Friday, April 22, 2016

It never should have been this way

It's really a remarkable thing to watch. Watching her learn to love and trust again, watching her blossom right before our eyes, watching her take risks and push herself- it's incredible. She is remarkable. Truly. But I can't help watch her and think that it never should have been this way. She should have never been here in the first place. She should have never had to cry herself to sleep in an orphanage, wondering why her father left her on a street corner that day and never came back. She should never have to be haunted with the fading memory of her mother's face. She should never have to wonder why she was the only one, and why her siblings were spared. She should have never been taken to a strange land with unfamiliar people. I am often told how fortunate she is to be with us, but I don't think I'll ever be able to agree with that statement. If she had gotten out of life what she deserved- what she was rightfully entitled to- she'd never be here today.

It's impossible to quantify the leaps and bounds we take each day with her. It's like having an 11 year-old newborn, but on warp speed: the first taste of peanut butter, the first sip of apple juice, her first time riding a bike, getting her ears pierced, coaxing her into a swimming suit for the first time, teaching her to say "thank you." Last night before bed she gave me her first real hug- the kind where she holds on a little longer and leans her head against my chest. Every day there is another "first."

I love watching her push the boundaries on her comfort zone with me too. Today I saw it as she groggily emerged from her bedroom and climbed into my bed to catch 5 more minutes of sleep, just like my other kids do when morning comes too soon. Another first. Each tiny first seems like a huge milestone.

A few weeks ago I sensed that our restrictive cocooning period was wearing on her. I feared that perhaps it would start taking the opposite effect if I carried on with it much longer. We toured the local elementary school with an interpreter and she eagerly told me she wanted to start school. Now! I hadn't planned on enrolling her until the fall, but she emphatically told me she was ready. So exactly one month after coming home, she began half days at school. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the courage it has taken her to do the things she's done over the past two months, none with the guarantee of ease or success, but all almost entirely with enthusiasm and cheerfulness,

She is astounding. Truly. She has no reason to believe that we won't betray her, that everything here isn't temporary too, just like everything else in her life used to be before we came along. She has no reason to trust us and yet somehow she does... implicitly. How she has managed to maintain a level of trust in the frailty of the human spirit alive for so many years is beyond me.

It has been one of the most incredible things I've ever seen but, like anything else that's built to last, has also had its challenges. We have moments of being tired of each other. Her new siblings get under her skin sometimes, and her heart aches for the ability to speak freely, without the confines of a language barrier... and sometimes we all just want to go back to the way things used to be when things were simpler. But like in every relationship, each challenge is part of a greater whole- a greater overall wellness. Because without these challenges, our relationship would lack roots- it would lack any depth. It's the very moments of wanting to give up, but not giving up, that help her to realize that we are here to stay, come rainbow or thunderstorm.

Yesterday evening I got a wonderful phone call from her endocrinologist- a diagnosis! Thankfully, of all the possible diagnoses that had been thrown our way, this one is the most reassuring. It's interesting how when the other possibilities are so daunting, a person can breathe a sigh of relief when they're told that all their child will need is a couple of major surgeries and life-long management and medication. But that, I can handle! The other prospects... not so much. We still have a long road ahead, but at least now that road has direction.

And so here we are, almost two months after meeting for the first time, and Dennis and I both agree that she's not the same girl we met that day in the Civil Affairs office. Her eyes are brighter and she's come alive in a different way. She's a sister, a daughter, and an integral part of a family- none of these for the first time- but now forever.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Imperfect Child

Today marks one month that HengXin offically became a part of our family. This past week has been both beautiful and rough. With HengXin battling constant low-grade fevers and brutal insomnia, she has felt utterly miserable. She has become weary of taking the new medications since the promise of feeling better has proved to be anything but true. If anything, she has felt worse since starting them.

The stress is starting to catch up with me as well. The possible diagnoses they're throwing out are scary and overwhelming. The magnitude of how our lives have and will continue to change is hitting me like a ton of bricks. It was a long morning of doctor's appointments and testing, and it's looking like this might become part of a new norm for us, at least for the forseeable future. I had a good cry this afternoon and felt better.

From the first day we started looking into adoption, it has been a rollercoaster, with both amazing vistas during the highs, and intensely discouraging valleys during the lows. Coming home has been no different. 

As sweet as she is, she manages to push buttons and trigger insecurities I never even knew I had. Almost constantly throughout the day, a silent dialogue is running through my head.

It's from having lived in an orphanage.

It's cultural.

She's never been taught differently.

She's grieving.

Don't take it personally.

This isn't about you.

...But even knowing these things, it's still tiring.

Thankfully my little girl seems to feel a close bond to me and Dennis, and seems content to be within arm's reach of me at almost any time of day. Hugs are beginning to be something she enjoys, and readily embraces us several times each day. For someone, like me, who loves physical affection but also needs her space, the constant physical closeness has been both a blessing and a challenge.

Earlier this week I had to go for a jog to decompress. After a long day of eye-rolling and typical pre-teen attitude, I needed some space and a break... a four mile break. Dennis talked to her about how mom gets tired and needs a rest sometimes. And sometimes mom feels sad and overwhelmed.

I returned home at dusk to an eager little girl awaiting me at the gate. She eagerly hugged me, pointed out the beautiful colors of the sunset, and led me inside to a surprise she had prepared for me. Banana slices- cut in the shape of a heart- with Skittles sprinkled on top, a tall glass of water, and marshmallow Peeps were neatly arranged on a plate. Sitting next to it, the stuffed animal she had bought me in China, with the bracelet we had worked together on in the hospital. Oh.... that girl. How does she do it? One moment I want to rock in a corner, banging my head against the wall, and the next moment my heart is a melted puddle on the floor.

One of her favorite ways to unwind is to sing along to Chinese music videos. The sounds of a prepubescent Chinese boy band are heard throughout the house almost any time of day. I love hearing her sing along, though it's usually the same song over and over and over ...and over again. 

After my tearful mini-meltdown today, I came home from work to find her listening to her song again. She brought me the phone and pointed to the screen, indicating that she wanted me to watch the video. She had found a version of her song on Youtube with the lyrics translated into English. The song was titled, "Imperfect Child."

As I finally understood the words to the song she had sung along to, dozens of times each day, my tears again flowed freely. But this time the tears were different. I couldn't believe this was what I had been hearing all along. She eagerly watched me and then smiled, asking if I liked the song.

Did I like it? Are you kidding me? I gave her a big hug. I love it. Now, please excuse me while I mop up the puddle on the floor that used to be my heart.

When my smile shines like the sun
When my dreams are bright enough
The whole world will applaud me
But only you worry that I will get hurt

While the whole world waits for me to fly higher
Your heart hurts for my tiny wings
You support me
And give me a place to rest

When I need to seem like a perfect child
And fulfill everyone's expectations
Yet it seems you don't mind
The sight of my foolish mistakes

My imperfect dreams 
You think about with me

My imperfect courage
You tell me to be strong

My imperfect tears
You wipe with your smile

My imperfect songs
You sing each one

My imperfect worries
You worry about each one

This imperfect me
You treat like a treasure

The love you give me is not perfect
But is most beautiful

The whole world is rushing me to grow up
But you hold me tightly in your arms
And shelter me from unknown storms

When I work hard to be a perfect child
And fulfill everyone's expectations
You don't tell me all your wishes
Fearing the weight on my shoulders

The love you give me is not perfect
But is most beautiful