Everyone keeps asking how we're doing and mentioning how excited we must be. Of course we are! We have a baby girl on the way. But the "what if's" and "unknowns" always creep in with that excitement. I want to get excited, but there's a part of me that is very guarded and protected in this process. A small part of me that can't fully release until I have her in my arms, in my home. Then I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
So while we wait, the excitement of getting a little girl's room together is looming. Yes, I may have already purchased bedding and possibly a few of the biggest bows you'll ever see. (Have you met me!? Of course she will have bows! I love accessories!) But in that excitement and joy, I am not naive enough to think once she gets here it will be pure bliss and a fairy tale. There could be some attachment issues, there WILL be a language barrier, and there will be fears from all sides that need to be overcome. Little Rylee has no idea her life with us will be great. She has no idea she is loved by so many already. She has no clue that her big, strong Daddy is already wrapped around her little finger and that her Mama is already planning fun girl trips to get pedicures and milkshakes!
My sweet, beautiful Rylee has never even seen a white person, not to mention hearing the English language spoken. Can you imagine a 3 year old seeing someone totally different and new and not understanding them, and then being taken away from everything they've ever known with those strange people!? How frightening! She will fly on a plane with Jason and me, the "strangers", to another city in China and then fly 24+ hours to America again with these "strangers." She will have no idea that we are her Mom & Dad and we love her so much. She has no idea we are here for her good.
The article below was sent to me this week, written by an adoptive mom. This explains all too well the struggles of adoption and of all the changes that we are about to experience. I don't send this for any other reason than to ask that you guys pray for this transition and understand that once she arrives yes, we will be just over the moon in love, but we will need prayers and patience from family and friends. We will be working on trusting one another during that time. We will be teaching her that we are Mom and Dad and big brother. We will be trying to communicate through any means possible. We will be showing her we are safe. We will be praying. We will be choosing love.
The waiting is over. You are now counting weeks, or maybe even days, instead of months. The moment you have dreamed about, hoped for, prayed for, cried for, begged God for, is about to arrive. You will see your child, face to face, for the first time. You go from pure excitement to immense panic throughout your day. Your to-do list seems to keep growing even though you are in constant motion preparing for travel. You cannot wait to see your child and yet you wonder if you are actually ready and questioning if they are ready to meet you.
Mama, you are about to embark on your own metamorphosis. The road ahead will not be easy. You already know that in your head. But you are about to actually experience the knowing in your heart and soul. Your journey may not play out exactly as mine, but here are a few things from my mama’s heart to yours.
Relationships are built over time and thankfully love is not a feeling it is a choice. Keep choosing love, mama. When you see your child for the first time your heart may leap with joy and immediate attachment. If that doesn’t happen, don’t panic. Relationships are built over time and thankfully love is not a feeling it is a choice. Keep choosing love, mama. Even when your emotions take you the other direction, choose love. Tell that child all day long that she is precious and loved.
Visually you may see a six year old boy, but your heart needs to see a newborn baby. You must go back. There is no other way forward.
If you are still waiting to travel, add a book about how to care for a newborn. Repurpose it to try to recreate as much as possible from that season of life. The brain is an incredible organ and neural pathways can be recreated by constant repetition. Your child needs you to allow them to be a baby again.
He may not want you to touch him at all. Do not give up, keep trying. Connect through food by attempting to feed him. Connect through play, even if that just means parallel play for now. Make a goal all day long to make eye contact. And if he won’t look you in the eyes, try putting some stickers on your face. If he wants to go into a shell and cry, sit beside him.
She may not let you put her down. And I mean ever. The panic goes beyond separation anxiety into an all consuming fear. I promise it will not last forever but it may last for a long season—ours lasted a year. My biggest tip is to get a really great child carrier so you can still be mobile. Let your child choose when they are ready to be out of your arms, out of your sight, out of your presence. Don’t rush it.
Educate your family and friends before you travel about what to expect after you return home. Invite anyone to the airport who would like to see you and your new child. It is so chaotic and you will all be completely exhausted but this allows people to see you so you can then go cocoon. Your new child will likely be scared and completely overwhelmed. In the madness, don’t lose track of where they are. Hold them the entire time or if they are older, hold their hand and don’t let go. Let your loved ones know that this is THE time to see you and you are not sure when the next time will be. You will also want to ask them to not bring any gifts to the airport and to not touch your child without asking you for permission first. It is not perfect but we have found it is the best way to allow everyone to see you. While it can be crazy for your new child, it is definitely a welcome sight for your own heart and can give you the encouragement you need for the next leg of the journey. With our older child adoption, it took a long time before we could have visitors in our home. We started the process slowly by having people over for short periods of time and staying outdoors during their entire visit.
Assemble a tribe while you are waiting. Assemble a tribe while you are waiting. You WILL need people to love you through this next year. Yes, I said “year.” However you communicate with people—text, email, social media—make a group for those whom you can send an SOS to at a moment’s notice. People will want to help so let them. Here are a few ideas:
Realize that you HAVE to take breaks or you will break yourself. Your entire life will change. You will not be able to do the things you used to do. Maybe for a season, maybe for longer, but you still need to find ways to put on your oxygen mask. If you run out of air, you will be totally useless to your child.
You are precious and you are loved, Mama. Be kind to yourself. Some days are going to be horrible. But remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. It is okay to have bad days. It is okay to make mistakes and not get it right every time. It is also okay to ask for help. In fact, it is absolutely necessary. If you are struggling it doesn’t mean that your adoption was a mistake or that you are not the right mother for your child. Connect with mamas who have traveled your road before. Find therapists in your area who are specially trained to help children from trauma…and find one for yourself, too.
You are precious and you are loved, Mama. Be kind to yourself.
All my love,
A mama who has gone before you and is cheering you on
About the Author: Sonya Judkins is an adoptive mother and frequently posts about faith, motherhood and adoption on her blog “Trading Tea for Elephants.” You can view this original post here.