Tomorrow marks three weeks that HengXin will have been a part of our family. In some ways it has flown by and in other ways it seems like the days have crawled by. In many ways, having her as felt like having a newborn again, and I seem to have much less time and sleep than I did before, but I am eternally grateful to have her in our family. As I write this, my eyes well up with tears at my gratitude to God for having led us to her. She truly is a special girl and I love her dearly.
We had so many friends and family praying for a smooth flight home, that I realize I need to follow up on how it went, as I know their prayers and faith were what brought us home in one piece.
I had quite a bit of anxiety leading up to our flight because of her history of motion sickness and how she had shut down for us a handful of times in the past. I had prayed that God would grant us yet another miracle- that she would handle the flight home well and not shut down until after we got home.
On the first leg of the trip from Guangzhou to Shanghai she did amazing- thrilled at the take-off, and marveling at the city and tiny cars below. The newness of the experience seemed exciting and exhilarating to her, enough that she wasn't affected by motion sickness. Phew... Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.
Soon after landing at the Shanghai airport, I could see her eyes hooding and growing distant. She stopped making eye contact and started increasing the walking distance between us. I had seen it enough times to recognize the warning signs. I looked in despair at Dennis and thought, Oh, no, no, no... We can't do this now!
We were in one of the busiest airports in the world, surrounded by a sea of quickly moving people. We had just spent an hour waiting for our luggage, only to realize that the airline had lost one of our suitcases- the one with all of our souvenirs and gifts. Our next flight was scheduled to leave in 30 minutes and we were frantically trying to check our remaining bags in through Seattle and make it through the long security line that seemed to be moving at a snail's pace... and she had just shut down. ...clamped down. She was no longer responding to me or Dennis and insisted on sitting on a curb around the corner from us, just out of sight.
I had to get through to her- desperately so. Again, I prayed silently for wisdom. Where in the past I had quietly given her space and time, that simply wasn't an option this time. I knew I needed to try something different so for the first time in the two weeks that she had been with us, I knelt in front of her, leveling our eyes, and used a tone that every child understands in their mother's voice. I knew she couldn't understand my words, but she watched my hand motions, heard the gravity in my voice and saw the seriousness in my face. I saw that she understood what I needed her to grasp.
"I know you're sad, and it's okay to be sad, but you have to say where Mama can see you. There are too many people and you will get lost."
Our battle of wills went back and forth for several minutes- her giving me death glares as I continued to insist that she stay where I could see her. She angrily motioned that she had no intentions of getting on the plane, that she was staying right where she was.
"What are you going to do?" I asked her exasperated. "Are you going to stay here alone in Shanghai, because Baba and I are getting on that plane."
With furrowed brows she begrudingly stood up, motioning that she would follow us and stay within sight, though she still maintained her distance.
As we stood in the agonizingly slow security line, I peaked over and saw her staring off in the distance. Huge crocodile tears were streaming down her face as silent sobs shuttered through her tiny body. I had seen her cry before but never like this. I reached over and hugged my grieving little girl, sure that she would push me off, but she stiffly stood still without pulling away. I stroked her head and told her I loved her. A thousand memories came flooding back, of me standing in the airport, with tears streaming down my face as my family moved to another country, yet again, leaving all of my friends behind. We did it so many times, and somehow it never got easier. My little girl was aching, and in a very small way I had felt some of her pain. I had to blink back my own tears at the painful memories. And yet, in an odd way, I was relieved to see the grief because it told me she understood.
Within minutes she was smiling and back to her cheerful self, having given her grief its space and time- as she should- and had moved on.
We ran full speed to our next flight and made it on the plane by the skin of our teeth. She sat down in her seat, out of breath and laughing at how frantic the airline attendants were to get us in our seats so we could take off. She was back.
The rest of the trip was wonderfully uneventful. She did amazingly well on the rest of the flights and seemed thrilled at the prospect of finally coming home to her forever family.
I think our relationship took a turn that day in the airport in Shanghai. I was no longer just the nice lady who took her to get ice-cream at the 7-Eleven and bought her gifts, but someone that cared about her enough to wag my finger at her and insist on her safety. Oddly enough, I think she found a strange sort of maternal comfort in that. Surely this is not the last we've seen of her grief, but it's something that I know must be met and embraced for what it is, each time it comes.
We are home- and I am so glad for it- but I realize now, more than ever, that our journey is just beginning.