Tonight is the last night. The last night of not knowing. The last night of wondering. The last night it takes faith to believe she’s real.
Our new daughter IS real.
I am sitting on a train, next to a sleeping Andy, rushing past the aging cities, strangely active building sites, and deep summer darkness of a country that doesn’t know what to do with my soon-to-be daughter. We spent today at the zoo with the Reynolds, sweet new friends who just had gotcha day a few days ago for their two new children. And, oh, did these kids steal my heart! Precious Baby Andrew, who knows how to get what he needs by making everyone around him work to make him happy. Bright, glowing Katya, who makes me more desperate to learn the language here, because I desperately want to know what she’s saying. But no one at the zoo today had a single smile for these children who captured my heart in a single second.
As bad as it seems that people in the U.S. automatically look for innocent sweetness in our children with special needs, I know that there is openness and hope in that perspective. When a dad rushes to move his playful child away from gorgeous Kat or a particularly grump-faced woman with a purple shirt stares so openly and rudely at baby Bowen, I know we can do this. Yes, I know, it’s supposed to be horrible to adopt kids to “rescue” them, but I think it’s a fair word to mean “give them freedom.”
The whole country is not like this. There are pockets of acceptance, and exceptions for celebrity over “Andrew” and his dad’s ingenuity in creating a makeshift prosthetic for him in-country. And it’s the start. The way a country begins to slowly see the beauty of Andrew and Katia, and not the oddness of “different,” the stigma of “orphan.” A reporter came to the Reynolds’ apartment while Andy and I finished cooking the incredible send-off dinner they were making in our honor. While Katia was overwhelmed and stuck with us in the kitchenette, we could hear the interview, filled with deep, insightful questions. The care of children with special needs in a family is becoming a possibility in the national consciousness. Every time a family is interviewed, another child is viewed as a person, instead of as an orphan invisibly hidden in a proper place.
It’s not something I have kept secret that for the past few months, we have a hard time connecting to Libby. We have had stories of friends, and the lines we always say “Down syndrome is not acceptable in her country. She has no hope without international adoption. Why not us?” And I think it’s because we have been seeing Libby as an orphan, as a child we could take or leave, but were choosing to accept. It’s not wrong…with just a grainy old picture, what choice did we have? We couldn’t fill in who she was, so we had to settle on loving her FOR being an orphan. FOR having Down Syndrome. FOR a squishy baby belly and chubby little arm rolls when she was 2 months old.
Secretly, though, for the past two months, that hasn’t been enough. That love has been as scary as a prenatal diagnosis with no real idea of what it means for your own child to have Down syndrome. At that point, it became very clear that we don’t have a baby. We have an orphan, and a genetic make-up, and a potentially imaginary person, who might not be available for international adoption.
But yesterday, Britt was holding over-tired Katia on his lap in a hot, slow-moving taxi. I started singing 5 little monkeys, and Katia picked it up in no time, jumping her fingers on her palm and bonking her head by the second round. Sticking together in the backseat, I watched the loving intensity of Kelly as she made car noises to try to avoid an “Andrew shriek” of frustrated discomfort. Ezra knew without looking that Katia was about to rip someone’s glasses off (oh, he was right!). And I knew in that short time that Andy and I could love both these kids in an instant…it brought our daughter back into focus.
Instead of asking myself “Will we end up in the hospital, repairing an undiagnosed heart defect?” I began to wonder again if her heart would know our love soon or if it would take a while. Instead of asking myself “Will she be considered high-functioning?” I began to wonder again what her passion will be. Instead of thinking “What if everyone against this adoption is right?” I began to trust again in the God who started this work in us, and will equip us to finish it–not the adoption, but the becoming her parents part. Because she is already here, already loved, already fought for by the One who loves me like that.
What a gift of reassurance the Reynolds family has left us with to take on our first visits, and through the finalization of this adoption.
Please pray for us today as we move from faith to sight and meet our new daughter for the first time. I know she will be the child we need, and pray that God will make us into the parents she needs.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. –1 Corinthians 13:12