Monday, January 30, 2012

The Blog's Last Chapter

This blog started in the weeks before our referral from China, and it was my first attempt at a blog.  There was some experimenting going on.  Many times I wondered, who is my audience?  Is it Phoebe, who will read this years down the road?  My family, following us from afar?  Other parents who have adopted and navigating this sometimes complicated path?  Or is it nothing more than my own diary, a place to dump my thoughts and sort it out?  I'm not sure, but as things evolved, I watched the blog follow our family's tranformation into a family of four, as we turned two little girls into sister, and turned people born on different sides of the world into parent and child.  I thought it would be about both girls, but it ended up being more about Phoebe.  It followed her as she grew into her new life with her "Forever Family," with my ponderings on the effects of her cross-cultural toddler adoption on her personality and outlook on the world. 

I feel like the story of her transition is now over, and we are deep into regular post-adoption life.  She's getting older now, too.  Now that she's learning to talk, we are discussing adoption in a new way, since she has questions and emotions about it now.  It is time for her story to turn more private.  And so, this posting is my last one for the blog-- my final thoughts on adoption and our journey as a family.

I should tell you what happened after the first day of school.  The teacher called me the next evening and said, "I know there are no parents allowed in Children's House, but  I believe this child needs an exception.  When you leave, she feels it in a very deep way.  The reaction is quite strong."  In a world where adoptive parents often have to explain and educate, Phoebe's teachers understood immediately.  Since I couldn't be there every day, we opted to have our new au pair, Laura, do a "phase-in".  She sat in the classroom for about two weeks, until Phoebe agreed that she was ready to be there alone.  Drop-offs with Laura went well for a few weeks before Phoebe was finally well-established enough in the routine to bravely try drop-off with me.  We had a failed attempt in November, but tried again in December with success.  So finally, just before Christmas, I started dropping my kids off at school. 

Meanwhile, drop-offs aside, she's done beautifully.  She has many friends and does her Montessori "work" with great focus.  Last summer we had reached a point in our family where Miranda and Phoebe's ages seemed to have almost evened out developmentally, but since fall Miranda has leeped way ahead of Phoebe-- reading, doing multiplication, using an expansive vocabulary, and generally talking circles around poor Phoebe.  We are trying to remember to keep Phoebe involved in our advanced conversations.  I'm expecting a developmental leep from Phoebe soon, and I imagine it will be like this as the years go on and our "artificial twins" have their growth spurts independently.

I am aware every day of how lucky we are that Miranda and Phoebe are as close as they are.  Now, please-- there is plenty of bickering and tattling.  In fact, after I scolded Miranda for tattling the other day Phoebe immediately reported, "Miranda's tattling on me."  I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry.  But they clearly love each other deeply.  There are frequent deals about switching one shoe so that they each are wearing a mismatched pair that matches each other.  Even on the playground or at swim class, when they could chose to be with anyone, they often are side-by-side.  Lately they have even taken to sleeping together in Phoebe's bed.

I recently made Phoebe a tiny "Life Book" and told her the story of her life as I know about it.  We have always told the story of the day we met Phoebe, of how she waited in the good care of her foster family until her Forever Family came, of how long we waited to meet our baby from China, of how her birth parents must be smart and funny like she is.  I had always left out, however, that little detail of how she came to be an orphan.  I think she was starting to get confused about just who this foster family was and how they got involved-- especially when I talk about how we'll visit them one day and thank them.  It doesn't really all make sense unless you tell the truth-- that for reasons we will likely never fully know, Phoebe was left by her birth family at one week of age.  So, on the advice of an adoptive mom who has taught me many things, I made a book with just four pictures-- Phoebe in a tattered wicker baby chair in her foster home at four months old, Phoebe in my arms looking confused and overwelmed during her first minutes with her tearful new mother at age 15 months, Phoebe on her papa's one knee looking at Miranda on his other knee as she meets her sister for the first time, and a family portrait of all four of us deeply happy in the post-transition life.  With the help of the pictures, I started at the beginning, and told Phoebe all I know about her first 15 months of life, with nothing left out.  My adult self thought Phoebe would be shocked.  Appalled.  Upset.  But no.  Her response?  She listened, then told me something about what dress someone was wearing at school, I think, or something about swim class.  But on some level, it seemed like for the first time she understand how it all flowed-- from her birth mother, to the orphanage, to the foster family, and finally to us, the last stop.  She carried her book around with great enthusiasm for a day or so, and since then hasn't asked to see it again.  I feel at peace.  It's all out there now, and Phoebe is okay with her story.  It's the only one she has.

Miranda, too, is thinking about adoption more.  A few days ago she announced she wanted to "play adoption."  I watched her line up 10 dolls and stuffed animals side by side on a long strip of papertowels on the floor, and then she started shouting out like a street vendor, "Babies!  Get your babies!"  Yikes, is this what she thought adoption was like?!  Some quick intervention was in order.  With Phoebe watching, I acted like the official in they mysterious placed known as the Matching Room in the China Center for Adoption Affairs.  "Hm, the baby here looks interesting.  I have so many folders here of families who are waiting.  How should we decide which baby will go with which family?  Let's see now.  This is pretty important business, you know.  We are about to make a family.  Ah, yes, I've got it.  This looks like a perfect match."  I then took the role of the waiting mother, going about my day unsuspectingly, then answering the phone to hear the words that would change my life forever.  Finally, I acted out the moment when my baby was placed in my arms.  And then Miranda and Phoebe, thrilled with this new version of "Play Adoption," took on the roles.  When Phoebe answered the referral phone call and acted out the amazing joy-- with huge eyes, a dropped jaw, a dramatic gasp, and then a shiver and squeal-- I couldn't help filling up with tears.  Then she held her new baby for the first time and said to her with great tenderness, "I am your mama.  ForEVER."  Oh, my.  I have to say, it was a great day to be a mother home with her children. 

Clearly the story doesn't end here.  Only the blog does.  Thank you for journeying with me through this great adventure of motherhood.