When D. was a small baby, I would rock and nurse him in the rocking chair in his room. Many times while doing this, a sadness would come over me for a little boy somewhere, who wasn't being rocked by his mother. I didn't know who or where this boy was. It was not much after this that we seriously began to look into adoption.
So now, Minh and I sit and rock in that same chair. He doesn't like to nap, but needs some quiet time and he only slows down when he is being held, and so we rock. Not that he is always on board with this plan. But after the raging comes calmness. The raging, I might add, is a mere shadow of the rage we saw that first week in Danang.
Minh also loves to be sung to as he falls asleep. My lullaby repetoire is somewhat limited, so I sing the old standard hymns which I memorized long ago. (I hope that I'm not building some Pavlovian response that causes him to immediately fall asleep in church everytime Amazing Grace is sung.) As I sing, I'm reminded that God is faithful. He has brought me the little boy who burdened my heart before I even knew he existed. We are working on getting to know each other. Just like each of my newborns and I had to learn each other's faces and likes and dislikes, so Minh and I have to learn each of those things. But with a three year old, there is just so much more to learn.
I know that Minh is still very confused and uncertain about what has happened to him. He was playing very nicely the other morning, and at one point found his plastic knapsack which holds a building toy we bought for him in Vietnam. He was disturbed that it didn't shut anymore because the zipper had broken, so tried to put all the pieces in the tote bag which Cathay Airlines had given to him. Well, that didn't work because the velcro flap wouldn't fit over. A. had an extra, empty bin which she gave to him. He was quite happy that everything fit and that the lid closed. But then he showed me the bin and wanted to know where to put it. He obviously had an opinion about this and finally I convinced him to show me. He took me to our room where the suitcases are still on the floor and showed me that he wanted to keep the bin of his toys inside the suitcase. It was clear that he thought that this would be the safest place to store anything that he wanted to keep. How do you explain to a 3 yo who doesn't speak English that he lives here now? We went back to his room and I showed him his bed. He seemed to understand that it was Minh's bed. Then I showed him that his bin would fit under his bed. That seemed to make him happy, but I'm just not sure he gets what's going on.
I've been doing some thinking about what, if anything, would have made that first week any easier. I did immense amounts of reading on adoption and attachment and thought that I was prepared. While I'm glad I had done the reading, what stuck in my head and helped me to get through were people's actual stories of their own adoption experiences...and the more unvarnished the better. It was extremely comforting to know that other people had experienced the same thing that I was, and they had not only just survived, but loved their child. So, for any of you reading this who are waiting for your turn to bring your child home, here is what I wish someone had told me.
I knew that newly adopted children don't always accept the new parents right away. But I was unprepared for the reality of what that looks like. For us, it was more than not accepting, it was closer to outright hate. It is a sheer act of will to love a child who runs from you, screams at you, acts as if your touch is painful, and if you do get him in your arms, tries to injure you...often successfully. I had no idea how painful this would be, both emotionally and physically, and my own emotional response was as suprising to me as Minh's behavior. On the day we heard that his passport was going to take longer than expected and there was the possibility that our trip would be extended, I just wanted to go home. Not only did I want to go home, I wanted to go home without Minh and be with my children who loved me. It was very difficult to confront this realization. We had worked and waited so hard and so long for this child, and here I was wishing I could turn back the clock and change what we had done. I was shocked at myself and desperate to escape the situation at the same time.
Well, moving to a larger hotel room, having a loving husband, and receiving supportive emails from friends and family helped to put things back in perspective. We kept moving forward, both of us making little bits of progress at a time. I had the image of driving over long roads of those parking lot exiting devices with the spikes where you can only go one way or you puncture your tires. In writing this, I can't believe it was only three weeks ago. We have both come so far. Two nights ago as I was tucking Minh into bed, he reached up and wrapped his arms around my neck. He has begun to come to me if he has hurt himself and will now sit in my lap and look at books. For my other children, these are commonplace occurances which I barely stop to appreciate most of the time. But coming from Minh they are mighty achievements deserving of acclamation.