It’s been a crazy ride ever since summer 2008 when we traveled to Tanzania for the first time and decided to pursue Bahati’s adoption there. Since those days, it’s been made clear to us over and over that our plans will be changed by His plans. Every single time. And I do mean every. single. time. If you’ve followed this blog through the many twists and turns of our Tanzania/Uganda journey, you know a bit of what I mean by that. And even in this China adoption — every time we thought we were on one road, we found ourselves on another.
And this is the road we find ourselves on now:
What began as a journey of adding one more child to our family …
and then became this …
has now turned into this …
because of this …
Mmhmm. We were just as surprised as you.
To be clear: Adoption was our Plan A. We sought it first. First in Tanzania, then Uganda, and now in China. It has been our Plan A for growing our family all along. We’ve already gotten a lot of your-prayers-for-a-baby-have-finally-been-answered kind of sentiments, so I want you to understand this point — we were not praying for a pregnancy. We were praying for our children around the world.
But it is just as important for you to understand this: this baby is loved and wanted for sure. We are as excited to meet this child as we are to meet our boys in China. We love this baby and pray for this baby (now) and have high hopes for our future with this baby.
But, holymoly, this was not our plan. Not our timing. Because going from one kid to four within a couple of months is a C R A Z Y plan, amiright?!
But like I said, we’ve learned our plans will always change, and we’re really just along for the ride. We are making our motto for 2015 Embrace the Chaos. Make no mistake — there will be chaos. There will be craziness. There will be exhaustion and tears and the kind of adjustment for everyone that demands leaps into the unknown. It will be a wild, adventurous ride.
But it will be ours. Our adventure. Our chaos. Our unknown. And so we’ll embrace it. And every single one of our F O U R kids will be fiercely wanted, fiercely pursued, and fiercely loved.
And so I’ll just be over here, taking deep breaths and drinking coffee like it’s going out of style. Because, whoa.
If you haven’t joined the fun on Facebook, now’s the time! We opened our public online auction group last night, and the bids are booming today! It will go until Saturday at 9pm EST, and the proceeds will help offset our adoption expenses so we can get these two little guys home. There are over 120 items up for bid in a great variety — from gift cards to international goodies, children’s books to jewelry, and tons of BRAND NEW Thirty-One items at a steal of a deal!
Here’s a link to the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/674023792684670/
The auction guidelines are pinned to the top of the group page, so give those a read before you start your bidding. But come on over and play with us! This is a wonderful opportunity for you to start your Christmas shopping while supporting our family.
July 5, 2014
Our Nadia Girl,
Five years old. I’ve been having trouble processing that. Because five sounds so old, considering you were just two when we met. But it fits – because you have grown so much since those days. Physically, of course; but even more in who you are.
This past year has brought about even more of that growth than the one before. You completed a year of preschool with flying colors. You were so nervous and uncertain that first day of school, even in the midst of your excitement. It made me nervous for you, wishing I could stay by your side to help you feel more confident. But you took your teacher’s hand and began telling her about the new dress you were wearing, and I knew you’d be just fine. You ended the school year with graduation, where they announced that you wanted to be a ballerina and a singer when you grow up. (Though I believe that has already changed to a mermaid now.)
You still have the same energy and infectious personality we met in Uganda. You are always on the move – running, skipping, jumping, climbing the walls (literally), and trying to learn to cartwheel. You love being outside, no matter the weather. You love to pick flowers and bring them to us. You love to ride your bike and draw with chalk, and you’re getting even more adventurous on the playground than you always have been. You are learning to jump rope, and are already a pro on the skip-it. You love to swim and play in water. We went to the ocean this spring, and even though the water was freezing cold, we couldn’t keep you out of the waves. That was also the day we took you miniature golfing for the first time, and it was such a sweet, sweet time as a family. Between my morning coffee date with you, golfing with you and Daddy, and spending the afternoon on the beach, I thought my heart would overflow by the end of the day. We have so enjoyed these special times with you.
You’ve held onto your love for music and books, and have added a fondness for numbers and counting. You always want to know how things work and what they’re called and why everything is the way it is. Your inquisitive little mind asks hundreds of questions a day, and we can hardly keep up with it. You love to laugh, and you still have a sweet sense of humor. Your daddy is your favorite playmate, and you also cherish the times you get to run around with other kids.
You are starting kindergarten soon, and this mama can hardly wrap her head around it. You’ll be in school all day, and I will miss having so much time with you. I really will. You’re so excited, though, and I know you will do great. You love to learn. You love to meet new people and spend time with friends. School is going to a great experience for you, and I’m excited to watch you grow through the new challenges it will bring.
This year, you have also opened your heart up to two little boys you haven’t even met, but call your brothers. We are so proud of the way you are excited to share your home and your family with these boys in China who have neither of those things. We can’t wait to watch your relationship with them develop and flourish once they’re home with us. Every night when you pray for them, it melts our hearts a little more. We’re so thankful for your compassion that causes you to embrace bringing these children into your life. Many people could learn a lot from your sweet, giving spirit.
What else can I say, baby girl? You are growing into a lovely little girl right before our eyes. And we are so thankful for the privilege of being your parents. The past two and a half years have been a wild ride, and we know there’s more craziness right around the corner. But you are an amazing child. And it is such a blessing to have you as our daughter and as our firstborn.
In Uganda, they called you Winner. And I am blown away by that, because nothing could be more fitting. You are strong and stubbornly resilient. You fight your way towards healing, and it is showing itself a little more every day. Nothing can defeat you – you’ve shown that again and again, even on the hardest of days. A Winner you truly are.
Daddy and I love you so very much, baby girl. Nothing could ever change that. Because you are our daughter. And that’s all you’ll ever need to be for us to love you fiercely and forever.
Here’s to five.
My dear Michael,
I had a moment not so long ago, when we were carrying things out of our Outer Banks condo to the car, ready to go back to our home and our normal lives. I had a moment when it hit me once again that you looked at me one day and decided I was the one you wanted to spend your life with. Every now and then that fact sinks in all over again, and I am left with wonder and gratitude.
It’s easy, after eight years of marriage and all the craziness that is our life, to get caught up in the mere existence of one another. Just living day to day by one another’s sides, which is amazing and wonderful and what life together is all about. But it’s also easy – too easy – to let it stop there, and to forget to marvel over the incredible truth of our love.
You chose me when we were young and naive and I fit into a smaller pair of jeans, and yet you continue to choose me, each and every day. Every day when you wake up and hug our daughter and do the dishes and go off to work. When you shake your head as I fumble for my coffee. When you listen to your preschooler’s chattering as she eats the breakfast you set before her. When you smile at me in spite of my silent morning shuffling; my unshowered, disheveled appearance and my lack of communication until a more respectable hour.
You are choosing me in each of those moments. You are choosing to live with your family at the forefront of your mind, committing one more day of your forever to us. And that is something I should marvel over, each and every day.
When people vow for better or for worse, they should really be saying at best and at worst. Because that’s the truth of it. You are the one who has seen me at my absolute best, which is admittedly too few and far between. And you are the one who has seen me at my absolute worst, which is more often than I care to admit.
We have held onto each other through pain and through tears. Through frustration and through fear. Through hope and through joy. And I will choose to keep holding you each and every day, because you have chosen me again and again and again.
So today, I am choosing to say thank you. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for all you do and all you are.
You are the one who makes me laugh when I’d rather pout. You draw me close against you, even when I’m rolling my eyes and maintaining my grouchiness. You listen to me in sympathy, you rub my back in empathy. You fix my technology woes and faithfully answer every silly little text I send your way.
Watching our wedding video again with you recently, I couldn’t help but think that song we sang together turned out to be so much more fitting than I could’ve guessed.
Tomorrow morning if you wake up and the future is unclear, I will be here.
I will be here when the laughter turns to crying, in the winning, losing and trying, we’ll be together.
No matter what life has thrown at us, and it sure has tossed some crazies our way, we have been able to face it all hand-in-hand. You have been my constant for the last eight years. I’ve never had to wonder or doubt your relentless love. And for that, I am completely and eternally grateful.
Thank you for being mine. And for choosing me to be yours.
You’ll always be my favorite.
I’m writing over at Kim’s C@fe today, so head on over there to check out Three Things You Need to Know About Adoptive Parenting. Kim’s got a lot of great stuff on her site, so take some time to look around. She has a great big adoptive family of her own, and her story has always been an inspiration to me.
I just realized I hadn’t posted the video I made of Nadia’s second year home. I’ve decided I’m more of a digital scrapbook kind of girl, and I love making these yearly videos and seeing her grow before my eyes.
If you missed them, here’s the link to her videos for Year One and her Adoption.
Nadia has been in our home for 25 months now. She has been in my care for 26 months. Honestly, I can just barely process those facts. It feels like it wasn’t so long ago that I was writing this post about the one-year-home mark. Yet here we are.
A year ago, things were still intense. We were still in the trenches most days. Yes, she had come a long way from the little girl we met in Uganda. But she still had such a long, steep road ahead of her.
During her second year, we have seen Nadia overcome so many obstacles from her past. She has learned more about what it means to be part of a family. She has developed a love for her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. She started preschool and charms her way through it like a boss. She hasn’t asked to return to her orphanage in almost a year, and she is creeping slowly closer to the kind of security a child born into our family might feel.
She is strong. She is resilient. She is an overcomer. And she has turned us, two inexperienced twenty-somethings who thought they could take on the crazy hard journey of international adoption without breaking a sweat, into parents – a mother and father (in their early thirties now, Father help us) willing to go through hell and back to bring our daughter to healing. All three of us are overcomers now; we have overcome together. We have forged a family out of the mess we started with two years ago.
For this, there is no end to our gratitude and joy.
It’s hard to remember sometimes that Nadia was once an undernourished, chronically dehydrated toddler living in a third world orphanage. It’s hard to remember that she wouldn’t let her Daddy hug her, hold her, help her. It’s hard to remember that we would see such intense rages multiple times a day (and even in the middle of the night) that all we could do was melt into tears every time she fell asleep, completely overwhelmed by the task we were given of teaching this former orphan to trust and love.
Because of all we have seen during her second year, we are full of confidence that we will make it. Without a doubt, our daughter will make it. She will learn true love. She will fully attach to her parents. She will find trust and security.
Of course, that means we are not there yet. It’s been two full years, but it’s only been two full years. Statistics from the experts say it takes a child twice as long as they were in an orphanage for them to feel secure in a family. Twice as long. Nadia was in an orphanage for two and a half years. So … we’re almost halfway.
I’m not just saying that because that’s what “they” say. I’m saying that because we can see the truth of it in our family. Nadia has made so much progress. But there are still many signs of the progress she has yet to make. She is a post-trauma child. She is a wounded little girl. And we cannot expect her not to act like one. She still does not trust us the way we see other kids intrinsically trust their parents – just because they are mom and dad. We have to constantly remind her we’re her parents and therefore love her and want what’s best for her. We can see it in her eyes when she doesn’t believe that (not because she might really want that third cookie, but because she learned to take care of herself and trust no one at such a young age – that’s how she survived, and that’s hard to give up for two people who were complete strangers 26 months ago). Her survivor’s spirit might have saved her in the past, but it’s a detriment to family life, and she is still struggling to release it.
Jen Hatmaker wrote a blogpost two years post-adoption of her two older children from Ethiopia. Here’s how she worded what I’m trying to get at …
The first six months of the second year is tricky, because you’ve emerged from the madness and now you realize: THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY, VERY HARD FOREVER. This is a difficult season of learning first-hand what abandonment actually wrecks in a child’s heart. The hemorrhage has been cleaned but now you can see the scars. The grief isn’t as manic, but you realize it is deep, way deeper than you thought. You begin to understand just how much has yet to be overcome and how ill-equipped you are to see it all through. You learn that in many ways, this is the work of a lifetime and abandonment is a permanent part of their story.
It feels terrifying and overwhelming. Because when the kids are screaming and thrashing, that is behavior you feel you will get past eventually. You can weather that storm. But once you see their broken hearts sitting there quietly, still suffering, you hit your knees.
On this side of two years, I can attest to how true that realization is – this is going to very, very hard forever. It is an overwhelming thought, and at times it is crippling. I have had [too many] moments of being exhausted and burnt out from the hard. It has caused in me – not constantly, but still too often – a bitterness, a resentment. A desire to give in to my selfishness and not continue in the terrifying work of processing her grief alongside of her. Of remembering all the reasons my daughter has not to trust; not to attach. Because there were so many days where it felt like this would never end. This would never not be super, completely exhausting.
This is the parenting we know. It goes against our instincts and we constantly re-evaluate and change-up the order of things. It is still super, completely exhausting. But we do it anyway. We pinch hit when the other is just too exhausted to see the day through. We hold our daughter tight even when it’s the last thing we feel like doing. We tell her how amazing and precious she is even when she is acting like anything but. We make sure she knows our love for her is based on one simple fact: she is our daughter. There is nothing she can do to make us love her less, and there is nothing she can do to make us love her more. She doesn’t get that yet. But she’s trying.
And the trying is the progress, friends. Two years ago, she didn’t know how to try. She didn’t have a desire to try. She was in complete survival mode, and so were we. Now, it is rare that we see her give up. She reminds herself (verbally, because everything that goes through this sweet girl’s head comes out of her mouth) of the things we strive to instill in her – our love, our trustworthiness, our desire to meet her needs. Days still come where she needs our reminders and our help. She still returns to her survival mode now and then. We can still see the scars on her heart.
But we have become a family, against all odds. We have found our own crazy culture here in the Proudfoot home, and it does not revolve around tantrums – praise God. [It does, however, revolve around the insane energy-level of our four year old. And coffee. Lots of coffee.]
I found a document on my laptop recently. Something I had begun writing in April 2012, when Nadia had been home for just a handful of weeks. I believe I had started writing it with the intent of it becoming a full-blown blogpost on my dive into motherhood and all I was learning. But I couldn’t get through it. I couldn’t get through the dive and to the learning. Because I hadn’t yet come up for air. That was a rough season. And reading this piece I had started, I realized again how far we have all come, and how my heart is not always conscious of how truly tiring those months were. I can share these words with you now, because I can assure you that we are not there anymore. The storm clouds lifted, and the air is so much sweeter now.
It began at 2:30AM. She was awake and refusing to lie back down. Refusing my arms, my hand on her back. When I whispered that it wasn’t time to get up and that she needed to lie down and go back to sleep, she took a step backwards, swung her arms at me and let out a whine.
I knew then that this wasn’t a normal middle of the night awakening. I cringed inwardly, knowing what was coming next. Within a few minutes, I was sitting on the living room floor with my daughter between my crossed legs, holding her firmly against my chest, bear-hugging her arms across her tiny body. She was screaming. Sobbing. Trying desperately to get away. Her nails dug for my skin. Her teeth searched for flesh to bite.
I held her tight and pressed my cheek against hers, forcing skin-to-skin contact. I felt her tears on my own face, and I whispered into her ear words of security, over and over again.
Mama’s here. Mama doesn’t leave you. Mama helps you. It’s okay. You can calm down. You can stop fighting. Mama loves you. Mama helps you. Mama doesn’t leave you. Mama loves you. Mama’s here.
I quietly sang her new favorite song in her ear.
I love you so much. I love you so much. I can’t even tell you how much I love you. You’re special to me. You’re special to me. I’m lucky to have you as part of my life.
The more I spoke words of love to her, the louder she wailed and thrashed her head from side to side. Not even three years old yet, I’m sure she doesn’t even understand why she’s crying at times like these. Why she feels so angry. Why she fears our love.
After fifteen minutes, her screams quieted into gasping sobs and her arms stopped pushing against mine. I asked her again, “Are you all done?” And she quickly choked out an eager, “Yes.” I released her arms and legs, and I helped her stand up. She turned to face me, still crying.
“Mama loves you,” I said again, wiping her face.
“Mama loves you,” she repeated in a broken voice. I took her into my arms and she stuck her thumb in her mouth as she leaned heavily into my chest, her breath still coming in gasps and shudders. She began to relax as I rocked her like an infant.
I held her and rocked her the way I would have if I had been there back then. When she was a baby. When she needed a mother’s comfort. When she cried and cried, with no one to wipe her tears away. I looked into her chocolate eyes and spoke gently, hoping my words would overcome her grief.
You are beautiful. You are special. You are loved.
I kissed her face and watched her eyes begin to drift closed. I took her back to our room, to her little mattress beside our bed. I snuggled her in and held her hand until she fell back to sleep.
Six hours later, she was in the same position, this time with Daddy. From another room, I heard his words attempting to overcome her high-pitched screams.
Daddy loves you. Daddy helps you. Daddy loves you. Daddy loves you.
On days like these, I feel completely inadequate. I am not enough for my little girl. I cannot reach her hurts. I cannot fix her past. Her heart is broken over memories that she isn’t even conscious of. She has been trained to expect abandonment. She has learned to be ready for rejection. And when she goes into survival mode and continually rejects us in an effort to protect herself, and I am worn all the way out and don’t feel like I can face another meltdown, I wonder if I will ever be able to teach her what a family is.
We have become a family. Reading these broken words from two years ago, I cannot stop marveling over these confident statements I can make today. My daughter is well on her way to healing. We have learned how to reach her heart. A family has emerged.
Hopelessness has no room in our house. Because we no longer fear the broken – we simply start again. Every single day, if necessary, we start back on the road towards healing. We are exhausted, and probably will be for the entire foreseeable future. But we do it anyway, and we are glad to do it. Because our daughter – our sweet, beautiful, amazing firecracker of a daughter – is so worth the hard.
For this, there is no end to our gratitude and joy.