On the day you were born

To my first baby,

I watched a movie last night that moved me to tears at the thought of you. There was a scene in which a little girl was devastated at the thought that her biological father had no desire to know her or visit her. This girl’s uncle, who was her guardian, took her to a hospital where they sat for hours. And hours. After waiting for a long time, the uncle nudged his little girl to look at the man dressed in hospital garb, who was walking into the waiting room with a huge smile plastered on his face. “It’s a boy!” he beamed to the small crowd gathered around him.

The little girl watched, mesmerized by this scene. And her uncle said, “That’s how it was for you, on the day you were born.”

That’s when I cried for you, my darling.

I don’t know what your beginning was like, but I can tell you what it should have been like.

I don’t know if anyone rejoiced over you, waiting hours to see your sweet little face, but I can tell you what I would have done if I had been there.

How I wish so very much I had been there to welcome you into this world and into my arms, my little love.

These days are beautiful but hard, are they not?

You are HOME. You have FAMILY.

But we are not the family you have known for the first six years of your life, and this is not the home you have been accustomed to. And that’s really, really difficult for you. And for us.

You and I, we do not have the history of attachment that other families are fortunate to know. The attachment that I’m sure you witness between your brother and me daily. I can’t imagine what joy that must bring you, but also what great pain. I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten your beginning and all that you’ve missed with us. I feel the pain, too. I wish it had been different as well.

Journey of Faith blog | on the day you were born

But I also want to say…

I’m so glad you’re mine, little girl. 

You bring so much joy and laughter to your dad and me.

Your story is beautiful, and it proclaims an amazing message to the world.

You are wanted. You are loved. You are of great value. YOU, my darling.

I do not have the memories of your beginning years, but I have this moment with you. And all the hope of the future with you.

Someday, I may just hold one of your little babies in my arms. And then you will see exactly how I would have welcomed you into my family, on the day you were born.

Brokenness and the God who cares

When I became momma to my little girl from India, I walked through a prolonged period in which I felt great anger and sadness over all that she and I had lost in the beginning years of her life. Much of what I grieved over had nothing to do with my daughter or her behavior and everything to do with the broken past that she came from.  This sweet, little girl; whose personality and life choices now are hugely affected by what she missed out on as a young one without parents to love and care for her.

Journey of Faith blog | Brokenness and the God who cares

As her mother, it is angering.  She should’ve had her momma there when she was a baby to hold her in her arms, to cuddle and kiss her; to tell her how greatly loved she is. To swoon over her cute features; her big, round eyes and smooth, dark chocolate skin. Her smile. But her momma was not there, and my almost 8 year old daughter has had to deal with the brokenness of that situation. And so have I. It makes me so angry.

In April, I brought home my son from the hospital. Carried him in my womb for 9 months. I felt like I knew him the second I laid eyes on him. I brought him home and felt a depth of joy I did not know was possible.  God has given me a beautiful family – a husband, a daughter and, now, a son.  What gifts!

Journey of Faith blog | Brokenness and the God who cares

Journey of Faith blog | Brokenness and the God who cares

Since then, however, the joy has become intermingled with these unpleasant emotions that have once again surfaced.  Why must we all be so deeply affected by the back story of our little girl, a story which she did not choose for herself and had literally no control over??? Sometimes I wonder if God even cares that we suffer and hurt.  Does He know what we’re going through? Is He aware of what I struggle with on a daily basis as I love my children in vastly different ways because of their needs and because of how unique their stories are? Does He care that I feel so guilty, when I feel like I’m constantly needing to train my daughter while cooing over the seeming innocence of my baby boy?  …Is He here with us?

I have begun to be very honest with the Lord in how I feel. He knows anyway, so why try to hide?

It’s been relieving. I have been met with His grace time and again as I pour out my heart to Him, and He has buoyed me up with the Truth of His Word. Yesterday, I was reminded of excerpts from Psalm 18 as I dealt with some difficult situations between my girl and me, the questions above echoing in my mind:

“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

I know He hears my cries and my pleas for help, both for me and my family.

“Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry…”

He cares. My God cares about the plight of my daughter. He cares that we hurt.

“He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.  He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds…And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.”

He cares so much that He comes to my aid in the form of a mighty thunderstorm. He cares and He is here with me.

“He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me…He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”

God loves His children, and He is powerful to save. Only He can heal the pain and damage that has been done regarding my daughter’s past.

“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation–“

Some day, He will make all things right again. In the meantime, awaiting this future, I can sing with joy to my God. He is the God who cares.

Journey of Faith blog | Brokenness and the God who cares

 

I will never understand the pain and suffering of what I see around me; when I look into my daughter’s eyes and know that she hurts. But I DO know who can save her. I know who cares and who is mighty to save. I know that one day, I will stand in his presence and sing his praises for all my days. I want to live in the hope that my children will  do the same.

So help me to love my people well, Lord. I know You are here and that You care for me.

Attachment in Adoptive Families

Shortly after bringing home our 6 1/2 year old daughter from India, my husband and I began deliberating on when to try for a baby via pregnancy.  Considering the background of our girl’s life, she was adjusting amazingly well (I would go so far as to say miraculously!); and because she was about to turn seven, we didn’t want to hold off too long before having a second kiddo.  Well, suffice it to say, we were overjoyed to learn that we conceived on our of our first attempts; and since becoming pregnant, I have learned about mommyhood in new ways.

Attachment in Adoptive Families | Journey of Faith blog

It still amazes me that as we celebrate holidays and go about our day-to-day business, my baby is always with me. I love this. With Sujata, I felt the distance between us keenly as we waited to bring her home. Many days were painfully agonizing for me as I wondered who was taking care of her and how she was faring. With this second baby, I have him with me all the time.  I get to be the one nurturing his very first moments, nourishing his body, and acquainting him with my voice.

And acquaint him I do, because I talk to baby boy all.the.time. All the time.  My family and I sing songs to him, tell him silly jokes, and our pets even spend some time resting on him as they snuggle up to me.

And my favorite thing about pregnancy so far? Feeling Baby move inside of me.  Sensing the movement of an arm or leg or feeling him stretch and squirm is an odd phenonemon; it is also a beautiful gift.  I stare at my belly frequently to see him poking around, and I’ve even noticed that I unintentionally rub my belly wherever I go.

As a first-time pregnant lady, I have also had my share of scared moments in which I fear for the safety of my baby. Shortly after I began to feel him move, there was a day when I couldn’t remember if he had been kicking. I walked straight into my husband’s arms and cried big, fearful tears over even the slightest possibility that something might be amiss with my baby.  (Thankfully, a cup of apple juice woke him up and calmed this scared momma!)

As I have experienced all these beautiful moments with my boy, I have learned on a whole new level what both my daughter and I have missed out on. We have missed out on attachment the easy way.

Attachment.

Deborah Grey, a clinical social worker with experience in attachment, grief and trauma, discusses attachment in her book Attachment in Adoption, as “enduring relationships that are formed over time and experience, almost always by members of a family.”  She goes on to discuss many of the positive outcomes that flow from secure attachment between parents and children, some of which are helping “children learn to believe that they are lovable, that trust in parents is wise, and that others will help them when they have needs.  Children learn that parents can help them to get snuggles, explore the world, calm down, solve problems and reduce pain.” (p.17)

Attachment is something that I never knew could be so difficult.  It is what I wish I had known more about before bringing home an older-aged child.  It is what I wish other people knew more about as they seek to have a relationship with my little girl, who I am still learning to adjust to, and who is still learning to attach to me.

One of the most challenging aspects for me regarding attachment is feeling forced to share Sujata with people in a way that I might not be expected to, had she been a baby or toddler when we’d brought her home. I struggle with this.

1st-grade

I struggle, because my first job as Sujata’s mom is to work on developing trust between us and this secure attachment that is so vitally important for the continued growth and maturation of my little girl, as well as for me as her mom.  How do you do that work for a little one who has missed out on having parents for the first 6 years of her life?  How do you show your little girl that you can be the one she most trusts to take care of her, protect her, and show her the right way to go in life; when the majority of what she has ever been exposed to is the idealogy that adults cannot be trusted and one must fend for herself in order to survive?

Oh, it is possible. But it takes time. So.much.time. And a lot of hard work. And boundaries that probably cause some people to scratch their heads in wonder over why my husband and I would have such strict “rules” for our daughter.

For instance, I’ve found that one of the greatest opportunities for forming a close relationship between my daughter and I is when I do her hair. I get out my hair dryer, smoothing cream, and hair straightener; and get to work.  Our best conversations together have been in the bathroom as I’ve stood over her, her tiny arms wrapped around me as she shares her deepest thoughts with me. Sometimes I plan a bath into her schedule, just so we can have these kinds of moments afterward.  And because this is such a special time for my little girl and me, no one else is allowed to do her hair right now.

hair

Because I didn’t get to form an attachment to her as I fed, held, rocked, and sang to her when she was a baby; I’m now finding other ways to re-create those opportunities.  Which means boundaries.

Another boundary: we’ve begun to not allow others to pick up our daughter, except for us and her grandparents.  The event that preceded this new “rule” was a night when Sujata was in our company, as well as with a few other relatives and friends.  She had never met this group of people before, and as soon as she had everyone’s attention (which did not take long, so cute and charming is my daughter), we were invisible to her. She did not approach us or give us the light of day for the remainder of that evening. To top it off, she was so desperate for attention from anyone that she crawled her way through a gathering of strangers to get to the arms of someone who would hold her. I was mere feet away from my daughter, yet it hadn’t occurred to her that I would be a good (even the best, maybe) candidate for holding and cuddles.  As a new mom still in the process of attaching to my girl, I was devastated.

This wasn’t the first instance of witnessing behavior like that in our girl; and it was then that my husband and I realized she had not attached to us as swiftly as we had originally thought. (And, as in so many other situations, we wondered why we had expected her to, given her background.)  She had no idea what it meant that we are her parents, and she our family. That night showed us how much work, and time, still lay ahead of us in order to help our daughter understand what it means that she now has parents she can trust and rely upon.

The hard work is certainly paying off.  The boundaries we have set in place have been helpful and instructive in teaching Sujata what family means – specifically, what it means that she is a daughter and we, her parents.

And there is still a long way to go in this process of attachment, both for her and for me. But a beautiful foundation is being laid for us as we learn about each other and grow in our relationship.

momma-love

As this second baby of ours grows inside of me, I often find myself wondering what my daughter will think as she sees me taking care of her baby brother.  Because of the different ways – and ages – at which each of them have entered our family, I know that I will relate to them in different ways (isn’t this somewhat true of any parent with multiple children, who are unique individuals with unique sets of needs for love and parental guidance?). But if there is one thing that I’ve learned on this journey of attachment to my daughter, it is this:

While the acts of love for each of my children will certainly look different, my love for them is the same.

I will carry my baby boy around all day, feed him at my breast, bathe him, rock him to sleep in my arms, and talk to him in “baby speak” until this is no longer acceptable.  These are all acts of love that I will carry out for him.

Loving my seven year old girl, who came to me at age 6 1/2 from a group home in a faraway country, has and will continue to look different than that in most ways.  My love for her looks like setting boundaries that protect the process of attachment we are forming to one another.  My love for her looks like teaching her to speak proper English so we can all effectively communicate with one another.  It looks like teaching her about the healthy foods I try to feed her so that she will acquire the nutrients she needs for proper growth, off-setting the years of malnutrition she’s experienced.

But my love for both of my children is the same.

That fierce, protective love that gives me awareness of my baby’s movement inside of me and causes concern on days when I don’t notice it as much is the same love that motivated me to fill out oodles of paperwork and wait all those long days, wondering how my daughter was doing in my absence.

The nurturing, comforting love that makes me want to talk and sing to my boy, and stare at my belly for prolonged periods just to see him move; is the same love that lulls my daughter to sleep at night with the song I learned to sing just for her, topping it off with goodnight hugs and kisses.

The mushy, momma love that gives me tears in my eyes over seeing my second baby on an ultrasound is the same love that softens at the sound of my first baby’s playful singing in the bathtub.

And all of these ways that I love my children, and the affection I have for them, is producing something so beautiful and glorious for them and for me, their momma.

It’s producing attachment, and the understanding for both of my babies that they are deeply loved and valued by their parents.  I cannot think of much else that is more important for moms and dads to work hard at for their children.  Attachment is, indeed, a beautiful thing.

attachment

If there’s a cause worth fighting for, it’s this: children belong in families. -Nicole Skellenger

 

Loss of Culture in Adoption and What My Daughter Needs Most

Loss of Culture in Adoption | Journey of Faith blogMy husband and I were able to take our daughter to a Diwali celebration this past weekend.  As we have a different faith from what is celebrated during this holiday, we skipped out on the rituals and prayer portion; but we were excited to see a crowd of people from India flooding the hallways of one of our college campus’s buildings. Women wearing saris and kurtas, men dressed in their finest as well, had me gawking over the beautiful fabrics and designs we saw. My daughter, Sujata, and I pointed out our favorite saris to each other and giggled together as she explained to me that she had worn a dress like that once. She hadn’t known how to put it on, so she said she just draped it over her shoulder.

I hate to sound so depressing, but while it was a beautiful and needed night for our family, it left me with an ache in my heart for one of the huge aspects that Sujata has lost and will miss out on in so many ways over the years. Because she was internationally adopted. By me.

momma-suji-turkey-run

Mommy guilt is real, I now understand, and part of how I have experienced it in the last 8 months is in the knowledge that I ripped her out of a people and culture she dearly loved.  Out of a culture that we, too, have grown to appreciate deeply.

Supplanting her smack dab in the Midwest of the United States, she is now immersed in all things “America”. She knows what our national flag is, and she is learning to love the food we eat. She dresses like us, and being the little imitator that she is, will probably grow up to wear make-up and clothes just like her Mommy. “Can I watch you put on make-up? So I can know how to put on when I grow?” she asked me the other day. I didn’t refuse her request, and wished a little bit that I were Indian for a minute so I would know exactly what type of make-up would be best for her skin type.

suji-halloween

We don’t dance too often together, and I couldn’t even begin to sing the lyrics to an Indian song. Both of these things were a regular part of Sujata’s life in India, and now they are but distant memories.

I won’t even go into the language aspect, except to say it has been one of the most frustrating aspect of our lives post-adoption. How hard it is to see your child suffer in various ways because of what she does not know how to say. Because she was internationally adopted. By me.

(Last night, I told her she could be friendly by asking her classmates what they dressed up as for Halloween. “Mommy, can you write that down in my notebook so I remember what to say?” she asked. Ugh. It’s part of the reason she struggles with making friends.)

Loss of Culture in Adoption | Journey of Faith blog

And I’m sorry, but to say that she can just pick up pieces of her first culture through Google or learn from other Indian friends is to misunderstand how greatly humans are shaped by their surrounding culture and to reduce what she has lost which, for her at some point, the understanding of that loss will bring with it an overwhelming sense of grief and pain. That’s not definite, but it’s probable.

I know only part of that grief, because in some of my low moments in this parenthood journey, I have lamented the fact that we chose to adopt internationally. I have asked myself the hard questions of “Why did I think it would be better for her to have us instead of a different family who lived in India?” She may have been adopted by a couple from her home culture. “Did I misunderstand how much she would lose in being transplanted from India to the United States? Is it really better for her now?”

There are two reasons why I can hold my head high and say definitively that, yes, it is better for my daughter to be in her present situation. Even with all the struggles, and the losses, and the missing out on so much of what we find beautiful about India.

First, I know deep down to the bottom of my heart that while I filled out paperwork and signed checks and flew on that plane to get to India and back again with my girl, this all has been the doing of a God who is not powerless OR unaware. He did it. He brought her to us. He chose her for our family. Our Midwestern, Jesus-believing, goofy and totally American family. It did not escape His attention that we are not Indian, nor living in India. He knew what Sujata would lose in being adopted by us. And yet He accomplished this work, for which we gladly rejoice because she is our daughter. Somehow, she was always meant to be our daughter.

(I also don’t believe it pleased Him for her to lose the people who “should” be her parents, but yet, I do believe it was His will to bring her into our family. This belongs to another post, which I may never write, because I don’t fully know/understand it. I’ll just leave you to your own thoughts on that…)

And while I can’t explain that – I don’t fully know why God chose to do it like that (He doesn’t usually tell me why He does things the way He does, go figure) – I do know this: what my daughter needed more than immersion in her culture was a family.

Loss of Culture in Adoption | Journey of Faith blog

photo credit: Nitish Durbha

She needed her own Mom and Dad (Papa) to love, protect, provide, set boundaries for, train, enjoy relationship with, and so much more that parents are for their children.

As Christians, we believe the roles in parenthood go even further.  Our greatest aim is to put on display the radical grace and beauty of Jesus Christ, that she may see Him as supremely glorious for herself.

(The other day, she explained to me that she had gone into the school room to pray. “Just like Papa pray-ers, Mama! I prayer-ed, too. I prayer-ed for baby in your belly,” she said in her broken English. And this faith in Christ, it’s certainly not her own; but I see the pursuit of God for her soul in the way my husband lives out the gospel daily. I see moments like this, where I know she’s at least taking note of it. God, help me to be more and more this type of person for my daughter!)

And all of this – the love and care, the witness of the gospel – this is what she needs more than her culture.

So. We will Google what types of make-up are best for women from India,  and how to wrap a sari, and how to make paratha.  And it won’t be the same as learning from one’s mother. There will be continued loss and, as a result, great pain and moments of doubt.

But I will not be consumed by guilt, or doubt, or even (hopefully) by the struggles resulting from all this loss for her. Because this has all been the work of the LORD. And my daughter has always needed a family more than she needs to remain in her culture.

Thank You, God, for international adoption. Thank You for my daughter.

Loss of Culture in Adoption | Journey of Faith blog

first pic of Sujata with her little sibling! 😉

 

What I Learned From Chip & Joanna Gaines

I, unlike most of America, have never watched Fixer Upper. My husband and I are one of those weird couples who do not have cable tv (we mostly love this), so I’ve missed out on all things ‘Magnolia’.

But that did not stop me from watching Chip and Joanna Gaines on their I Am Second video. After which, I stalked them on Youtube and listened to about five of their recent interviews.

I greatly admire what they’ve done in their business ventures and family life. And upon learning about such a couple, I would typically try to conjure up a way that I could somehow achieve what they have done.

I was tempted to do this after hearing Joanna talk about how well she and her husband work together. It’s exactly the way I feel about my husband, Tim; and boy, would I love to run a family business with him.

In one of her video testimonies, Joanna talks about how God led her down this road of opening up her Magnolia store, closing it for a time, and then reopening again in faith that He was up to something much bigger than she could imagine.

“How cool would that be?!” I thought as I pondered her story and attempted to see how it could be mine as well. “To work with my husband every day, influence my community for good purposes, and do what I love?”

It was then that I remembered. God has spoken to me before as well, only in a different way.

He did not lead me to partner with my spouse in a business deal (which I will probably always dream about doing, because working with Tim all day = FUN).

The circumstances of my life certainly did not prepare me for such a proposition as buying and flipping houses, and then hosting a reality tv show to talk about it.

No, God asked something else of Tim and me, which required the same kind of faith that Joanna mentioned.

He led us to India. To a 6 year old.

to-india

In my wildest dreams, I would not have imagined being the mother of a person from India. I wouldn’t have deemed it possible that together, my husband and I would be able to accomplish the lengthy, expensive and exhausting process of adoption.

And now in the thick of parenting, where my days are filled with food struggles, language learning, and a relentless little shadow who gives voice to every thought in her head; I easily lose sight of the magnitude of what God has done through us and for us.

I look at others’ stories and often think, “Neat-o! Wish I had your life, lady!”; all the while failing to consider how God has used the circumstances of my own life to lead me exactly right here.

To a husband who loves Jesus so much, that being loved by him is a lot like being loved by HIM.

What I Learned From Chip and Joanna Gaines | Journey of Faith blog | contentment and dreaming big

To a daughter from India, whom God used to make me a momma for the first time. From her, I am learning how to be a mom. A GOOD one, hopefully (help me, Lord).

What I Learned From Chip and Joanna Gaines | Journey of Faith blog | contentment and dreaming big

I don’t know that Tim and I will ever start a business. I certainly respect those who do.

I don’t know that I will ever be recognized by a large audience. I really admire people like the Gaines’ who can do what they do without losing sight of who THEY are and where they come from.

And I don’t know how wide of an impact I am going to have on my community beyond the four walls of my home (and hopefully the spaces our family frequents, like our church and school).

But God has led me to exactly where I should be. I know this. And to lose sight of what my role is in THIS season simply because I’m envying the different thing He’s doing in someone else’s life – well, that’s just plain silliness.

So, although I have not seen their show, I am thankful for Chip and Joanna. For the Magnolia story. It’s reminded me to dream big within the realm of who God has made me to be, where He has placed me, and what He has allowed me to experience. And certainly, it’s given me a greater appreciation for where I am RIGHT NOW – home. With my family.

What I Learned From Chip and Joanna Gaines | Journey of Faith blog | contentment and dreaming big

photo credit: Nitish Durbha

Passport for Baby S

I told my friend this morning that I felt like we would meet our daughter soon.

“I don’t know if it’s that mommy intuition or simply wishful thinking, but I think we could be traveling soon,” I confided to her.

Our coordinator called within the hour to tell us that our daughter’s passport is ready.

I’m still in shock.

Passport for Baby S | Journey of Faith blog

Situation: Baby S’s passport is ready, so we are now [just] waiting on our visas to be approved before we travel.

Feeling: Ready. I am ready to meet my daughter. We’re so close to meeting her that I can almost feel my arms wrapping around her for a big bear hug! I feel anxious to hear her voice and see what kind of faces she makes, and to learn all about the personality of my little one.

Thinking: Soon, I will be standing face-to-face with my little girl. My first baby. SOON.

Fearing: our visas!!!  We sent them in last night, so hopefully our passports will be returned pronto with the appropriate stamp in them.

Praying: the same things over and over again. We are praying for our visa approvals, and for our daughter. We continue to pray for safety while traveling, and for an uneventful return home.  We also pray for our Father’s gracious guidance as we learn how to be parents.:)

Daddy’s thoughts: Excited and ready to meet my daughter! (I think he is over this whole “sharing our emotions” thing. :))

Passport for Baby S | Journey of Faith blog

The next time I post anything adoption-related, it will be to introduce you to my little girl. My first baby.

SOON.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

 

Article 23

Upon receiving our official court order last Wednesday, our family coordinator cautioned us that the Article 23 – a legal document we need from CARA before we can travel – can sometimes take much longer than expected. “God is in control,” she encouraged me. “It will all work out. Don’t fret.”

Two days later, as my workday came to a close, we received the Article 23.

In the words of our travel coordinator:

This is one of the fastest Article 23s we have received from CARA, which is great.  The issuance of the Article 23 does not impact the timing of when a child’s passport will be ready, but it is great to have the Article 23 before the passport is issued.  This way we can begin working with the orphanage on when they can host your family as soon as we get a copy of the passport.

 We are speechless. Humbled. Thankful.

And, for one of the first times in our adoption journey, we feel the urgency of time.

We’re still fearing the visa application process and have already run into a few hiccups with Tim’s application. Hopefully, we’ll be able to sort it all out this week.

The thought keeps running through my head: “If God is for us, who can be against us? If God is FOR US, not even a silly visa application will stand in His way.”

He will bring our daughter home. Soon.

P.S. Below are a few prayer requests, and we thank you for your support in this way! 

  1. Speedy process of our visas, and that we’ll figure this thing out.
  2. Quick issuance of our daughter’s passport.
  3. Safety while traveling to India, while there, and that we’ll arrive home in one piece and with our girl. 🙂
  4. Bonding and attachment between us and Baby S!
  5. Ease of communication in these early days of having her home. 🙂

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31&32