The day we finally meet our son will be a day we will always remember. It is the day we have been anticipating greatly. It will be part of our “story” and another one of the most amazing days of our lives. But this day will come at the cost of a child losing everything he has known.
We recently had an extensive meeting with a social worker through our agency. This meeting is required before travel. We had to fill out a detailed “form” with all of the information we currently know about August MinXian as well as what resources we had in place. I was neither eagerly anticipating nor completely dreading this call. I will be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from it.
I want to learn. I want to be as prepared as I possibly can. I have read more books and articles and watched more videos than one may think possible over the past year. Yet, I still feel so very unprepared. I enter the next months of my life expecting that I will make MANY mistakes. How can one possibly prepare for the moment when you will go from merely staring at a photo for a few months to holding a boy in your arms…a boy who has never heard your heartbeat or the sound of your voice yet, in one moment, is a son to two strangers?
So, yes, I work had to educate and prepare, yet I am mostly preparing myself for the many, many unknowns and for the steep learning curve I have ahead.
The meeting with our the social worker, though was so much more helpful and informative then we could have imagined. She validated many things that we had already learned and taught us many things we had not yet considered. She offered ideas and tips to use immediately in China as well as once we return home.
Here are some of the most useful bits of information she shared with us.
- He could fiercely reject one (or both) of us while in China. It is possible that he could reject Dad as he likely sees very few men OR he may reject Mom as a female reminding him of his caretakers.
- He has possibly never seen the outside of his orphanage, so outside in general may be terrifying (or very intriguing)!
- He has no experience with cars or car seats. Generally, car seats are not used in China, therefore it is to be expected that the transition into a car seat back home may not be easy. (And he will not be in a carseat for all of our car/van travel in China.)
- He does not know Mike and I as Mom and Dad. We need to work hard and long to teach him that we are the primary ones who will take care of him. We were given some really helpful tips on how to help Ana while in China to be a good big sister, yet not be easily mistaken as a caregiver. Play will be an important role for her, while feeding, changing, snuggling or consoling will be better suited for Mike and I while he slowly learns who and what we are.
- Play will be crucial to our attachment and needs to be so much more than a toy given to him to entertain. Eye contact and back and forth play such as peek-a-boo, dancing, bubbles will go a long way to gain trust and attachment.
- It is not known how much touch (i.e. snuggling, holding, being held while eating) he is used to. It has been told to us that the orphanage August MinXian is in is one of the better ones in China. And we hope this is true. We do hope that he is being cared for well and offered some form of affection and love. But we do know that our initial instinct to grab and hold and snuggle and love, love, love may not be immediately favored. This will be HARD for me!!!!!!!
- He may reject Asian people, culture and language in the future. Hearing Mandarin from Ana from the beginning may help decrease the possibility of the language rejection. But we should not be surprised if seeing Asian people causes upset at times.
- We can expect that he will be developmentally delayed as a general rule. Most children in orphanages are to some extent. And what is a true delay versus one from his environment will not be known for some time. Also, “under stress we all regress”.
- Regression is ok and even encouraged. It may seem odd to treat a nearly one-year old like a newborn for a short time, but this is recommended and encouraged to help with trust, bonding and attachment. He has not had the opportunity to go through all of his natural developmental stages with us and stepping back developmentally to allow him to do so can be beneficial. Babywearing in a carrier, if he will adjust to it, can be very helpful as well!
- Feeding and sleep are the two areas in which struggles are commonly seen. Sensory issues are also very common. Many things we may not think of or expect can be very overwhelming to a kiddo in this situation. We learned that orphanages can be “eerily” quiet. Too noisy or too quiet may be distressing to him. I am fully expecting to greet jet lag along with “newborn” like sleep. Looking on the bright side, I will not be recovering from childbirth…though I will report back how bad jet lag really is!
- Grief can manifest in many ways, not just crying. What may seem like just an extremely quiet baby may actually be his internal processing of the situation and grief. Watching for his cues will help us to know if staying near the hotel/home is best or if going on simple quiet adventures outside is good.
- Things we take for granted, like bathing and bedtime, may look very very different to him. We will try to gather as much information as possible about his daily routines to help ease him into his “new routines”.
- Discipline may not be as clear cut as with our THREE KIDDOS. Wait…clear cut???…with my three? Ummmm…..NOPE…most days I have no clue what I am doing! HA! Really though, time outs just may not work and other forms of discipline may be much more successful. We have some wonderful resources of how to discipline kiddos who are adopted (trauma and/or attachment issues). For example, time INS can be much more effective (versus sending child to another room alone, we stay with him as he takes time to settle). This will be a learning curve for sure!
- His young age may or may not make his transition easier.
- This is a transition for all of us. Of course, for August MinXian and Mom and Dad, but we cannot forget that Ana, Dani and Cal are also going to have a HUGE change in a short time. First, Dani and Cal will be away from Mom and Dad for TWO WEEKS (I KNOW we can all survive it….I know….right???????????). And we work very hard to prepare LITTLE Cal for his BABY AUGUST/BABY CHINA. And he tells us regularly that he wants to meet him and will even let hime “SLEEP UNDER HIS BED”!!! (Yes, we are working on this!!!) But in reality Cal has no idea what exactly will happen in a few short weeks. And although Ana and Dani are thrilled and in love and even have a decent understanding of the complicated way their brother is coming into their lives, a transition it still is. We expect to have struggles with all three of them. And we know they will all need a lot of extra love, time and attention in the coming year.
MOST IMPORTANTLY we need to expect the unexpected. August MinXian may take a very long time to attach to us, to show us love, to give us what we, as parents, are used to and “need”. Or he may transition smoothly and more quickly than we expect. He may show us his smile quickly or we may have to work very hard to see that precious smile. We will certainly fail and we will also succeed. We will learn in ways we never thought possible. And we will build patience we never knew we had. We will have highs and we will have lows. We will laugh with him and we will cry with him. But we are in for the long haul. We don’t expect this to be easy or to be immediately rewarded. But we expect to learn and grow alongside him, to work hard to earn his trust and love. And we expect to love him deeply as we love our THREE OTHER CRAZY LITTLES. And for that we are ready. As ready as we possibly can be!