Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bonding & Older Child Adoption

We were on pins and needles at the beginning of the week after being contacted about the possibility of Sarah sharing some stories and information about her life as an adopted older child. The organization which contacted us will be traveling to China very soon to meet with older children who shortly will be available for adoption. They know these kiddos have questions and wanted to know if there was anything Sarah would like to share about her experience as an older adopted child that she thought might help these kids. The organization was asking for photos, comments or maybe a video from Sarah.

In classic Sarah fashion, she ponders for a bit and then says, "Yes. I would love to share! There are so many things I was scared about or wondered about!" And then the kicker -- "I don't know how much photos will help. Just tell them it will be better if you and I just go to China with them because then I can just sit and talk with these kids!"

So, I related the story to the organization rather "tongue in cheek" about how Sarah and I could be ready to travel in the very short time frame and how excited Sarah is to share her story -- and they actually considered bringing us along to China. (Right there it tells me how committed these folks are to these children!) Unfortunately time and space have constraints so we will not be hoping the next jet to China. But Sarah is very optimistic and told me she "knows in her heart" that talking with the kids is a good thing and she'll be ready with her suitcase should the phone ring that she's needed in China!

When there was the chance that we'd be traveling we talked with Sarah about what she would want to say, how she would say it and why she would say it. As we're listening to her talk it became ever so apparent how much she has gone through and how much she has taken in and processed since the day we met her. And it also became apparent how much we are a family and how comfortable she feels sharing information not only with us but with others who she thinks may benefit.

I mean, seriously, the things she wants to share are personal feelings and fears. How many teens want to do that? And not only would she be sharing these things with other kids but with US and Chinese representatives in the adoption field. Knowing that she's comfortable enough now to share some of these things, I thought there might be some benefit to sharing some on the blog as well. So let's start with bonding.


One area of major concern to every parent who I've talked with is bonding. It doesn't matter if the parent will be adopting an infant or an older child. There is always the concern about how to bond and the fear of "what if?"

So the words to follow are very close to my heart. While I am no expert and have no professional training, I do have a bit of insight to share but want you to know this just one woman's experience (me!) and take it for what it is --

"Hi. My name is Debbi and I'm an adoptive mom to an older child born in China. Sarah was 13-1/2 when we met and I was 39. I'd never been a mom before and was scared to death! Would I know the right things to do? To say? What would she think of me? Would she think I looked weird? Sounded strange? Smelled funny? Would she love me?

Flash forward and we've been mom and daughter for 1-1/2 years now. Sarah and my husband are the lights of my life! My daughter constantly amazes me with everything from her infectious laugh and silly smile to how awesome she is doing in school.

There is not one day that passes where I don't feel how much my daughter loves me. If I'm in the basement and she's upstairs I'll hear "Mom! Where are you!" or I'll hear her say to Kevin, "Where MY mom?" (And it's always "MY mom" which I love!) We are "mom and daughter" and we are "friends" who share our fears and dreams. We love to be together whether it's watching tv, or "girl shopping" or cooking in the kitchen. And I know she trusts me and for the most part (she is a teenager!) values my opinion. We have an understanding in our home that at any time we can "just talk -- about anything" and it's opened so many doors.

But when we first met, my daughter didn't like me. And there's no fault on any side -- not my fault and not her fault. It's just life. Both Sarah and I met in that room in Nanjing and wanted nothing more than to hug each other and to have our hearts so full of love that we could hardly breath. But life doesn't always happen on the schedules we want. BUT, it doesn't mean it won't happen!"

And that's the point I want to make here!!!! As Sarah was telling about what she wants to share with other kids in China, she wants them to know that it's okay to feel a little "weird" when you meet your new parents. And she wants me to be able to tell the kids that sometimes the parents feel a "little weird" too! And that's OK!!! It doesn't mean you don't love your parents and that your parents don't love you. It doesn't mean you're a "bad kid" or that you're "broken" because you feel that way. As she said, "Mom, I need to tell them it's 'little bit, little bit, little bit' and then it's SO good!"

We've met a lot of families since we started on our adoption journey. We've heard a lot of stories. Some stories are happy and some curl your toes. If you look hard enough, you'll find stories about every possible scenario that can happen with adopting an older child. If you take one story and let it stand alone, it doesn't give you the full picture. We are a perfect example of that. Our story at the beginning and our story now are very different. Here are photos to show you what I mean.

If a picture tells a thousand words .....

Me and Sarah THEN ......

Me and Sarah NOW .....

I've rambled enough today! In future posts I'll try to put in some things we think were good bonding activities and other things Sarah thinks are important for kids and parents. As with everything in life, its "little bit, little bit, little bit!"


Michelle said...

Great post!! I look forward to reading more.

Joanne said...

Wow! I think you guys are going to help so many families by doing these types of posts! Just great :)

Kelly said...

What a wonderful and helpful post! I can't wait to see the next one.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Kelly O

M & M said...

Wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Lesa said...

I love the post, Debbi! I really am getting a lot out of this. I had wondered how you guys did the first steps of your way. Thank you so much for sharing.

I do hope that Sarah and you can go to China and share your story. It is a fabulous story and one that needs to be told. Maybe a book one day.

I'm glad that she has given some insights to how it is in the orphanage. We could only imagine how it was for our daughter since she couldn't tell us. She was always scared of the dark until just this year really. She still has issues at times. I do play Mozart every night for her to sleep by.

Thank you so much.


Mike and Barb said...

Thank you Debbi for sharing more about the "inside" of your adoption journey. Your family has come a long way, and that is very heartwarming too see!