Continuing to peck away at all my pictures from our trip to China for Clementine. It’s getting harder and harder to pick favorites – so instead of being pickier, I’m plucking out more and more.
But it’s for a good reason.
Once I have them all edited and organized, they’ll be saved here. I’ll also have them them made into a photo book. One for Sophie, as a way to remember her first trip back to her homeland. And one for Clementine, as a piece of her story.
And so far, it’s quite a story.
These were taken on the day we’d been waiting for since we first saw her face in late March 2014.
Our anticipation had grown greatly when we heard, in September, that she was being taken from her foster home in Hunan by train eleven hours north to Beijing for impending open-heart surgery.
By the grace of God our adoption process was expedited and, without any explanation, Clementine did not undergo open-heart surgery. She never left Beijing, in fact, and was cared for at a local foster home.
We endured the wait and once we set foot in China we finally exhaled, we were here. She hadn’t had surgery. She hadn’t been hospitalized again.
We could almost feel her weight in our arms.
On day two of our trip, as we prepared to visit the Great Wall, our guide called. Clementine was sick with pneumonia and in the hospital. It would be a grueling 48 hour wait before we got word that her orphanage had decided to allow the adoption to proceed as planned. She would travel by plane from Beijing, and would be in our arms before the end of the day.
We went to Civil Affairs as planned but, because of her fragile condition and for fear the necessary passport photo wouldn’t be submitted on time for our adoption process to proceed on time, the plans changed. Instead, we were to meet the orphanage officials, and Clementine, at the police station.
We hustled to the car and over to the police station. Then we waited for what seemed like forever. Watching out the front window we thought we’d surely spot her on the way in, right? But suddenly, there she was. Right there. Being carried by two people, flat on her back, straight past us, and into the room for her photo to be taken.
I’d played out this moment a million times. And each time, I imagined, once I actually saw her, felt her, held her, my anxiety would dissipate. No, I didn’t expect to have all the answers, but I thought that from there on out, it would be okay.
The truth is, once I actually saw her, I was terrified.
I know, by looking at these pictures I certainly don’t seem scared. Heck, I’m smiling.
But I’m telling you, inside, my heart was racing. Because this was not the storybook ending I’d imagined.
She felt like a tiny, rattly, painfully fragile stranger. In oversized boy clothes, with tape marks on her face from a hospital canula and an IV port in her ankle.
Thankfully, we’d committed to her long before we knew anything about heart surgery, or pneumonia, or hospitalizations. She was ours. And regardless of how my heart was pounding or my hands were sweating, we signed those papers without hesitating.
And made it official.
I’ve shared my thoughts on attachment before, how absolutely unique each journey, each child, each transition into being a family has been. And about this time that I was feeling so. very. grateful. for each and every one of those very different experiences. Because I knew, despite my feelings in the moment, that things would change. She would feel familiar, beloved even.
The big question was when.
I wondered. I wrestled. How long until my heart caught up with my hands? I had promised to mother her, love her, care for her every need and never abandon her. So when would my heart sing at that opportunity instead of lurch at the responsibility?
Home six months, I can’t exactly say when it happened. But I know it did. And I thank God that it did.
Because Clementine is a full-time job. Every bottle, every clothing change, every booboo, every meal, every naptime… mama is on duty. That is just how we cocoon around here.
And if it were loveless, it would be hugely effortful at best. Drudgery at worst.
But it isn’t. In fact, she’s pretty irresistible. Intoxicating, even.
So while I can’t say exactly when it happened, I could probably take a guess at when it started. When my heart started making the turn from freaked-out, scared-silly to hey-she’s-actually-pretty-darn-wonderful.
Probably about the time she looked at me like this.
And she’s had a piece of my heart ever since.