Months and months ago, when this adoption was still in its infancy, when I learned that Gladys was living in a foster home, I knew that Gotcha (and the ensuing transition) would be difficult. I knew it all the months that we went through the adoption stages. And when I learned that not only was Gladys in foster care, but that she'd been with the same family for FIVE years, I really knew it...this transition was going to be H.A.R.D.
I knew it last night when I woke up 3 or 4 times. I knew it when I tried to eat breakfast and had butterflies in my stomach. I knew it when we were driving to meet Gladys and my hands were shaking. I knew it when we arrived at the meeting place and my mouth was dry.
I knew it.
Then, in walks this teeny, tiny, larger-than-life, little spitfire! I was instantly captivated! She has possibly the worst "bowl" haircut known to man, but oh, my! The personality bursting out of this little one was something amazing to see!
She walked into that civil affairs office full of life. "Bossing" her nanny/orphanage director around. She set her backpack on the table and immediately started pulling things out to show us. She pulled out the photo album we sent her. She turned to Simon's and my picture, and she slapped my wrist to get my attention...pointed at me and then at the picture. Yes, she's a smartie, too. She did the same, pointing out Gracie, Gia, and Gemma in their pictures as well.
We had commissioned Gracie to use her iPod to take some videos of our first meeting with Gladdie. Boy howdy, if Gladys didn't march right up to Gracie, swipe that iPod right out of her hand and start manipulating it like a pro.
We had to get a picture of Simon, Gladys, and me for the adoption decree. She let me pick her up onto my lap. As soon as the camera came out, she flashed a big grin and the "V" for victory sign (this is a HUGE thing in China).
I was almost tempted to forget about the whole 5-years-with-a-foster-family thing. Almost.
Then the orphanage director and nanny slipped out of the room. Gladdie started packing up her things to go after them. Our guide tried explaining that she was staying with us. That didn't go over too well. She continued to pack her things. We left at about the same time. Loaded her into the van, buckled her in. And that's when the tears started.
I knew they would come. I knew it. Of course, a part of me had hoped they wouldn't. But another part of me knew that if she didn't grieve, we would be in even more trouble.
Let me explain a little something about adoption...especially older child adoption. There is ALWAYS loss associated with adoption. ALWAYS. Our little ones NEED to grieve the losses they experience in order to make sense of what's happening to them and embrace those changes. If they don't grieve, that means the transition will be that much more difficult for the child, and attachment/bonding between the child and the new parents will be very difficult.
So, because I knew that she had been in foster care with the same family for so long, and because I knew her grief would be great, I was ready for the tears. In my heart, I told myself to let her grieve however she sees fit.
Poor, sweet, baby!
I can't count the number of times she said--over and over--"first mama!" "first mama!" And then she kept repeating a phrase over and over, which I'm sure meant "let me go!" or "I want to leave!" She even grabbed my hand, took me over to the hotel room door, and stood there waiting for us to go out. The look in her eyes when she begged me to leave will probably haunt me forever.
I kept telling myself over and over that this is what is best for her. She cannot see it now, but we see a larger piece of the puzzle and we know that we know this is for her good.
She would not leave the door. She even put her backpack on at one point. We were able to slightly distract her a couple times with coloring and legos. She actually built a very impressive lego structure, and I was fascinated how she could look at a void to fill and find the exact right-sized piece to put in. All the while, she cried, and begged for her "mama."
In her backpack were many snapshots of her and her foster family. She pored over those pictures, especially the ones with her "mama" in them. I'm so glad she has them, though! What a treasure!
Well, you get the picture. Based on my own previous experiences and all that we've read and studied about adoption, I decided my best course of action was not to force her to do anything. I stayed down at her level. I stayed close...within inches. And I touched her as much as she would allow me to. And if she wouldn't allow touching then I just stayed close. All the while praying--out loud--and trying to use a soothing voice.
After physically wearing herself out, she just didn't have any more energy. Poor thing! She slumped down to the floor and I could tell in her eyes that she knew she was defeated in her attempts to get away. It was so, so sad. But, I knew, so, so necessary. Because it was at that point that she let her sisters comfort her.
Speaking of her sisters, the 3 Gs were absolute ROCK STARS today! That doesn't mean that they all weren't in tears at various points throughout the day. But it does mean that they completely empathized with their new sister and stepped up to the plate. Each one, in her own way, did her best to comfort Gladdie...stroking her arm, showing her an iPad app, sitting next to her while she colored. Such wonderful big sisters. Gladdie seemed to really take to Gracie...at one point, even sitting right up next to her and leaning her head on Gracie's arm.
This is why we fundraised to bring our girls with us. This right here.
Well, the Gs were exhausted, but I had no idea how to bring about bedtime. All the Gs got into PJs and brushed teeth. I asked Gladdie if she wanted PJs. NO. I asked Gladdie if she wanted to sleep in bed with Gracie. NO. We tucked the Gs in and turned off the lights. Mind you, it was only 7:30. That's what kind of day today was. Anyhow, as soon as the lights were out, Gladdie lay down on the floor by the hotel door. She let me put a blanket on her and I saw her finally...finally take off her coat. 10 hours after we met her. She is currently sound asleep on the floor. Sweet, sweet girl!
All of our Gotcha Days have been different. As they should be. God has uniquely formed each of these precious girls into the personalities they have today, so each one reacts to her surroundings differently. We are blessed to be the parents of these 4 amazing children. Does that mean every day is better than the one before? Not necessarily. Does that mean Gladdie won't be upset tomorrow? Absolutely not. We still have a long way to go building trust with Gladys Mae and learning what makes her tick.
But we know that He who called us is faithful, and He will do it. Amen.
P.S. We want you to know that when we post updates on FB or ask for prayer for a certain situation, we don't want you to panic. :) Not that we have experienced this exact set of circumstances before, but we expected much grieving and more to come. We have been very well prepared, but we want you to know how to specifically pray for us and our girls. And also to show the ashes from which beauty will rise in His good time.