Adoption from the home front
My sister and brother-in-law adopted their precious little girl this week and are currently in China finalizing the legal end of her homecoming paperwork. Kaley has been blogging about their story and it is most definitely worth a read. Her transparency and openness on their journey has been a light to our family and to so many people who are hanging on their every update.
But there are a lot of sides to the adoption journey and all of us on the home front are also experiencing so many emotions and feelings as we watch and wait for little glimpses into their new life together. Let me emphasize this: adoption is amazing and adoption is hard. When Kaley had her last biological daughter, Tatum, almost 3 years ago, we were all IN the delivery room during labor, IN the waiting room as she delivered, and back IN the delivery room about an hour after birth. We were in and out of the hospital for the days she was there and then we were in and out of their home, regularly checking in, helping, and showering the newest family member with all of our love. With Quinna’s adoption, we have been unable to do any of those things. And yet, adoption is as much a miracle of new life as birth. So how does a family that is SO close and SO involved in one another’s lives navigate a “birth” that they can’t be a part of? It’s been emotional on so many levels.
On the night Kaley and Rob got Quinna (because of the 12 hour time difference, they met her at about 4am our time), I don’t think any of us slept. We knew it was coming, and it was like being told “she’s 10cm and ready to push” so obviously we were wide-eyed and refreshing our phones every 10 seconds. HOWEVER, unlike a newborn baby that sleeps most of the time and is generally unaware of her surroundings, Quinna was very aware of her surroundings (particularly, of that fact that her surroundings were NOTHING like those which she has only ever known). So Quinna’s first day and night with Kaley and Rob were hard. Really hard. Sunday morning (in America) rolled around and we attended church as usual, knowing that what was going on in China was hard and gut-wrenching for all parties. Quinna was grieving. Kaley and Rob were doing everything in their power to comfort her and show her love, but she had no idea how to receive it. Throw in a language barrier and all she hears is unintelligible strings of sounds meant to comfort that only confused. When I saw my parents at church, it was evident we were all short on sleep and high on emotions. We clung to each other during the service and worship, taking turns bawling and embracing. A great victory had occurred! Quinna was united with her forever family! What a celebration! And yet, in her entire life she had maybe never felt more confused, scared and abandoned (by her nannies and all familiar caregivers). And so, while we wanted to raise our hands in victory, we clung to each other feeling a heavy burden of sadness for our new niece and granddaughter. Taylor, one of the worship leaders at our church, sang an incredible song at the end of the service that had us all weeping and couldn’t have been more relevant.
For hours and hours following church, I would listen to the song and let the tears fall. It was the strangest mixture of emotions that I can ever recall feeling. While I listened and wept and prayed, it occurred to me that in this experience, so far away from those who we wanted to be near more than anything, there is very little I can do to “help” them. But maybe (just maybe), God was transplanting some of Quinna’s grief onto us to lighten her burden. We couldn’t be there; we couldn’t hug them or hold her; we couldn’t provide food or basic needs; but we could cry all the tears. And so we did. While Kaley and Rob have been keeping their bravest faces on for their girl, we have been letting down our guard and welcoming the wave of emotions to roll over every part of us.
After that first 24 hours, things started looking up for Kaley, Rob and Quinna (more of which you can read about on her blog). Still, we cling to every morsel of information they can offer us through sporadic texts, Instagram updates and stories, and blog posts. We desire to see her and know her so badly, but this road of respecting her space and her attachment to her parents is not nearly over. For weeks (months?) we will need to give her plenty of space so as not to confuse her as the identities of her nuclear family are cemented into her brain (and heart).
She is fragile. So are our hearts. Kaley has said this for many months but adoption is a birth of the heart. A beautiful, painful, emotional process.
Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it. (Fleur Conkling Heyliger)
If you can, continue to pray for my niece. Pray that she continues to grow in attachment to her mommy and daddy. Pray that Kaley and Rob would continue to learn and employ the best techniques to comfort their precious Quinna. Pray for their three other daughters back home – two weeks without your mom and dad is no joke, and they will surely be missing THEIR home and parents fiercely. Pray for safety as they travel throughout China and then return home next Friday.
Baby you’re almost home now. Please don’t quit now. You’re almost home to me.