our first week home

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After our first week home, I can say with certainty that this has been far easier than I expected.

Four years ago when we adopted our son Mesfin, we had a tough go of it. His mother had to give him up for adoption because she was HIV positive, and we picked him up and brought him to the United States only 4 months after he left her. He had just turned 6. I think it was more like a kidnapping for him then an adoption. We all struggled for that first year and I know that I was not the greatest of adoptive moms. But by the grace of God, and only God, he is an amazing kid and an extraordinary blessing in our lives.

So we geared up for another rough year. We were prepared. Well read. Classes were taken.

And Iris is about as easy as it can get in the adoption world. I can not even think of a problem. She doesn’t struggle with food issues. She is confident. She thinks our dogs are great! (and even I don’t think our dogs are great) She hugs us a lot and says I love you. And although I know that is not totally authentic yet, she isn’t saying it to any other adults that she meets, so she clearly knows that is saved for family. We did come to find out that she was in foster care from birth until 5, and that clearly makes a difference. Only someone who has known love can understand what it means to accept it from others. She is doing fantastic.

My first 4 children, on the other hand, are sucking the life out of me.

The day after we got home Emily had a friend come pick her up to hang out and everyone is sooooo excited for them to see Iris, but they start overwhelming her (and me) by all talking at once and trying to get Iris to do “tricks.”
“Give her a hug.”
“Now give me one.”
“Say I love you.”
“Sing your song. Remember it? Remember it?” (followed by a freakishly loud rendition of Mary Had a (stinking) Little Lamb)
“What’s my name? Can you say it? Meeesssffffiiinnn. Try it. Try it. Messssffffiiiinnn.”
“Here. Here. Solve the Rubik’s Cube. You can do it. Hurry up now.” (ok, here I’m just bragging. she actually can solve the Rubik’s Cube. Oh yeah, she’s super smart)

Needless to say that was followed by a family meeting entitled She is NOT a Puppy.

It’s become our family catch phrase.

I’m glad they are excited. I am. But they fight all day about who gets to sit by her at church and in the car. Who gets to hold her hand. Why oh why can’t Iris take turns sleeping in all of their beds?!? And when they don’t have something specifically to fight about, they bicker over which one is “hogging” her the most.

I ensure them that they will soon find her as annoying as they do their other siblings, so just give it some time. But no one is listening to me, so it doesn’t matter.

Except Will that is. He’s had the toughest week. He missed us a lot while we were in China. He felt bad we didn’t take him. We moved before we left – just a few miles, but still, away from his neighborhood buddies. I’m sure it’s tough not being the baby all of a sudden. Will’s having a rough summer. So he’s either been angry at me or begging for my attention since we got home. I’ve played 5 games of Life in one week, and may I remind you all that the game of Life can NOT be completed in under 75 minutes. Even when I cheat.

Adoption is a lot like having a baby to the other kids in your family. Except when you give them a baby that’s already 7. Then there’s a lot more to work out. Everybody is trying and they love her a lot. We just need a little more time to settle in.

And a few more games of Life. I find it interesting that when I play it on a board game, I hardly ever end up with little peg kids in my car.

Score!

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Today we fly home and Iris becomes a US citizen the moment we land on US soil!! Yes!

Our guide told her yesterday that we were going to the consulate to get a visa and when Iris asked what a visa was, our guide told her we needed to sign some papers and get a stamp to come to the United States and live with us. Iris replied, “I will sign my whole name on the paper so that I can get my stamp.” She’s ready!

We found out two days ago that Iris went to live with foster parents when she was found at 2 months and stayed with them until she was 5, only then going to the orphanage to attend school and “get ready to be adopted.” It is obvious that they were loving towards her by her readiness to be in a family again.

We feel blessed beyond measure. I can not believe how lucky I am to be the mother to 5 fantastic, outstanding, unique children.

Flying out of China tonight to be reunited and become the new family God has created!

A difficult decision….

The decision was made.  The family is dissolving the adoption. 

In China the adoption is final in the province and then you fly to Guangzhou for your child’s US visa.

So tomorrow they board a plane back to Shanghai with Alex and return him to the orphanage.  Back to the civil affairs office to repeat paperwork, but this time to not be parents.

Our guide in Beijing told us that the orphanages in Beijing and Shanghai are fantastic.  And the Chinese government always takes care of their orphans and finds them all jobs when they turn 18.  I guess if you drink enough of the propaganda kool-aid around here, you believe that. 

I can not imagine this boy’s future.

There were other counselors that agreed Alex may not be ready for adoption.  But it’s the opposite.  When he was ready, no one came.  So now he is lost on what it means to love and be part of a family. 

But I hold on to the fact that in the next 48 hours, 5 families from my agency alone take home children that are orphans no longer. 

One less orphan…     Fin

One less orphan….    Lucy

One less orphan….    Issac

One less orphan….     Ade

One less orphan…    Iris

 

 

 

Not my favorite story..

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last 24 hours if I’m going to blog about what is on my heart right now. But if I don’t, then it doesn’t seem like I am being complete in truth when it comes to adoption.

I hesitate because I love adoption stories. They are beautiful. I have been a mother by giving birth, and it is amazing to see what the mix of two humans’ DNA can bring about. But adoption is as beautiful, with an added mix of mystery that makes it breathtaking. On August 4th in 2006, a woman, unknown to me, endured each labor pain to bring forth a life into this world, a child that would one day be my daughter. Where was I that day, at that moment Iris came into the world? Simply doing the dishes? Putting Will down for a nap? Losing my patience? Talking on the phone? One single moment, lost to me at the time, that will forever change my world, and the world of Iris’ birthmother. Amazing.

But that is not my story today. I’m just getting wrapped up in the beauty of it all one more time. I need you to know how much I truly believe in adoption before you read the rest of this blog.

We are in Guangzhou with 5 other families and one of them is struggling. Really struggling.

Their adopted son is 10 (I will call him Alex) and he is not what they expected.

Before I continue, I want you to know that although these parents do not have any children, they have fostered a number of kids, two with severe anger issues. So they are not new to parenting a hurt child.

But this boy is violent. Alex is angry. He says he does not want to come to America. He breaks things. Throws chairs. Is trying to hurt the parents. Has physically threatened another kid in our group.

And these parents don’t know what to do. They have been skyping with counselors from the states every day for over a week and they are considering dissolving the adoption and not bringing him home.

I refuse to have an opinion on this situation, because I am not in their shoes. I have not walked a day with them. All I know is it breaks my heart all the way around. Do these people never get to be parents? Can they live with this guilt? And this boy? Does he really want to stay? Or will he be broken from this? Is this trauma or serious mental issues? Could he come to the states and be medicated and all this would change?

There are no answers to these questions, which is really the dilemma for the parents. They seem so broken after only a week with this boy. My heart hurts for them.

This I do know. An orphanage is NO PLACE for a child to grow up. That is the biggest issue here.

Alex has a story. He lived with his parents for 16 months until they found out he had kidney cancer. They left a painful note of love attached to his shirt the day they left him in the hospital because they couldn’t afford his medical treatment. They hoped for him to get care and pleaded for someone to help him.

He was sent to an orphanage and they took care of his medical needs. Alex spent years in and out of hospitals in Shanghai – and I will tell you these places are not St. Jude’s. The hospitals are frightening. They are filthy. They are not filled with compassion. One woman with us now needed to go for her adopted son last week, and her biological son that came along threw up after he left it was so traumatizing. Only people with great wealth can go to the private hospital in China, the rest go in mass to a huge and filthy place. Especially orphans.

No one stayed the night with Alex in the hospital. No one brought him stuffed animals. No one told him it would be ok. No one held his little hand while he fell asleep at night. No one sang songs to calm his nerves. He. Was. Alone.

I do not know if Alex understands what it means to attach to another human. To bond. To trust. To love.

So Alex may be left behind. Once again. On his own. With no one.

Again, I don’t blame the parents. I am not experiencing what they are. I can only see and feel from the outside. And if it hurts so badly from out here, I can only imagine what it must feel like on the inside.

Adoption is more than beautiful. It is necessary. Every child needs a hand to hold. Before it is too late.

I have so much trouble seeing God in these situations. His mystery is lost on me. But then if my capacity for love came from the One that actually IS LOVE, then how much more sorrow does His heart feel?

Prayers for 3 needed in Guangzhou…..

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For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Another day….

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Yesterday we flew to Guangzhou where the US consulate is. Our appointment isn’t until Thursday, so we have some waiting to do. About 5 other families from our agency flew here as well from other provinces, and it’s actually nice to meet up with other families. And of course there are other families here from other agencies.

Today we went to the International Medical Center. All people applying for a US visa need to have a medical check up and get a TB test. So there were many families there from all agencies with adoptive children. It was beautiful. I just kept thinking “There’s one less orphan. Oh wait, and there’s another. And another. And another.” It was fantastic. But there are still more, so feel free to come and get one!

Iris is fantastic. A few minutes ago she wrote down August 4th on paper and said, “mama, happy birthday to me.” I told her tomorrow and she gave me a huge smile. I asked her if she wanted cake….big yes. Using google translate I asked if she ever had cake before for her birthday and she said No. 😦 I then said “You will stay with us forever.” and I got a big smile and a kiss! How wonderful is that? In the morning we plan on facetiming the kids at home to sing Happy Birthday with us. Which, ironically, Iris already knows.

So tomorrow I have a 7 year old! I can not wait to celebrate the first birthday of many!