It has been one month today. Where do I begin to explain the first month since we held our daughter for the first time? Only other adoptive families have any idea of the emotions, joys, and hardships this first month has brought. No seminar, pep talk, or advice given by others who have gone before us could prepare us for what we have experienced.
Adoption is not all bells and whistles. We anticipate that big moment of holding a child, bringing him or her home, and life being just as it should be with everyone together where they belong, finally a family no longer separated by half a world. There have been moments when I've wanted to get in my car and drive away from it all: all of the frustration of not knowing why my daughter is screaming, not knowing how to handle her following me around the house for hours at a time, arms stretched out, and tears flowing down her face. Not knowing what to do with my other children who need me to teach them at home and discipline them when they are fighting outdoors and I can't tend to them and my crying daughter at the same time. Not knowing how to handle the meals, laundry, cleaning the house, the yard work that has yet to be started for the spring, and the thank you notes, appointments, bills, phone calls to return, and responsibilities to fulfill. How to load up our cramped mid-sized SUV without someone crying from getting their hair pulled, or a coat forgotten, or a cup left in the house, and having to leave at least one crying child in a car with shouting and chaos to tend to the requests while always running late because I never allow enough time to pack a new diaper bag and put on another set of shoes and wipe a fourth nose before loading up. I have felt so alone when my husband had to return to working a 90 hour week to prepare the land for planting, not realizing how much I desperately needed him to maintain order in the house and provide moral support to all the emotions I was experiencing.
Yet when I see her smile with baby food all over her face while playing in her high chair, hear her squeal when her Daddy tosses her in the air over and over, see her point to her eyes with a big grin and say "eyes!" watch her play side by side with her brothers while they have their arms around her shoulder and speak to her gently, or watch her delighted face as I paint her nails for the first time, I realize that I would be missing out on all of these little blessings if I did not endure this first month of transitions.
Anna Faith is like most newly adopted children. She has trouble sleeping through the night. The first two weeks were difficult. We had to figure out how to comfort her yet train her to sleep, and that is a delicate process with a child who does not know how to trust a parent yet. I sat on the phone for 45 minutes with a post adoption counsellor getting advice on how to do this correctly. She also has lots of issues with new experiences. She is petrified of the outdoors. She is scared of moving or riding toys. She hates baths in our bathtub. She still clings to me in new places, especially around large groups of people. She is difficult to figure out at meal time. We still don't know all the foods she likes or dislikes. She has a constant runny nose (allergies??) and has tummy issues because of a change in her diet in America. There are so many things we're still learning about her, just like a parent of a one month old learns as they spend more time with their infant and watch them develop.
We are students of adoptive parenting. It seems like everyone is watching us to see if we've got it down pat. I feel like I've got to keep the "cool, calm, and collected" facade in public to prove to people that I can pull off this multiple stair step kid thing and not appear irresponsible for taking on kids that I can't control or raise. There is so much pressure to appear a success in the eyes of the world.
I had a break down. Yes, I, the mom who has it all together, broke down one day in the bathroom. I cried to my homeschool moms at a meeting and even used a curse word. There, I said it, I can't do this! The first step to getting through this transition is admitting I can't do it on my own. Why did I ever think I could? God has been there through the thick and thin, the nitty and the gritty, the pretty and the ugly all along, and He is ready to carry me through this period in my life as soon as I reach out my hands and ask.
So I made a list (of course the perfect solution to every crisis is making a list!) I wrote down things that need to go, things I need to cut out, and things I need to let others do for me. Immediately my blood pressure and returning migraine headaches lessened. I won't have the perfect flower beds or vegetable garden, I won't be using cloth diapers, my kids won't be learning all the countries in Africa this year, and there aren't going to be as many from scratch meals on the table. But we're going to get through this.
Anna Faith goes to Dr. Chester in Nashville for the first time on April 15th. We will get a consultation about her nevi removal and hopefully have some answers about a plan and time line for surgeries and tissue expansion. So far other doctors have told us anywhere from two surgeries to surgeries over a series of years. We know for sure that they will be removed eventually. In the meantime she has a lot of hats to sport around and she is looking pretty stinking cute in them!
The response from our friends has been amazing. We have had a stream of visits, emails, and texts from people we don't even know. Multiple inquiries have been made about others also wanting to adopt and being inspired by our family's story. Many family members from near and far away are also congratulating us. We know we are loved by the loving words and actions you have shown. Please pray for us. It seems that it is a "happy ever after" ending to have Anna Faith home, but as you have read, we have struggled in these first days.