The first 4 days were some of the hardest I have experienced.... if you happened to have talked to me during that time, I hope I didn't scare you. I now equate jet lag with the word evil.... it truly made everything worse. By 2:00 I could barely function.... I let myself take a 30 minute nap which was so hard to get up from and then would be waiting for bedtime.... crash at bedtime, only to be wide awake by 4 a.m. if MS hadn't already woken us. And you all know that when you are not sleeping, everything seems worse... Praise the Lord, I am back to normal now and can be a more sane parent.
MS has several "issues." She was a great sleeper in china but it changed once we got home. I'm sure jet lag was affecting her as well. She would wake up in the night terrified (she is in a crib by our bed).... I would get her out and put her in bed with me which made her FURIOUS that we weren't getting up. She'd scream and scream and scream and finally pass out again. One night she woke at 1 a.m. and the rest of the night, would only sleep if she was laying on my right arm. I would think she was in a deep sleep and ever so slowly try and slip that arm out and she'd snap right back into the screams.... needless to say, there was not much sleep. The odd thing was that she was napping great so we tried to figure out what the difference was.... then the thought occurred to me... could it be as simple as a light?? Is the dark making her scared and confused?? So for 3 nights, we have kept a light on and guess what? 3 nights of sleep in our house! (she still fusses some in her sleep but we have not had to get her out of bed-- can just rub her back or give her a blankie and she is good to go.) This journey is riddled with spiritual parallels.... I don't have to look hard at all to find them... but I love the image of perfect light casting out all fear... in my heart as well as MS's.
Perhaps the biggest issue has been the "angry asian" in our midst.... you never know when it might rear its big head... you gotta joke about it or else you will cry all day. She is very much justified in her anger.... Mei Sims went from little attention at an orphanage to full attention for 2 weeks and now to moderate attention simply because she has to share me with her siblings. So, the first few days, if I dared to hug another child, have one sit in my lap, fix AR's hair, change Henry's diaper.... then a fit of rage followed. That was just hard on everyone. Henry (the 2 year old) resorted to screaming "I want mommy" and didn't want his grandmother or aunt to help him do anything. Only me. One such day we had a moment of me sitting indian style.... Henry on one knee with crocodile tears falling and saying "mommy, mommy, boove baby".... Mei Sims on the other knee, fists clinched and screaming. AR kept saying she felt sad that she couldn't sit in my lap as much and rollins so eloquently added "Mommy, I don't feel very sad about that because I don't really care about sitting in your lap." Thanks, Rollins.
Because MS was so mad, she has been trying to control me... what does that look like for a 16 month old? Here is an example.... I'm sitting on the floor beside her (not even holding her) and playing.... I get tired (from jet lag-- I mentioned it is bad, right?) and decide to lay on my side beside her.... she FREAKS! She wants me sitting. Seriously. I sit up, the screams stop immediately. I'm holding her standing and I sit or visa versa and again, freaks. She wants me to hold her, so I do and then she is arching and fighting me but put her down and it gets worse. She wants me to do what she wants me to do. period. I may have a tendency to exaggerate but ask derek... these screams are like no other I have ever heard from my other 3.... There are no tears and there is so so so much anger behind them.
I wish I could say, I responded in love and understanding but when someone screams at you all day, it is maddening & gut wrenching.... And I was at a loss as to what to do.... do I give in to every command of the little tyrant? I can't let her dictate to me what to do, right? And why is all the anger directed at me? She is fun with derek but peeved at me almost all day. I literally couldn' go potty without taking her with me but even then she was still mad.
Enter in the social workers.... I love lifeline for many reasons... one being, I can cry to them after being home for 3 days and they don't judge me... they don't regret giving me a baby... but tell me this it TOTALLY normal.... all that MS is feeling and all that I am feeling. (and while I'm talking to them standing in front of my car, Henry has climbed and is laying across the dash!! And yet, they still don't see me as an unfit mother!) They gave me such great insight into MS's little mind.
According to them, MS was at the height of trauma.... she had been ripped away from all that she knew... sights, smells, food, people.... and she was terrified.... grasping at straws to try and control what she thought she could... namely, me. In addition, she can't communicate what she is feeling through anything other than a scream. They also said to treat her like a newborn. When they say you can never hold a newborn too much (as in, it won't create a bad habit).... in the same vain, hold her, walk with her, whatever she needs at that moment.... it takes time and love to build trust... so whatever she needs, do it. Eventually she will trust me. Of course, I put her down when I have to take care of another child or myself but I'll scoop her right back up rather than letting her fuss it out (like you might a biological child).... It was so freeing to hear them say, nothing you do right now will screw her up. They also encouraged me that the kids who grieve the most, generally attach at a deeper level faster.... we should be attaching really deep, folks!
As for the anger toward me? Even in her little mind, she expects the women in her life to disappoint her... it has been the pattern for her whole life... so now that I am the woman in her life... it is as if she is waiting for me to fail her as well. She rages against me for the hurt she has already endured... and for the pain that she thinks I will cause her. That may sound hard to believe about a 16 month old, but if you could see her eyes when she is having such a moment, there is such pain and sorrow in them like I have never seen in my bio kids... there is also a "far off" look in her eyes when she is in a major fit... like she is mentally going someplace else... kind of hard to explain, but I see it.
And what keeps running through mine and derek's minds in the midst of this... how AMAZING is the love of God?! My love is so imperfect. For the past week, I have had to make a choice to love her....I didn't feel "love" as she struggled with me. Yet, in so many ways, I act the same towards God.... rage against the one who knows me best and wants what is best for me.... wanting to go my own way.... wanting to wallow in despair rather than trust that He is good.... yet through it all, He loves me fiercely... His love never wavers.... It is as strong for me when I am in fellowship with Him as it is when I am running away.... crazy, right?
We knew adoption would be hard.... just didn't quite realize how hard the hard days would be... but we trust and believe that the greater the hardship, the greater the joy... it is worth it... worth it for the change it will produce in us and in our 4 children... Jesus thought we were worth dying for... He isn't gonna forsake her or us now. Just gotta remember that each day.
After those first 4 days, the past 3 have been much much better... we see moments of pure joy in MS's face... we see the joy she brings her siblings... we have seen henry be a gentle and loving big brother by bringing her blankie to her or feeding her yogurt melts one at a time.... we have seen Rollins love playing peek-a-boo over and over with her... and AR just can't give enough kisses.... the other 3 kiddos have been amazing... Henry has had a few moments but it is hard when you suddenly have a sibling 9 months younger than you are... the cutest is hearing him wake up and say "I unt to see da baby" or "baby cwying?"
Now that the jet lag is gone, I feel mentally capable of handling the fits and have more of a game plan. We have a chair in our kitchen that is now the "fit chair".... so for example, at dinner the other night something set her off and she went into fists and fighting mode... and I was able to sit in the chair with MS in my lap... looking in her eyes and saying over and over "mommy is here. mommy want leave you. you're ok." and so it went for 25 minutes until a switch flipped, she threw her blankie on her head and with a smile said "da." Just like that, it was over. Right now she needs to feel the freedom to get it all out. And I have to say that it is by God's grace that I can sit there for that long and endure it.... yes, there were moments where I wanted to be like "what the heck. Just stop" or I'd look at Derek and want to scream... but God is sustaining me thank goodness. In fact, for the past 2 days, there has only been one major fit each day. (By major fit, I mean one of the ones with that look in her eyes... there are plenty of normal kid fits in between but those are fine by me.)
MS has made amazing strides... truly amazing if I think back a week or two. When we got her, we were told she could crawl fast and cruise (holding onto things) (and actually, we asked the nanny if she was walking when we got her and she replied "No." Then she paused a few seconds and said something else in chinese and our translator said "And she is not running" So glad they clarified that one!) In the hotel we saw minimal crawling.... never more than about 10 crawls away from us and then back. Also, if we tried to stand her on her legs, they flopped like little wet noodles. Now that we have been home a week.... she crawls a ton, her form is much better (up on her knees rather than an awkward belly crawl) and yesterday, she crawled over to the chair where Derek was sitting and pulled up! We were shocked... all the kids began to cheer and clap.
But the most amazing thing of all is the sheer determination this little thing has to learn to walk. The 2nd day home, I stood her up. She was VERY shaky but I handed her my fingers to try and get her to walk. It was obvious she had never had someone help her like this before. It was the craziest walking I have ever seen.... totally awkward steps... front, sideways, sometimes landing in the splits... all the while, she is using those little arms to clearly make known which direction she wanted to go. She wanted to do it over and over and over again. The very next day, she had made a vast improvement. She is so proud of herself and it is awesome to see her stubbornness channelled toward something good. (Several of you have asked, but as far as we know, her hip is still dislocated. I've heard it pop some which is a sign. It is supposed to be her right hip but her left leg is always in strange positions.... hope to get some answers in the next few weeks.)
Other accomplishments? She now gets in the car seat without screaming and even enjoys riding.... every time I look back at her, she flashes an infectious smile. (I think I failed to mention that she screamed the whole way home from the airport because she had never been strapped in a car seat before... this is a common reaction of all of our china babies.) She sits in the high chair to eat rather than in my lap now. She'll even pick up foods and feed herself some even though she prefers that I put it in her mouth. Today she held her straw sippy cup by herself to take a drink. Today, I could even leave the room and go grab something in another room without her getting upset.... she knows now that I come back when I leave. Rejoicing in the baby steps! We've also seen her change physically as her skin changed from dry and peeling to soft like a baby, her complexion cleared up and her hair has become softer.
Let me say, that God has interjected humor at every turn so that there is not gloom and doom around us all day. One example.... the little boy next door met Mei Sims to which he said "Rollins, your little brother looks like he speaks spanish." Ha! Not a boy from South America but a Girl from China.... (People in china asked me all the time if she was a boy... even in all pink... and when I said no, they would act like I was the crazy one and had decided to shave her head!)
Another one.... that I can laugh at now because it was so crazy at the time, involved our cat yesterday. We have 2 outdoor cats. So, picture this.... I'm outside with the 4 kiddos. The cat gets tangled in the soccer net... I'm holding MS and walk over and realize she is really really tangled.... she begins to freak and do flips and twists... tightening the rope with each one. I dump MS in the grass, scream for Rollins to get scissors. At this point the cat is basically hanging itself... we are all screaming... the kids are sobbing.... I'm cutting as fast as I can but it is so tight and all claws are out and she is going crazy.... her eyes begin to bulge as she makes very loud gagging and choking noises... as I cut the final rope, she flops to the ground, dead. The kids are screaming "the cat died, the cat died." Rollins is saying "It's all my fault. It's all my fault." Even Henry is sobbing and screaming (I think just because the other kids are but not because of the cat.) I'm thinking "3rd day of spring break and we killed the cat!!" It was total pandemonium. I am quite certain that I added to the hysteria by not reacting like an adult should. I run in to get the phone to call derek and get a towel to cover it with (not sure why but that seemed like the thing to do.) Derek answers and I'm like "It's dead. It's dead. You have to come home." Rollins and I take the towel over (all kids still screaming) and then the cat begins to breath again! then opens its eyes.... call back derek "it's alive! come home!" The cat had rapid breathing and then did what is called the "death poop" on Derek and went to the vet.... and now? It is ok and come back home today! What in the world?! And the even crazier thing.... during all of that... MS sat perfectly calm in the grass. Never made a cry. Just a normal day in our life. That night, Derek and I looked at each other and just laughed without saying a word.
That was a bit of a massive dump of information. Again, as I tell you all of this, I do so for several reasons. First, so that you may see the Gospel played out in the life of one child. Second, so you can pray. Third, that you may have a realistic view of how messy but great adoption can be. I don't want to divulge too much that will make MS uncomfortable one day but I do think a degree of openess and honesty is a good thing. I'll update again when we have been home a month or if there is any exciting news to share.... but for now, thanks for the prayers. We have needed them and feel so full of hope and joy today! Not saying I won't cry tomorrow... but, one day at a time!
Photos from our last day in China:
A fun safety item in our hotel room:
The past week in photos: