Reflections on an Emotional Day
When we first learned our newest daughter was in foster care, I hoped that we’d get a chance to meet the foster family. But, I didn’t know if it was going to be like in Kunming where there is ZERO chance, or if it was going to be where we could meet them. I read on the Nanning yahoo group that many families HAD been able to meet the foster family, but sometimes it was hard to arrange it.
When we landed in Nanning and met our guide David, one of the first things I asked him was whether or not we could meet the foster family. Actually I think I said, “We’d really like to meet the foster family if at all possible. Can you arrange that?” LOL He told us, that he’d already talked to them and asked them if they’d like to meet us if we were wanting to do that. They said that they did. So, we had it arranged before we even landed. David was able to do this as he was the one to visit the orphanage and get the updates on our daughter while we waited, and he had met the foster family and gotten their phone number.
Our daughter was in PHENOMENAL foster care. It was evident very quickly in those first few days that she was developmentally on target, and that she had been very loved. She was grieving heavily, and several times David asked us if we still wanted to meet the foster family as it was going to be very hard on her. He gave us the option to meet with them without her, but we both felt it was important to meet with them with HER and to get photos of them together and photos of US with her and the foster parents. So, even with lumps in our throats over how HARD it was going to be, we proceeded with the initial plan. That Thursday turned out to be one of the most emotional days I’ve ever lived through so far. My heart broke for both my daughter and her foster parents.
As we were driving toward their home, Faith was sitting in my lap looking out the van’s window. David called the foster dad and told him we were on our way, and Faith whipped her head around and looked at David. She knew who he was talking to and what was said. David asked me if it was okay if she talked on the cell phone to her foster Dad, and I of course said she could. She just sat with the phone pressed to her ear as the foster dad talked to her. I could feel her little body tense up and she was holding it all together as she did the first 3.5 days she was with us. She just had big silent tears roll down her face, but she never cried.
We were pulling into various streets, and we turned on corner with David on the phone getting instructions from the foster family when I saw them…the same people from the photos from last fall. I said, “there they are!” Faith saw her foster Mom through the van window and the wall that she’d built to keep her grief at bay crumbled. Heart wrenching SOBS tore out of her body, and as soon as the van stopped and the door was opened she flung herself out of my arms, out of the door and clung to her foster Mom…and sobbed. She cried for the entire walk back to their apartment. The foster Mom asked if she’d had a nap, and I told David to tell her that yes, she did…2 in fact. Faith just sobbed.
It broke my heart. I know that the foster family was forbidden to adopt her, but I still felt like I was ripping her away from them. It was obvious she had been well loved, and it was plain to me right then that she totally and completely LOVED them as well.
When we rounded the building to enter this courtyard like area, Faith quieted down and saw all her “friends” both young and old. They were so excited to see her, and came over to talk with her, rub her, give her treats. It was obvious how much everyone there liked her, how much she liked everyone there. I knew she’d been around them a lot. However, she still clung to her foster Mom. Then, finally, she wanted down and she walked over to the stairwell and UP 5 floors of stairs to her home of the past 2 years. She walked right in, took off her shoes, and ran to give a Rainbow Brite doll a big hug. Her foster Mom told us that those were her toys. The foster Dad told us how she always sat on the bench/couch and took off her shoes first thing when she got in the home. Faith stuck right by her foster Mom, but she showed us her favorite things there. She was told to give us water to drink, and she didn’t want to at first, but she eventually did. She was given special treats that she liked (and we paid close attention for later). They let us look around their home, and take photos (but I didn’t want to intrude too much). The foster Mom got a bear down, and told us that this was her favorite bear. It was the one we sent in the care package we thought had gotten lost. We told them that we thought it had gotten lost in the mail as our agency was helping us get it to them, and they didn’t have record of it ever getting to China! That bear has been a LIFE SAVER to us. Faith clings to it when she’s uncertain.
The foster family shared about their time with Faith, and shared a few thing with us. They have been fostering children for 10 years, and Faith was their 12th child. She was with them for the longest amount of time, 2 years. Our guide related to us later that Nanning foster care does not typically give more than one child to a family at a time, so some of those children were not with them very long. They showed us photos of one of their other foster children who was adopted years ago…these were photos they JUST got in the mail that week. They asked us if we could send updated photos to them as well.
Of course I can do that!
They prepared Faith for us VERY well, as well as could be expected really. See, we had sent photos to them in that care package in a small album. This album was marked on…heavily…Faith likes to draw on things whenever she finds a pen, and does so frequently. We should have listened to THAT a little more closely. ;) Yes, she really does write on everything.
One of things they did was teach Faith that the people in the photos were her new family. She called us Mama and Baba in the photos. She also called the kids Gege and Jie jie. That was all I expected out that album. But the foster mom? She’s phenomenal. She told us that she had made Faith show everyone her FAMILY whenever they came over. Then, in the last month she was with them (or last couple of weeks), I think as soon as they knew we’d be traveling soon, she made Faith pick up that album and take it with her EVERYWHERE. She’d tell her, “XiuXiu carry your family with you…don’t forget your family!” Then, she’d have her show off her handsome Gege to everyone. The foster Mom told us that Faith was very PROUD of having such handsome Gege.
The foster Mom then asked us how she was sleeping. We all laughed over the fact that she slept perpendicular in the bed and took up ALL the room. She had done the same to them. Then the foster Mom told us that for 2 weeks prior to us adopting her, she had nightmares. She’d wake up crying and told her foster Mom that she didn’t want to go live with her new family.
I cried. The fear this little girl had to feel. The grief she was going through. How LOVED she was. It broke my heart that we were causing this pain for her, and while I may think it is for the best…is it really? I know that the foster family would never have been able to adopt her (it’s not allowed), but still. I still cry when I think about that day.
I asked her foster Mom if there were any questions she wanted to ask us. They had 2, and ONLY 2. The first was, “Will you please get her heart repaired?” The second was, “Could you please send us updated photos? Could you send us some photos after she has her heart repaired?” We, of course, immediately told them that we planned to get her heart repaired as soon as we could. Then, I agreed to send them updated photos. I know I can do that. ;)
I made sure to take photos of all of us together. Of her with each of them. Of her with her friends down in the courtyard area. We saw her blossom that afternoon. We got to see a glimpse of her true personality, and boy is it sweet. Faith likes to share her treats, and often gives the other kids her sweets and treats. They told us she didn’t eat very much for dinner, but really ate well for breakfast and lunch (that was a relief to hear as that is what she’d done for us). She likes to point out the cars, boats, and water from the car.
When we left the apartment, we were surrounded by all the neighbors who came running over to tell her bye. It was a HUGE sendoff party. I felt like we were members of the entourage surrounding royalty…seriously, they were fawning all over her and telling her goodbye. It was very evident that she was a beloved child of the community. She was all smiles until she saw the van, and she started crying again. She knew what was coming I’m sure.
We all went to eat dinner together near our hotel, and the fellowship shared was wonderful. Awkward not being able to communicate with them directly, but awesome. We were so overcome by emotions that we weren’t all that hungry, but I do remember them being impressed that we could use chopsticks (even Clone1 did). They let Faith have some of their Coca-Cola. Faith stayed RIGHT with her foster Mom, sitting in her lap for dinner. She refused to sit in the booster seat as it was “dirty” as her foster Mom related to us. It seems that something is “dirty” if it has even one smudge on it. LOL
All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel, and I was totally unprepared for how very difficult that would be. It is something I will never forget, the foster Mom’s grief, the foster Dad’s grief, and our daughter’s grief. It was truly the hardest thing I’ve ever seen and experienced in my life.
So hard that I reiterated to our guide, David, that I truly was OKAY not being Mama and Dh not being Baba. If we needed to be Auntie/Uncle for a few more days that would be fine by us. He told us that we needed to NOT be called that now. He had tears when he asked us, what do you want me to call you to her. I responded, “Is Mommy and Daddy different enough that she might be okay with that? We do NOT want to take the place of Mama and Baba and she already has a Mama and a Baba.” He agreed, and we were Mommy and Daddy the rest of trip.
We, of course, have yet to hear that from her.