Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One Month Ago Today...

...we met our beautiful daughter Natalie on the third floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nanchang, China which is in Jiangxi Province.  Ling Wan Han was the last child to arrive that evening, so every time the elevator dinged I would hold my breath for a moment wondering if she was about to appear.  When Wan Han finally stepped off the elevator she was walking while holding on to the hand of a woman who was assisting the orphanage director.  This woman was not her nanny or caretaker previously, but Wan Han desperately clung to her hand as someone she was familiar with for at least the last few hours.  As Wan Han approached us we knelt down to make ourselves less intimidating, but she was beyond overwhelmed by the whole situation.  The combination of leaving her home, being in a new place with a bunch of strange people all focused on her, it being past her bedtime; and the fact that she was hungry was just too much for little Wan Han.  When she started to cry I just scooped her up.  She didn't want to let go of the assistant's finger; she was terrified.  It was truly heart wrenching.  I abruptly went around the corner with Wan Han to get the assistant out of her sight for a few minutes.  As I was walking Natalie was actually pushing me away from her as hard as she could.  She was so upset and angry.  I started speaking to her in both English and Mandarin and rubbing her back.  In less than one minute she completely calmed down and Gary and I began our journey to earn Natalie Wanhan's trust and love.

It has not always been easy.  We are Natalie's fourth set of parents.  She was abandoned by her birth parents at one day old.  She lived with her first set of foster parents until mid August of this year.  At that point for some reason she was switched to another set of foster parents.  I am thinking this change was likely the most painful one of all.  Since she had been with the original foster parents since her second day of life she thought of them as her Mama and Baba.  Then less than three months before Gary and I met her she was taken from them and placed with a new set of foster parents.  In the photos that I have from this period of her life she looks very unhappy.  I think she was really missing her "Mama and Baba".  When Gary and I came along she was extremely quiet for the first week.  I think she was resigned to the fact that she had been switched to yet another set of foster parents.  Her attitude was one of neutrality and survival.

Now that she is starting to trust us her "Spicy" Jiangxi personality is coming out in full force.  Natalie Wanhan is not at all the quiet little obliging wallflower that she at first appeared to be.  She is a very clever child with opinions about everything and will not hesitate to let you know exactly what those opinions are.  She can be quite a little clown; she loves to make people laugh and smile.  She is a caretaker... she discovered some dolls in her room a few days ago and one of her favorite things to do is put them to bed by covering them up with a blanket and patting their backs.  She is nearing the terrible twos and has fiery little tantrums when she doesn't get her way about something.  She loves to chatter, dance, sing, run, pet the dogs and to be rocked to sleep.  Sometimes she will grab our faces with both of her hands and lay a big kiss on us or run to us from across the room and grab our legs and giggle while she holds on tight.

It's a little hard for me to watch the beginning of this video because Natalie's emotional pain is so intense, but knowing that the story has a happy ending helps.  The happy ending certainly didn't come that first night or for the next several days, but gradually Natalie let Gary and I into her heart.  Our time together in China was a wonderful start to the beginning of building our relationships as a family, but being home for the past few weeks has bonded us all (including Katie and Louie the Newfs) so much more.  Natalie knows what home is now.  She knows who her family is.  I know we still have a long way to go, but the progress that we have made together is miraculous.  Really, has it just been one month?  That seems impossible.  Natalie fits into our family so perfectly...like she has always been here with us.


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5 comments:

The Musketeers said...

She's lucky that she have found you guys. Poor girl. That's a very heart breaking story, but at least she have found love and a proper home. Thanks for sharing. Excited to see her grow up :)

Sara said...

Hi, I've been following your blog for a while and have been so moved by your story and the adoption of Natalie, you are such an inspiring couple and I just want to wish you all the luck and happiness possible for your future. :)

Amy said...

I am following your blog and I think this is the most wonderful thing ever...Natalie is such a lucky little girl and you are such lucky parents to have such a special gift. Thanks for sharing her with everyone.

Anonymous said...

Natalie is so brave and sweet. She's still a a baby yet have experienced more pain than many of us adults. She's like an old soul in a little body. May your love for her help her to bloom like a thousand flowers. Thank you for sharing!

Ruth said...

This post brings back so many memories for me.... You were very patient to wait 5 years!!! We waited a little over one year, and it was so hard...

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