My heart ached Friday night as I heard my daughter crying through the phone. She missed me, and couldn't settle herself down enough to sleep. Despite my notes detailing our evening routine, the lack of a nursing session left a gaping hole in the familiarity of bedtime, and she just couldn't get beyond that. Her world had been disrupted; she was sad. Fortunately, once my friend put on one of my shirts, the familiar smell of her mama was enough to help her relax and fall asleep.
I am proud and humbled to be able to say that I have helped many families adopt internationally. My job is (I still do a bit of contract work) to both interview and educate adoptive parents, before and after their children come home. This instance has given me empathy for the parents and a great appreciation for the struggles that these children go through to get here; they are, indeed, survivors.
My daughter had one uncomfortable evening, in the morning I was there to nurse her, and snuggle with her; all was right with the world again. These children get their whole world rocked; nothing is familiar--smells, sounds, routine, textures, language, tastes are all new and different. They have to grieve the loss of all of that they knew and also discover a brand new "familiar". That's hard enough, but many of these children are plucked from their homeland when they are six, seven, eight months old--smack dab in the middle of a time when, developmentally, most children struggle with separation/stranger anxiety, some of what my daughter struggling with Friday night. If you have biological children, you have probably had a taste of how challenging separation/stranger anxiety can be. It's heartbreaking--maybe you have a story similar to mine to tell. We are lucky, in that, we can still incorporate some of the familiar to ease the blow of mama's absence.
Don't get me wrong, I am passionate about international adoption; I love helping people to build their families and want to grow my own family through adoption someday. Part of the educating that I do for adoptive parents is to talk through the grieving their child will do--grieving the loss of country, caretakers they've formed attachments to, language, familiar sights, smells, etc. I did this instruction as a childless woman for years, educated, of course, in child development, and international adoption issues; however, I had no first hand experience of any of this. Now that I know how my daughter struggled through one evening without her mama to put her to bed-- woah--my eyes have been opened. I can empathize with parents who have a child who is grieving--genuinely and authentically, having had just a small taste of that gut-wrenching sorrow for my own child's sadness. I also have a whole new lens through which to view the struggle an internationally adopted child has. These kids are tough and resilient. May it enrich your life to know one, they have had an amazing journey.
**A huge thank you to my friend and her mom for spending Friday with our girls, while we were away. Thank you for snuggling, wiping away tears, bouncing, rocking, walking, consoling, and for taking the same care of Brynne and Hadley that you would take with your own children. I love you.