We left GZ on Thursday afternoon around 4:30 China time. Of course we couldn't just get all our things together and leave no that would have been too simple. About 15 minutes before we are needing to head out the door to the lobby of the hotel to check out - I am once again going to fix Linnea's hairbow that keeps getting ripped out because she and Nathan feel the need to wrestle and get all sweaty after having baths because you know we are getting ready to be on a LONG plane ride and will not get to have a bath until we make it home. I go to fix her hair to discover she has gum in her hair - Nathan accidentally dropped his gum out of his mouth when they were wrestling - and it lands in Linnea's hair. I break a comb trying to get it out. It has to be cut out. Meanwhile - Abbie is in the process of taking the money we have left to get home and trying to put it who knows where. David catches her in this act and of course takes the money away and as you guessed - a meltdown ensued. Yes these are the kinds of things that happen to you right when you need to get out the door. We did make it to the lobby - and we were on time. We said our goodbyes to the dear friends we met along our way and we were off to the airport. On the way to the airport Abbie again gets in one of her moods - she keeps pretty quiet for this one. We made it to the airport and Miko helped us get all checked in and dropped us off at security. It was sad to say goodbye to her. Lord willing I will see her again and in the meantime I will keep praying for her soul. So we begin to make our way through customs inspection and of course we get in the line where the computer quits working and I should mention I don't think the airport has a good working AC!! The inspectors move us over to another line check us all out and then we move on to security. I strategically packed all the items we would need to take out and put into bins into one bag. Do you think this worked? No of course not - and I will never complain about ATL security at the airport either. We had to take out all my chargers, my curling iron, it was crazy! Its a good thing we were early! We finally got through all that and made our way to the gate where we had some time to chill out before we got on the plane. Which means we had time for Abbie to have a large outburst the one with the screaming, kicking and hitting. It was such a large outburst that when we went to the bathroom after this - the ladies in the bathroom looked at her and started to pretend cry and point at us and of course they are talking in a language I cannot understand - who knows what they were saying about us. I am hoping that she is just getting her outburst over with and she won't do this on the plane, I wish I could say that I was wrong.
I should note that the Chinese people have their own ways of doing things and they are not patient and they like to stare. One example I can give is when the girls and I were in the bathroom before getting on the plane there was a lady standing outside our stall and when we opened the door to come out she may as well have pulled us out of the stall - we couldn't get out her way quick enough. And I mentioned the comments/snickers we got in the bathroom. Another example: as we were getting ready to board the plane one of the elderly women was trying to push me out of the way just to get her ticket read so she could move on and get into the airplane.
So we make it onto the plane with no problem. The girls and I had three seats out of four in the middle aisle and David and Nathan had two out of four behind us. I sat in the middle and had a girl on each side. We should have never put Abbie on the aisle. During this rather LONG plane ride Abbie had 4 outbursts as I now like to refer to them. Keep in mind she has never been on an airplane - I don't know if she has ever even see one she may have seen some in pictures but I don't know. She had one fit during her sleep. I think she was having a nightmare. She did sleep some but when she woke up confined to a seat belt - well that didn't set well with her. And us asking her to move her legs out of the aisle for the flight attendant didn't go over real well either that is what triggered her last one. It was right before we landed and it was the worst. As I was holding her and trying to keep her from hurting herself she just got louder and more volatile. Lets just say I have war wounds from this one. David moved up to help me try and calm her down and if it wasn't already bad enough we got to have an audience as some of the Chinese people on the flight got out of their seats to come and watch. When she has these she always screams the same phrase over and over again and of course we have no idea what she is saying to us - but I am sure its not nice. Tears began to stream down my face and if I am being honest here - which clearly I am - I was feeling humiliated. She got it together before we landed and we were able to get off the plane all in one piece so to speak.
Finally on American soil! We breezed through customs and immigrations at LAX in no time and Abbie is now a United States Citizen and officially a Pruiksma!! During our layover time I begged others to pray that God would be merciful on our next plane ride home. LA to ATL is a four hour flight and I just didn't think I had it in me to go a few more rounds with her. I was tired physically and emotionally. This time Abbie and I got to be on a two seat side with a window and an aisle and then David and the other two were right across from me on the three seats in the middle. We learned our lesson from the last plane ride and this time Abbie sat inside by the window. She did amazing not a peep....until it was time to get off the plane. We were finally home and she wasn't budging. She was just standing in the aisle with of course people behind her wanting to get off the plane themselves. She threw herself on the ground and then I just had to pull her up and drag her with me - I am carrying Linnea dragging Abbie who is kicking and screaming and David is following carrying our carry ons. We made it to the jetway to get the stroller and then she just throws herself on the ground - screaming that same phrase over and over. We just waited - I know the poor crew was ready to leave themselves and they were so gracious even offering to help carry her. She finally got it together and we made it off the jetway. Praise the Lord. I am thankful she got the outburst out then so this was not the first impression she would give her brothers she hadn't met yet. Finally we were on our way - almost home.
I don't think I made it up the escalator before the tears started flowing. I was so ready to be home in more ways than one. I wanted to hug my boys and see familiar faces who have walked this adoption road. It was a joyous reunion and Abbie did wonderful. We were greeted by family and a few dear dear friends. Mind you we landed at 5:45 am. So when I say dear dear friends I mean dear dear friends. We are blessed beyond measure. As we arrived home and pulled up into our driveway we had a beautifully manicured lawn and someone had put the roof and slide on our kids outside fort. If that wasn't enough our kitchen was filled with all kinds of goodies and a stocked fridge/freezer and pantry. But wait it gets better...
While we were in China we quickly realized that we were not going to be able to have Abbie and Linnea share a room - so we called our dear friends and had to ask for help. We needed our office cleared out and Abbie's bed moved into there. I wasn't too worried about how the room looked I just needed her bed to be in there. I even told them don't worry about cleaning out the closet - I can tackle that when I get home besides it was the junkiest closet in my house - its the office!! The main thing was the girls just cannot sleep in the same room right now. As we headed up to show Abbie her new room - I was completely blown away - speechless, crying. I felt like I was on one of those room makeover shows. My sweet friends couldn't let Abbie just come home to her own bed - they gave her a room - AND they cleaned out the closet. AND on our back deck was table and chairs - something I have always wanted... and ALL seven us of will fit!! We are indeed blessed. I can't even begin to put into words the deep sincere gratitude I have for my church family - to be a part of such a body of believers is indescribable. I know that I know that know this family prayed and prayed and prayed some more over and for our family. We felt it and have seen evidences of it. I love being a part of you Berachah family and I/we are thankful how the Lord has used you in our lives. You have brought much joy!!
So here we are home sweet home and our journey continues. This is a lifelong transition as we are continually being conformed to Christ. We have now been home two full days with Abbie and things are going surprisingly well. The outbursts are not nearly as often and have not been remotely what they have been. She is getting along great with Ethan and Luke. There is work to be done with Nathan and Linnea.
I was rocking Abbie on her bed last night as she was having trouble sleeping - she was crying, tears were in her eyes but there was no sound - it was a silent cry. I was reflecting on all we have been through with Abbie and just all the emotions I have felt with her and I was reminded of God's goodness - in that moment of rocking her I felt extreme mama bear love for this sweet girl. Friends I have to confess - when she is physically beating me up - love is not on my mind and I again confess I cannot even bring myself to ask God to help me to love her in those moments - I am relying on you going before Him on my behalf asking Him to help me - and HE does. That was more than overwhelming for me - when I am so stuck in my own sin and don't want to ask for His help - He generously gives it to me anyway. I am unworthy and in reality I never will be. I look down at my arm and see physical reminders of the struggle that goes on with Abbie and I see reminders of the struggle that my own adoption required. Tonight I praise Him for this reminder. He is the reason I am here and He is the reason we are in this journey and so by His grace we will carry on and strive to bring glory to His name throughout.
So what now (are you still reading? sorry I told you this would be long!!) First and foremost keep praying. Pray for the souls of my children. Pray for Abbie - pray God would break her for His glory.
Life for us will be different in all kinds of ways now but specifically in these next several weeks - we are in what they call the cocooning phase of adoption!!
We are confident of this : God's design is PERFECT! His plan for parents and children is a beautiful meaningful picture of His love for us. The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for the parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom feeds and calms the baby - which teaches her that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God's very design an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will, ultimately give children a trust for and empathy toward others. Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother and father at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. Abbie has experienced the loss of familiar and comforting caretakers as well as the sights, smells, and language of her birth country. Abbie is easily overwhelmed. Not only does she need to learn about this new environment we have thrust upon her she also has to learn about love and family. She has not experienced God's design for a family having lived in an orphanage setting for over 6 years. Her world has been turned upside down. She may and likely will struggle with feeling safe and secure and lack the ability to trust that we will meet her needs. She is on survival mode - and it doesn't include us. The good news is that we can now as her parents and forever family rebuild attachment and help her heal from these emotional wounds.
A friend shared with me this great article on 10 things you can do for an adoptive family. It says it ay better than I could and I think it is just good info.
1. Give them space. The parents need time to bond with their child, and too many adults in the child’s life may complicate the bonding process and confuse the child. The adoptive family may need breathing room to adjust to all the changes in their family, so call first and ask them when would be a good time to visit – and be patient if it isn’t right away!
2. Honor boundaries. Ask the parents about boundaries before engaging with a newly adopted child, and then respect those boundaries. Often adopted children should not be shown affection and care by anyone other than their new parents until they have had a chance to fully attach to their new family.
3. Share the love. Be careful not to ignore other children in the family. This can cause resentment with the new sibling(s) and leaves parents the difficult task of answering questions like, “Why am I not as special as my new brother?”
4. Word watch. Be thoughtful about what you say in front of children. It is not beneficial for children to hear questions about how difficult or expensive their adoption process was or to hear comments about how saintly their parents must be for letting them into the family.
5. Respect their privacy. Do not ask prying questions or expect parents to share details of the child’s background and biological family history. Many families choose not to share their child’s history to respect the adoptee’s privacy.
6. Embrace honesty. Ask the parents how they are doing, and don’t be shocked or judgmental when they share struggles. This does not mean they regret adopting – it just means adoption is hard! Be their friend and encourager as they share struggles.
7. Bring community to them. The early months with a newly adopted child can feel very lonely and isolated as the parents often need to stay at home with the child while they attach and adjust. Get creative. Bring dessert to their house and sit and chat after the kids are in bed. Find a night when dad can be home with the child and you can take mom out for some adult conversation.
8. Find practical ways to serve. If they have other children, offer to take them out for a bit. Mow the yard. Bring meals. Clean their house. Offer to come over late after the kids are asleep and let the parents take a walk around the neighborhood or go out for ice cream together.
9. Respect their parenting methods. Parenting and disciplining children who have experienced loss, trauma, abuse, and/or neglect requires a completely different parenting approach. Even if their parenting choices seem unconventional to you, respect their choices.
10. Rejoice with them. Point out and rejoice in all the sweet little victories along the way as little hearts heal. Celebrate with adoptive parents as their child learns to give and receive love and to be a part of their forever family.
Thank you for staying with this and reading this incredibly LONG blog post. I am grateful! Well, we are officially a party of seven!! Woo Hoo!! Stay tuned life just got a little crazier :-) I will try and post some pictures tomorrow!