And we all lived happily ever after!
Well, kind of yes and kind of no. :)
I've been processing so much about our trip to China since coming home. Everyday my head spins about what we experienced in our son's birth country. Someday Tucker will have questions. Someday, we will start talking openly with him about what we did, what we saw, what was so much fun, and what was so very difficult. We will someday look at pictures of the orphanage where he lived for 2 1/2 years...the little cribs, the areas where he played, the children and nannies who were his family, and view from his crib. Someday we will talk about where he was found and how he was found...a story that I still cannot wrap my mind around but remains true.
I keep asking myself, "When will I see him only as a small boy - my sweet son, and not look at him and remember that he was an orphan 23 days ago? When will I stop looking deep into Tucker's eyes and wonder about the memories that fill his mind about his life before our family? When will his expression of sadness - the peering out the corners of his eyes with a defeated frown - stop breaking my heart because it makes me wonder about all the times he was sad and not comforted?"
You know, when we first brought Tucker to our hotel and for the two weeks we were in China, that baby laid down in his crib without making a peep and would fall asleep. For the first week, when he woke up, he didn't make a sound. This is the result of a child who has lived in an institution for 2 1/2 years. Why cry when no one will pick you up until it's time to wake up? It was heart breaking.
The first week in China, if Tucker fell down, bumped his head, or got injured in anyway, he never cried or sought comfort. Again, we knew this was a side effect from his past. When you have 25 babies to care for every minute of every day, you cannot comfort every child upon getting hurt. Ryan and I were very intentional to overdramatize if he was hurt, making a big deal to kiss whatever hurt, comfort him, and ask him if he was ok.
Twenty-three days later, and Tuck still calls Ryan "Mama." We learned that this is the name the children at Tuck's orphanage called their nannies. I'm working to have him call me Mommy, and Ryan is working to get Tucker to say Daddy. We are keeping him quite secluded right now in order to build our bonds with one another and in an attempt for Tucker to understand that we are his Mommy and Daddy, different from any other adults he will come into contact with in the future. Since coming home, our plan has been to have only Ryan, Noah, Liam, Tucker, and me in our home until Thanksgiving, and we are also not taking Tucker into anyone else's home. He has ran errands with me a couple times, and we have taken all three boys to the park twice. Tuck also had his first doctor's appointment yesterday with our pediatrician. He was quite nervous around the receptionists, the nurse, and even our doctor, which I was glad to see. Previously, Tucker would have said hello and goodbye and interacted quite a lot with all of them. This is helping us see that our work to stay a close unit is having the desired effect. We also had our first post-adoption visit from our social worker on Monday. He was very unsure about her, too, but quickly warmed up...probably a little more than we would've liked. So, we also see that more "cocooning" is needed. Our hope is that after having 6 1/2 weeks together, we will have built a strong foundation as a family. If Thanksgiving doesn't go well, we will just cocoon a bit longer.
Not only are we working to build a relationship as mother and father to Tucker, but we are seeing how Noah and Liam are also having to work on their own relationships with him. Noah has behaved very kindly and helpful to Tucker, just as we hoped and kind of expected. We have worked to be intentional with Noah, carving out special time with just him and special activities for just him. At the same time, I can see how Noah is sometimes weary of his two younger brothers. When he sets up his army men and wants to have a big battle, it's super frustrating to have Tucker and Liam destroying what he has set up. A couple days ago, we found out that he was having a little trouble at school following rules and just wasn't acting like himself, so we know the stress of our new situation is carrying over a bit. When I asked Noah how he was feeling about Tucker being home, he said, "I'm glad he is home and has a family. Sometimes I just wish there were two adults and two kids." So sad. :( At the same time, I get it!
I've debated about sharing my own feelings. I've had so many friends come home from China with their children, and no one has shared having these feelings. I'm sure there is somebody else out there who has felt this way, so for the sake of being honest and authentic, I am going to say it. The first weekend we were home was tough in terms of my feelings for Tucker. I had missed Noah and Liam so much, and I had spent quite a bit of time in China being rejected by Tucker. Although I wish it didn't, that rejection was hard. I felt SO good to come home and be lavished with kisses and hugs and affection from Noah and Liam. Being together as a whole family made me see how different my attachment and bond was with our biological children in comparison to the relationship I had with Tucker. It honestly felt a bit like I was babysitting Tucker or caring for someone else's child.
I HATED IT! I was ashamed to feel it...felt terrible for thinking it. What was wrong with me that I felt this way? I loved this boy so much, so why did I feel this way?
Ryan and I made a commitment to each other in China that we would share anything and everything we were feeling and thinking in order to keep good communication during our time there. We didn't want any negative thoughts to make us feel isolated, so no matter what we were feeling, we had to say it. I told him how I was feeling after being home, and he shared that he was feeling that way sometimes, too. Ryan told me that it took him 3 months to really feel bonded to Noah after he was born. For me, I think the experience of being pregnant and breastfeeding the boys for the first year of their lives helped our attachment to one another occur immediately. It felt so instinctual. I wanted to feel that same way about Tucker.
When I'm completely honest with myself, I can see how my relationship with Noah is even different from my relationship with Liam. It's not that I love one more or less than the other. I know Noah in a deeper way simply because I've known him longer. Our relationship has been growing for 5 1/2 years, so it is naturally in a different place than my relationship with Liam. I adore my little 2 1/2 year old buddy, and Liam's silly and free-spirited personality brings such a huge smile to my face. Our relationship grows deeper and deeper the more time we spend together. I have lived 23 days of my life with Tucker in it. I know I cannot expect my relationship with Tucker to be as deep as the ones I have with the other boys. BUT...I am CONFIDENT we will get there!
Satan does not like what our family is doing. He hates adoption...especially adoption into healthy, Christian families. He does not want these children to know Christ. He does not want them to come home. Shame, guilt, isolation, fear...those are Satan's weapons, and I could feel him trying to work in my heart and mind. He wants to do anything to bring a poor light to our experiences, but God is so much stronger, and His light is always going to push out the darkness.
From the first day home, I've been praying that God would fill my heart with love...real and deep love for Tucker. I have prayed that God would help feel that Tucker is naturally my son just like Noah and Liam. When I was growing up between the ages of 8 and 14, I had a stepmother who disliked me very much and treated me in ways that brought a lot of pain for several years. It was a really dark time in my life, and I always wondered why God allowed it to happen. Now I know...17 years later I know the answer. I needed to know how badly it felt to be treated that way by my stepmother so that I would be hypersensitive in how I treat Tucker, Noah, and Liam.
I am super intentional about being fair to all of them. If one gets a kiss, the others get a kiss. If one gets to hear that he did a good job, then you better believe I'm going to find an opportunity to tell the others that they are doing a good job. If one gets a high five for eating a good dinner, the others do, too. I'm saying I love you to each of them and meaning it! Although it doesn't always feel completely natural, these actions are becoming more and more so every single day. I am giving myself grace, being honest about my feelings, and praying a lot for God to fill me.
He is answering my prayers every day. Our new life is really feeling more natural everyday. Our first day home, I may have felt moments of natural. Today, I have felt hours of natural. The issues I'm having at home in our in day to day life feel more like challenges anyone would have with two 2 year old boys versus "adoption" challenges. Being home full time with Liam and Tucker requires a lot of social skills lessons on sharing, taking turns, being kind, etc. I am very thankful for nap time and a break from little ones each afternoon. :) Noah just got home from school, and the little guys have woken up from their nap. My heart felt full seeing all three of them...real, natural love kind-of-full.
Tucker is thriving in our home, and we are all figuring out how to be a family together. Whenever you add anyone to your family, be it biological or adoptive, there is an adjustment period. I am thankful for each positive step forward. Tucker sleeps ALL night long!!! This is the BIGGEST praise right now because I can take on anything with some sleep. :) He is also napping well each afternoon. I will say that I have noticed a HUGE difference in Tuck's ability to fall asleep peacefully when I use Lavender Essential Oil (DoTerra - Thank you Beckie!!!). He is consistently using sign language, some English (maybe 10 words), and gestures to communicate with us. I can see his receptive language improving each day! Teaching him English is much like how you teach a baby language (sign language, picture tools, gestures, and short, simple phrases). I love hearing him talk in Mandarin...only wish I knew what he was saying! We turned on a popular cartoon in China that is in Mandarin, and he started jabbering so fast and was so excited! It was super funny and cute.
We've been together for only 23 days, and when he gets hurt now, Tucker will run from another room to show me what hurts so that we kiss it and comfort him. When he wakes up from a nap, Tuck cries like a typical child to let us know he is done sleeping. Tuck is responding so well to me, and our love for each other is growing. I'm so thankful that he attached to Ryan first because with Ryan gone so many hours at work each day, there would be little time for them to grow their relationship to where it is now had they not had that foundation in China. God knew what He was doing in Tucker's heart, and I am so thankful to have that perspective now.
Twenty-three days, and we've seen so many steps in the right direction. I can't wait to see how life looks and feels at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, a year, and beyond. So thankful that we are all home and learning to live as a family together! This clever little guy even figured out how to make himself some American chopsticks. See, we are all adjusting! Our happily ever after is happening more and more each day. :)