Doctors, specialists, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, surgeries, followups, case managers, insurance companies, medical supplies, this test and that… All of this on top of typical school and family activities, celebrations, and illnesses. It is sometimes easy to forget your little one was once an orphan. It’s easy to forget they have buried fears and pains that you will never fully understand. Sometimes while trying to keep their little bodies functioning properly we lose sight of where they came from. I find myself guilty of treating Lizzie as though she has always been here, she fits in so perfectly. It’s as if she was made for us, I know in a sense she was, but in an unbroken world she would be in China. Her heart would have been repaired at birth and she would be with a family that shares the same DNA. No matter how blessed we are to have her now or how thankful we are to have the necessary resources she needs to survive, there are hurts I can’t take away. How I wish I could.
Adopting under normal circumstances (whatever normal means) is difficult. Bonding, trusting, growing together is something that takes time. As the parent of a medically fragile child you might find yourself building a relationship while in an aquarium called a hospital room. It’s like you’re in a fishbowl and everyone, from nurses to janitors, gets a front row seat to your very private moments. You learn to just keep swimming. You become war buddies, you learn your child’s quirks in the thick of battle, and they certainly see what you’re made of. You learn to comfort each other while holding your child down for “one more stick”. You learn how to rock and hold your little one just the way they like it while navigating the tubes and lines coming from various ends of their tiny bodies. You can’t just leave to catch your breath because they haven’t learned you will always come back.
In Lizzie’s situation, she came right to me when the nanny handed her over. Well, she came right to me until she realized her daddy was hers, then she went right to him. That first night she was so brave. We examined her just as you would a newborn, she had all her fingers and toes, she had a beautiful shy smile, and she loved to be held. As I gave her her first bath, I suppose I tried washing away the past for both of us. It’s almost like I put out of my mind how fragile she was. But I do remember how her hands were contracted, how her fingers and toes were bloody and scarred from chewing on them, how she had scratched herself until she bled, how she had two bald spots from pulling and scratching at her hair, and I remember the pictures of the metal crib and tear filled eyes. What I’ve lost sight of are the “why’s” she had these issues. As she courageously embraced us as her new family my fears of what it would take to be her mother vanished, along with most of her “orphan traits”.
Until they sometimes reappear… Why does she sometimes wake up crying at night, and by crying I mean a blood curdling scream that is almost animalistic? Why does she make her body so stiff and kick and hit so hard I’m afraid she will hurt herself? Why won’t she let me touch her? Why won’t she let me put her down? Why won’t she eat? Why won’t she talk? During the day and even most nights, everything is so perfect and normal in her world. What haunts her to trigger these behaviors? What do I do to make things right for her? I’ve got a plan for the medical dilemmas we face. Oxygen is low, give her O2. Won’t take things by mouth, give it via g-tube. Fever, give tylenol. Cough, give a breathing treatment. And if I still can’t figure things out, we have a plethora of specialists to call upon.
You know, sometimes it doesn’t take a medical degree to treat your child. Go with your gut and remember to be Spirit led in all your endeavors. Sometimes you have to stop all the “fighting” you do to keep the therapies and treatments going. Sometimes you have to just take a little break from all the extra and just do the bare minimum to maintain a viable level of health. Sometimes her spiritual health outweighs everything else. Sometimes you need to just be still and be momma. Sometimes you have to pull out the Ergo (baby carrier) and strap your 4 year old to your chest so she can be close to you. Sometimes you have to stop what you are doing and hold your baby through her nap just so she knows she is safe. Sometimes you need to miss the trip to the mall or party or game because being overstimulated is something she just can’t handle yet. And sometimes, actually always, you need to remember to hit your knees and ask God to protect your child from whatever demons torment her. She may have once been an orphan, we can’t take that away from her, but we can continue to go forward in love and hold her through her hurt.