Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Rescuing the Orphan"

I received a comment this morning regarding this post and it reminded me of a topic I've mulled over many times yet never blogged about. Until now, that is.

"I think it is an awfully big burden to place on a child - feeling that you rescued her, feeling that she OWES you something. I know this is not your intention but I would be really careful about presenting Johanna's life this way because this is what adopted children read into words like this. I've read your blog for some time now and I know that you are an amazing mum, so I give this thought to you with the kindest of intentions.

What Johanna has now is simply what every child deserves."

First, let me say thanks for reading my blog and offering your insight in a respectful way. I'm not exactly sure what about that post made it sound like we feel Johanna owes us anything--obviously, she doesn't! I'm truly sorry if it has ever sounded like any of our girls "owes" us for adopting them.

Secondly, I couldn't agree more with this statement: "What Johanna has now is simply what every child deserves." You hit the nail on the head, figuratively speaking of course, with these words. This is the reason behind my blogging about some of the more personal things that Johanna has shared with us. It's not about US, the parents. It's about the children. All of them. My sweet girls and those that are still desparately waiting for their chance at a normal life within a loving family.

However, if no one is completely honest in sharing how these older children feel, it does the adoption community at large a disservice. I would not have been even remotely interested in adopting an older child had I not read many success stories and heard how the children felt from the families themselves. Johanna's story is blended together with my story. If just one person comes to know the Lord or loves Him better from reading our story, then it was worth sharing. And if just one child (older or younger) rests their head on the shoulder of a loving parent someday because of my story, then it was worth sharing. 

I realize there's a fine line between sharing the truth and respecting our children's privacy and sometimes I'm not even sure where that line even IS. Sure, I could post all sunshine and rosy posts about how awesome adopting a teenager is. Or I could go to the other extreme and complain over and over about the many discipline challenges of adopting a teenager (who didn't speak a word of English and was never taught appropiate behaviour). Personally, I am trying to find the balance between the two extremes. And I guess, along the way, it might occasionally seem as if I am stepping too close to that imaginary line.

Rescuing a child is not a bad thing. Saying it out-loud (even virtually!) can get you into hot water, though. Certainly there are many reasons to adopt and I won't take the time to list them here. While rescuing a child should never be the only reason to adopt a child, I don't see the problem with it being one of the reasons you adopt a child. It's just a fact: Some adoptions are more about the parents fulfilling a void by loving a needy child, and some adoptions are more about the child needing a void filled by parents willing to choose them. NEITHER one of these truths are wrong, and no one should be judged on the reasons they adopt. In the end, children get families and ultimately that's what it is all about.

While rescuing a child is not a bad thing, making your child feel like they owe you because you rescued them is wrong on so many levels. Children deserve families. God designed it that way! Giving an abandoned child the very basic need of a loving family does not indebt them to you. It simply rights the wrongs established when the child was abandoned.

Millions of orphans need rescuing. It's as simple and as complex as that. More Christians need to answer the call to meet the needs of the least of thest. But Brent and I don't feel that Gabriella, Alyssia or Johanna owe us anything for adopting them, even though in some ways, we rescued them from some horrible circumstances. Quite the opposite, we feel in a sense that we owe them. We owe them our gratitude for slowly opening up their darling little hearts and letting us in. We owe them for the immense happiness and joy they have brought to our lives. We owe them because, in the process of stepping out of our comfort zone and adopting them, we have been grown, molded, stretched and strengthened beyond measure. We owe them because, through them, we have experienced the hand of God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My boy

My Nathaniel (7) is quite the little character. He's always been busy.busy.busy.....never slowing down for more than a second and never of his own accord. He followed our very obedient, very calm Eliana, and was often a shock to this Momma. :) I remember putting him in his highchair as a toddler, hoping he would color for a few minutes while I did the dishes. He would pick up each crayon, look at it, color one quick scribble with it, and promptly drop it on the floor, until ALL of the crayons were on the floor---and then he would start asking to get down. Total highchair time: about 1 minute. :)

Entertaining himself comes difficult for my Nathaniel, because he's 100 percent a people person. Torture for this child is defined as being anywhere by himself. He's not particular as to which one of his siblings he plays with---as long as someone is playing with him at all times.

Nathaniel also constantly makes us laugh. I can't tell you how many times I've been lecturing him about some misbehaviour only to find myself starting to laugh. (Take last night, for example. I hear myself saying, "Nathaniel. We do NOT pick our nose and put the booger on our brother's shirt! How would you feel if Daddy picked his nose and put it on your shirt?" At this point, I lost my composure and had to turn away so he couldn't see my face. "What's wrong, Mommy?" Um, nothing. I just can't believe the words I'm hearing coming out of my own mouth!)

 Tonight, I thought I'd share a couple of funny stories regarding our sweet boy, Nathaniel.......

A few weeks ago, I walked into the kids' bathroom and found an empty toilet-paper roll floating in the toilet. I called out to no one in particular---"WHO put the toilet-paper roll into the toilet?" fully expecting one of the babies to have been the culprit.

Silence for a brief moment and then Nathaniel pipes up from another room with "I did, Mommy! There wasn't any more toilet paper left so I wiped with it."

Um, yeah. Gross. Yet resourceful in a gross kind of way.

Then just today I questioned Nathaniel to make sure he washed his hands after using the bathroom.

"Yes, ma'am."

Remembering that the hand-soap was empty in my bathroom, I questioned him again.

"Buddy, there's no soap in Momma's bathroom. How did you wash your hands?"

"Oh, I used your hairspray. Don't worry, Mommy. My hands smell good now!"

Yep. That's my boy.:)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Can You Imagine?

Can you imagine growing up without the unconditional love of a Daddy and Mommy?

Johanna can.

Can you imagine coming home from school over and over again to find that yet another one of your friends has been adopted and you were left behind?

Johanna did.

Can you imagine looking in the mirror and convincing yourself that the reason YOU were not chosen by a family must be because you are "SO ugly!"?

Johanna does.

Can you imagine asking your new Daddy and Mommy why you weren't adopted as a baby like your sisters?

Johanna did.

Can you imagine being so happy with your new-found family that, in all seriousness, you inform them that "I not want to be a big girl. I not want to grow up. If I grow up I have to leave you. I want to stay with you forever"?

Johanna has.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Some Sister Love

Johanna Ling, 14  and Eliana Rose, newly-10

Eliana's 10th Birthday

Eliana turned 10 this past Monday!  We celebrated with a little "photo shoot" outside early in the day, a quiet party at home in the evening.....

and a fun trip to the Children's Museum of Richmond with Ellie's best friend Emily and her family.

Elise, Eliana, and Emily (with the adorable butterfly cake that Emily's mommy, my friend Angela, made)

I am so proud of my little lady. I love the way she's gentle, submissive, and so very teachable. She loves the Lord and wants to serve Him with her life. She's had to overcome many challenges in her short life and has rebounded with beautiful grace, choosing to grow from whatever the Lord allows in her life rather than become bitter. The first nine years of her life, Ellie was the only girl in our family, but in the last year she's gained THREE sisters and now there are plenty of dolls, hairbows, frilly dresses and PINK things in our home. :) God has blessed Ellie with musical talent (and an incredible ability to play music by ear) and she has spent the last year working very diligently on her violin. If you asked her what she wants to "be" when she grows up, Ellie would answer "a missionary and a veterinarian".......... "Oh and I want to have ALOT of children, both biological and adopted." :) She has a sensitve heart to hurting people and animals and is very nurturing with her littlest siblings. Gabbey (2) recently moved back into Ellie's room and while her crib has a nice place along one side of the room, Gabbey has yet to sleep in it. Instead, Ellie and Gabbey curl up together in Ellie's bottom bunk and snuggle the night away!

God answered a very specific prayer when He blessed us with our firstborn child. We named her "Eliana" because it means "my God has answered my prayer".

He has answered that prayer and continues to bless our lives with our beautiful daughter.

Happy Birthday, Ellie Rose. May you always seek the Lord in all you do and follow Him with your whole heart. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adopting the older/younger child at once

I received this question from Cindy today:

"So, if you adopt a younger one and an older one at the same time and they take comfort in each other,  how do you stop the younger one from attaching to the older one out of sheer survival in the beginning? I hope that makes sense. Thanks, Cindy"

This is a great question, and one I wouldn't have thought of addressing.

First, let me say that while we technically adopted Johanna (14) and Alyssia (2) at the same time, they actually came home six weeks apart, with Johanna being first. I had to finalize Johanna's adoption before her 14th birthday and Alyssia's paperwork didn't go through in time to travel for them together.

However, most of what we did would apply to a family adopting two at the very same time.

Gabriella (2) did come along for the trip to adopt Johanna. They certainly did not bond :). Gabbey was fussy and out-of-sorts and doesn't like for anyone to take care of her needs except Daddy, Mommy, or Ellie. She would smile and play a bit with Johanna, but since Johanna didn't know English or truly how to play with a baby, they didn't connect on any deep level.

Johanna was very excited to learn that we were bringing home "another Chinese sister" just a few weeks after she joined our family. I knew she would probably feel a deep connection to Alyssia and in a way, I was glad she would have a little "buddy".


Alyssia grieved hard and rejected Mama completely. And was more than happy to bond with Johanna immediately. She would literally scream if I touched her and run to Johanna (or anyone else who was near).

So, not only was I dealing with two newly adopted girls, but a younger one who would not even smile while I was in the same room for weeks and weeks.

I remember posting over on RQ that I felt the need to keep Alyssia away from my older girls until she had accepted me at least a little. Some were supportive, while others stated that I should allow the situation to "play out" since they would all be siblings in the end. I disagreed with that then and even more so now. I needed to bond with both girls before allowing them to bond to each other.

We did separate and severely limit the amount of play/snuggle/alone time either of the older girls had with Alyssia for a couple of months. Lyssie became "Mama's buddy" and where I went, she went. If I was washing dishes, she was on the counter. If I was doing laundry, she was on top of the dryer. If I used the bathroom, I carried her along with me. I fed, dressed, and buckled her into the carseat. (When Brent came home, Alyssia wanted nothing to do with me again, so he took over the bedtime routine for awhile.)

It certainly would have been so much easier to allow Johanna to care for and occupy Alyssia, but I was afraid that both of them, in their needy state, would bond with each other and not find the need for Mama. Alyssia would reach for Johanna and cry for "jie jie" and it. was. hard. On all of us. For about two months.

Slowly but surely, our sweet beautiful Alyssia started to accept me (the whole "parent rejection" thing is another post altogether) and at the same time, we allowed Johanna to be with her more. They definitely feel something special for each other and it works out wonderfully, because Eliana (9) and Gabbey have a deep sisterly bond already, so both older girls have their baby. They are responsible for buckling each baby girl into their carseats and taking care of them in the van. Often, the older girls will bathe and/or dress the little girls, do their hair or take them to play. The buddy system works great now.

Communicating with the older child that "the little one needs to learn to love Mama first" can be hard, especially with the language barrier. We used google translate and lots of repetitive teaching to show Johanna that Alyssia would love her soon, but she needed to be patient and trust Daddy and Mama, even when it was very hard.

Alyssia's bond with me is just precious now. She is open, affectionate, and clearly prefers me to anyone (but Brent, of course!). She no longer exhibits the behaviors that were such clear warning signs in the beginning. We are confident that as time goes on, our attachment will grow even deeper.

In the end, I'm so thankful that Johanna and Alyssia can share this special love for each other. When Johanna is feeling insecure, sometimes she will scoop Alyssia up into her arms and have a good long snuggle. Perhaps she is a tangible reminder of all things China. Perhaps it just feels nice to know someone besides Daddy and Mama loves you unconditionally.

Perhaps it is just that no one can resist Alyssia's chubby cuteness, Johanna least of all. :) 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The First Six Months

Last summer, while waiting for our LOA (letter of acceptance from China) for our second adopted daughter, I received an email that literally CHANGED OUR LIVES FOREVER.

It was a plea for a 13 year old Chinese girl who would "age out" of China's adoption program on her 14th birthday and thereby remain an orphan for the rest of her life.

I've looked at so many waiting children during the past two years, that I thought nothing of clicking on the blog link and pulling up the photos of this young girl.

I instantly knew.

I wanted her.

I knew how incredibly crazy even the IDEA of adopting a teenager was----here we were, completing our second adoption in one year, Oh-so-busy with homeschooling and parenting our soon-to-be six children under 9, bonding, attachment and adjustment issues, financially drained......the list went on and on.

I couldn't get her face out of my mind. That evening, I showed her picture to my husband.

All I said was, "Look at this girl. She only has a few days to find a family. Isn't that so sad?"

He looked at her, said nothing, and we went to bed.

The next morning, after a sleepless night, I was in the shower, and the tears started to flow as I poured out my heart to the Lord. I couldn't understand why I was so drawn to this girl, when clearly it was an impossible decision. I literally begged God to take the desire to adopt her away, or to make the way clear to me.

I stepped out of the shower and called Brent.

"Honey, I know this is crazy, but ever since I saw the picture of that 13 year old girl, well, I've wanted her. I feel like she's ours. I know it's impossible, on so many levels, so could you just tell me now that there's NO way you would consider adopting her? Then maybe I can let her go."


Then my darling husband quietly replied, " I've been thinking about her, too. Why don't you make some phone calls and see if it's even possible for us to adopt her."

I was in shock.

I spent the rest of that day calling our agency, our China coordinator, our Social Worker, expecting a "no" from all of them.

They not only said, "Yes", they also promised to help us in whatever ways we needed help.

Brent and I sat down that night and had a deep heart-to-heart talk. Stepping outside of our comfort zone and adopting a teenager required an immense amount of faith, and we knew we needed the peace that passeth all understanding that only comes from God. We agreed to pray separately about the decision and wait to move forward until we had complete peace.

I had peace immediately. :) Truly, I knew from the beginning. I still prayed fervently for clarity, for wisdom, for God's perfect will to be not only revealed to us, but also to be worked through us.

As the days began to pass, Brent still didn't have peace. While I wanted this girl, more than anything, I wanted her to have a family. So I reluctantly began to advocate for her. Several families emailed me, interested in adopting her. Each time I would think to myself, "NO! She's ours!" but I would still give them all the information they needed to follow through if they so desired.

A week passed and no one could commit to this beautiful girl.

I had resigned myself to not being her Mommy, since Brent had not received the "green-light" from the Lord to pursue her adoption.

Eight days after I first saw her picture, I was standing in the kitchen and heard my phone "beep" to let me know I had a new email. It was actually a "CC'd" email, from my husband (who was home at the time!) to our China coordinator.

He had decided that this girl "was meant to be a Bergey"!

(Yes, I found out via an email! My sneaky husband surprised me by emailing her while he was on his phone in the bathroom!)

The rest of the story of our whirlwind summer of 2011 was mostly chronicled here on my blog.

On July 19th, I met Chen Zhong Ling (who became our Johanna Ling Bergey) for the first time.

My older children love for me to tell them their story. You know, the details of how I found out I was expecting them, what they "grew on" (the food I craved while I was pregnant! :)), their birth stories, my favorite spots to kiss them when they were babies, how they nursed and learned to walk and breaks my heart that Johanna doesn't have the same story as my biological children. We will never know how her birth mother felt when she found out she was expecting her, what foods she craved, or her birth story. Johanna will never know if her birth mother ever kissed her even once or if someone took her away immediately because her face was "deformed". There is no one to tell her what her first words were or when she learned to walk.

Her story as our daughter began the moment I opened that email last summer. So, as often as she wants it---which is quite often!---I tell Johanna her story.

And her favorite part happens to also be my favorite part.

"I loved you from the moment I saw your picture."

The past six months have been a learning experience for our entire family. I haven't shared alot of the details, in part because we were just holding our head above water trying to figure all of this out most days.

Now, however, that we have six months behind us, I am ready to share some of the things that we've learned, the mountains and valleys, and the amazing journey we've been so blessed to be a part of.

So begins a series of posts covering a wide variety of topics on Older Child Adoption.

Stay tuned! (and if you have a question pertaining to this topic, please leave a comment below and I'll do my best to answer it.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Total Randomness

The weather is gorgeous here this week. We've done a little school, played outside, done a little more school, played outside, repeat :) for three days now. After our nasty stomach bug last week that worked itself through everyone except Johanna and Gabbey, it has been a welcome change!

I want to adopt again. Sigh. I want to have another bio baby, too. :) Sigh. We need a bigger house first. Sigh. We are completely flipped on our mortgage. Sigh. God is in such total, complete, sovereign control over this,  I don't need to worry another minute about it. :) Peace.

I love parenting. I truly do. Don't get me wrong, with virtual triplet toddlers, there are many, many days when I fall into bed exhausted and feel as if I'll never get on top of it all. :) But in the midst of the unlimited laundry, the messy floors, the toys I step on in the middle of the night while answering yet another crying child......there is joy. Real joy. It's not found in the perfect house (although I do try, lol!) nor the perfect child. Real joy is found when I drink in the scent of a freshly bathed, newly adopted Alyssia (2)  snuggling in my bed. It is found when I awake to Gabbey's (2) little arm around my neck. It is found when I hear Ethan (2) saying to one of his siblings, "I so sowwy. I won't hit you again." :) It is found when I walk through the house at night and look at each sweet sleeping child and remember why I'm doing this. Yes, there's joy. And I truly do love parenting. :)

Johanna (14) is doing so well. The longer she is in our home, the more we are able to communicate, and the more we communicate, the more I learn about her life before us and her true thoughts, dreams, and wishes. She says she doesn't want to ever get married because she wants to stay with us forever. :) I'm okay with that, although it's likely she'll change her mind someday. The immaturity is still there, but she's learning and growing, with lots of repititon and teaching. Her social skills are improving as well.

Eliana (9) has violin lessons tonight. She's been playing for 11 months and is doing fantastic! I'm so proud of her. Thursday nights are our "date nights" although I usually take along one other child for some extra "Mommy" time.

I love my husband. He's so committed to our Lord and our family. I find it amazing that even after 13+ years of marriage, I still miss him when he's at work. Just today, I was telling Johanna, Nathaniel (7)and Eliana that Daddy and Mommy like to kiss and snuggle after they go to bed. :)

Brent bought a bread machine for me for Christmas. I'm using it almost every day! I love to make homemade bread, but my days are so full, I didn't have much time for making it. The bread machine is a life-saver for me! Between my rice cooker, crock-pot, and bread machine, I've got lots of "help" in the kitchen!

I'm thinking of potty training Gabbey soon. (The other two are already trained.) She's still only 19 pounds (at 2 years, 4 months!). She's seriously REALLY tiny! I think she'll be four before she can climb onto the toilet unassisted. But she's bright and I think she's probably ready for big girl underwear. Not that I'll be able to find them in her size, lol. Hmmm, do they make underwear in 18 months sizes???

I need a nap. Unfortunately, it's after 4 pm now and everyone is awake. My youngest four (ages 5, 2, 2, and 2) still nap for 2 hours every day. It's Mommy's recharge time. You know the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"? Yes, I need just a tiny absence from the mighty-mess-makers every day in order to grow that much fonder of each one of them. LOL

Gabbey is back in our bed. I would describe her as "insecurely attached". Some fears still come out at night, or any time she's in her own bed, for that matter.  We tried putting her back in our bed and she's just so much more content. Co-sleeping has always been something we're willing to do if needed, and in Gabbey's case, it seems to be needed. For now, at least.

How's that for a "random" post? I must go start dinner now. :)