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.
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.”
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.
...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