For National Adoption Awareness Month, we asked adoptees and their families to share with us their thoughts, feelings and experiences regarding adoption. This is one courageous mama’s true story of attaching with an older child.
Written by Kate, adoptive mama less than one year home from China
Although I denied it at first, I had conjured up expectations of what “attachment” would look like when we began the adoption process of our then-9-year-old girl.
She had been abandoned at the age of 6, although this was a rough estimate by the police and social services.
She could only state her name.
No connection with a specific town.
No family to speak of.
Just a name.
Who had loved this child before she was found? Who had tucked her in at night, reassured her that she would be taken care of? Met her basic physical needs?
We just didn’t know.
We received her picture from friends who had met her in China. They were finalizing their own adoption of a girl aging out of the program, and they felt drawn to this quiet child from across the room. She was tender and sweet; soft spoken.
It was God who brought that small, intimate encounter across the ocean.
Right to our door step.
We enthusiastically welcomed this deserving China flower into our home knowing we were superseding the birth order we already had in place. Our oldest was 8, the youngest was 6. No one in his or her right mind would bring an older child home to take the position of seniority. It was so illogical.
Oh, but not in God’s sight.
He saw not only this child’s need for a forever family; He saw our need. And it went against everything I had conjured up in my head of what adoption for our family would look like.
Of what felt comfortable.
Connecting to an adopted child, specifically a child from another culture, is complicated at best.
We didn’t form a connection prior to meeting.
The connection did not come upon arrival on Chinese soil.
Nor did it come as we entered life here at home.
It delayed itself.
Although I was eager to feel an attachment to this sweet girl, my heart was unrelenting. Pride, selfishness, mourning for what once was … so many emotions crept in without an invitation, all of them making it difficult to form a deep connection with this beautiful stranger now living in my home.
The first weeks home, I was in despair. Our bio kids were back at school during the day; my husband, back to work. But I was supposed to be prepared for this time — this cocooning time that sheltered and protected, guarded and nurtured.
But I was not connecting with this child I loved but struggled to attach with, and it was a daily struggle to get out of bed.
I was attempting to understand a child who, quite frankly, did not understand herself. She could not express her own needs, from what she wanted on her plate, to when she needed to use the bathroom. Self care was a very delicate subject, one that I navigated blindly, with regretfully impatient tactics at times. I did not want to embarrass her, but at the same time, this mama could only handle so much toilet paper in the trashcan.
I was so grateful for my 8-year-old, who so tenderly approached her new sister with gentle but much needed advice. And she did not take offense when it was not accepted (which happened frequently).
That’s not to say we didn’t struggle with the new birth order.
I got the impression in our first few weeks home that our China flower was assessing the competition and honing her strategies. Jealousy emerged in various forms, from doing everything she could to gain our attention to quietly damaging her siblings’ property.
This was mostly targeted in her sister’s direction, whose position she craved.
I can only imagine the longing her heart held to be accepted and loved into this new family of hers. But, deep down in her own heart, exactly where she fit was in question.
Although the first few months home were hard on so many different levels, I saw God’s hand in the struggles.
He provided everything I needed, even when I didn’t know exactly what that was.
I was becoming dependent on my quiet times for the very first time in my life. Prayer was my weapon against the crafty plans of the enemy as he attempted to fill my head with self-doubt, distrust and fear. I held fast to Isaiah 26:3, which says that “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
And in a way I never had before, I surrendered this new picture of my family and my life to Him … and watched as He somehow equipped me, no matter how ill-equipped I felt myself, for every tiny step.
I am confident that I would still be under my covers if it weren’t for His strength lifting me out from under them. He beckoned me to take the hard steps forward, to walk into the arms of this new child who so willingly held hers open in great anticipation of affirmation and love — a love that went far beyond what she had experienced before.
I was called to meet that need. It was my privilege to meet that need. God trusted me to meet that need. And praise God, the connection between our China flower and me continues to grow, be it ever so slowly.
Although it’s been difficult, although it’s been challenging, although I’ve felt so ill-equipped for this unexpected journey of my heart, I’m embracing this call to adopt with a willing heart, knowing now that in Him, I will always have more than enough.