One week from today I could get a call telling us that our girl has passed court and is officially and legally ours. AAAAAAAAUGH!!!!!!
I got a new photo today from a family who just returned from bringing home their baby boy and OH. MY. GOSH. I don't know how she does it but this girl gets more and more gorgeous with every photo!!! I literally BURST into tears when I saw the photo!!! I am overwhelmed at the thought that this little girl is going to be MY little girl. That I will have the honor and privilege of being her Mommy. That I get to be the one who dries her tears when she wakes up at night, and who teaches her how to skip, and who paints her nails and tells her she is the most beautiful princess God ever dreamed up. The one who buys her pretty dresses for Easter and reads her bedtime stories and pushes her on the swing. The one who gets to watch as she grows into a beautiful young lady and someday becomes a Mommy herself. Oh. I am overwhelmed.
But coupled with my joy is the awareness that this is a very serious and daunting task. I recently started reading Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft but luckily I emailed Emily shortly into the book and she wisely told me to, "Put that book down right now!" I do NOT recommend that book. I'm sure it has some good things to say, but in MY opinion I think the author (who had adopted a toddler sometime in the 80's) had a goal in writing that book and it was: "If I can scare people out of adopting a toddler I will be doing them a big favor." I had already read other great books such as Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray and The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis both of which I highly recommend. The latter does an especially good job in my opinion of addressing the very real problems that can arise, but the difference between it and The Weavers Crap, uh, I mean Craft is that Dr. Purvis offers ways to address these problems- actual steps to take to help children who may have difficulties in attachment. It leaves you on a hopeful note- knowing what to look for but also being equipped to handle these tasks, not just scared of them.
Through these books and from stalking reading many blogs, I have come to realize that toddler adoption IS very different from infant or an older child adoption. An infant, while she will of course have bonds with her caretaker, when adopted will adapt fairly quickly and bond fairly easily with her new parents. (of course this is assuming we are talking about a situation where there has not been abuse nor neglect.) An older child, say 5+ is old enough to take in what is happening. They are aware of what has happened that put them in the orphanage or foster care center or whatever, and they can be talked to about the family that is going to come and adopt them and bring them into their family. But a toddler is a whole different story. A toddler is just starting to exercise control over her world ("Me do it!"). But when it comes to adoption, the children have no control. What has happened and what is happening to them is completely out of their control AND beyond their comprehension. Toddlers have no paradigm to understand what has happened nor what is going to happen. It's just a whole different story.
As I have been reading all these books and preparing to go get our girl I have felt God saying to me, "THIS is what you were made for. THIS is going to be one of the great purposes of your life." On the one hand that feels very reassuring- like He is telling me that he has given me gifts and resources to be able to help our girl be all she was meant to be. That every step I have taken in my life has lead me to this point- so that I could be the mommy SHE needs me to be. That He is going to be with me every step of the way helping me to make this a beautiful part of all our lives. On the other hand... the crazy part of my mind hears that and says, "Oh great. She's going to be really difficult isn't she? And then I'm going to have to 'cling to these words' in the hour of my darkest night trying to hold on by my fingernails..." (In reality, it will probably be a bit of both, right?)
I know I'm kind of rambling... but bear with me just a moment more.
We are often asked, "why Ethiopia?" and "why the age range you chose?" Other than the obvious statistics that we can all quote, the answer is a brilliant, "I dunno." Really. Neither Mick nor I have a very strong answer for why we chose Ethiopia, and the age range was even more random than the choice of countries. But when I look into that girl's eyes... not just any girl's eyes, not even any Ethiopian girl's eyes, but THAT GIRL'S EYES... I feel like I know the answer. Not many people choose toddler age ranges. Maybe that has something to do with all the challenges that normally come with that age range and how they can be exacerbated due to the fact that toddlers have a limited capacity to understand what is happening to them and why.
But I think we chose Ethiopia and I think we chose that age range because we were choosing HER. She's our girl.