“I was mad at you when I was in China”, she tells me in a tear-choked voice using all of the English words she has picked up over the course of almost nine months. They don’t quite manage to convey the same message as the emotion that shines in her eyes.
In the same way that a baby is carried inside the warmth of her mother before being born into the world, our daughter has spent the last nine months soaking in the warmth of what Family means. And now, the questions about Before have started. This was the day that I knew was going to happen. The day I knew needed to happen. The start of the process. By no means do I believe that this simple statement will be the beginning and the end of our conversations.
It had been a particularly rough day. The rupture happened right before bath time (don’t they all seem to happen at the end of weary days?), and the repair occurred as I laid down in her bed next to her, face-to-face, staring at her eyes while we breathed in unison.
“I’m sorry”, I told her, “Mommy should not have yelled at you. I am so sorry. Do you forgive me?”
She wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed hard in a forgiveness-granting hug.
“My love you,” she says.
While her actions may sometimes reflect a person younger than 4, her eyes have always seemed older than her years. From the start it was her eyes that captured my heart. I saw a question in them, “will you love me?” And I answered in the only way I could with “yes.”
Her wiser-than-her-years eyes stared into mine and fought to explain the emotion in her heart.
“I was so sad in China, I said, ‘Mommy! Where are you?”
My head knows that she didn’t know who I was then; that she had no concept about the changes about to transpire, but my heart cried, and a few tears trickled down my cheeks.
“I was sad, too,” I tell her. “We came and got you as fast as we could.” She has no idea that I spent
days weeks months desperately pleading to the Lord for paperwork to move just a little bit faster through the system, or that I spent hours staring at her pictures and watching the 30 seconds of video we had!
She switches gears and suddenly lacks words to explain her thoughts, but what comes out of her mouth lets me know that she is so conflicted. The losses are being processed and although she knows HERE is her HOME, she misses her old life. We pull out her “Gotcha” day clothes, the things she was wearing the first time we saw her and she snuggles with the sweater that is now too small for her. Carefully, precisely, she folds it up and places it on her pillow next to her face.
We breath in and out together. Deep inhale, and exhale.
Her arm is wrapped tightly around my neck, and her eyes stare unblinking at mine for a time longer, and then they close.
The rupture is fully repaired, but the knowledge of the losses she is harboring in her heart breaks mine.
This conversation is not over. I know it will continue to happen as little pieces of the puzzle come together in her mind.
I know it will be hard every time. I’m not afraid to shed tears when she does. She needs to know that it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to miss the land of her birth, it’s okay to talk about these things and fall apart a little. Bringing things out of the darkness of memory and into the light of the present can be difficult. It’s a place of vulnerability that requires much safety before it can happen. It requires that I be vulnerable, too, and willing to go where she needs to go. It requires respecting her feelings and emotions.
“My love-a you, mommy! You love-a me?”
“Yes, I do. I do love you.”
Goodnight, sweet dreams, see you in the morning.