Monday, November 2, 2009

In China I cried for you Mommie

I have been thinking about this post for quite some time. It is one of those posts that is difficult to write because there is so much to say and so many ways to go with it and because it is very emotional for me and because I am not sure if I am doing or saying the right things to my daughter. You see, even writing the first 2 sentences proved difficult!! Geesh! Can you imagine what the rest of the post will be like??? Hang in there with me because I would truly love some feedback on this. Anyway, when you first think about adoption you start looking at these pictures, these faces, many, many faces. Some are smiling and some are not, some are young and some not, some have special needs and some are perfectly healthy, but the one thing they have in common is that they do not have a family. You would think that after a while, you would become immune. That looking at all these beautiful faces day in and day out would eventually begin to lessen its effect on your heart. With me and I think most people who commit to adoption (because it is a commitment), quite the opposite happens. You begin to hope and pray for all of them and maybe a little more for certain ones of them, but your heart and your life begin to change. There have been so many times that I have just longed to be able to jump through this computer and wrap my arms around some of these children and hold them close and tell them that it would be ok, that I would make it ok!! Then you find your child and that longing becomes almost unbearable. The minute you see that face, the face, you know that this is your child and that you must bring him/her home and that you must do it as quickly as humanly possible. I know I drove my wonderful hubby absolutely crazy during our incredibly maddening paper chase with my demands of, “it needs to be done RIGHT now, yesterday if possible!!!!” and “Our little girl NEEDS us!” “How can you not drop everything right this second to make these copies for me or get this notarized for me or get that physical done, man!!!!!” This is the key, I think, to this post. I couldn't wait to make it all better for my Lizzie. Even though I researched (again driving my poor hubby crazy) and researched and researched and should have known better, I still, however, dreamed of taking Lizzie into my loving Mommie arms and just simply make it all better. By loving her, I wanted to be able to make the trauma of the first 2 years of her life just vanish like it never happened. However, that would mean that the first 2 years of Lizzie’s life didn’t matter, didn’t count for anything and that is not possible or right. In my head, I knew this to be true because, again I was the researching, “knowledgeable,” prospective adoptive parent who was well versed in the worst case scenario, but in my heart, I couldn’t help that small part of me that just wanted to be able to wrap my loving Mommie arms around my sweet girl and simply make it better. Fast forward now to June 10th, 2008, the day we met our Lizzie for the first time! What an extraordinary day full of all kind of emotions. I remember the moment they put Lizzie in my arms and I heard the slightest little whimper and I braced myself for the tears and the screaming!!! But they never came. She was quiet and didn’t want to look at me at first but she never cried and I couldn’t help thinking and hoping that maybe my heart was right and I could make it all better. I would quickly come to the realization, however, that I couldn’t just put my arms around my daughter and “heal” her and that it would be a journey that would probably last a lifetime and that I was ready, readier than I thought I would be. So here we are now a year and 4 months out and our journey has been a sometimes incredibly difficult one and sometimes an incredibly beautiful one and yes, I am still researching and yes, still driving hubby crazy!! There are days that I think, “Wow, we had a great day and I feel good about how I handled things today.” There are also days that I don’t feel like I did or said the right things, at all and I worry and I second guess. This was all brought to the for front with a small photograph album that contains all of the pictures that we have of Lizzie in China (pre-us). We were very fortunate to gets lots of pictures and even some video of her life before we met and Lizzie seems to enjoy getting the pictures out and looking at them. Now that she is so much more verbal (thank you speech therapy), she has started telling me things, things about her life in China. I know that she was young, but Lizzie is very smart and very intuitive and very serious about what she has told me. One day when we were looking at her pictures together, she saw one of herself and in it she was crying (in many of Lizzie’s pictures she is crying). She turned to me and told me that she was crying because she missed me. I will never forget her words. She said, “In China, I cried for you Momma.” She then went on to say, “but you came for me and I happy now, we all together, whole family together, Mommie and Daddy and Emmie and Christian and Charlie and Caleb, all together forever and ever.” “Now family all around me and Mommie right here, Momma will never leave me – Momma here forever.” After picking myself up off the floor and fighting back the tears that threatened to flood the room, I just wrapped my arms around her and reassured her that we were together now and would be forever and that I had cried for her too, when she was in China. I know that, at the time, the Mommie she was crying for was not me (although hubby reassures me otherwise) but to hear those words come out of my daughter’s mouth overwhelmed me. Another reminder of how much she has lost in her short little life and how remarkably strong she is and there I was trying to make it all better. I have heard from 20 something adoptees that it is better to just acknowledge their hurt and loss rather than to try and make it better but is that appropriate for a 3 year old? I want so desperately to be able to do and say exactly the right things for her especially when she is struggling with her memories and she seems to be remembering China a lot lately. She remembers and tells me things about her nannies or her ayis. She will point to one of them in her pictures and tell me that she was nice or point to another and say that she was not. She rediscovered the stuffed puppy with my voice recorded in it, that was in the very first care package we sent to her and began to tell me that they would let her and her friends play with the toys we sent “a little bit” and then they would put them up.

She clung to that puppy for a couple of weeks after that conversation. She also told me that she was in her crib most of the time and I talk to her about it. I talk to her about it, I think, because to me it is important to know what her life was like so that I can better understand her and help her and I talk to her about it because I want to try and know about the 2 years of her life that I will probably never fully know about but she is my daughter and I try. I try to get closer to her by “getting to know her” and it works. I try to find the right words for her and I second guess myself at every turn. Am I doing the right thing by continuing this conversation, the good and the bad? Should I be wrapping my arms around her and hoping to make it better? I don’t know. What I do know is that Lizzie is my wonderful, completely amazing, beautiful daughter and I love her. I have battled the “institutionalized behaviors” and I have battled the tantrums and I have battled the eating or lack of eating and I have battled her sensory issues and I will continue to fight the good fight because she is my daughter and I love her. I hope that as she matures and we continue our conversations that we will be able to help Lizzie embrace her “ghosts” instead of battling them. I will forever remember and talk to her of her birth family and country and will try my best to help her to understand all that has happened to her in so much as I understand it and I think that the day will come that all I have for her will be (in the words of Mei Ling, an adult adoptee over at ), “I am sorry.” “It just sucks.” But for now, I will continue to wrap my Mommie arms around my little Lizzie and tell her that her family is all around her and that we will never leave her and that we love her and will love her forever.

So help me here. Any advice would be greatly appreciated and will go into my file of “words of wisdom for Lizzie.” Thank you for making it all the way to the end of my rambling post. I also thought I would re post Lizzie’s One Year Home Video, so if you have about 10 more minutes and have not watched it, I would love for you to. It was such a labor of love for my precious daughter and a testament to our family’s amazing journey.



  1. I just love this post. I have these same feelings daily. I used to think I had the "mommy thing" figured out. I second guess myself all the time now. I've been thinking a lot about something I read recently... adoption isn't a beautiful is the best solution to a horrible problem... (I'm paraphrasing and probably slaughtered the eloquence). I find myself wishing I could meet my girls birth parents ask them questions, watch their movements, just soak them up so that I could fill in all the missing pieces for them. I hate that I can't. As Mom's we want to fix it and make it all better, it is hard to see them act out their pain that they don't even understand. I think it is wonderful that Lizzie has the "language". Your a wonderful Mother. Thanks for this post.

  2. Thank you so much, Amy. I wonder about Lizzie's birth family ALL the time. I wonder where Lizzie gets her spunk from and her tiny little body and her incredible capacity for love and I think that if I have such a great desire to meet them, imagine how my sweet daughter will feel!! Thank you for your wonderful comment.

  3. Annie, She gets it. Lizzie really "gets it" and comprhends so well for being so young. I think you are doing the right thing by continually showing her you love her and acknowleging her past. I struggle so often with not really wanting to tell Grant that he was born from another woman, another "mommy". I see the pain in his face when I HAVE to bring it up. I only talk about it if I have to. I hate seeing him in pain. It has to be acknowledged and he has to understand that I would do absolutely anything for him. That is true love. It is impressive that Lizzie can express herself so well. You are doing a great job!

  4. Thank you Heather. She really amazes me at her depth of understanding and wisdom at 3. She is so very bright (even the nannies told us how very smart she is) but struggles still with speaking. Not being spoken to for 2 years really had a horrible impact on her but she is trying and getting more words all the time. I feel like there is so much in her brain that she just cannot express and it really gets to her sometime. She is just so strong as are so many of these kids!!

  5. Speechless...What a wonderful video. Such a special, special family! Lizzie is one lucky little girl!

  6. Wow! What an incredible story~~~~

  7. My feedback should be taken with a grain of salt as I do not have any human children yet, but I will try to relate as best I can as a Mommy to two adopted furry children (my dogs Morris and Avery). When I adopted Avery at one and a half years old, she was in a horrible hoarding situation and was basically feral. I struggled for a long time watching her shrink away from my touch, have constant anxiety attacks and not being able to get close enough to really hold her like I wanted to. I cried a lot and wondered what I could do better and also cursed the *bleep bleep* that didn't love her enough. She still shys away at first when I or someone else goes to touch her, but she gets close after awhile. She's gotten past most of her anxieties and seems to just be a happy girl, but with some instinctual fears. She may never be the dog that climbs in your lap and licks your face, but she's happy, healthy, surrounded by love and her "big brother" Morris whom she adores.

    What I'm trying to say is-Lizzie may never completely be rid of the things she endured on an unconscious level, but those memories will fade just as childhood memories fade for all of us over time. You are her Mother, but let her be your guide on these conversations. If she wants to discuss it, then that is how she instinctively knows to deal with it and that is the best thing for her. You show your unconditional love to all your children daily-it's abundantly apparent in your beautiful posts. As you build memories of trust and love throughout her life and the lives of your other children, she and they will have the foundation they need to be successful in life. Your acts of unconditional love will say more than any amount of verbal reassurance. You are there for her now, and you will always be there for her. Her past is part of her story, but it's not the end of her story. Just as all of your children have always been a part of your story, before they were even born, so Lizzie was also in the story...she just happened to be in the outside world a little longer before you met her. Ultimately, you and your family will define the woman she will become, but she also helps define your family.

    So trust your daughter and listen to her-she'll tell you exactly what she needs-with or without words.

    With love, Cousin Stephanie aka Mommy-in-training

  8. That was the second time I've watch the video and I still cried through the whole thing! Lizzie has really transformed since you brought her home! I'm reading a book on attachment and bonding right now and it talks alot about letting the child talk as much as they can communicate about there early life that it helps them heal and move on, I think it's so great that she can verbalize her experiences now to you and you can talk with her about it. I know I will have lots of questions for you when we get home, thats if we ever get to leave......

  9. Annie,

    It sounds like you are doing all of the right things. It is so hard to understand all that our littles ones have been through. It is a good thing that she can now verbalize all of those things inside of her. Just trust that God will guide you and give you the right words for each situation. My Princess was 2.5 years old and living in a foster home when we adopted her. Up till recently she hasdnever spoken about her life before us. I know she remembers it. I have always been open with her about what I know of her life. She has a photo album with all the photos I have pre-Princess. I have explained about her foster mother. Now she speaks of her foster mother frequently, but it for the most part is a make-believe foster mother. There are times when I know what she is saying is probably true, and other times when it is not. I'm struggling with how to deal with it and trusting the LORD all of the time!

  10. Thank you everyone!!! It really helps to hear such wonderful words of wisdom and support. Stephanie, it was especially great to hear from you!! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment and I have also BTDT with some of my foster doggies. It is heartbreaking as well! You will be an extrordinary Mommie!!!! Jen, thank you for watching the video - again. It really was such a labor of love!! Whenever you have a question, please feel free to email anytime. Thanks Beach Momma!! I pray everynight for guuidance and wisdom!!

  11. Your daughter has 2 moms, 2 sets of parents. To me one of the best way to honor my girl is to remember the people who gave her life. Your husband is right the one she is remembering at the moment is actually you.

    She is starting to "get" the feelings but not quite the facts. My girl until recently would think her foster mom was also her birth mom. Why? Because we have a pic of her foster mom. She has no visual of her birthmom. Just recently, 2 months shy of 4, used the term first mommy (I never used that term I use birth mom or China mommy) she is starting to get it.

    Her first year home I was an emotional wreck about her story and beginnings. I realized I needed to get all my "emotional stuff" dealt with. How could I help her, if I couldn't keep myself together. The last thing I want is for her to feel, my feelings. I joined a life book group and wrote and wrote. I started telling her her story when she was asleep in my arms at 1 yr old. At first I couldn't get through it with out crying and I stumbled through the words. It gets easier. The support of the lifebook group was invaluable.

    Tell her story, over and over. To your husband, to the mirror. Journal it, refine it. Get comfortable with the words, so you can tell it without passion or prejudice................

    One of the hardest lessons of this journey called life is sometimes you can not love someone through something. And as much as we love them in the here and now, we can not change their past or make it better.

    We can help them process it............ We can only hope we get them to where they have power of their story and not that the story has power over them.

    Hope some of that helps. Find your peace, it is hard work but you can not help her find her peace until you find yours.

    Find your strengh, so you can help her find and or keep hers........... This is what she needs, love just isn't enough...........

    mmac from apc

  12. We just came home from China in April with our 4 year old daughter, Maia, and it wasn't until the past month that she started talking about China. It's been in bits and pieces, but I know, as her language develops, that she'll probably share much more. She's started saying "I no go back China, Momma?" and "Momma....I no like China". It's heartbreaking every time, and all I can do is reassure her that she's here to stay with us forever, and it's okay to talk about her feelings about China. The one thing we've always tried to do is not to talk negatively about her homeland. But we let her talk freely about China, no matter what. We know that things were not very rosy there for her, and we want her to know she's in a safe place to talk about whatever she needs to. I think you're doing all that you can do. They need that constant reassurance that you love them, that they're staying with you forever, and that they have a safe place to share their feelings. I think our Maia remembers far more than we can imagine. But I have no idea if we'll ever know most of her story from those early years.

  13. I have to second what "mmac from apc" said. Sounds like you are already doing that. That's great! Might I suggest one further step tho? Record her memories, the ones she shares with you, for her for when she is older. Indeed her memories will most likely fade, and you have the opportunity to preserve them for her, which may or may not mean a great deal to her when she is an adult. But her memories are a part of her, and esp. her China memories are a part of her loss, and may prove priceless to her when those points in her life come when she needs to process them. So many adult adoptees I've listened to mention the preciousness of their "former life", and spend a lot of energy and time trying to reintegrate old and new in order to work on healing their loss of cultural and personal identity. She might really appreciate them someday. God bless you!

  14. Thank you so much everyone!!! You all have given me much to think about and put away for later or start to work on now. I remember telling hubby that I did feel like I had to work through all my feeling of sadness for Lizzie before i could help her with her feelings. Thank you mmac for reminding me of that!! Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to comment. I very much appreciate every one!!!

  15. Excellent idea about writing down the memories, my girl was only 11 months when I first held but oh if she had some I would be writing and recording them...........

    In fact, I might do just that as she processes all this stuff so when she is older she can see her own journey about all this..............


  16. Hi, saw your post re: this blog entry on one of the Yahoo email lists. My DD, now 5.5 yrs. (adopted at 15 mos.), used to talk similarly to the way Lizzie is now. Said she missed us while she was in China, would cry, and why didn't we come to get her sooner? We would read I Love You Like Crazy Cakes together and talk specifically about her story and how the China adoption process worked (i.e., China's adoption people decide when children will be matched with their new parents).

    You are doing the right thing by listening to her and helping her understand her story. Keep listening and talking...that seems to be very important, from what I've read adult adoptees say.

    If you haven't already read Sherry Eldridge's book, do get a copy of Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew (paraphrasing on the title; you'll be able to find it on Amazon if you search for her name). Bottom line: there are things children who have been adopted into their families will feel and go through that are painful, these things don't mean the kids love us's just the nature of adoption. And our love can't "fix" these things, necessarily.

  17. Thank you so much, Cee. I do actually have that book but have not read it in a long time. I think I will get it out tonight!!

  18. Annie, I love everything that has been said so far and echo all the sentiments. I think you are so lucky that Lizzie is able to verbalize her memories and her feelings. This process is so critical to her ability to trust and love you fully, despite her difficult beginning. And of course, I, too, struggle with Jasmine's life before we came for her and I doubt that she will have the same ability to share her experiences.

    As a therapist, I spend most of my day baring witness to what others have experienced in their lives, both the good and the bad. What we all want, more than anything, is to just be acknowledged for who we are and what we feel. We don't need to be fixed, although some pain runs so deep it is hard to bare. Your willingness and ability to listen to Lizzie, to share in her pain and not avoid it, is the greatest gift, along with your unwavering love and affection. You are a wonderful mom, person, and healer for her and my belief is that you will ultimately be healing each other. Love and blessings, Monica

  19. Thank you so much, Monica! I always appreciate your very sweet and insightful comments!!! J has a pretty wonderful Mom, Too!!!