In adoption circles, they call the post-adoption stage the “after the airplane” phase. With my first adoption, I didn’t know about ”after the airplane,” didn’t anticipate it and was a bit saddened to later discover that a wealth of resources were available to me about this phase, if only I’d known it. I hope education is such that most people know that adoption is not all rainbows and unicorns. For the children, it’s perhaps the biggest and hardest adjustment of their entire journey, especially if those children have been yanked from their native culture like mine have.
With my first adoption, even though I’d read about things like attachment disorder, sensory processing issue, etc., I certainly didn’t expect those things would happen to me. I suppose I hoped I would have a charmed experience, that the daughter of my dreams would instantly love me and that all the wounds caused by adoption would fade into scars with the reassurance of a stable family.
That’s too much to expect of any kid. I feel ashamed that I ever thought such silly things.
We are in the after the airplane phase with my son (Internet codename: Jupiter). I’ll be honest: I had my doubts going into this, just as I did before. I wasn’t sure I could bear more of the sort of things (or worse) that I’d encountered with my daughter. Some of it was new parenthood, it’s true, but a lot of it was just my magical thinking. But…her yearning and my heart led our family toward another adoption. So, I jumped. This time, I thought I knew what I was getting into.
I did not expect at all who I got.
I’d had a feeling about him the first time I saw him on an adoption advocacy site. I’d been deeply heartbroken when an earlier adoption attempt had failed. I saw his smile, his swagger. I inquired about him, unsure about his special need. When we found out that we could adopt him, we decided to take a chance. We got caught in paperwork red tape for nearly four months. Finally, in early January, things started falling into place and by early March, the Chinese adoption authority told us on March 3 they wanted us to come on March 17. So wary (and weary) were we with the process by that point that we hadn’t expected to travel until April or May. At first we balked, almost as if we couldn’t process that we could actually finally go get him, and then we said yes and made it happen.
I was immensely heartened when in walked a brash, bold boy, a tiny colossus, as my dear friend said. When he announced firmly that he did not want the stuffed animal my daughter had brought him, I was a bit worried he’d be a handful. I did not expect his tenderness. His wild sense of humor and general glee. I did not expect he’d know us from the start and call me Mama from Day 1. I did not expect him to lay his head on my knee and put my hand under his cheek. Nor did I expect him to literally wrap my arms around him, inviting me to cuddle. I was definitely standoffish at first because of my fears of repeating the mistakes I’d made before. He dissolved all that with a heart-melting look and his tiny hands patting my cheeks.
He is sunny, happy-go-lucky, and utterly bonded to us. He literally dances with delight when his Baba or Jiejie return from work or school. He makes up songs about things that have happened during his day and sings them to me when I put him to bed at night. He plays quite happily by himself for a while, but always checks in, grabbing my hand and putting it on his cheek or his head, smiling up at me. The first English phrase he learned was “Tickle Mama!” He loves nothing more than to snuggle with all of us. Virtually everything excites him, even rolling down a car window. He already recognizes the letter A and will point it out with great drama and excitement whenever he sees it. I have never met a happier child.
(Because this is me: at one point, I asked a doctor friend of mine, “Um, is something wrong with him?” When she asked what I meant, I said, “Because he’s so happy all the time.” She laughed at me and said, “Well, you know, some kids actually are.”)
Of course, he’s no angel. He still has to learn to share—the orphanage director was worried he’d bully his older sister, and he sometimes does. He can be quite obstinate, but that’s a toddler for you, right? And he does sometimes cry, but it usually blows over in a few minutes and he’s back to his bright, funny self. It was also physically hard for me to carry him at first—he weighs twice what my daughter did at the same age, and my back did not like that one bit. But, I think bench-pressing him has been making me stronger!
The long and short: I feel so lucky and blessed that I saw his face that day, took a chance on a special need were weren’t familiar with, and stayed the course to bring him home. We couldn’t have done it without the many people who helped us—from donating to our fundraisers to giving us lovely clothes, toys, and cloth diapers.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate his third birthday. Thank you eternally to everyone who made it possible for us to bring Jupiter home. I simply cannot imagine our lives without him. And wouldn’t you know? The first night we were home, we took both kids out and looked at Jupiter in the night sky.
We wished upon a star and our wishes (even those we didn’t know we had) came true.