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Thursday, April 7, 2011

More Difficult the Second Time

I'm finding the wait between referral and travel much more difficult this second time around. The reasons are complex and varied, and - frankly - so jumbled in my head and heart that I may not make sense as I wade through all of it.

My heart aches for Mei Mei as I think about her losses: the ones she already faced and the ones she has yet to experience. I grieved these losses with the Tongginator as well, but not nearly so much as I am this time around, namely because I've seen first-hand how adoption grief and loss can impact a child. Certainly Mei Mei and the Tongginator are two different people, and will quite probably experience these losses in different ways and to different degrees, but I know more now than I did six years ago.

That new-found knowledge hurts my heart.

Do the losses created by international adoption mean that we shouldn't adopt her? I don't believe that to be the case. From what we've learned, between 10 and 30 babies live in each of the "baby rooms" within Mei Mei's orphanage. Despite the magnitude that is international adoption loss, I know in my heart that life with a loving family is better than life in an orphanage, 10 or more children to a room. Of course it's not better than domestic adoption, or even a stable, caring foster home, but I firmly believe it IS better than that. Regardless, that fact doesn't erase the loss she has and will experience. In a few short weeks, my future daughter will lose a language, a culture and the only home - and family - she's ever known.

Oh, how that knowledge hurts my heart.

Also... reading about Mei Mei's finding information cut like a knife. Without sharing too many details of Mei Mei's early life story, it's evident that Mei Mei's first mother decided she could not physically care for her, regardless of the reason, before she gave birth to her. Learning the details of that day - including the local weather - it's so much to process, and I'm an adult. More importantly, it didn't happen to me. Reading in the Tongginator's referral about her finding... it hurt. It hurts even more six years later since I now view her early life story through the lens that is her seven-year-old reaction to said story. It's painful, so incredibly painful for her. Which means that reading about Mei Mei's story... it feels more personal now than it ever did while we waited to travel in 2005.

It cuts like a knife.

If I'm honest, fear is also driving some of my impatience: fear of developmental and sensory delays. We went through so very much with the Tongginator, I can't help but project that experience onto our upcoming one. Mei Mei's referral photos look great - you can see in one photo that she's developmentally further along, at six months of age, than the Tongginator was when we met her at 12 months of age, so I know my fears are something I need to pray through rather than dwell on.

But still they linger in the background.

The joy and excitement that is adoption, from an adoptive parent's perspective, remains with me. I'm excited to meet and come to know my future daughter. I'm excited that the Tongginator will soon become a big sister to Mei Mei. I'm excited. I'm also so filled with grief and anger that such a tiny little person has already experienced losses too enormous to define, and will soon experience even more loss as a direct result of our adoption of her.

She will gain, but she will lose just as much.

Which is why I'm finding the wait between referral and travel much more difficult this second time around.

39 comments:

Sunday Koffron said...

Sigh! It is complicated…

Tonggu Grammy said...

It IS complicated but I believe our God is bigger than all these complications. And I believe that God really did plan for this little girl to join YOUR family for reasons we will not know while still on this earth. You will be there for her as she processes all her experiences both good and bad. You will allow her to feel what she feels and talk about what she needs to talk about as she gets older. THIS is God's plan for your family - ALL of you, including Mei Mei. This I know with certainty!!!!

Myrnie said...

Do you have your travel dates yet? It's generous of you to share this entire prideas,fears and all, to help others. I've been amazed to see that the things we studied and prayed over with E have been none-events for M, as she had her own new challenges... But parenting after the first wasn't so intimidating!!

The Gang's Momma! said...

Thank you for your incredible honesty and vulnerability here.

I am no where as close to the second time around as you obviously are and already I am feeling it more and feeling it harder, with what I've learned and experienced under my belt. Harder to think about for our mei mei, harder to wait, harder to pray through, harder to explain the hardness of it all to others.

As I read over Tonggu Grammy's words, I cannot help but think that as much as it might be harder this time, it might also be better this time too. You all know more, and obviously TG is a strong prayer warrior who is standing by your sides in a way she didn't know to do or how to do earlier. What a blessing it is to have such a sage and grounded support person in your mother. What a pillar to be able to lean upon when the pain you are feeling is cloudy and hazy over the Truth she speaks.

And through it all, we have blessed hope. For without that HOPE, we would have nothing. And all this would be in vain. All the journey, all the worry, all the hardness would be for nothing. But we have HOPE for a wonderful plan moving forward for our lives. Hope for following His plan and for letting this plan change the lives of us and of the people we touch. Our weakness will be made perfect in His strength.

Aus said...

Morning TM - you are really a tough gal - you really opened yourself up with this one - and that's never easy. Nice work here.

You know that we 'get that' too - it's kind of an elephant in the room sometimes - but in the end it's good, and right, and proper.

But yeah - we wonder and sometimes wish - but always we love.

Oh and TongguGrammy - one of these days (now or in the here after) - I really want to give you a hug...I like you a lot!

hugs - prayers for peace -

aus and co.

MotherMotherOcean said...

Breathe in, breathe out, move on.
And in the immortal words of Dory from Finding Nemo- "Just keep swimming."

The Byrd's Nest said...

(sigh) It really is complicated. Although in a perfect world we wish all children could grow up with their birth families but this is far from being a perfect world.

Praying for you and little Mei Mei and all of the changes that are about to occur in her precious little life. Oh how it pains me to think of what they are feeling from the first moment they meet us. Yes, you know much more this time and that makes YOU a better Mommy. You have poured yourself into learning more about loss and have helped to connect all of us to the people we need to learn from as well.

Praying for her heart to have peace, praying for His mercies and grace over your family during this season in your life. I love you my friend and I understand all that you are feeling for your new daughter. Big hugs to you and I am here for you anytime you need someone:)

Laurie said...

TG could not have said it any better! It's why we gave our daughter the middle name Faith.. that's what it takes to get through all of this. I'd love to tell you to stop over-thinking everything and to just enjoy the journey, but I know that's easier said than done. :)

Debra said...

Huge congratulations on your newest daughter! What a blessing to you and your family to add this little soul.
"The only thing you have to fear is fear itself"...Roosevelt??
God is good all the time and this is His plan for her. No need to second guess Him. You will do great and you will love her beyond her wildest dreams.
You are blessed!

Holly said...

I have no words of wisdom. The fact that you understand the losses and are not gayly leaping your way to China only thinking about your gains says a lot TM. A lot. God will give you the tools along the way to help Mei Mei. This match was no coincidence. I still have huge sadness because both of my children adopted from China came from loving foster families! (NOT institutions) and it kills me still that they could not remain there....that they would not have received the medical attention they needed there....that we could not sponsor them in order for them to stay...in fact with our son, we weren't even sure until we met him that he was indeed fostered. (sigh) Thankfully, we still have communication with both foster families. Very very hard to understand why they had to endure further losses and that we were part of it :( Despite how well they may be doing most of the time, despite the medical care they have receieved and despite how outsiders would say they are lucky to be here. You know. I know. And it is just hard.
By God's grace,
Holly

Michal said...

You are writing out what I felt as we waited to travel for Liam. It all seemed so much more the second time around. I was so naive the first time. I had to play emotional catch up on what the first part of Ev's life had been, with Liam I was acutely, painfully aware of hat his life was like, the losses he experienced, the toll constant change took on his little person. I expected him to be the same that Ev was emotionally.
But when you spoke of them being two different people? That plays into this thing- a whole lot! I realized very quickly that Liam was a different person al together than Ev was. I had learned how to see her pain and her anguish and I had no "Liam goggles" at all when we first met. Then I got to know him and I see his pain now but it's so different and not at all what I was ready for. I mean I can deal with the independent girl that doesn't let anyone near her, I have a harder time dealing with the whining and pouting and manipulations....
Having said all of that, It's different but it's the same. Your heart will find familiar rhythms, your mind will remember. You have been a mommy for so long that you don't have to learn those reactive skills from scratch, you will just have to adapt them to a new person. And really, adapting what we have is kind of easier than bringing it all out from scratch.
I believe with my heart that there isn't a person out there that will be able to be the mother this girl needs. This mei mei will heal and grow and it will be under the wings of your family.
No, adoption is not perfect. It's what we have. It's what they have.

Patricia/NYC said...

It is so very, very complex...and so understandable how you are feeling. Your girls are already blessed by your perspective and understanding & no doubt will soar with your love and care. Still, it doesn't erase the hurt they will experience...but they will have each other to share with as well - their experiences are different, but there is the common bond there.
BIG HUGS to you, TM!!

Laura L. said...

I have had the same thoughts before, about the losses that our precious adopted children experience.
Knowing that she will experience loss and pain just leaving her homeland and all she's known. Is it worth it? Is it right? It is. Somehow, it really is! Our God planned for you to be her family, from before she was even conceived. He knew! Just as Tonggu Grammy said, we may never understand all of the reasons while we are here on earth. But...our God is fully able to heal every loss and every hurt that Mei Mei has experienced and will experience. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, far above all we could ask, think or imagine. He is going to take such good care of Mei Mei, now and every day of her future. He's also going to help you with everything you need from Him.

Shonda said...

I heard that with my bad ear!!!! And I'm right there with ya!

Cedar said...

I am sorry for Mei Mei's loss and her pain. I would think this time is the most difficult aspect of the wait, but I have no words of wisdom or encouragement. If you find a way to put back on the rose colored glasses will you let me know? No, what I can see you are a great mom and going in this with your eyes open and your heart soft is what will make this true this time around.

the Crazy Omma of 3 said...

As an adult KAD it is so nice to see an adoptive parent going into an adoption with such honesty and well...realness. I know you must be overjoyed and excited about bringing home your baby girl, but I can appreciate the fact that you are so...aware..and in tune with what she will be losing and leaving behind as she joins your family. Thank you for sharing your honest and raw feelings with us all. Lots of love and best wishes on bringing Mei Mei home.

beyondnormallimits said...

You are speaking my heart with: Do the losses created by international adoption mean that we shouldn't adopt her? I don't believe that to be the case. From what we've learned, between 10 and 30 babies live in each of the "baby rooms" within Mei Mei's orphanage. Despite the magnitude that is international adoption loss, I know in my heart that life with a loving family is better than life in an orphanage, 10 or more children to a room. Of course it's not better than domestic adoption, or even a stable, caring foster home, but I firmly believe it IS better than that. Regardless, that fact doesn't erase the loss she has and will experience. In a few short weeks, my future daughter will lose a language, a culture and the only home - and family - she's ever known.

Andrea said...

when we traveled for our first adoption I had read all of "the books"..but it wasn't as "real" as the second time.There seemed to be more to process.
The second time "those parents" (in the books) were me and "those babies"(in the books) were my daughter.

Kerrie (and Jason) said...

TM this is a wonderfully written piece, maybe even your best. I love that you are so honest about your feelings of joy mixed with fear mixed with sadness. This understanding is great (even if it feels not so nice now). Lots of hugs and congratulations. I hope we get some news of our future son or daughter soon. Now that we've hit 4 years waiting when others are stil being allocated at 3 years its getting tougher each day. I can only hope our little one won't have been waiting 4 years as well.

Sharie said...

I can understand why there is more anxiety knowing now the hurt that she will experience. However, she's got a great mom and dad and an awesome big sister to help her through. It may not have been God's original plan for her to be a part of your family - but there is a reason or reasons why he chose this little girl for your family - and your family for her. It will just take time to tell why.
Prayers for a healthy transition!

Patty O. said...

I can totally see how this time would be harder. You know so much more now than you did, which makes it difficult. I will pray that you find peace in this waiting. I know you will be a fabulous mother for Mei Mei, just as you are for T; the fact that you are feeling the way you do only proves to me that you are a wonderful mother, one who will help Mei Mei with that loss, even though it breaks your heart.

Kristi said...

Right there with you. Feeling much of the same. Just not as good with getting my thoughts down these days...
Praying for you all!

Coffette said...

Can I ask a question? I'm a potential future adoptive parent. And comments like:"She will gain, but she will lose just as much," really worry me. Do you really believe this? Does this guilt stay with you? Do you believe you are doing harm by adopting if you believe they are losing as much as they gain? And if so why do you adopt? I don't mean to sound angry but I've heard this sentiment expressed before by other adoptive parents and it makes me very hesitant to adopt.

Kris said...

TM - You are so much more aware this time which makes it harder!! I honestly don't think I could do it again. Hang in there! (And you will be much more prepared for developmental delays this time should it be an issue.)

Claudia said...

Ugh. Yeah, this particular liminal space - worst. place. ever.

Talley Images said...

big, big hugs...

Debbie said...

You - you are such a beautiful person. The intense love and empathy you show are why God has chosen you to be these precious girls' mother. I am just filled with thinking about how truly blessed Mei Mei is and can't wait for her to be able to realize that.
My prayers are with you.

Shawna said...

I'm right there with you. Here lately I've noticed that I put walls up when my mind goes there because of the pain that I feel in my heart for my baby girl's loss and soon to be loss. Not sure that's the best thing but I know there will be moments when the walls will come down and the tears will flow.

I have to cling to the Father and know that He is my rock and my fortress and my deliver. He's my rock in whom I take refuge(Ps 18:2). I also know that I will be able to point my daughter to her rock, when the time comes.

Suzy said...

Thinking of you, TD, Tongginator, & MeiMei. Praying, too.

Cavatica said...

It would be harder, and easier, for me too. I think you'll do very well. Adoption is complicated and you are a better parent for knowing that.

The Byrd's Nest said...

Coffette...I cannot speak for TM but I can tell you my experience with my two little ones. They lose everything the day they are separated from their birthmoms....everything. They lose their first moms, they lose their culture when adopted internationally, they lose their language...they lose everything that makes them...who they could have been. Not to say that they can't be happy in an adopted family but we can't ignore the loss. My two girls display their grief in different ways. I was ignorant of it for a long time. For Lottie she is angry...very angry all the time and has a hard time expressing her feelings. I know in my heart her anger is much deeper than just normal 6 year old things to be angry about. For Emma, she is sad and has night terrors often and works out her grief in this way and has for the last four years. The day she met us in an airport she screamed for two hours, a terrifying scream until she passed out cold...for two more hours. When she is sad, she drifts off into another world and is very disconnected from us and anything we say to her when she is in "this place" is unheard. Is every day in our home sad and angry? No...absolutely not they are happy sweet joyful little girls but just because they live in a happy home and have a mommy and a daddy doesn't erase their past. And what people say about adopting a younger baby is not true. All adopted children have grief and suffer loss....if an AP thinks otherwise, they are blind to the signals their child is giving them. (just my two cents) I was blind once but with my 2nd adopted child...my eyes were opened. I used to think my Lottie (adopted at 9 months old) was oddly independent and I marveled and bragged about her ability to do everything by herself. Wrong! She was pushing me away and relying on herself because she was the only person she COULD rely on in the orphanage. It took time for her to trust me and "let" me be her Mommy.

Do I think not adopting is the answer? Absolutely not! Reality is there are millions of children who need homes and families to love them. But AP's cannot live in denial that just giving them a loving family fixes everything. Growing up in an orphanage is not the answer either. If this were a perfect world...and it's not...there would be ways to help the child, financially stay with his/her birthfamily. For my family, Lottie was given up in China because of the one child policy or so I think...who knows...I may never know. For Emma who was given up in South Korea, her mother was very young and single...women and children of this sort of family are persecuted greatly and forced into giving up their children.

So what do we do? We adopt and we love our children and we keep our hearts and minds open to their feelings and not take offense when they are just.plain.angry at the world. We never ever make them feel grateful for adopting them...we just love them, for who they are and try to heal the wounds that they carry. Big hugs my friend and try to educate yourself on attachment and grief as much as possible before your little one comes home to you:) That is being a responsible AP.

mamacandtheboys.com said...

This post is so revealing, balanced, and indicative of one woman's amazing adoptive parent learning curve. This post weaves together anticipation and grief, knowledge with the unknown. Your writing grabs and shakes and embraces.

Pink Evita said...

Oh, this brings back memories of our second referral and that seemingly never ending wait to travel to meet her. The second time you know so much more, there is more to worry about. I think the first time I was just ridiculously naive. Going to go get little sister, I had myself worked up into quite a lather, until the minute I met her. And then, what a gift this was...it all faded away. She was perfect. She was perfect for us. She was perfect in every way for our older daughter. She just fit. And she still does. I know this will be true for you too. Breathe deep and try to melt into the wait.

Cindi Campbell said...

It is really amazing how each child handles the rough places. It seems their personality and bent dictates how they will respond and cope with the difficulties. Our littlest one with her sn and residing in an orphanage is actually the best adjusted of our 3 , sleeps best and soonest at night and has less trauma issues . I find that amazing and trust that my other girls will eventually heal as well. Your two will undoubtly be different and handle the same stressors in unique ways. Pray you all do well in the process.
BLessings for your journey.
Cindi

nevermindthedistance said...

Wow - I just wrote on the topic of navigating loss in adoption the other day. I am yet to adopt, but have tuned into this element a lot of late and your post adds to my understanding even further. It's a big deal and seems to sit alongside the experience.

Sending you strength, Jess

Laurie said...

Missing your posts and hoping you're just away due to the fact that you're busy nesting! :)

Annie said...

(((HUGS))) TM! Pray for the Lord to prepare her precious little heart! Your family is the family that He has chosen for her and He will not leave her or you all now! He will be with you all every step of the way - no matter what comes! Love your heart!

Erica said...

Before adopting my son I saw everything through slightly rose colored glasses. it wasn't that I was naive--I had studied, researched and was intimately familiar with attachment issues. But when you see the face of abandonment and you are the one promising you will never leave them you remember the person who did leave...I have never felt anger towards D's b-family, just profound sadness. Thoughts of her slip across my brain before I even know it. Just walking across a parking lot on a sunny beautiful day happy to be alive she suddenly popped into my mind and the ache I felt...yeah, we know what we are getting into the second time around. It doesn't hurt less.

Johnny said...

I was thinking about this the other day. I too was more nervous the second referral time. You know that saying, "If I only knew then what I know now". It's a double-edged sword in this case, because you DO know. First time was all rainbows and unicorns. Second time, not so much and as a veteran, you know what you have to do, and so a bit more organized. But you already know the "other side China" part of the story you didn't know before.