Friday, August 22, 2008

Love Is...

Imagine you are going about your day as usual; work, school, laying about like a slug, whatever, and an alien from outer space walks into the room. The alien towers over your small frame and has pale, almost translucent skin. It has hair on top of its head, but in colors you have never seen before. It smells strange, not unpleasant, but different from anything you have yet smelled in your life. The alien speaks, but you have no idea what it is saying, it is just gibberish and noise to you. The alien smiles, or rather grimaces as if in pain at you and then, horror of horrors, it reaches for you! It picks you up and holds you to itself. You are stunned and bewildered. What on earth is happening!? Here I was innocently going about my business and suddenly, out of the wild blue yonder comes this space invader…invading MY space and MY person!

For the sake of our story, here is a translation of what the alien is saying: “Greetings little human! I have come to take you back to my home planet. I know that this will come as a shock to you, but I will take very good care of you and you will come to love life with us. It will be difficult at first, but you will come to accept it in time and even learn to love us. We realize that you will feel confused and miss what is familiar to you, but it is for the best. We have been planning to come for you for many light years; we have filled out endless reams of intergalactic forms and gone through universal background checks; we have saved stardust for many moons in order to cover the fees involved with being allowed to travel here and bring to our home you, our little human. So say good-bye to all that you have known to this point in your life, we will be leaving now for the outer reaches of the cosmos.”

But of course, you don’t have that translation, you just hear gabble and even if you did understand their attempted words of consolation, would it make you feel any differently than you do? And how DO you feel human? Excited? Frightened? Confused? Relieved? Perhaps all of these emotions would flit and flutter within you. You might scream in terror and fight to get away, or perhaps just surrender; defeated in your shock and bewilderment.

Now imagine you are a two year old child living in an orphanage or foster home. All you have known is the life that you currently have. It may not be perfect and you may feel a need and wanting that doesn’t get met often, but you know nothing else. Suddenly into the room walks a stranger who looks like no one you have ever seen before, nor even smelled or heard speak before. The stranger reaches for you and holds you close and speaks words that you do not understand. You are completely terrified!

In fairness, the “alien” is also completely terrified. And speaking from the alien’s point of view now, I am beside myself with a peculiar mixture of feelings: excitement, fear, wonder, panic, anticipation, trepidation,,, a kind of excited apprehensive stage-fright. And as the time to meet the new little human that is to come into my life approaches, I tremble (seriously, I’m trembling right now).

My first daughter was adopted when she was 10 months old, a mere babe in arms who had spent her life to that point in an orphanage. She didn’t speak (at least not English anyway), couldn’t crawl and had no way of telling me what she needed or wanted other than opening her little mouth every time my hand came near to her, for she quickly discovered that I was the source from which the food came. She expressed grief at the sudden changes to her life the day after I received her, but it was short lived and lasted only the day. There after, though there have of course been moments of confusion, heartache and questions, she has been a very happy and engaging little person and wholly my daughter, an individual that I truly love beyond measure of time, space or place.

Wee daughter #2 will turn 2 years old on August 24th. She will be older and have more experiences and memories than daughter #1. She lived her first year in an orphanage, but was then moved to a foster home. She will have now been brought back to the orphanage by this time in anticipation of her upcoming adoption; away from the only “family” she has known. She will understandably be distressed and frightened. And as I am bustling around preparing for our trip to China to meet her, she will probably be trying to figure out what has happened to the life that she knew. She will be able to comprehend enough of what is taking place to be terrified, but not enough to know that it will get better and how much she is wanted and loved. And though she might be speaking, it will be of course Chinese, and will not help me to understand her needs and wants. When meeting Lily and I for the first time she could fight back in terror, or try to run. Or, grief spent, surrender to what is to come.

She is also cleft effected, which means that she was born with bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. Her records tell me that both were repaired when she was 11 months old, for which I am grateful, but there will be other needs, some related to her clefts, some not. She will probably need further surgeries at some point, such as a bone graft when her adult teeth start coming in. She may also have attachement issues, or eating issues, speech, hearing, eye sight and development issues.

I have read “Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft” by Mary Hopkins-Best, a book that could scare the bee-gee-bees out of The Super Nanny. But it is an excellent book and has encouraged me to hope for the best but be prepared for the worse.

Regardless of circumstances, parenting is an adventure, no matter how it comes about, a magnificient, terrifying journey into the unknown. To love any person as much as a parent loves a child is to risk one’s very soul. But in the loving comes a richness of spirit that cannot, I believe, be achieved in any other way. And so it goes. I am scared, yes, but over riding any fear is a belief in both me and my children. A belief in our futures and the differences we will make in this world. For whether we set out to make a difference or not, we surely do one way or another, and can but hope and endeavor to make the difference a positive one.

One of my favorite quotes is written by J. K. Rowling, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and spoken by Hagrid: “No good sittin' worryin' abou' it. What's comin' will come, an' we'll meet it when it does.” And to that I would like to add: that we will meet it with all of our courage and humor and love, all three of us, myself and my two amazing daughters.

KKW ©2008


Livin' out loud said...

Not always; but for the most part, all you need is love, love and some more love, children seem to thrive from there!!

Terra said...

We adopted our first at 10 1/2 months, from an orphanage and our second (cleft affected) when he turned 2 (from foster care). The transition was night and day different. After 6 months, our second seems as adjusted and attached as our first did after 1 week. Good luck with your journey.

Debby said...

When people ask what it's like to adopt, I use that (nearly identical) alien story. I wish you luck. My first was also 10 months, my second 18 months old at adoption & much more grief, scared & rejection.

It got better though. Now, nearly 2 yrs later she refuses to believe there was ever a time when she wasn't with us.

mom to Lindsi & Jami

Kara said...

Fantastic quote choice. Don't sit and fret, just take it as it comes. The three of you will tackle it with ease :)

Jill Horton said...

Your alien story really hit me as we prepare to adopt #2, a little brother, from China. Looks like you are just a few weeks ahead of us in the process. I realistically understand that he's probably not going to be standing there, arms out stretched, saying, "Mommy, you're finally here!" But, I do believe love is a choice and an ongoing committment that will slowly change his life. Blessings to you as you begin to travel to bring you little one!

I just started a blog (very new at this)--may I share your alien story (with due credit)? It sums up so well what I, too, am preparing for.

btw, I used to live in your neck of the woods back in the 80's--I taught at Orange County High School and lived in Madison County and I went to UVA!

Jill (