It's Safe to Return Home...(Final Post #5) by Katherine Gillette, LPC

LANTERN FESTIVAL IN TAIWAN

LANTERN FESTIVAL IN TAIWAN

 

As I prepare to write this final blog many thoughts, feelings, and emotions have emerged over the past 3 weeks. With not being able to share our experiences in a timely manner due to censorship in China, I have been given a gift of time to separate some of my emotions and reflect on the experience of our trip to Taiwan and China, but also on the experience of writing this blog.

As I have tried to discern my intentions in writing this blog I have settled on the following. When I started writing a great deal of media attention was on the new abortion proposals. Obviously adoption is very dear to my heart and quite frankly, the abortion proposals were keeping me awake at night. We have our own story of adoption and we are surrounded with other adoptions that have brought tremendous blessings into our lives. We have several Godchildren who are adopted. We also have several nieces and nephews who are adopted, and we have many friends and children of friends who are adopted. Each and every one of these adoptions has a unique story. Each adoption has its own exclusive beginning, its own journey, and each individual has his or her own heart desires. Just as each birth is unique, so it is with each adoption.

Attachment, abandonment and rejection are not unique to just those who have been adopted. The really cool thing is that there is so much more research and much more understanding of the brain and how all of the issues mentioned above can be sorted out and worked through. I say all of this because each and every child is a blessing and a gift. Sometimes, circumstances make it necessary for a child to have more than one mom and dad. This does not diminish the love that each parent has for that child.

With all of that said, the following is our experience of meeting Marie’s birth mother and her Taiwanese brothers. I wrote this reflection two days after our meeting so time could not change or warp my immediate reactions.

 
 
 
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Meeting Marie’s Chinese Family

I sit here on a small balcony outside our room early in the morning, enjoying the quietness of our surroundings. I am unable to sleep due to a multitude of thoughts and emotions running through my mind. As I share the experience of meeting Marie’s birth family I am writing from my perspective and observations alone. I have intentionally been vague in the details of the meeting to protect everyone’s privacy as each person’s feelings and emotions are still very raw.

We came to Taiwan at this time of year at Marie’s request. She wanted to attend the Lantern Festival. Taiwan has a very unique way of celebrating the Chinese New Year. Each year individuals gather together on one day to write their wishes, desires, and ideas that are most important to them on a paper lantern which is lit and released into the air. It is believed that the ancestors will then help those things happen. This is why the lanterns are released today. However, the Lantern Festival has a significant historical background.

Taiwan, being an island, has a long history of being invaded by other villages, tribes, and nations. When it was being invaded the people would flee to the mountains where they could hide and be safe. When the invasion had ceased, a lantern would be lit and released signaling to the people that, “It is safe to return home.” For me this idea is significant for Marie’s and our journey.

The Orphanage Visit

After our first day at the Lantern Festival, we were scheduled to be at the orphanage to meet with the Cathwell staff early the next morning. Cathwell staff wanted to meet with Marie to get an idea of how she was doing and to see if she had any specific requests for the meeting. I cannot say enough about the work that Cathwell has done, and continues to do, across the globe to find a home for a child and to help unwed mothers. Cathwell has helped unwed mothers since 1971 and in 1984 they set up a nursery and started helping children. Father Bai, director of Cathwell Services puts it very eloquently when he said,

 
Stephen, Marie and I with her mother and one of her brothers

Stephen, Marie and I with her mother and one of her brothers

 

“After God created the world, humans need to develop ourselves. We have to overcome by every step. To break through, to leap over the selfishness, then we can return to God.”

 

I am so very proud of Marie as she has taken a risk and done this. I believe her birth mother has done this as well. After spending the morning with staff we took a break and rode a gondola up a mountain to go to lunch. It was a scenic ride and it allowed us time for our nervousness and emotions to settle. I have to admit I was probably the most nervous. Doubts were creeping in about encouraging Marie to do this. With doubts come the, “What If’s.”

Lunch provided us with the opportunity to just be together and take in the beautiful surroundings. It also provided me with a chance to just look at our daughter and marvel at how beautiful and courageous she is.

It was then time to head back to the orphanage to meet Marie’s family. We had discussed earlier in the morning if it would be best for all of us to be together or if it should just be Marie and her mother. We decided to leave it up to Marie’s mother to decide what would be most comfortable for her. It turned out that we were all able to meet together and later Marie and her mother would meet together separately. There were two Cathwell staff members to help with interpreting, Marie’s mother and brother, Marie, and her dad and I.

 
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The Language of Love

Language was a bit of a barrier, even with interpreters; however, a mother’s love can transcend many obstacles and barriers. It was so very clear to me how much Marie’s mother loved her and continues to love her. It was also clear just how painful it was to give her to another family to raise. As Marie sat next to her mother sharing a photo album we had put together of Marie’s life, it was obvious that mother and daughter not only shared physical characteristics, but some similar personality characteristics as well. How wonderful for Marie to hear, “I understand how you feel because I have felt that way too.”

Marie and I have significant personality differences so at times I struggle to understand what makes her “tick”. I understand Marie because she has been mine for the last 27 years. Her biological mother understood her at an innate level. What a wonderful experience to have both.

 

Two Mother’s Love

Language barriers, oceans, and time cannot hinder the love and understanding that two mother have for their child. As much as Marie’s mother could not stop touching Marie so it was for her mother and me. When we got the chance to embrace all differences melted away and there was an unspoken understanding that we both loved this girl deeply and would do anything for her. I am so deeply grateful for her sacrifice. Marie has blessed each of our lives in unimaginable ways and we cannot imagine our lives without her.

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Brothers from the same Mother

Having Marie’s Taiwanese brother there was such a blessing. He was a support for his mother and with Marie growing up with four brothers she was clearly comfortable visiting with him. It was fun to watch them tease one another and act like brother and sister. God is so good to take care of all the details.

Taiwan and China

The rest of the trip was about learning about Taiwan and seeing the sights in China. It was also about immersing Marie into the Chinese culture. There is much to learn. Because Marie looked like she belonged to the country it was not uncommon for others to start speaking Chinese to her expecting her to respond. They assumed that Marie was Stephen’s and my guide. When they discovered differently, they could not keep themselves from staring. I am sure they were curious about our story. It was a fantastic trip and ended up being more than what we dreamed it would be.

Our Chinese guide who was the same age as Marie

Our Chinese guide who was the same age as Marie

 
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It’s Safe to Come Home.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. My biggest hope in sharing this is that there is more understanding and less judgment for those who unselfishly give children life, hope, and a way for her or him to find their heart’s desires.

And now, Marie has a new path to lead her on her journey. She now knows that she has support from both sides of the ocean.

 
 
Marie & her brothers from another mother

Marie & her brothers from another mother

The Gillette clan

The Gillette clan

 
 

Coming home – A new family... a new town and new name (post #4) by Katherine Gillette, LPC

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The date...October 21, 1991

Chi and I finally arrived back in Colorado and were met at the airport by her daddy, her brothers, friends, and a multitude of curious and supportive bystanders. Her daddy was the first to hold her followed quickly by each of the brothers. Even when one boy was holding her, the others could not keep their hands off her. Just touching her leg or head was enough for them. The boys were holding two different welcome signs, each bearing a different name for our little girl. You see, before I left we had not agreed on a name for Chi. Her daddy and I wanted one name, but the boys wanted another name...one that my husband and I did not prefer. Since we all did agree on her middle name the decision was made to call her… Marie. Our new Taiwanese baby Marie was now in the presence of her new American family with her new name.

Our adjustment to Marie came much easier for us than her adjustment to us and her new environment. I did not realize it until I re-read the home study done by the adoption agency a few weeks after we came home, that Marie had significant delays in speech, minimal eye contact, and “had difficulty attending to toys and people.” I mention this because our excitement and love for her blinded us to her realities. This might have been a blessing as we accepted her as she was. It might also have kept us from helping her as much as we could. Only God knows the answer to that wondering.

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The Home Study Report

The home study indicated that, “Initially Marie did not appear to bond with her adoptive family. She had little eye contact and was somewhat indifferent.”

Within a few short months: however, (October –January) the adoption agency was able to report: “It appears as though Marie has developed a strong bond with the Gillette family members and they have with her.” (January 26, 1992).

Again, I was too caught up to remember this until reading it just a few weeks ago (Jan. 2019). I knew that I struggled with feeling like Marie and I had not fully bonded. She continued to have trouble trusting me when I held her. She would not fall asleep in my arms and would be so tired that the minute I put her down she would instantly fall asleep. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed that she would be able to trust me.

Finally, in March of 1992 on a vacation to San Antonio, TX she had no choice but to fall asleep in my arms. She was so exhausted and, with no place to lay her down, she fell asleep. From that day forward she would fall asleep with me, her dad, or one of the boys holding her. I felt like she was finally ours and, I believe, to this day, she has a strong bond with us...her family.

It Takes a Village

The small town of Estes Park, CO also embraced this new addition to our family and our town. Soon after coming home, the newspaper asked to do a story on our journey. Her story was a front-page headline. To our surprise and amazement, the town embraced her and she became theirs as well. Strangers brought gifts and well wishes. A fund was started to help with her medical expenses. We could not go to the store without someone stopping us to say how excited they were for us and that they were praying for her. Still today when we return to our small town of Estes Park, people stop her and remind her (much to her chagrin) that they remember when she first came home. We were blessed to have a whole village embrace Marie and watch out for her.

Even with all the support and the bonding Marie had with us, her family, there were times when abandonment and rejection would rear their ugly heads. A miscommunication of pick up arrangements in fourth grade sent her into a panic. Her school was just about 200 yards from the building where I taught. Her teacher and I had a miscommunication (I thought she was going to walk to my building and her teacher thought she was going to be picked up). By the time I arrived to pick Marie up, she was crying uncontrollably and inconsolable. When I asked her the other day if she remembered the incident she stated, “Mom, I remember it like it happened yesterday.”

 
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We tried desperately to prevent such events from happening again, but life does what life does. Another incident occurred in high school, and even though she had a cell phone and knew I was on my way, she panicked and was again inconsolable when I arrived. Marie recently told me that a few weeks ago she went to an event with a few friends and, when they got split up in the large exhibit hall, she looked around and began to panic when she didn't see her friends. This is the same girl that took herself to Spain to study abroad for a semester. When I asked her how she did it she stated matter-of-factly, “I prayed a lot.”

That She Will know…

This sense of insecurity and fear of abandonment also influences many of us as we interact with others and live out our most important relationships. Marie’s fear of rejection and subsequent holding herself back from deep relationships has been a constant worry for me. I mention all of this because that deep, subconscious and undefined, emptiness and longing are real. Sometimes unconditional love and security can’t just make it go away.

 
 
 

After I started writing this blog and talking about our trip, many, many people have inquired about our journey back to Marie’s birthplace. They have wondered about my feelings as we plan to meet Marie's birth mother and what I hope will come out of this trip. With all my heart my hope is that Marie will have peace.

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...that she will know that she is perfect just as she is.

...that she will finally believe, with all of her heart and her whole being, that God knew her before she was born.

...that she will rejoice in knowing that God has walked with her, helping her to know that there was love and prayers on both sides of the ocean helping her become the woman HE always knew she could be.

And so TODAY we take this long awaited journey. Two days after we depart, Marie will meet her birth mother for the second time in her life. My heart is overjoyed (and a bit nervous) for Marie. Thank you for the support, prayer, encouragement and for taking the time to share our journey. I will have one more blog after our reunion with her mother and brother...

For those interested in learning more about adoption and attachment, please note the recommended reading list below.

The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Karyn B. Purvis and David R. Cross

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

God Attachment: Why You Believe, Act, and Feel the Way You Do About God by Tim Clinton Dr. and Joshua Straub

 

To learn more about Katherine, click the link below and scroll down for her bio

Twenty Four Hours and A Whole New World (post #3) by Katherine Gillette, LPC

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I really wanted to go to Taiwan myself to bring Chi to her new home, but due to the high cost of airline tickets, we arranged for the wife of a pilot friend to travel to Taiwan and bring Chi back to us. A week before we were to get her, the pilot had a sudden heart attack. By God's grace, we had set up an emergency plan and obtained a passport for me, “just in case”. I had also been in contact with a woman who flew to Taiwan a few months earlier to pick up her baby. She gave me maps, pictures, and local addresses written in both Chinese and English. She suggested I stay at the YMCA, which was not too far from the orphanage. We also had a wonderful local travel agency (Columbine Travel) that helped me buy airline tickets and they made my arrangements to stay at the YMCA. Within a week I was on my way to Taiwan. As it turned out, it was such a blessing for me to spend the time traveling with just me and Chi. It was a precious time alone with her before I had to share her with the family and the rest of the world.

After a 16 hour flight, I was at the airport in Taipei, Taiwan. I had no idea how to navigate my way to the YMCA. Many, many people were praying for my trip and providence made it possible for me to share a taxi with people who had been to Taipei before. They were very helpful so I successfully made it to the YMCA and got settled in. Staying at the Y was an experience in itself...but that is another story.

Frightened little Chi

Frightened little Chi

Since I couldn't sleep, I decided to explore a little of the city’s nightlife and check out the street vendors. I wanted to pick up a few things for Chi and my boys before my return flight home. My husband and I had done the math with the time changes and found that if I stayed just twenty-four hours, he and I could both see her for the very first time on the same day! That was important to us, and even though it was a whirlwind of a trip, I am still glad we chose to do it that way.

The next morning I walked to the orphanage and met Chi for the first time. She was beautiful, quiet and quite scared. Sister Rosa,who had helped us through the process, met me and arranged for us to have an escort back to the airport via bus. It was a brief visit. All I wanted to do was hold our beautiful little girl. The staff, in turn, did not seem to want to let her go. They gave me some bottles, formula, a few diapers, one extra outfit and more paperwork. Then, we headed to the airport.

Once we were on the plane, her tears started. Chi started to cry the biggest alligator tears I have ever seen, but she did not make one sound. She just had those big tears rolling down her cheeks and they wouldn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, the airline attendant, who was Asian, offered to hold her. Soon after she had Chi in her arms the tears stopped.

At six months, she had been thrust into a new world that included a blonde, round-eyed momma. To my knowledge, she had not had any exposure to someone from another culture. I can’t imagine how scared she was. Also, she had not been held very often. The orphanage had many babies with bassinets lined up in a row. Feeding time was made as easy as possible on the staff by having a large hole in each bottle’s nipple so feeding would be quick. Basic physical needs were wonderfully met, but emotional and developmental needs were barely understood back then. Later research would reveal the significance of physical touch and how facial gestures and talking help develop mirror neurons an infant's brain.

Interestingly enough, I recently had a visit from my six-month-old granddaughter and she could not keep her eyes off her auntie (Chi all grown up). She was intrigued with this dark-haired woman with dark almond shaped eyes. It was very clear that she was already aware of the difference in facial features.

The plane trip was exhausting. With Chi crying in complete silence and unable to sleep in my arms, I was terrified to fall asleep. Thankfully, we had a seat by the bulkhead so I was able to lay her down in front of me to sleep. The alligator tears on the plane brought up all my insecurities and concerns about whether or not she would bond with me and be able to adjust to her new family. We were shocked to learn that the first homestudy indicated...

The Power and Process of Attachment

In reflection, adopting Chi began my lifelong journey of studying and understanding attachment, which heavily influences my work as a therapist today. While going through the process of adoption, I was familiar with the importance of attachment and bonding, but the scope and complexity of it’s importance has only become clear to me in the past few years .

Early attachment theories, which began in the 1960’s, theorized that attachment style was developed at a very young age and did not change throughout one’s lifetime. Fortunately, recent research indicates that, while our early childhood experiences influence and shape our attachment styles, we are all capable of moving toward secure attachment throughout our lifetime. Learning our attachment style can help us understand how and why we relate differently to one another. The best way that I know to explain attachment, is to think of our style on a continuum with secure attachment as our goal.

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Avoidant Attachment Style

Adult Characteristics

· Distancing

· Problems with Intimacy

· Invest little emotion in social and romantic relationships

· Unwilling or unable to share thoughts and feelings

Secure Attachment Style

Adult Characteristics

· Autonomous

· Trusting, lasting relationships

· Tend to have good self esteem

· Comfortable sharing feelings with family & friends

· Seek out social support

Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment Style

Adult Characteristics

· Clinging

· Reluctant to get close to others

· Worry that partner doesn’t love them

· Becomes very distraught when relationships end

In order to create the most healthy and happy relationships, I believe it is important to understand our own attachment style, which is influenced by our primary caregivers. Like all of us, I made my most sincere efforts to be the best parent I could and I continue that commitment with my adult children and grandchildren today. However, in spite of our best intentions, we all make mistakes; we all react in ways we regret; we are all human . Sometimes we find ourselves spending less quality time with our children than we would like. At other times, we must be separated from them due to illness or other crisis situations. The good news is that when we learn about our child’s attachment style and our own (as well as family members), we can begin the journey of growth and change toward secure attachment.

For more information you can read this article in Psychology Today, July 30, 2013.




My Journey of Adoption: A Momma for a Little Girl (post #2) by Katherine Gillette, LPC

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The first week of June, out of the blue, we received a phone call from an adoption agency. Without our knowing, my sister had mentioned to a friend who had an adoption agency that we were interested in adopting a little girl. They called to ask if we would be interested in adopting a six-week old girl from Taiwan who was born without fingers or toes. We couldn’t help but believe that God is so good and so gracious! After a phone call to my husband (who immediately said yes!) we began our journey into the adoption world. We were so naïve about the process. Home studies, trips to INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services), lawyers, consulates, senators, orphanages, and financial responsibilities were all part of the process. It was overwhelming and daunting. Still, we believed God had answered the prayer of finding a momma for a little girl.

On my walk with God

On my walk with God

I needed God’s strength, wisdom, and peace to get through what seemed like mountains of paperwork and unexpected obstacles. (As I wrote that last sentence it seems ironic that each day I would climb the mountain behind our house, praying and sorting through the emotions and struggles of the day. My second oldest son used to tell people I was, “On my walk with God.”)

Not only did we have our personal emotions and frustrations, it was important to us that we have open communication with our sons. We wanted to know their thoughts and feelings about bringing someone else into the family. Our oldest son was now 11 and, being in his pre-teen brain, did not understand why we wanted to do adopt another child. Frankly, he was nervous about how it would affect him. His world was about to be shaken and he wasn’t quite sure he was okay with that. Our youngest was six and he was indifferent. Our middle sons fluctuated between feelings of concern and acceptance. Whew, just thinking about it makes me a little tired.

We received our 1st picture of Chi about a month after the first phone call. That was all it took. The family was in love. I think it is important to mention that seeing her sweet face did not take away all of the struggles and fears. Our boys and our family’s questions and concerns continued to surface throughout the weeks and months for all of us. As I think back, the boys were probably able to see things more realistically that what my husband and I were able to grasp. While we tried to answer their questions honestly, there were many things we didn’t know and we had our own perspectives, which skewed our response and judgment. However, I would not change one thing about the process we went through other than being able to step back and see things a little clearer from our children’s and family’s perspectives.

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We found out that Chi was not only born without fingers or toes but was also born with one clubfoot and the other leg and foot was deformed. We were told she would need multiple surgeries and the sooner these surgeries could happen the better it would be for her. With this information we asked a doctor friend to send a letter in the hopes that it would speed up the process. Politics are a funny thing. We were jumping through all the hoops, as was the orphanage, but the people who had the power put the paperwork in a pile on their desk to, “deal with later.” A senator from Colorado became involved in the process and the paperwork started to move. After five months of daily, and sometimes 12-15 hours of labor we finally received word that she was ours. She was now six months old. So, I purchased my airline ticket to Taiwan….

 

My Journey of Adoption: Walking by Faith & Not By Sight by Katherine Gillette, LPC

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Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious tome are your thoughts, God. How vast is the sum of them. Psalm 139; 16, 17 (NIV)

 

I want to start by saying this is my personal journey of adopting a very special little girl who is now a beautiful young lady. I use “we” and “I” intermittently as the journey is one that I have shared with my husband and sons.

I met our daughter at an orphanage in Taiwan 27 years ago. This February (2019) my daughter (I will refer to her as Chi, her Chinese name), my husband, and I will be traveling back to her native Taiwan and we will meet her birth mother. For the past 10 years we have been considering a trip to her homeland and to the orphanage where she spent the first few months of her life. Now, what was only a dream, has become a reality. Lots of mixed emotions have been stirred up in her and in us. All those questions and realities of attachment, rejection, abandonment, and a heart’s longing have bubbled up to the surface. Navigating through these myriad of emotions has caused each of us to grapple and grow in in unexpected ways.

The Beginning

Before Chi joined our family, we were six… four wonderful biological boys, who were born very close together, my husband and me. Our youngest son was born when our oldest was five. I was worn out. So after the birth of our youngest via C-section when the doctor offered “a permanent solution”, we said yes! Hindsight says we should have waited to make that decision. Still the decision was made and we considered ourselves blessed with four healthy boys.

Almost immediately I had an unsettling feeling that we had made a mistake and our family was incomplete. I prayed about it and I wrestled with it for quite some time. I had dreams about our family that included five boys and a little girl. I loved my boys very much, but did not have peace about our family being complete.

We tried many avenues to adopt. Even though we put our names in for older children, special needs children, sibling groups, and were open to adopting either gender, it did not seem to matter. We considered other races. Still we were rejected over and over because we already had children. After six long years of unfulfilled desire and longing, I finally poured out my heart to God and prayed for peace in my heart. I told God that I knew there was a little girl out there that needed a momma and I asked God to find that momma for her. I prayed that He would watch over her until she could be with her momma. I was so tired of longing that I remember my prayers as if I had spoken them yesterday.

 
Our beautiful young woman today

Our beautiful young woman today

I don’t remember the exact day I prayed that prayer, but I know it was in the spring. I finally let go of my deepest desire and turned it over to God. I was able to accept what God intended for us rather than cling to my own human desires. The funny thing is, when I did this, I finally had inner peace and was satisfied with the family God had already given us. And then one day, “out of the blue”…

To learn more about Katherine and the therapy she offers click here


 
Sister Rosa from the Orphanage with me holding Chi for the first time.

Sister Rosa from the Orphanage with me holding Chi for the first time.

 
 

What are you Intending? By Laura Grotenhuis, LPC

What are you Intending? By Laura Grotenhuis, LPC

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m not sure that I agree. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment, carrying out a good deed is much more important than just thinking about it. However, I believe that if we really understood the importance of our intentions, we wouldn’t give them so little credit.

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3 Practical Ways to Declutter Your Life by Laura Grotenhuis, LPC

3 Practical Ways to Declutter Your Life by Laura Grotenhuis, LPC

Have you ever started a project with great intentions only to become overwhelmed almost as soon as you start? I am in the process of cleaning out my basement. I have attempted to tackle parts of my basement in the past, but after sorting through a couple of items I ended up feeling discouraged, paralyzed and ultimately defeated. Sometimes we just need the right motivation to get things started.

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