Saturday, January 25, 2014

To the Moon and Back: Snapshots of an Adoption

    Bubbly pink cheeks, a perfect round face and soft light brown skin.  The first time I saw her she was sitting upright on a pink baby blanket with satin trim, wobbly at the core and clearly amused at seeing the world from this new vantage point, she was about six months old. 

Then she vanished.  

A week or so later I saw her standing on a sandy coastline among the beach rye grass with the wind blowing through her soft brown hair, light reflecting like a prism in her rich chocolate brown eyes.  Her skin radiating an inner glow as she stared out at the sea. She was tall, lean and flexible, able to bend and shift with the change in weather, much like the beach grass that surrounded her.  

Then she was gone again.

   Two months later my husband and I drove through a snowstorm to meet a 26 month old little girl.  We walked into the daycare center and were escorted to a classroom.  Two short tables and a dozen or so tiny chairs and endless noise.   I scanned the room searching, seeking, until I found her.  She was sitting in a wooden box, hiding from her world, peering out cautiously.  Her knees were tucked up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around her tiny legs.  She looked so alone, isolated -- lost; nothing like the happy, strong, confident and carefree child I had seen before, but I knew her in my heart. 

There she was.  A child in waiting. Found.

Parke and I approached her gently, dropping to our hands and knees well before we reached her, coming down to her level to greet her from a safe distance.  We sat there on the floor as her peers swarmed around us, tackling us, playing games and singing songs.  She let out an occasional smile at the merriment, but as an observer, not as a participant. We kept our visit short because we didn’t want to overwhelm her.  

The truth was from the moment I saw her sitting there, shy and withdrawn, I knew her, loved her, and I believed in her.  

There she was, our daughter.  Waiting.  

A couple weeks ago Maya said “When I was just a baby in foster care I dreamed about you and daddy and George, then you found me and now I’m home and we’re a family.”.  Maya is tapped into the spiritual realm in a way only old souls can be.  Her knowledge is infinite, her direction clear. I knew all of this before we met in person, because the only way I can explain how she entered our lives is through sheer spiritual force. 

She found me in my dreams. 

Six months after her adoption was finalized we received a letter in the mail from her maternal grandmother.  I unfolded  the letter and a photograph fell out. The moment I saw the picture I got chills and tears spontaneously released from my eyes.  It was the first Maya of my dreams, the bubbly cheeked, happy, smiling baby that called out to me and told me it was time for her to come home.
Our daughter.  Home.  Forever. 

The second dream happened the night of January 7, 2010. It had been a difficult and emotional day.  The fourth anniversary of my Grandma June’s passing.  My Grandma and I shared a special relationship and we relied on one another for strength and support.  When she died my world felt empty. I felt lost.  Before she died I believed I would never have children. I even contemplated having my tubes tied at 22.  Then Grandma left me and I realized the power of family, the importance of loving another person, creating a family, sharing life.  Eight months later I met Parke.  I'd like to think Grandma June had a hand in finding a fellow cheese head from Wisconsin for me to marry and George and Maya for us to love.  
I woke up on January 8 with the strong and unwavering feeling that I needed to contact someone somewhere about adoption.  The proverbial lightbulb was illuminated and our world forever changed.  Friends of ours had recently “fost-adopted” their daughter and I had a contact through the local tribal council.  After discussing it with Parke before he left for work that morning, a conversation squeezed in between a morning breastfeeding for George, followed by a diaper change, coffee, and a rushed shower.  As soon as he left for work I called and left a message to inquire about the fost-adopt process.  A few hours later my call was returned and Maya’s dream was put into motion.  

After a couple false starts we decided to take a break from the process.  It was a crazy idea anyhow, us, fost-adopting a child.  George was just under one year old at the time.  He could crawl, but could not walk. He could make sounds, but could not talk.  He was an infant who required a lot of care, attention and energy.  At the time I was dealing with postpartum depression, managing it quite well, but it weighed on me and some days felt like a struggle to simply get dressed, shower, to eat.  Caring for George was my singular focus and pursuing this “idea” of adopting wasn’t rational and it didn’t make sense, but my in my heart I knew I had to dig deep and find the strength because the truth is she needed me as much as I needed her.  

The day we brought her home we were prepared for a difficult night filled with fears and tears.  As soon as we brought her clothes and toys in the house the party started and she lit up like a firecracker. It was “magical”, as I later told our social worker.  

Meant to be.  

Adopting out of “birth order” is generally not advised, but in our situation it worked to Maya’s advantage.  Developmentally she was just a little farther along than George.  By the time she came home we were her sixth transition.  So for the first week I treated her just like George, rocking her and feeding her milk (from a bottle), and easing into the concept of parenting two kids, age two and under.  Then we came down with a violent stomach bug, one of the worst I have ever had. I was weak with exhaustion and I was fairly confident that I may never be able to eat anything other than broth and mint tea.  I needed help.  Diaper wipes.  A burp cloth.  A trash can.  A distraction.  Maya was brought into the fold of our family and given responsibilities.  She had a role in our family, a place, meaning.  
Maya teaching George to walk.
That summer she taught George how to walk.  They developed their own language, like twins often do at that age.  George learned to talk and was easily frustrated when I didn’t understand what he was saying.  Maya always knew exactly what he needed.  A few months after she came home she began singing him to sleep, after she thought we were out of ear shot the singing would begin.  Maya teaching George to walk and talk translated into Maya’s ability to communicate with us openly because she was the only one who could understand George and what he needed and I think it provided much needed healing. It gave her a distraction from the isolated world she had been living in.  As much as I believe that she was meant to be in my life, just a few minutes observing her and George together makes me realize it has nothing to do with us, not really, instead it has everything to do with the bond she and George share.   Sometimes Maya will tell George "when I was a baby I was in foster care." and he gets really upset and usually replies with something along the lines of "No you just weren't MAYA, you've always been with me.".  In a sense I think she has always been with George, in his heart.  
Maya set up her rocking chair next to mine and would feed her baby
dolls "Mama Milk" (through her belly button) while I fed George.

      We worked with a therapist who approached care using play and incorporated me and George with Maya in her sessions.  The subject of adopting out of birth order came up and our therapist observed that in Maya’s situation being brought into our home with an infant actually helped her stabilize and develop trust in us, which easily translated into accepting and embracing us as her family.  When George cried we soothed him. When he was hungry we fed him.  When his diaper was dirty we changed him. When he was tired we rocked him to sleep.  His needs were fulfilled and Maya felt safe, secure - home.  

Today our smiling happy daughter turns six years old.  She has been home for almost four years, her 4th homecoming anniversary is on April 3rd.  Her adoption anniversary is in three days; it is our 3rd anniversary of becoming a forever family.  
Adoption Day, January 28, 2011
     Every day, in bits and pieces, she becomes that vision I had of her, the second meeting in our dreams.  The strong, confident, bold little girl, looking out at the sea.  Standing on the beach, wind blowing through her soft brown hair.  
     We chose adoption because we needed a daughter and Maya needed a family.  It's that simple.  The process, generally speaking, was easy, the route we chose involved getting to know Maya's birth parents and maternal Grandma.  This provided us with an opportunity to know and understand where Maya came from and to know her birth story.  There is power in story.  Every child deserves a story; a story with a happy ending.  Maya is our happy ending and we are hers.  Before she came into our lives we were incomplete, she completed our family and made us whole.  We needed her as much as she needed us.   






Happy 6th Birthday Maya.  
We love you to the moon and back.  

- Honey Mama 

Maya's First Night Home, popping out of the box her clothes and toys were packed in.  Happy. Home.