Sunday, October 9, 2011

Attachment: 3 years later

Soon we're going to celebrate three years with our Hunan spicy girl, Ms. Ashley Mei. It seems absolutely unimaginable that we brought this:
PRECIOUS baby girl home that long ago. Ashley spent her first 18 months in a loving foster home, with a mama and two siblings. And while I believe in foster care 100% is better for a child than an orphanage, it also means that many of these kids grieve harder. Differently. They understand loss in ways we well never fathom. And I don't care what age they come home. Loss is loss. Older children just know how to put it into words better than babies do. 

Our first year with Ashley, I'm not going to lie, is sort of a blur. Yes I said year. It took about that long to really feel like I had my head above water and could breathe easier. We learned the hard way, just like many first time adoptive parents, what set her off and what didn't. For example, this:
See that screaming baby? This was her grandparents first visit. I wanted a pic as they left that day. So as everyone is saying "bye bye! bye bye!" we hand her to Pop, who she had loved on all weekend. And this look? It's TERROR. Why? She knew enough English to understand "bye bye" and when the cameras started, I really believe she thought we were giving her to them. For good. It literally took her an hour to calm down and she proceeded to throw up at the end of it. 

Lesson learned. 

It took her months to warm up to her daddy. Several long, frustrating, heartbreaking months. For both of them. She screamed for months while I took a shower. Because the shower curtain was closed, and she couldn't see me. I was real dirty that first few months :) Or she was really clean, because often it was easier just to pull her in there with me, than it was to listen to the screaming. 

I wrote this on her blog two months after we got home:

The other night as Jay was praying over us, God reminded me that this was a CALLING on our life. Not some fun, cool, "idea" or a quest to "save" a little lost orphan. It was something that He called us to as a family, and being called requires sacrifice. And hard work.God never said it would be easy....He only said it would be worth it. And even on the hard is worth it.

Almost three years later, we are still working through attachment. Most "experts" will tell you it's a continual process and I totally agree. We still work on eye contact and trust. A few weeks ago, she fell asleep in the car. I left her in there with the doors open (it was cool out) under the garage so she could sleep for a few minutes while I put up groceries. She woke up and I wasn't there. She was terrified. Shaking.  She said, "YOU LEFT ME IN THE CAR!!!" I cried right along with her. Because three years later, she still doesn't truly grasp that we are not.leaving.her. She' s been with us more than double what she was in China. She has no physical memory of China. But emotionally, she totally remembers. 

And she still doesn't fully trust us. 

But OH HOW FAR SHE HAS COME! The Lord is in the healing business!! She loves going to church and is totally fine when we leave her, even if it's a new babysitter. As long as one of her siblings is by her side, all is well. 

Which is why, in the Lord's wisdom, I believe He gave her a sister the same age. He knew. And these two are a PAIR.

They will go to kindergarten next fall together. They look out for each other and are constant playmates. In effect, Ashley is never alone. And that's JUST the way she likes it :)

She still has hard moments. Something as simple as telling her "no" to something can send her into an hour long screamfest. She longs for control, in part due to her lack of control over the events of her first 18 months. Ashley was not abandonded as a newborn. There is no doubt in my mind she grieved and was tramatized when she was left somewhere with new smells and noises and people. Then to have the security of a foster family, only to be taken from that as well.

Wounds like that take time. And the healing hand of her Heavenly Father and a family that adores her. And we are in it for the long haul. And we love a God that is in the restoration business.

Joel 2:25 (The Message)

25-27 "I'll make up for the years of the locust,

the great locust devastation—

Locusts savage, locusts deadly,
fierce locusts, locusts of doom,

                                                          That great locust invasion

I sent your way.

You'll eat your fill of good food.

You'll be full of praises to your God,

The God who has set you back on your heels in wonder. *I LOVE THIS VERSE!!*

Never again will my people be despised.

You'll know without question

that I'm in the thick of life with Israel,

That I'm your God, yes, your God,

the one and only real God.

Never again will my people be despised.


  1. Happy almost three years home, Ashley Mei! I remember skyping with you when you were in your hotel room on the other side of the world! Little did you know just how much your little life would change!!! And through your loving Father's healing hand, and your parents' patient obedience and love, you are adapting and healing and loving in return!!! What a beautiful picture of God's redemptive power!

  2. I needed to read this today. It truly is a calling. What a beautiful family!