Originally Published January 21, 2012.
They say that blogs generally only show a glimpse of the total story and often glaze over uncomfortable or embarrassing details. This is certainly the case for this blog as somethings are simply too personal to share when one is not blogging anonymously. This was a concession I made when I chose to use our names and pictures and open this blog to those who know us in real life. But I do try to always be truthful with what I DO post and try to paint as accurate a picture of adoption and the adoption process as I can. In that spirit, today I'm going to talk about one of those more uncomfortable/embarrassing things in the hope that it will help those who are in the adoption process.
Sept 13th 2011, I walked into a large room in Zhengzhou, Henan and waited with my husband and 3 other families for the little boy who I had been watching grow up in pictures over the last 9 months. I knew only a little about him. I knew he was tiny. I knew he was delayed and not walking at 20 months. But this was also not my first rodeo as they say. I'd been here before. I'd adopted before. I'd adopted delayed children before. I'd read page upon page and hour upon hours worth of blog posts, forums, and books about institutionalization, adoption trauma, special needs, delays, etc. etc. etc. I knew what to expect. But despite all that knowledge, despite knowing what institutionalize and traumatized children look like, it was all I could do not to freak out when they
placed my child in my arms. Seriously, I had to fight down the panic. The child I was handled was nothing like I expected. He was not a toddler in any sense other then his age. He was not just delayed. He was SEVERELY delayed. Forget walking! He either couldn't or wouldn't sit up without support. His head was horribly misshapen. He response to being overstimulated was to throw his head back and stair at the ceiling, eyes roaming around. Yes, all those things can certainly be the result of institutionalization and trauma as they have turned out to be. I knew that. I did. Yet, I felt pure panic in those first few moments.
And what if I had traveled alone and had no support? What if I didn't realize that I could be looking at only institutionalized delays? Or what if I didn't even know what institutionalized delays were? Then again, in those first few days, how can you really tell the difference between expected delays and true underlying issues? What if I had not committed in my heart on January 24th, 2011 that THIS child was my son for better or worse? I don't know, but maybe I would have been so afraid that I would have walked away from one of the most amazing little boys on this plant. I really don't know... but I do know that even with all the prep in the world, you can still find yourself feeling panic when faced with the reality of your new child in a government office in China.