Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Letter to Our Family and Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

If you've been following along with our adoption, you know that we have less than two weeks until we will hold our sweet girl in our arms!  Yay God!  Although it has been a long journey to get to this point--our application was submitted in July 2015--these past three months have been a whirlwind of activity.  We have learned to hurry up and wait with the best of them.  We are in awe of the mountains that God has moved to take care of our girl--His girl--and we can't wait to get her home.  However, we know from research, our adoption education through our agency, and watching other sweet adoption journeys, that although we may feel like we are at the finish line, our journey is just beginning.

We don't know what life will look like in two weeks, or two months.  We do know that this will be a season of adjustment for our family.  In many ways, we will still be raising our new little one much like we have raised our other sweet babies--loving unconditionally and seeking to bring her up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."  But there will be a few initial differences from the way we have parented in the past.  And because YOU have taken so much time to support our family--to encourage us, pray for us, and support us--we wanted to share with that with you.  We hope that sharing this will best equip everyone around us to lay a strong foundation for our girl emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

God's design for families is PERFECT and beautiful--a picture of His relationship with us.  Attachment between a parent and child naturally occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need.  The parent meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats over and over to create trust.  By God's very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect the rest of their lives--their learning, brain development, growth, and future relationships.  Security provided by parents will give children a trust for and empathy towards others.

Children who come to their families through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process.

Maybe the best way to describe what is happening in Judy Lin's little life right now is with a story from when Kinley was little.  It's one of the first times that, through parenting, I saw myself as God sees me.  If this doesn't make sense at first, hang in there...maybe it will at the end.

Kinley was about 7 months old.  We lived in our old house, and she and I were playing in the floor.  She was at one end of the hallway and had something in her hand.  I can't remember what it was, but I remember that it was one of those "things" turned toys that all babies love to grab--a stick, or a straw, or something.  She couldn't crawl if she was holding anything in her hand.  I was at the other end of the hallway, and although she didn't know it, I had a new toy.  I kept asking her to come towards me, but she couldn't make it unless she put down what she was holding.  Because she was holding something, she thought it was enough.  She didn't realize that what I had for her was better--what she would really want--because she wouldn't put down what she had.  When I took what she had away, she cried--until she realized that what I had was what she wanted all along.  

Fast forward 11 years.  Here we are at the end of the hallway.  Our girl is at the "other end of the hallway," in China.  She is holding on to what she knows--life in a group setting with multiple caregivers--because it is what she has and all that she knows.  And when we come to get her, she won't know that what we have--a home, a family, identity forever as a daughter--is better for her than what she is holding on to, because she is holding on to something.  When we take what she has away, she will likely at first feel--on a much larger scale--much like Kinley did.  Even though what we are giving her is, in the long run, better, it may not feel that way to her immediately.

Judy Lin has experienced the loss of her biological parents already, and will soon experience the loss of familiar and loving caretakers as well as the sights, sounds, and language of her birth country.  When she comes home, EVERYTHING around her will be new.  Imagine your first few days in a new country.  It looks different, sounds different, tastes different, smells different.  It may be overwhelming for her!  She will need time to learn not just about her new environment, but also about love and family.  Although she has had loving caregivers at the Foster Center, she has not experienced God's sweet design for a family.  She may struggle with feeling safe and secure and she may not trust that we will meet her needs.  The good news is that we can now, as her parents, rebuild that bond and attachment, and help her heal.

So, what does this look like for us?  After much prayer, research, stories from adoptive parents who have gone before us, and at the advice of our adoption agency, we will be doing what is called "cocooning" when we bring Judy Lin home.  We will mostly be staying at home.  We will limit our time out and we will be limiting visitors in. By keeping our lives very small, routine, and predictable at first, we'll be helping our girl feel safe.  We will also be the ones to hold, snuggle, soothe, feed, change, and take care of her.  Hopefully, as this cycle repeats, she will learn that we are trustworthy and that sweet, strong bond will form.  I know you are all ready to hug, kiss, and help spoil her--who doesn't want to get their hands on those cheeks?!?!--but it is recommended that we be the only ones to do that at first to improve her chances of attaching strongly to us.  Until we feel that she clearly knows that we are her parents, we will need to take care of things for her.  As strange as it may seem, adopted children who act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers is not necessarily a healthy thing.  Orphans often have so many caretakers that, as a survival mechanism, they become overly charming to all adults.  This is called "indiscriminate affection" and can mean that they haven't really attached to anyone.  We want her to reach for us and look to us for security--that means she knows that we are her people!  We have also been advised that it is best that we meet every need quickly and consistently, which may make it appear that she is truly being "spoiled."  She may show her grief and confusion in many ways, and we are prepared to help her through it and prove that we are here for her--we are her forever family and we aren't going anywhere.  

We don't know how long this period will be.  We will let Judy Lin take the lead and show us what she needs.  As we know from parenting our bio babies, all children are unique and have different needs, so what has worked for other children may look different for us.  We are dedicated and committed to doing whatever is necessary to help her heal and adjust.  Many people think that because she is so young, she won't be impacted as much, and this could be true.  However, we are erring on the side of caution and planning that she will grieve tremendously for all that she will lose.  This will best prepare us to meet her needs.  And it is our ultimate hope that, through meeting her needs and teaching her to trust us, she will one day be able to trust Jesus in the same way.

We do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is in control!  He is her faithful Father, and He has been working overtime for this little girl, fighting on her behalf.  He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecc. 3:11).  This is no different.  We are hopeful that things will smooth out quickly and that our sweet girl will realize--just like Kinley realized in that hallway--that the prize is at the end and that we are what she didn't know she wanted all along.  And we will be back to a new "normal" schedule soon!

We are so grateful for your understanding--and we understand if this sounds a little crazy.  This is new and uncharted territory for us too!  Please feel free to ask us any questions at any time.  We are learning too, and we are grateful that you are seeking with us to make Judy Lin feel loved, safe, secure, and home.  We know that it takes a village, and we think that we have the BEST village for our new little girl to join.  We are blessed by your love, your support, your prayers, and your presence in the life of our family, and we can't wait for you to meet her!

Oh--and speaking of meeting her...we would be so excited to see anyone who can make it to the airport when we get home!  Our homecoming is late and on a school night, so we know that might impact your plans, but after traveling for over 26 hours we are scheduled to arrive at Huntsville International Airport on February 16 at 9:46pm.  We would be so grateful if you would allow us to greet Case and Camp first before visiting with the rest of our family and friends.  Please keep in mind that Judy Lin may be completely overwhelmed at this point.  But PLEASE hug and talk with Zeke, Kinley, and me after we arrive!  Extra attention for big brothers will also be great!  We already can't wait to be home!

Lots of love,
Zeke and Lisa

"If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God." 2 Cor. 5:13 NLT

** is a more satirical take on the above REALLY LONG POST that I had a TERRIBLE TIME writing.  Bless you if you read it all.  I found this from a blog that found it from another blog, and it makes me laugh--and cry--every time.  #thosehashtags #truth

An Open Letter to Anyone We Might Encounter Post Adoption:
In a little over a week, we will finally be traveling to China to pick up our child. Here are a few things I’d like our family and friends to know beforehand. (And YES, I’ll probably be seriously tempted to pass this letter out among complete strangers as well.) 

#1 We will be traveling from Huntsville to China, through the entire country of China, and then back to Huntsville. This will include several NIGHT and DAY time changes. We will be a #HotMess. Thank you for understanding! #WeNeedGrace #LotsOfIt

#2 Our new daughter will not feel lucky. In fact, for her, this will most closely resemble a kidnapping. We are ripping her away from everything and everyone she has ever known. This will be incredibly traumatic. It will be worth it. 

#3 Trauma is expressed in different ways. My child may appear distant, hyper, angry, autistic, overly friendly or perhaps, perfectly fine. The child you see now will not be the child you see in a few weeks, a few months, or a few years…

#4 She will grieve. My heart already aches for her and this part of the process. 

#5 We will wonder “what were we thinking” at least once during our pick up trip. Our friends and family are all lined up for this.  “Adoption isn’t something you do alone.” -Joleigh Nicole #ittakesavillage

#6 We might not connect right away. #FakeItTilYaMakeIt

#7 Our first goal is attachment, not discipline. #Redirecting

#8 Hugs & Kisses: They may be legitimately terrified of you, please be respectful of their boundaries. 

#9 Establishing family is important: for the first few months we will be entering what is known to the adoptive world as cocooning. Basically, we will be limiting visitors and becoming temporary homebodies. #Weirdos

#10 Another big part of establishing family means that: we’d prefer (for a little while) that only Mama and Daddy meet their needs for: food, comfort, etc. 

#11 Our new daughter is biologically 1 year old.  However, she has grown up in an institution and will be “delayed.” This is normal; we are OK with it, and you can be too. 

#12 Speaking of delayed…we also plan on “regressing,” as much as she will allow. This will look really odd to the rest of the world; however, regressing allows children to experience all of the stages of development they missed. FYI: We may use a bottle, spoon feed, rock her to sleep, co-sleep, play with infant toys etc.

#13 Our main goal for the year is attaching, connecting and learning some English. I don’t know when she might catch up, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. She will get there when she gets there. 

#14 With that in mind, our daughter may look different than yours for several years. Please remember, their journey is unique. (And thank you for being a part of it!)

“I always questioned if I was ready to adopt, and then I realized that no child was ready to be an orphan.” -Unknown

Mama Bear

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