but the crying only escalated. Finally I went in to get her, and my sweet baby girl went positively berserk. She wanted me to pick her up, but then she went all noodle-like, as if she wanted me to put her down. I readjusted the way I was holding her several times, and she just cried harder. Her diaper was fine, she’d had lunch plus 8 oz of milk, so hunger shouldn’t have been an issue. I tried again with a bottle, and she took an ounce or 2 but then went nuts again, screaming and thrashing around. I finally sat in the floor with her, which made her madder. I laid her down on the cute little daisy rug in her floor and patted her back. She grabbed my hand and flung it away. She scratched at me. She tried to bite me. All the while, she was getting madder and madder and madder. Eventually she would crawl back over to me and lay against me, but if I tried to put my hand on her she would scratch at me again.

I just kept telling her I was so sorry she was so sad, and that I loved her. I told her I loved her at least a hundred times sitting on the floor with her. I wanted her to know that I am her mommy, and even on the bad days, I’m not going anywhere. Even when she’s ill as a hornet and madder than a wet hen, I’m not going anywhere. Even when she scratches me and tries to bite me and thrashes around on the floor, I am not going anywhere.

 I tried one more time on the bottle, and this time she took it and settled down. She let out a burp just before I gave it to her, so maybe that was her trouble. Maybe it was the teething. Maybe she was overtired. Maybe she just wanted to pitch a good fit and see how I would react. Maybe this is an indication of deeper attachment issues. Maybe it was a combination of some or all of those troubles.

Only time will tell.

 As crazy as the moment was, I was actually quite calm. I remembered that Sassafras had some pretty good fits at this age, and there was always an explanation for it...we just had to figure out what it was. I remembered all the things we learned about in the adoptive parent seminars, and how adopted children experience so much grief during their period of transition to their new home. I remembered that from our perspective, Pearl is in a better place than she was, but that in her perspective, she has lost all that she knew and everyone she loved.

And maybe she holds me responsible for that.

I remembered that Pearl has every right to feel angry and hurt and sad and lost, and that my job is to help her feel through those emotions. Because, of course, I’m not going anywhere.

-Added a few weeks after the event:
Since this day, Pearl has been the sweetest, most pleasant little baby girl in the world. Even though at this moment I was worried that we were headed for more hard days, knowing what I know now, I believe this was a major turning point in how Pearl viewed and related to me as her mother. I honestly believe that in this messy, hard moment, Pearl tried and tested my commitment to her, and found me worthy of her trust. God used these tears to knit our hearts together even more tightly than before. And because of that, we have many, many more GOOD days ahead!