I had a dream last night about the child we are adopting. It wasn't a good dream. We got the call for our referral, and a few hours later we were introduced live and in person to the child who was now our daughter. She looked to be around eight or nine years old. She didn't really like me. It wasn't that she was necessarily shy; it was that she preferred being with anyone else who was in the house. I was trying to get her room ready in a futile attempt for her to like me. Everyone else in the house kept oohing and ahhing over her while she simply ignored me, her new mother.
That was my dream. I obviously have some fears about this next adoption. I am afraid to write about it, but I'm choosing to do so mainly because of the encouragement I felt while reading Melissa Faye Greene's brutally honest take on the adoption of her son from Bulgaria. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend doing so.
So what am I so afraid of? Why am I having bad dreams? Why did I sort of flip out one day last week and need to go on a several-hour walk by myself to think and pray?
It's difficult to explain. Please bear with me as I stumble around for the right words.
When we were in Ethiopia bringing home our tiny baby Abe, we had a conversation with Belay that changed forever both me and Ted. Belay is an Ethiopian man who works for Gladney. He is one of my biggest heroes on this earth. If Belay hadn't been on the scene, it is very likely that Abe would not be our son right now (in case you're new to our family, you can read about the twists and turns of Abe's adoption here and here and here). The first thing Belay does every day when he wakes up is to call the Gladney transition homes to check on the children. I heard that his wife asked him one day why he did this when he had his own children at home to check in with in the morning. His response was that his children have two parents already and that the children at the Gladney home have no one. Saying that he loves children is an understatement. He is utterly devoted and children respond to that. We got to see Belay this spring at Chris and Heather's St Paddy's Day party in California, and despite not having seen him in over a year, Abe flew into Belay's arms when we walked in the door (as evidenced in the slideshow I just linked to). It may sound trite or corny to say so, but I'm gonna say it anyway: Belay is an angel walking the face of this earth.
During one of our meals with Belay during our time in Ethiopia, Ted asked him a question that we really wanted the answer to. We asked how, in the face of overwhelming need, how do you take it all in? How do you keep your heart from breaking into a million pieces every day? His answer was that you simply choose one area of need that most strikes a chord in your heart and go with that. He said, "If Bill Gates used all his money, all he could do was buy each person a steak dinner." Point being: there will always be need, and no one person can solve all the world's problems.
We thought about this for a while and then asked, "And where is your heart?" Without a second thought, he replied, "older girls." He explained that boys who never find families, though it will be difficult for them, have less of a hard time making their way in the country. There are simply more opportunities available for men. The young women who age out of the system have a more difficult time (and my understanding is that this is why Gladney chooses to employ many of these young women to care for the children in the transition homes). He went on to explain that once a child reaches the age of two, her chance of being adopted drops drastically and continues to drop each year exponentially.
That was the word that did it for me. Of course we knew before we adopted Abe that many older children never find families, and we certainly don't have a single regret about our first adoption. I don't stand in judgment of those who are adopting an infant; we were one of those couples, and we have many friends who have adopted or are adopting infants. Every family has their own path, and we knew that this conversation with Belay was leading us to a path of toddler/preschool adoption. We knew what our next step would be. We knew what it had to be. Like Belay said, this is what was striking a chord in our hearts.
So, in answer to that question of our next adoption, the one I'd been putting off writing about, this is it: we are hoping to adopt a preschool-aged girl.
My big fear in explaining our motivation in adopting an older-than-infant girl is that I will come off sounding self-righteous or as if my only motivation in adopting again is to "save an orphan." I cringe at this kind of stuff, really I do. We always knew we wanted to adopt again. We want another child. That's the plain truth. Selfishly, we want to parent another; we want Abe to have a sibling. We feel extremely fortunate and grateful that we have the means to bring another child into our family. We just didn't know who this child would be until we saw with our own eyes these sweet preschool children with no parents and talked with Belay, our Ethiopian Superman, about what pricked his heart the most.
I am excited, I really am. But I am also scared. "Older child" adoption is a completely different ball of wax than parenting an infant. I read incessantly about what it means to bring a child into our family who already has language, an intact personality, connections to other people, and memories of her first home. This little girl is going to be freaked out by what is happening to her. It's scary stuff. It scares me. I'm afraid she won't bond to me. I'm afraid she'll prefer anyone else to me, her new mother. I'm afraid she'll meet our amazing neighbors and want to live with them instead. I'm afraid she and Abe won't bond as brother and sister. I so love mothering my little boy that I'm now afraid that I won't know how to mother a girl. I'm afraid because with an infant, you snuggle them and bottle-feed them, and wrap 'em up in slings that you wear around all day, and take naps together, and lots of goo-goos and ga-gas and before you know it, you belong to each other. With Abe, he wanted me and Ted over anyone else within twenty-four hours. Seriously, our bonding was nearly instantaneous.
But with a preschooler? It's not the same. It takes longer. There are tantrums and language barriers and nightmares and insecurities and food hoarding and inappropriate affection for strangers. I'm not saying all these things will happen. I just know that they could. I know that I have to prepare myself for the potential of these things so that I don't flip out. This is why I read constantly. This is why I pay such very close attention to families like this and this and this.
This morning while baking peanut butter cookies with Abe, Harry Connick Jr. started singing my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night (no, he wasn't actually in the kitchen with us, though what a lovely thing that would have been). These lines hit me square in the chest:
"He knows our need, our weakness no stranger."
I worry so often that I won't have what it takes to mother a little girl who understands just enough to know that her world is turning completely upside down. But what I need to remember is that, as scared as I am right now, she's going to be that much more scared. This is not about my having or not having what it takes; God is not a stranger to my weakness. He'll fill my cup. He'll forge a bond between us all, even if it takes a little longer. He knows our need. I cling to the hope that by the end of it, we'll belong to each other. She'll call me her mama, and I'll call her my girl. Our baby girl. Our own Rooney.
(I thank you in advance for being gracious with me. I decided, in the footsteps of this lady who is another hero of mine, to use this space to decompress, sort it out, and hold it up to the light. I'm a messy person on a journey here. Please excuse my mess.)
I am so happy you let that out !! I had a suspicion you were leaning toward an older girl - I don't know why. As hard as it can sometimes be to say something out loud, it must be equally hard to blog it-something about processing the thoughts, putting them in order and then living with the way you have put them on the page. Very happy for you!!
We are meeting with a social worker in the next month to get information about foster care adoption but if we don 't go that way we love the idea of adopting a toddler or preschool age girl from Ethiopia - still all depends on how our autistic son does over the next few months. May never happen but a girl can dream.
So well said, friend. I mean it. This is a beautiful post about older child adoption. And not just about that, but about your heart and how you found yourself here. I'm excited to see how your second journey unfolds. And? I think you're awesome.
I'm sitting in my living room with tears running down my cheeks. Once again, your writing has shown the depths of your soul. Your honesty is refreshing.
We are so very excited about the next Rooney, whoever she may be.
What a beautifully vulnerable post. Thanks for linking to the article by Melissa FG...there's something encouraging about the honesty that says, "yes, it's really hard work...but those feelings will come!"
Lori, someone needs to tell you -- so I will. You'd be having those dreams if you were getting ready to meet a child you were giving birth to soon. I had those dreams. A lot of moms have those dreams. They're not all adopty - but they're the same dreams.
So ... I just think it means you're getting ready for another child. It means you're the mom.
I remember when it first hit me -- someone was holding our first baby, and she started to cry. He handed her to me, and she stopped crying like someone had flipped the switch to off. I thought, "Oh .... I'M the mom!"
You're the mom, Lori. Hence, the dreams.
Thank you for the link to the MFG article. That is exactly how I felt when we returned home, even though I had infants. I wish I would have known of it then, when I was really struggling. It was such a wonderful help to read.
Thanks for being so vulnerable with your post. I am sure it will inspire others.
Beautifully expressed.I also loved reading Melissa Greene's post. Lovely, honest thoughts. My thoughts and prayers are with you in the struggle:)
Lori, beautiful, honest, I am so happy you found the words. I can't wait to watch the Rooney family grow...xoxo
Congrats! I loved your heart in this post.
We are adopting a toddler and I too have some of those same fears but I know that this is what we are called to do and God never calls us to something that He won't equip us to do!!
So excited for you!
Your so honest and say it so well. You will be a wonderful mom to a girl one day.
Hi Lori, I too, have tears as I read your post. Especially towards the end. I completely believe the Lord will prepare our hearts to love whom HE loves. When we open our hearts to Him and let him fill us, suddenly, it IS enough to love someone we don't know and who doesn't know us. A child, a neighbor, a stranger.
I love what you said, "I cling to the hope that by the end of it, we'll belong to each other. She'll call me her mama, and I'll call her my girl."
Perfect. I'm clinging to that hope, too.
While we were in Ethiopia, and I kept on wondering whether it would be possible to just return our babies and run away, i thought about that Melissa Faye Greene article ALL THE TIME. Knowing that other people had felt the same kind ofthings that i had was the ONLY thing that enabled me to get through it. We need so much more of that kind of honesty, and this post is going straight to the top of my list.
I just can't wait for Abe to get a big sister :)
Lori, Thanks for the links and the comments, but I have to say....YOU ARE GONNA DO GREAT! It IS so scary. But you can do it and will shine. This new little girl will love you, and you will love her. It's already there....way deep. I'm still so excited for you (and selfishly so, as it means phone calls and emails. We moms who adopt older stick together!)
And you KNOW I'm a messy blogger, i have to throw it out there to help process it all. So I'm very happy to have more company on this topic!
Very excited. Keep going! keep writing. All will be well!
And the Melissa Fay Greene link? Spot on. I wish I had read it about 4 months ago. She is braver than I am, to write it out. But, it happens. In a shocking surprise. It can. But the help comes like she said: the friends who lift you up. Who say it's alright that it feels wrong, it will come. It does. And, THAT is why we moms of older kid adoptions ESPECIALLY stick together.
So, don't be afraid. You won't be alone. And it will be good, it will be amazing.
Lori, I have no doubts about this for you. You will be amazing. Meazi agrees.
Holy cow, well said. It's a very hard place to be, standing on the end of the diving board. I SO appreciate your honesty, it is beautiful. I think because you are being so honest with yourself about it, that it really will turn out fine. I love what Belay said about doing what strikes a chord in your heart. I would like to meet him one day.
Thank you for your honesty. I have lots of thoughts swirling around in my head after reading this post. Not bad thoughts! I wasn't able to travel to get Asher, something I am sad about now having him home. My mom said such great things about Belay. I hope to meet him someday. Maybe for that second adoption...
I'm so happy for you. For your family. I'm so glad you are following your heart, it's the greatest way to go!
If you havn't read it already, you may want to check out Lisa's blog, http://abushel-and-apeck.blogspot.com/
she writes so brutally honest about the challenges they face with their older children, and gives the tools they are using to get through those challenges. I find her quite inspiring:)
Congratulations, and I can't wait to hear more!
By the end of this post my breathing had somehow turned into little whimpers of hope and joy.
I have just now shown the Pops Dog this post and he immediately turned to me upon finishing it and said, "Well. I think we ought to find ourselves in the same position sometime soon." Talk about an inspiring read.
I can't tell you how good it was for me to read this. We are in process again for an older child. I'm scared of many of the same things and I'm not sure how to talk about it. Thank you so much for your brave post. To be so vulnerable is certainly courageous. This has been more helpful to me than I can explain. If I could I would hug you.
with love and respect,
Lori, wow. Wonderful to read what's deep inside the emotional nooks and crannies, thanks for yanking it all. It's honestly gorgeous. Super confidence is like well, something to be suspicious of. Vulnerability is human. It's what makes someone able to empathize I think, right...the capacity fr which a mother must have, no?
You are braver than me for putting this out here. I have a private blog and I can't even manage to express how sucky of a mother I think I am sometimes in my little, tiny private sphere. Perhaps I'll manage to put some of it in this elusive book I keep saying I'm writing.
What you said about Belay resonated with me on a profound, molecular level. Craig and I had an experience in Ethiopia with him that was tantamount to a deer light shining on a big mishapen thing that had been lurking out there in the dark...
I am sitting here holding my breath with a heavy feeling in my chest. We are also adopting a little girl between roughly 2 and 4. Your post really lays it all out there, completely, and I'm not sure I'd let it all hit like that at the same time yet. And so I'm having trouble breathing.
Of the myriad of reasons we are adopting again from Ethiopia, I had thought our requesting a girl was selfish, and for me alone, to add a daughter to the chaos of two boys. And of course that is still true.
But now I have an even heavier heart knowing how much we are needed. I knew we could step forward and bring into our family a child well past infant age. But for some reason, your post and Belay drive it all home.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the shake up today. It's always good to feel more and know more.
Now I'm going to be watching you!
It's out and what a blessing a new baby/big girl will be. This post is very inspiring to others who plan to adopt one day or plan to adopt again. Well said. I can't wait to be around to watch this journey unfold.
how am i just now finding your blog. i'm hooked already. i so appreciate this post. beautiful, raw, inspiring. i will be following your story. and wondering what might be in store for our family in the future...
Lori, you are able to articulate your feelings so well. Honestly, that is a gift. I hope this post took you a while to write, because if you just sat down and wrote...well, that's not fair. :)
I think you are incredibly honest and totally on target. it should be scary. if you weren't scared and unsure, then i wouldn't think you would be prepared.
in any case, i know you and ted can do it. i know you will be wonderful parents to this girl. abe will be an amazing brother. i can't wait!! seriously.
Loved reading this post! Having been with our little man now for a little over a month, let me say- it is a glorious experience. Different from the infant route for sure but so rewarding. You literally get to SEE them take it all in, process, grow, adapt, grieve, love, experience so many firsts, that it will bless you tremendously.
Eyasu's language has exploded in the past week! He still has some indiscriminate affection but knows his family, I pray feels safe and secure here and this is just the beginning! Will look forward to following along and know I'm here for you! :)
I just have a big old lump in my throat and I feel whatever I write will not be worthy of the beauty of your words, Lori.
You are so gifted and so inspiring. I'm thrilled to follow your journey to little big girl.
It's just wonderful!! All of it! Just wait and see, all your fears will be squashed! Trust me!
I had the same fears when we adopted a 3 1/2 year old little girl from Ethiopia last year.
I read all the books and frankly they can scare you to death. However, being prepared for the worst and hoping for the best is a good strategy.
When we brought Hannah home, she was the size of an 18 month old, so there was lots of carrying and snuggling for bonding.
She was malnourished, but we didn't see the hoarding you read about. We simply made sure that she was fed whenever she wanted to eat so that she was reassured that food would always be available.
She bonded quickly. But the true attachment has occurred over the last 21 months. At first her hugs were a little stiff, now she melts her whole body into ours. She knows we are her parents yet she is still very outgoing with adults.
Initially she would go with anyone and now she prefers us and her behavior is more appropriate. Although we are aware that her personal boundaries are not as rigid as a child adopted as an infant. We continue to work on this especially since it can be a safety issue for a child.
Sleep issues were limited to frequent wakings to see if we were still there the first 5-6 months (think newborn). But these were great bonding opportunities too. Now she sleeps through the night although she needs someone to sit with her a while before she goes to sleep. Nothing is more satisfying to me than to be able to old this little girl in my arms as she settles down to sleep.
These last 21 months have been amazing. We feel like we won the lotto with Hannah. She has adjusted well, is firmly bonded and attaching well. She was fluent in English in 4 months (lots of naming objects and actions to go with words while she was learning helped.)She is a joy and an amazingly resilient little girl and brings so much love to our lives.
One of the other Moms said it well too. You have these dreams when you are pregnant too. I think it is the mind's wasy of dealing with something you want so much and are afraid won't work out.
You guys will do great. Sounds like she has some great parents waiting to love her.
Thank you for such an amazing post. Your courage is humbling and your strength is inspiring. I can't wait to follow your journey!
Belay's adoration of the older girls was very clear to us in Ethiopia. He was proud to show us the garden they had created and the way he interacted with them showed so much love.
I just had a dream the other night that I was only taking care of Turo for awhile. And one day I had to turn him over to another mother (from the blog world). I was heartbroken. Then she instantly realized that he was sick, gave him some medicine and looked at me like I had been doing this terrible job. It's amazing what we are trying to work out in our dreams.
It's exciting to hear about your growing family!
I haven't read through the many comments here... but i'm hoping that they are all awesome and supportive of you :). You know, as you follow other families closely, we will follow you closely on your journey. Because in a few years, we will be in your position. And I need you to be honest. Nope, it's not all about me, :), but I need to know what your experience is like. Not that ours will be exactly like yours, no two adoptions are the same. But I'll need the encouragement, the support, the wisdom.
Thanks so much for being brave and honest Lori!!!
Beautiful, inspiring, heartfelt- all reasons why you're one of my favoritest people out there.
Beautiful. We adopted a 3 year old the first time and are hoping to adopt a preschool age child the next time. I can't wait to read all about it. I have also been reading and soaking up the experiences of the parents that have gone before. Belay sounds great!
You will be amazing. Adopting a toddler is hard and beautifully rewarding.
Wishing you all the best.
just what I needed. thank you.
Well, as someone who adopted a 4 year old in 2007 and is now waiting for a child up to 5... you go. Older kids are fabulous. Yes, the first months can be hard - I say the first six weeks you just have to survive, that's all. At three months you will see improvement, and at six months you will get into a groove. And the sheer wonder and joy you get to witness in the meantime is well worth it.
YAY!!! I am so excited for you guys...and can't wait to see who your daughter will be!!
Great thoughts, Lori. You are a good mom. Wondering and worrying is just another sign of that. I can't wait to see life grow and change for you. Growing and changing, after all, is what life is all about. I think you are doing great things to prepare for the future. Can't wait to see who she is :)
I linked here from another blog. I brought home a 6.5 year old in June of this year. Adopting older is an amazing experience. It is not easy, but there are lots of good resources. Your life will be richer for it.
It's funny but my agency doesn't consider kids as "older" until they are 8. There is a wait for most kids younger.
"Mandestory," I'm not sure what Gladney officially considers "older child" adoption, which is why I tend to just use the phrase "older-than-infant" to describe our adoption of a preschooler. And I have no idea how long or short the wait will be.
I'm not sure if I've commented before but I was led here by Julie's blog and i wanted to thank you for writing this. Your words are so important. you have courage and i so appreciate it. i wanted to point you to a friend of mine's blog. Valarie brought home her two, a boy and a girl approx 5 and 7 back in July. She's blogged some since they've been home. They are extraordinary, not all children will adapt in the same way but one thing i wanted to say is that as much as they need from us, they teach us so much too. They come with their own suitcase full of skills. so you won't be on your own, she will be with you, your daughter. I think you are right on with preparing for everything. there are so many stories, all beautiful. Your story really touched my heart. thanks.
valarie's blog is With Eyes Like Mine at
Holly Smoke, Lori. What a beautiful, honest, inspiring post. I have struggled myself with adopting non-infants, and although I we have had a heart for it for a long time, it took me a really long time to get there because it IS scary (and frankly some of those books make me break out in a sweat). Can I just say that I think (and hope) that a lot of figure it out with a preschooler is going to be about having insight and instinct and patience and love. And of course faith. And you've got all those things coming out your ears and then some. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
I also brought home an infant ( 3 months old) in June 08 from ETH and was placed on my agency's wait list two months ago for a 4-5 year old girl...I am #1 so any day now I will see my daughter's face. There is so much more to think about with the older adoption...I am scared but so excited for this child to join our family.
Congratulations on your decision :) I know you will be wonderful parents to her as you are to Abe.
Congratulations on your decision to adopt a little girl! How wonderful. We will be adopting a little girl with HIV, probably 2 or 3 years old. I've been reading TONS and I have 3 favorites; Playful Parenting (tons about making connection fun and the most insightful 'discipline' I have heard of), Parenting your Internationally Adopted Child (excellent resource!) and it sounds like you've probably already read Toddler Adoption; the weaver's craft. I bet you can't wait to meet her!
You're beautiful Lori! Thank you!
My heart warmed immensely as I read your post! THANK YOU for sharing your heart. I am SO EXCITED. It IS scary, and it IS wonderful. Thank you for sharing your journey with us here in bloggerland! Oh, and I love Harry Connick Jr and enjoyed having the thought of him in MY kitchen! :-)
Thank you so much for your honesty and openness...it helps us all so much to know we're not alone. We have court on the 14th (and will hopefully pass!) to bring home our little 4 year old girl from Ethiopia.
Looking forward to watching your journey...
Our daughter was 15 months when we brought her home from China four years ago. When we met her she was already speaking and walking and she quickly made her full self known. It was as if a tornado landed in our midst. She had breath holding spells, night terrors and stress induced eczema.
She clung like a monkey to my husband immediately out of survival instinct, but wanted nothing to do with me. I was ok with this because I knew (hoped) she'd eventually come around. (she has)
She was cold, wanting little or no physical contact, no cuddling and she showed signs of pseudo maturity--wanting to do everything for herself out of a desire to not be dependent on less than reliable caregivers. She was less than two years old and she didn't want me to help her change her clothes. It broke my heart.
I was totally unprepared because even though she is my third child, she is my first daughter and my first adopted child. It was a STEEP learning curve.
The one book which truly saved my life was "Raising Your Internationally Adopted Child, from the first hours through the teen years" by Patty Cogan. I see you have a long reading list, but if you can, I highly recommend this book. It was a huge help to me.
I wish you all the luck in the world. Speaking only for myself, it was a difficult road but one that I would gladly do again if it means having my daughter in my life.
The Waiting Child
by Debbie Bodie
I saw you meet
your child today
You kissed your
And as you walked
away with her
I played pretend
you'd chosen me.
I'm happy for the baby,
Inside I"m aching
I want to plead as
you go by,
``Does no-one want
a child of three?"
I saw you meet
your child today
In love with her
before you met
And as I watched
you take her out
I knew it wasn't
my turn yet.
I recognize you
from last year!
I knew I'd seen your
But you came for a
Does no-one want
a child of four?
I saw you meet
your child today
But this time there was
A nurse came in
and took MY hand
And then she gave
my hand to you.
Can this be true?
I'm almost six!
And there are
infants here you see?
But then you kissed me
and I knew
The child you chose
this time was me.
CONGRATS ON YOUR AMAZING DECISION.
I love this post. Well said. I'm excited for the Rooney family! You guys will be great, wonderful parents.
i love the poem. and its sad that not many people want to adopt an older child but whatever happens the child you get will love you. i'm praying for you!
I'm so happy for you guys and even more excited that you'll be opening your hearts to an older child. I had a very similar conversation with Belay and he told me that Maryn was very lucky to have Keller (age 17 mo-at the time) as her brother because otherwise as you wrote her chances of being adopted we're getting slimmer with each passing year. That was just so sad to hear.
Having experienced both older child and infant adoptions I have to say there are some very special experiences that come with an older child adoption that you don't experience with an infant. My absolute favorite was at 4 years old when Maryn learned that she was going to have a family. She was so happy and proud, it was one of those life moments for me and the pictures I have are priceless.
I've fallen off the blog world but if you ever want to talk about what we experienced with Maryn and Keller and our transition I'm an open book.
Lot's of love to you and your family, this is such an exciting time!
I don't get to read blogs much anymore but today I was clicking around and read this. Bawling, I tell ya! I love your heart, Lori! I'm so excited for where God's taking your family!
I'm very behind in reading blogs. I don't have as much time as I wish I did. None the less this post is beautiful and I couldn't help but comment. Toddler/Preschool adoption is amazing, you will be an AWESOME girl mama and I'm excited to see who your girl is. God absolutely WILL work out all the little details in the process. Excited for you all.
Just wanting to catch up with your fam this evening. LOVE THIS POST!!!!! Love hearing your heart ... your fears, your hopes ..... you're gonna do awesome Lori! I am soooo excited to see who God has already planned to join your family. Blessings to you as you prepare for her. :) ~Shelly
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