Day 3 (and 4) – Introducing Olivia Jade!

After a good night’s sleep in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province where Olivia was born, we went to the civil affairs office. Trish and I waited with butterflies in our stomachs for Olivia’s arrival. An eternity later, she walked thru the doorway in the arms of the orphanage nanny, and burst into tears. But, Tricia has the best smile on her face holding our sweet little Olivia for the first time.

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We banished the nanny that brought Olivia to us from the room as quickly as possible (with the help of our wonderful guide Ting Ting). Without that distraction, she settled down a little with the devoted but somewhat smothering attention of Julia and Rion.

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Once we left the commotion of the civil affairs office, Olivia calmed down quite a bit. She lay contented in the arms of her new mother, who looked great for just “birthing” a new child.

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She giggled for the first time at lunch when she poked at Rion’s eye with her chopsticks. (As I’m writing here Tuesday late afternoon, the three kids are running around our hotel room shrieking and laughing.) We can already tell Olivia won’t have any problem holding her own against Rion and Julia.

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Finally, after one of the most traumatic mornings of her young life, Olivia fell fast asleep at nap time.

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After dinner at Pizza Hut, Tricia gave the girls a bath together. Julia loved brushing Olivia’s beautiful long hair afterwards. Olivia played with mom’s sunglasses, and she looked too cool for school already.

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For the most part, Olivia’s been scared of me because she just hasn’t had many men in her life yet. At first, when I tried to approach her, she started crying and shied away. But, she didn’t seem to mind if I gently touched her arm or her back while Tricia held her. She’s very observant though, and she’s watched me interact with Julia and Rion. This morning, at the civil affairs office again to finalize paperwork, Rion fell and bonked himself hard. Tricia set Olivia down to comfort Rion, I held out my arms a few feet away, and without much hesitation she walked over and climbed up on my lap. This afternoon, we finally had some hands free to snap a picture.

 

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Overall, we’re so pleased with how quickly Olivia has adjusted. In many ways, she’s adjusting faster than Julia did four years ago. She loves Tricia’s doting, and the comfort of either of our arms. She loves playing with Julia and Rion, and she has a great little chortling laugh. We’re just so incredibly happy that we get the privilege of being this darling little girls’s parents forever.

Prayer time for Olivia and our family

We just got notice that Olivia has left her foster home “The House of Love” to go back to her orphanage in Fuyang.  Her transition to her forever family has begun.  She is leaving the only home and family that she knows, being taken by a stranger on a train to an orphanage she doesn’t remember, and left there on her own with more people she doesn’t know.  In about 10 days, some other person she doesn’t know is going to take her on a train or in a car to the city of Hefei.  Then she’ll be handed to her new family.  But as a two-year old who has never had a mom or dad, can she even understand what that means?  We pray that she’ll remember what her caretakers at The House of Love told her when they showed her our pictures.  We pray that Jesus will fill her heart with peace and let her know she’s in a safe place and that she is loved.

We ask for your prayers for the transition that will come once she is with us.  We hear on occasion that we’ve got it easy since we’ve already made it past the newborn stage.  But adoption is not a painless process.  Some children transition extremely well, like Julia did.  Others deal with a great amount of grief and confusion, like Rion did.  Still others are very traumatized by the losses they’ve experienced and by the neglect and maybe abuse they’ve suffered.  They are never able to attach and bond with their families without years of therapy. Even then, they may not ever relate the way most people do.

We have every reason to believe that Olivia has been cared for so that she will attach to us well and that she will accept love from her family and give it in return.  At The House of Love they not only take care of the children’s physical needs, but also provide as much of a family environment as they can. Still it can be a hard road.  We pray for a smooth transition, but know that it may not be easy.  Yes, Olivia’s two and might sleep through the night, or she might cry out in fear and sadness and suffer from night terrors.  I read a post the other day from a family who adopted one of Olivia’s little friends a few weeks ago.  She seems to be doing well, but spent at least one of her nights in China sleeping on the floor right next to the hotel room door, trying to get as far away from her new parents as she could.

We have to ensure Olivia feels secure and loved.  At the same time, we have to provide structure and discipline appropriate for a 2-year-old.  With Rion that was often a tough balance to strike.  Especially as a rambunctious 3-year-old, we had to respond to some of his inappropriate behaviors, but that didn’t always seem to create an environment that helped his attachment.  In an established family, the structure is part of the loving environment, but in the case of a child that has been raised by different people, in a different culture, and is perhaps acting out due to grief and sadness as opposed to general “terrible twos or threes” behavior, it’s not always easy for parents to know how to respond.

Newborns come with a natural inability to move about (and they sleep quite a bit), whereas toddlers may spend the majority of their days in full destruction mode.  Newborns might occasionally seem “boring” to their siblings, but toddlers come ready to fight for their toys (yelling in Chinese by the way).  We’ll need (and want) to spend a lot of time holding Olivia, who is weighing in at impressive 28 lbs, so our back muscles will be challenged.

The blessings of adopting a toddler are numerous though!  We get to go through about a thousand “firsts” in just the first few days, weeks and months.  First smiles, first giggles, first hugs, first kisses, first games with her siblings, first English words, first “I love you”, and so many more.  It’s like a fire hose sometimes, but then it’s also the most amazing, rewarding experience you can possibly imagine!

The Hardest Decision

JuliaJulia asked me to read her a story Saturday afternoon.  She picked The Prince of Egypt, which is based on the Disney movie about the life of Moses.  We sat down on the couch and started to read.  I got to the beginning of the second page, “Yocheved (Moses’ mother) made the hardest decision of all:  to save her child, she must send him away.”  BAM, just like that the truth of it hit me HARD.  I fought back the tears that were welling in my eyes, and it was several minutes before I could go on.

One consequence of adopting from China is that you usually don’t get any information about your child except where someone found them—police station, hospital, community park, or other public visible place.  Sometimes there’s a note with the exact birth date, but often Chinese officials just guess and assign a date.  With Julia, however, we know a little more.  Her mother gave birth to her in this subway station in Guangzhou, China.  DSC_0481She was taken to a nearby hospital so they could cut the umbilical cord.  When doctors cut the cord, she ran.

Our guide on Julia’s adoption trip speculated that Julia’s birth mother was probably a young single woman.  Under Chinese population control laws, she was not permitted to have a child.  If she did, the child wouldn’t have access to the government health care or public schooling.  Simon, our guide, also speculated that Julia’s birth mother gave birth in a public place just so that Julia would be found.

Yocheved, Moses’ mother, knew that the Egyptians would kill Moses if they discovered him.  Pharoah had decreed that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed because he feared an uprising from their growing numbers.  So, she set him adrift on the Nile River where he was adopted into Pharoah’s household.

From our perspective, it’s hard to accept a mother’s abandonment of her child.  But, Chinese society is far different.  So, as Julia grows up and wrestles with her abandonment by her birth mother, we’ll try to help her understand.  Her birth mother probably made this most difficult choice:  to save her child, she ran away.  Julia will probably wrestle with this a lot as she grows up, and she’ll feel the loss deeply.  But, I know we’ll be there to listen and seek to understand what she feels.

Xinran’s book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother:  Stories of Loss and Love describes the difficult choices made by many mothers.  Xinran, a former radio personality in Nanjing, China, interviewed midwives, students, businesswomen, peasants and adoption workers about relinquishing their daughters.  They talk about the combination of feudal traditions, government policy and abject poverty that causes women to relinquish their daughters.  It’s a heartbreaking read, but if you want to learn the real circumstances behind the stories of these mothers, I highly recommend it.  Written to the “lost daughters,” Xinran tells the story of how much their mothers loved them and how, as one put it, “they paid for that love with an endless stream of bitter tears.”  Ultimately, we hope Julia realizes how much her mother must have loved her, and how much she cared.

Something Beautiful from Loss

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I was putting Julia, our oldest adopted, to bed the other night when she asked me, “Baba, when did you come to live with your family.”  My heart hurt a little as I tried to explain that I had always lived with my family from the day of my birth, because I wasn’t adopted.

We’ve been very open with Julia about her adoption, and we work very hard to put a positive light on it.  Plus, she observed the entire process when we adopted Rion.  But, no matter what I do, Julia’s adoption carries with it the loss and hurt of abandonment and rejection by those who should have cared for her.  In China, it very well may be a societal rejection as well.

I think this post from Michael Monroe offers some beautiful but heartwrenching thoughts about adoption.  He quotes an adult adoptee who reminds us adoptive parents that, “There is no adoption without loss . . . but sometimes adoptive parents tend to forget that.”  Monroe continues to say, “God is not writing a fairy tale with our lives, no matter how much I wish it so.  Instead, He’s writing a real life story that involves real people living in a broken world.  But it is also a story of hope.”