Monday, May 7, 2012

Six Months Ago Today...

We met our amazing daughter, Natalie Wanhan on November 7th, 2011.  The day we became Natalie's parents was both wonderful and intimidating for Gary and I.  Despite all the years of preparation I still felt overwhelmed by the beginning of parenthood, but it didn't take me long to get in the groove of being a mother.  Now I look back on this day as the most defining moment of my life.

People often speak of the miracle of birth.  Adoption is just as much a miracle.  Gary and I waited over 5 years and traveled halfway around the world to bring a child who was chosen for us by strangers into our family.  When Ling Wan Han's adoption file and our dossier crossed paths in the child matching office in China some person, who I will always think of with extreme gratitude, put the two files together and made us a family.  It's mind boggling to think of that simple act that created some of the deepest love I have ever experienced.

Our first glimpse of Ling Wan Han as she arrived at our hotel in Nanchang, China.Photobucket

From the perspective of Ling Wan Han:  After being taken from her foster mother and the orphanage home she had always known, Wan Han then had to travel by car for about four hours - very likely the longest trip she had ever experienced.  That evening she was brought to our hotel in Nanchang where she became the center of attention with several people speaking to her all at once.  It was after her bedtime and she was hungry to boot.  Suddenly a odd looking woman with curly hair and weird eyes (me) knelt down in front of her, reached for her and spoke in a strange language.  It makes complete sense that her reaction to being handed over to total strangers was initially one of terror.  As a friend recently wrote on her blog, to a child this experience is like being abducted.  Wan Han screamed and pushed me away as hard as she could when I picked her up. She was surprisingly strong for a 21 month old undernourished child who only weighed 18 pounds at the time.  I will never forget the force of her little hands pushing into me as she tried to escape and return to the familiar orphanage staff.  Photobucket

Natalie's screams stopped in less than 60 seconds. I think my soothing words in both Mandarin and English helped a little bit.  However, she kept her body twisted away and avoided eye contact with me.  She was more willing to look at Gary - perhaps since he wasn't the bad person who wrenched her away from the only familiar things that were left in her life.  Or maybe it was because Gary was the one to introduce her to "Dolly" who quickly became Natalie's favorite comfort object.

For the next five days Natalie went into an emotional shutdown.  Other than crying out "Mama, Mama" as she reached for me later that first night Natalie did not speak. Nor did she crack a smile at any of our attempts to be amusing.  She was scared and she was grieving.  Even as she played stacking blocks with Gary on our 3rd day together her face was very serious and intense looking.  On the 6th day she began showing us glimpses of her true bubbly personality, but I don't think we completely saw the real Natalie until about a month later.

Watching Natalie grow into the happy, healthy little girl she is today has been an awe-inspiring experience.  She has been through so many difficult times in her short life, but her resilient, beautiful spirit has helped her to adjust and heal so quickly.  We love her so much and are grateful for every day we have together.



JackDaddy said...

I really enjoy reading your story! Thank you for sharing it with us!

Nancy said...

Goodness she is growing and getting so very pretty!
6 months? Amazing how time flies!

Lori said...

Charity, this totally made me tear up! It's so amazing how much Natalie's face has changed in six months and how it reflects all the love and care she's been getting.

Gary said...

I love you Charity and Natalie!

GoldenShellback1 said...

You should write a book about your experience adopting Natalie.

GoldenShellback1 said...

You should write about your experience on adopting Natalie for future adoptee families.

Cindi said...

I've really enjoyed reading your journey with Natalie. I just received my referral last month for my 21 month daughter & hope to travel next month to Guangdong Province! thanks for sharing... She's a beautiful little girl!
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