I really didn’t expect this to be easy. I was very prepared for the hard, but it seems no matter how you try to prepare yourself for transition, something about it will take you by surprise.
For me it has been how easily Jessica is adjusting to life with our family. Yes, there are still “no” moments. Yes, there have been a few where we have had to physically pull her off the floor where she was imitating a baby’s fit… but for the most part, this girl is brave, strong and really quite hilarious. Her file said that she was not as up to speed mentally as her peers, but I have seen none of that. She has found ways to communicate perfectly with her brothers and to show us how brilliant she is. She can read almost faster than me, and she can write like a boss in that crazy Chinese script.
Today at her medical checkups, we found what we had already suspected. Her eyesight is pretty poor. She will need glasses, or contacts as she is insisting on. She was pretty hilarious attempting the eye exam. It was funny to me that she was acting like the Chinese nurses that were giving it to her had the issues and not her eyes. She also ended up with 5 shots (poor girl). Never shed a tear, although this afternoon she has been a bit sleepy, grumpy, and blah.
While we sat waiting during medicals, a boy who was evidently scheduled to get a TB test was making a raucous near us. This boy was very insistent that he would not get stuck with any needles. He was resisting his parents, holding tightly to a chair, falling all over the ground, and being completely conspicuous. After several attempts at getting him to cooperate, his mother had had enough and smacked him across the face, I guess (I didn’t see it, but Jessica relayed it to me later). I know it is not funny for a mother to hit her child like that, and in America she might have been in big trouble, but this boy was being such a baby (he was old enough to know better) and the smack was not nearly hard. Jessica relaying this incident to us with dramatized hand motions was completely hilarious. She just has a sense of humor that fits right in. By the way, in China it is quite the norm for mothers to smack their children for misbehaving, even in public. Our guide told us that her mother did it quite often…never her father, but her mother. While I don’t agree with random hitting of your child, it is quite refreshing to be in a country where applying the rod of correction will not get you arrested. Not that I want to get into a discussion about spanking, but I have found that it has been a quite effective form of discipline at times. Maybe this blog will get me arrested…I digress.
So Jessica, surprisingly, has been the easy one. She has enjoyed the boys and they have enjoyed her, she has warmed to Naomi and is quite content now with a family of 7. She has been a joy on this trip with her attempts to communicate, her late night Skype calls with random Chinese people that we don’t have any idea who they are (but they always say “beautiful mama” when I say “hello”, so they are alright in my book), and her random hugs for Mama and Baba. I know the hard times will come. I am not naïve enough to think that there won’t be bad days or meltdowns, but so far I love this gal more and more every day.
Then there is Naomi… the challenge. Naomi did not make a sound the first day that she was with us. Totally compliant… our guide said we might have been blessed with an easy baby. Not this Naomi. The shock has begun to wear off and we are left with an often angry little girl who needs to be in
control. Yes, I know this is probably normal and every child develops survival instincts in an institutionalized environment, but it is still hard. Screaming last night… more today at nap time. Naomi wants to eat cookies constantly (or any food really) and does not take kindly to being refused…like screams her head off for a half an hour. I know that it is a safety thing, but to do what is best for her we have to slowly shut off the safety mechanisms… that and her stomach can only hold so many cookies.
Naomi will not let anyone else near her but me and emphatically pushes her Baba away if he comes anywhere near her. When he picks her up, she screams bloody murder. Besides the screaming, she has not made but a few slight other sounds and has not said any words, so I have no idea if she can talk… although they said she can say some words. She points a lot…mostly to the cookies.
Not only is Naomi missing an ear, but her upper body is somewhat deformed. David and I suspect fairly severe scoliosis, but we will have her examined in the states when we get back. The Chinese doctors are not much help… they basically just want to pass the kids through and not raise red flags. So we will wait. Her belly is quite distended and we aren’t sure what that means. She wants to eat constantly, but I don’t know that it is from hunger. It could be malnutrition, but not sure. She weighs around 21 lbs, a little more than Kate did when we got her at the same age.
So this girl is intricate. In just over 2 years, she has experienced enough trauma for a lifetime and she is having a hard time processing it. This is hard for me as her mama because I have no idea what her life was like before us. Is she resistant to her Dad because she is afraid of men? Does she eat constantly and hold food in her mouth and hands for hours because she didn’t get enough where she was? Is she having trouble bonding because she was in foster care for several months before we got here and she misses her foster mother (who she no doubt thought was her mama)? I don’t have the answers to these questions. We visit her orphanage tomorrow so maybe there will be some light shed on these questions. I don’t hold my breath… in China, there is usually not answers, only more questions. We have no rights to the knowledge that we so desperately need to parent completely effectively. There is like this black hole filled with important details that we will never reach. It took me months to get over this with Kate, and then I only did because she seems unaffected by her past now that she has been home for over a year. Now that we are at this place again, I realized how much I despise not knowing my daughters’ history. Having to guess why Jessica has marks up and down her legs… why Naomi will not stop asking for cookies… 14 years of history in that black hole… 2.5 years of history whirling around out there in the forbidden. This is the hard part of adoption. This is the sacrifice we make when we choose someone else’s child. These are the moments I am slammed right in the face with this broken world.
And it angers me. It makes me soooo mad. I look at my daughters and I long to have the answers. I long to know, just as I do with Jordan and Nathan, their every mood and why it is happening. The background has never been so important and yet so unreachable.
So again, at the end of me. This morning I found myself telling the Lord all of this and more in no uncertain terms… and you know what He said? He said, “I know all of this, Candace, and that is why I sent you to this girl. She needs you… she needs what I have placed in you.”
And His voice makes everything all right. “Okay, Lord. I understand. I’m Yours. Everything I’ve got. Everything I’m not (and that’s a whole lot). Your Hands and Feet to these children that You have sent me to. Help me not to mess it up. Give me wisdom in every road block. Help me to be the Mom they need to heal. Redeem the black hole. Just as you have done with Katherine Hope… redeem the time that Jessica Faith and Naomi Grace have spent without refuge…without safety… without hope in this world. Thank You because You are SO MUCH BIGGER than facts… they have to bow to You! You give ALL the wisdom that we need to become family.”
In other news, Jordan and Nathan are ready to go home (me too!) and Kate is most of the time a great big sister and only a few times has shown jealousy. Like right now when she is screaming to go with Mama. For some reason today has been a hard day. But without the hard days, we would never know the overwhelming graciousness of God. Especially on the hard days, He is visible.
That concludes this Roberts Family update. Signing off from China.
PS. I don’t have time to add pics to this post, but there are some great ones of the medical visits on Facebook.