February 3, 2013

Post adoption expectations: Part 1 - in China

It was tough, but I've managed to pull myself away from the superbowl and all it's no-power, half-naked-women, disappointing-commercials glory to write this post.

At least we got to make pizza and have fun with our kids. Even though two of them have NO clue what it is, Tyler's excitement rubbed off on them and the girls and I had a pretty good time just "hanging out" with our boys.

We're about to start what I'm expecting to be one of the last weeks of waiting. We've got FOUR days to get Travel Approval to make it to China in February. If we hear nothing by Thursday, we know we will be going in March. And then ALL we'll have left to do, is actually GO!

In the mean time, I want to be open and honest about what we are expecting when we come home.

You see, bringing an adopted child home, is not much like bringing a new baby home. Yes, there are some similarities, but there are FAR more differences. We have done classroom training, webinars, video training, read books, talked to other families and read more websites than I can remember in preparation for this transition. And yet, I think it's much like having your first biological child: no matter how much you prepare, you can never really be truly ready for how your life will change.

Bear with me while I attempt to condense everything I've learned into something that's relatively short and hopefully understandable!

Main point for today: We must respect Meili's past and allow her to grieve.

It's easy for us to think we're doing her a favor. We're taking her from sub-par conditions and giving her a family of her own. But right now, she doesn't know what a family is. She doesn't know her living conditions are horrible. Even though she's been neglected, possibly malnourished, and not loved and cared for like every child SHOULD be, she has no idea she's missing any of it.

When we pick her up, we will be taking her away from EVERYTHING she has ever known.
Chances are, she hasn't seen very many tall, white Americans. Jon and I look, smell and speak differently than what she's used to. We'll take her to a place she's never been, eat food she's never tasted, and speak to her in words she's never heard. Yes, we'll hold her, and snuggle her and love her, but we don't expect that to be enough. Not right away. Imagine you had a two year old. And one day, someone showed up at your door, there was basically nothing more than a "hand-off" and then they took that child away to a foreign country. Can you imagine how frightened, confused, and upset that child might be?  While everything we're doing is perfectly legal and we call it "adoption," what Meili feels and experiences is probably much closer to what it would feel like to be kidnapped.

We have no idea how she will react. She may lash out (tantrums), turn inward (become emotionless, expressionless, hide), or simply try to run away. Or she may adapt very well and very quickly. But even if that IS the case, we can expect SOME of one of the first three. We've been told by other parents, that usually after a few days, they start to see "glimpses" of the real child. Likewise, we've also been told that the child we bring home will not be the same child we see 4-6 weeks later.

We'll be taking our most of cues from this woman: Dr. Karyn Purvis

Dr. Purvis of Texas Christian University has spent decades working with children who come from "hard places" and has been very successful in helping parents deal with the special challenges that often come with adoption.

Her book, The Connected Child has been very beneficial in helping us prepare for these possible "special challenges" and helping us realize what Meili will be going through.

Because of where Meili spent her first 2+ years and the behaviors and challenges that may come along with that, we will be parenting her differently than we did our biological kids. We will also be taking some steps when we get home to ensure she learns that WE are her family now, she can TRUST us, and WE will take care of her. 

It sounds like it should be simple: take her out of a horrible place and give her love and a family and watch her bloom. Unfortunately, it not that easy. In the end, we expect that result, but it may take a little while to get there!

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