Beautiful Life

Hey child up and go; A big world is out there waiting for us to live in every day. Outside you will find, there is love all around you; Takes you, makes you wanna' say; That it's a beautiful life and it's a beautiful world and it's a beautiful time to be here, to be here, to be here. -Fisher

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Story Didn't End.

When I started this blog almost two years ago, it was simply so family and friends could keep up with our adoption story. International adoption is a whirlwind and while we were caught up in the vortex of that experience, we didn't have time to update everyone that was asking for updates.

When we got back from China we thought our story was coming to a close. Boy were we wrong!

I am just starting to grasp the fact that this adoption story is endless. All adoption stories are endless.

If you read this blog even just once in a while, you know that Claire is doing splendidly. She really is! I can honestly say that I never expected her to bond so well, so fast. I had no idea that it would be like she had always been here with us. I'd heard the stories of so many families that said it really was like their child had been handpicked just for them. Seeing is believing.

But even so, I get reminders all the time that she is still processing everything in her own way and on her own time table. I didn't think, that after 18 months, we would still be talking about bonding.

I've come to realize that bonding isn't one step in the process. It isn't a hurdle you get over. It doesn't happen, it develops. Bonding is the process.

When we were handed our angel in China, she looked around at us seemingly in shock. She did not cry. I wanted her to cry. Crying is healthy in this situation. She rode back to the hotel with us in curious quietness. She did not cry. I wanted her to cry. She sat on the bed surrounded by new toys while we worked out some details with our guide and planned our next meal. She did not cry. I wanted her to cry. She ate in silence, everything I put in her mouth, and again looked at us with curious eyes. She did not cry. But, as the afternoon wore on, it apparently occurred to our babe that she was in unfamiliar territory, with strange people, and she was tired. It was at this point that Claire finally cried. She cried and would not let us hold her. She would not let us even wipe her nose. But, it was good. Because she cried.

And for the next few days, her behavior was textbook. She was grieving. She was grieving the loss of everything she knew and in her grief she attached to her Daddy and rejected me. She allowed him to hold her, feed her, play with her. She pushed me away if I even came near, and shook her head no to me if I looked at her when Paul wasn't in the room. Others have said that these little ones can't bare the betrayal of their foster mothers abandoning them, which is exactly what it was like for her. She'd been left with these strangers and she had no understanding of what adoption meant. She kept looking for her other mama to come get her. And, so they will not have anything to do with their new Mamas. For other children they bond with the Mama and reject the Daddy because they may never have seen a male before.

Our girl was all about her Daddy. The entire time we were in China. But, those 12 days in China were all about bonding. Even if she would have very little to do with me. She learned to depend on us for food, shelter, laughs, love and help. She was building trust.

Once home, her personality blossomed. She looked for us and smiled at us and laughed with us. She preferred us to others. She didn't give hugs and resisted kisses, but she allowed us to hold and hug her. And over time she began to hug us and then allowed kisses and then kissed us and then.....

Then one day this summer she spontaneously hugged me and said, "I love you, Mommy" and I realized that this was a first. She'd never done that before but until she did it, I couldn't appreciate how much it would mean. She did this on her own. When she was ready. It couldn't be rushed. And it took over a year! Love and trust had to accumulate before it could occur on it's own.

And even now, as I sit here and think, I can come up with several things that about Claire that probably have more to do with attachment issues than just her personality. For example, if you look her directly in the eyes, while holding her and speak about how much you love her, she will often just dissolve into tears. It's like she can't handle that kind of blatant raw love yet.

That's okay. I'm still going to do it and one day...maybe one day she will look in my eyes and speak of how she loves me. Until then, we will continue to grow and bond together on this trek that doesn't end.

And, along with bonding comes the fragile atmosphere of adoption that involves their past. Because really, her life did not start with us, you know. And our reaction to her pre-adoption life will apparently speak volumes to her one day. According to all the experts (other adoptive families).

Why do you think I read other adoption blogs? Because I need confirmation that I'm not messing up, people.

Blessing or curse, Claire doesn't seem to remember anything to do with her life in China. She was 2 1/2 when she came home. She is extremely verbal now. Yet, she can relay nothing of her life before us. I feel strongly that it has something to do with the fact that her little body was so filled with toxins from some medical issues that have since been resolved.

I am waiting for the day that she makes comments I don't recognize about things I don't know about. Like her foster family. Which she seems to have no recollection of. At all.

I hope I have the right reaction when she finally starts disclosing.

And I hope and pray that I will have some answers to give her when she asks questions. It is the primary reason I follow the blogs of some many other adoptive families. I'm looking for answers too.

But as I've said, she doesn't talk about it.....even though I do. Just so she won't think she can't. I talk about China. I talk about her foster mama and baba. I talk about food she ate and things I know she did. Thankfully, a few things were recorded in a diary that I was given in China. Because I know she is going to want to know something at some point.

And this is what I'm thinking about on the eve of Claire's 4th birthday. In 18 months our girl has gone from shocked....

To happy and confident.

A girl that loves her Mama and

definitely her Daddy!


Heather BT said...

On my sidebar, there is a link to A Forever family, a site about bonding and attachment issues.
It sounds like you've done a lot of research and thought a lot about this issue already, and your thoughts are in-line with mine.
We adopted Acer at 29 months, and he's almost 5 now. For a long time, I've told him, 'A story about a boy' relating our coming together in terms he could handle. He gradually moved it out of the past, out of his China story, and now it's a story about current, even daily events.
He has never really talked about his life before we brought him home, even tho' he was EXTREMELY verbal even back then.' I don't worry about it too much, I know he was loved, and I know very few people remember being that young, so I think his impressions, emotional impressions will favorable. We'll talk about them as he has the questions that will need those answers.
Calli, 9, home only 7 months, talks about her past frequently and I try to draw new details out every time she does. I want her to know that I am listening and remembering her memories.
I think one thing that has helped with the bonding of both kids is our use of scheduled snuggle time. We have time in our morning routine for the kids to crawl into bed with us for some quiet snuggles before the second alarm sends us down for breakfast. This has been great, especially for Calli, to feel warm and loved and cuddled as babies usually are.
Long and rambling, but I hope it helps

tricia said...

Beautiful post! I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. Claire is just lovely. :)

Annie said...

So well said, Chelsea!! I feel like Lizzie's bonding is a step by step process and each time she does something to further our attachment, she is one step closer to us. She never cried the day we got her either and I wanted her to as well. We are working through the first 2 years of her life but I know now for certain that it would have been much better had she cried. It just breaks my heart to think about all the others that wait without knowing love or attachment!! I pray for them all!! Having seen Claire with you and reading this post, I can see just how far she has come, with your love!!

Amy said...

What a beautiful post!
Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with Claire:)

The Source said...

Claire...we hope your birthday was absolutely amazing! You're a beautiful little girl with a sparkly personality and a family that loves you sooooo much!! We hope that four years old is the best!

Blessed Mom of Four, Now Five said...

We have both reminisced, and pondered this week. Today, on the eve of Josie-Tatum's 7th birthday, today, her referral day, I think back to those emotions on the day I learned she was mine, and I marvel at the beautiful, bright young girl she is. I ponder he confidence in some situtations and her lack of it in others.

I am thankful for all of those parents who share openly their triumphs and failues, so we, too, can learn.

Happy Birhtday to Claire!

Christine said...

Lovley post! Claire is a gem.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, sweet little Claire Bear! We love you soooo much, and we wish we could see you and your awesome family every day! We hope you had a blast on your birthday!

Regina said...

Chelsea, I am weeping reading this post. Such a beautifully written tribute to your daughter and to the PROCESS of bonding and attachment. Yes, it is a process and doesn't happen instantly. So much of what you write about I can directly relate to. Milo has been home for 1 year and nearly 3 months. He mourned deeply. He exhibited those classic push/pull behaviors for a while. He has always accepted our affection and gave hugs and kisses when asked, but just the past month or two he is showing us affection spontaneously and genuinely seems to NEED it. It took me aback and really drove home how far we have come. He is also an amazing child who has blossomed like a gorgeous flower. I could go on and on, but we should definitely meet for coffee sometime soon. I'd love to catch up in person on how our lives (and our children's lives) have changed so much over the past year. Much love to you and your incredible family!