Poppy: then and now

I was digging through some of old drafts today. And I found this.

I guess I never published it because I didn’t finish it. I wrote it when I was in China and, things were a bit *ahem* crazy then.

But now – well, things might still be crazy, but it’s a different crazy.

A comfortable, predictable crazy.

And, in reading what I wrote just 3 and a half months ago, I realize just how wonderfully far our girl has come.

Written on August 2, 2011:

I want to get a few things down because, to be completely honest… I forget stuff.

Important stuff.

And I don’t want to forget where we are right now, so I can look back and see where we’ve been.

And in an effort to capture where Poppy is right now, I hope to lay it out here… all that I know of Miss Poppy.

If Poppy were a book, I would be, admittedly, on page 2. I know so little, even after spending 10 days with her. But I want to share what I do know, where Poppy is now in my mind, and my impressions of her sweet self.

So here goes.

Poppy is shy. Painfully shy, it seems. Combine that with her fear of strangers and having to leave everything that has become ‘home’ to her, this must be like a living nightmare. And if I didn’t know what life was like for children in orphanages, even good ones, this might be unbearable. But I do know. And an orphanage is no place to grow up, even in the best of circumstances. So we press on. It seems that she received relatively good care, but that she spent a lot, a lot of time by herself in her crib. She is more delayed than I had anticipated, even though I was expecting some delays. She is from an orphanage that partners with Half the Sky, but even so, it is clear that she was institutionalized.

She struggles with eating. Wow, does she struggle with eating. And it is a nagging fear that we aren’t getting nearly enough into her in a day. It’s exhausting just trying to get food and liquids into her – seems she took a bottle with a huge hole in the nipple for 99.9% of her nutrition up until now. We were told that she took a bottle with formula and rice cereal twice a day, and additionally had three meals during the day – noodles, congee and vegetables. Uh, I don’t think so. Sweet thing cannot chew at all. She gets something in her mouth that she likes and she works and works… sometimes it goes down, but most times it just comes out as a chewed up mess. We have found a few things that she can actually eat (some baby cookies, egg yolks and, as of yesterday, a few french fries) but other than that, it’s a lesson in frustration trying to feed her. And congee? No way. She gagged on it the first day and won’t even venture to try it again. So we’ve tried to stick with what she was taking, at least to get over the hump here in China. But the rice cereal/formula combo I just cannot seem to get right. So she refuses. And we then have to try something, anything else, failing much more often than succeeding. We’ve been so grateful to have the ‘baby tea’ that the SWI gives the kiddos on hand here, it seems the only thing she’ll drink regularly.

She has no idea how to feed herself, which is fine, I know she’ll figure it out, but surprising. In fact, she seems to not be very skilled at using her hands at all, even taking into account that she is missing fingers. This all might be due to all she has endured as well. She usually cradles a toy or favorite object with her little hand, and then uses her right hand to “do” things. But if I give her a cookie, she seems to want to hold it, but doesn’t try to eat it. If I push it to her mouth, she will eat it, but it’s almost as if she hasn’t had any opportunity to do this. She is improving by leaps and bounds in this area though – last night she was all over my french fries, feeding herself one by one – but this is most definitely a newly acquired skill.

She can’t drink out of a cup and she can’t drink out of a straw. Thank goodness I brought bottles and a sippy cup. She prefers the bottle, but now, since she refuses the formula/rice cereal, she just gets tea in her bottle. She can feed it to herself, but she happily sits on my lap and allows me to hold it for her. So I do. I think it’s an important part of bonding to spend that time together, as much as possible, so while we have been here, I’ve made it a priority to feed her all I can, bottles included. I am hopeful that she can master a straw soon, geesh… as an almost 2 year old, we are spending an awful lot of time and energy on bottles. But I have decided to leave the nipple holes as they are, not cutting them wider, because I want her to strengthen those muscles in her mouth. I am hopeful that this will help with her chewing and swallowing issues, and that she’ll be able to eat more substantial things in the near future.

She is easy going. Goodness, she really is. She cries, oh yes she does, but it’s usually over just wanting to be held. She can entertain herself for hours with a few stacking cups (she has just started playing with these in the last 2 days, but YAY, she is playing!)… in fact, she did this last night when I passed out took a nap yesterday for 1.5 hours. I woke up and she was still right next to me, contentedly playing with those cups. Which is good, and easy. But it makes me sad, too. I wonder how many hours out of how many days she’s had to lay alone, trying to entertain herself. Thankfully, her days of being alone are over. My kiddos at home cannot wait to smother Miss Poppy with all the attention she can stand. And then some.

She does relatively well with eye contact. On a limited basis. I really think that much of this has to do with her fear of strangers (me) and all she has been through in the last week, more than any attachment issues. She will look at me quickly and then look away because I think it’s overwhelming for her. And I get that. She seems to make deep connections with people (I believe that shopkeeper that made her smile reminded her of someone she loved) and that she is slow to warm up because she quite aware that I (and 99.999% of the rest of the population) are most assuredly not that someone special that she knows and loves.

Hopefully, in time, I will be one.

But now.

Three and a half incredibly long and somehow ridiculously short months later.

Poppy is remarkably different.

Here are a few pictures I took today.

Spur of the moment.

Just Poppy.

In her too-big Gap sweatshirt because her hands are always cold.

Hanging on to a band-aid that she will insist I apply to some invisible boo-boo.

And looking so incredibly at home.

Oh, sweet Poppy. We are so very happy that you are home.



  1. So beautifully written….and I am glad you saved that and wrote it “in the moment” and have it to remember! She is such a blessing Stef……<3!!

  2. Poppy is so sweat!!! Well all your kids are. My daughter loves to watch your videos of Vivi in China.

  3. Jill Shelton says:

    And oh how precious she looks! Love and trust does wonders.
    Your words brought me back 7 years ago when we adopted our Sophia- except for the fact that you are a better writer ;0) I could have written those same words on my sweet darlin. She had low muscle tone ( in her jaws)- couldn’t eat – finally found mashed potatoes at KFC in China that she could swallow. Early intervention/Years of speech and OT therapy has done wonders for our girl.

  4. How sweet to “see” where she was then and now. She just shines!!!!

  5. Wow, what a difference! :-)

  6. Wow. What a transformation. So awesome that you were able to jot those thoughts down while they were surely swimming in your mind in China.

    She’s precious.

  7. I started reading your blog right before you went to China and I am so glad you have this to look back on. That is the beauty of having a journal. God has a way of showing us what an awesome God he is. She is absolutely precious (as are all you children) and truly blessed to be in your family. I know I am a stranger to you, and blogging only allows me to see through a peep hole of what your life is like, but you truly are an inspiration. Keep on loving those babies and being the greatest mom to them.

  8. God is so very good! Happy tears here in NC, and we are rejoicing with all of you!

  9. I noticed with our son that he must have been spoon fed everything. He even drank milk from a spoon better than a cup. I had a hard time finding out whether he wanted a bottle, sippy, cup, etc (at age 2). I really think his foster mom must have spoon fed him or held his food. I bet Poppy was treated that way too. Especially if her hand is “different” they might have thought they had to do everything for her. Our kiddos eventually learn to do it themselves! But I know you know that!
    We dealt with the feeding issues mainly with our daughter, who is now 7. She is still picky but does eat.

  10. What a timely post! Found out today we may be headed on Thanksgiving to get our sweet Sienna who was with Poppy at the SWI. (I was given a video they are in together). She will be almost 3 and we already knew a glimpse of the big road ahead, with CL/CP surgeries, etc…and it is so encouraging to see “down the road” even just 3 months. Thank you for sharing this–its our first adoption, so we are eagerly learning all we can to help our precious girl’s transition ahead. Keep writing–God has given you a gift with words!

  11. She looks so happy and is a complete angel. How precious.

  12. Poppy is just a ray of sunshine now….that’s what love & a family will do for a child!!

  13. love this!!! isn’t it amazing what a few months of love and devotion can do????

    so happy for her and for all of you!!!


  14. Man, that was hard to read. Hard to go back to those heartbreaking days with your Poppy. I am so glad for what God has already done in her life in just three months. Thanks for going back there, especially for those of us, going back there!!


  15. Precious precious Poppy:) It always amazes me how God unfolds their little hearts and they begin to blossom and trust and love. Great post!

  16. First of all the pictures tell 1million words, and the colors and of course the subject are gorgeous!!!!

    The story breaks my heart… Mary & Matt are dealing with very similar issues with Gracie.. I think your words will bring them comfort!

    Love has an amazing way of creeping in and helping us forget the tough stuff! She is precious! And you are amazing!


  17. That beautiful face just makes me want to cry with joy for your sweet Poppy! Love truly has brought her home!

  18. I am still somewhat surprised everytime I see a picture of your happy girl, Poppy. She was sad for so many days and then “poof” she opened up her heart. What a dear child and what a beautiful transformation!

  19. Seeing that free and easy smile is such a joy. She is your daughter and you are her mama and of course she is going to smile at you…b/c that is what little girls do when their mama has a camera and their heart is just too filled with happiness to keep it inside! She is a bundle of sparkle and I’m so happy to see her growing and thriving. Thank you for sharing your babies with us. God Bless!!!!

  20. God is writing a remarkable story in Miss Poppy’s life. Thank you for sharing it with us. She looks so peaceful and joyful in these new pictures!

  21. This entry was absolutely essential. It is a remarkable thing that you retrieved and reposted it. You couldn’t have articulated in a more intelligent and eloquent manner why the case for adoption is so compelling. Many are so unaware of the devastatingly adverse effects that being institutionalized in an orphanage can have over a child long term. Things like swallowing, drinking from a straw, and feeding oneself are completely taken for granted. Your submission lovingly and compassionately details the challenges you have had to face and the significant milestones Poppy has made. Thank you for sharing an absolutely crucial and necessary post. It only further heightens and enhances the remarkable progress Poppy has and continues to make.

  22. thank you so much for this post, we really really needed to read this. It is such an encouragement to us as we are set to travel next month to get our baby girl from MaoNan as well. We are anxious about the unknowns, but we are trusting the Lord to carry and equip us. Thank you for this post, your Poppy is precious beyond words. Thank you for your blog, it is a gift.

  23. It’s amazing what a little time and love will do….btw…my girl loves band-aids too…we stay “out” of band aids and never have one when we need one cause baby girl likes to use them as stickers…lol…
    So happy Poppy is home with you guys.

  24. fantastic!!!! love you guys!

  25. Beautiful!

  26. As I sit in my hotel, in Guangzhou, getting ready to meet our Jillian tomorrow, this was such a poignant post. It made me nervous for what’s ahead…but resolute that it will all work out. We shall press on too…

    Thank you for sharing this…


    • Thank you, Kate, for sharing where you are on your journey! Many blessings as you begin your life together as mother and daughter :)

  27. Your post brought tears to my eyes. We experienced so many of the same issues you had with Poppy a few months ago with our twins 5 years ago. Oh, the eating and the shyness and the fear and the lack of muscle strength you’d expect to see from 13 month olds and the delayed ‘everything’. But…now…..5 years later, my girls are happy, thriving and full of joy and everything positive!! Best of luck to you guys. Poppy is beautiful!!


  28. Oh Stef, you can have been describing Lizzie exactly when it comes to eating or should I say NOT eating! She would keep stuff in her mouth and suck on things forever and then, many times, offer them to me to eat – and I did!!! True Mother’s love!!! LOL!! Amazing that you knew you would need to document so thatc you could look back later and understand just how far she has come! I do the same with Lizzie sometimes, especially when we have had a frustrating day. I look back and realize just how far she has come and how hard she has worked to get there!!! Poppy is truly amazing – just like her Momma!

  29. Oh how precious the story of God’s redemptive power as families are grafted. I am just a few weeks ahead of you this go round and I so “get” what you have shared!

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