This post has been a year in the making.
Sure, the obvious is that one year ago today our family received the final piece to the puzzle and we became whole. My sons and daughters and husband took this adorable and tiny baby into their arms and into their hearts and she came home with us and hasn’t left us since.
But I got to meet her before that.
And THAT has taken me a year to talk about, to write about.
There are many reasons for this, but primarily, it was such a special and personal day for me, and for her, and actually, for a few other people too….so I have held it close. I share it now because the anniversary of this day is special, deserves something special, and as such, I write. So I now write to her directly. To my Marlowe.
Marlowe baby…this is for you to read, and to know about your special day. Every last moment of it that mattered and that impacted me, and probably you, on levels we don’t even understand, is forever etched on and in me.
Saturday morning in China. Everyone else got dressed and ready for an adventure and some touring. Me? I showered quietly, preparing alone. I didn’t put on perfume, because I was thinking of you. I was thinking of how, a few months earlier, I sent you a special blanket. A blanket I had slept with for weeks so that it would smell of me. So I washed, my normal soap, my normal deodorant, my normal body lotion. I smelled of the blanket I sent. I hoped you would recognize me. Newborns do, you know. Newborns recognize the scent and sound of their mothers both in and out of the womb. I never carried you there. But I still wanted to make a primal connection. A connection deeper than a photo or a cute outfit.
While your daddy and brothers and sisters sweated and toured in the China summer heat, I drove to you. I had been told it would be over an hour from the hotel in Beijing. You were somewhere special. You were in a foster home. A group foster home. A place where you had spent several months after your first 10 months in a medical care home. In my hand I held the bear…the bear you still have. The driver I booked, from the hotel, let me know we were almost there. Only 15 minutes had passed! We made our way through this tiny little neighborhood with narrow, curving streets. Homes close together, laundry on lines out the windows. We were 15-20 minutes outside Beijing yet it felt much further.
He slowed to the stop. The driver. And he turned and looked at me, asking in broken English, “Miss you here. This right? No look right. Where you go?” I answered, also broken, but for a different reason, “This is right. I am here to meet my baby. My daughter.” He understood. He pulled back, eyes wide, and looked away quickly.
I opened the car door, got out, and approached the entrance. I knocked, then entered tentatively. Shoes were in a pile by the door, so I added mine. I looked forward and saw many little children in a kitchen area. They were all being put into high chairs for snack time. All but one. You sat on the floor, centered in the play area, with one nanny, one ayi. Everyone smiled, and pointed to you. No one spoke English; the coordinator had yet to arrive.
the outside of one of these special group foster homes
your bed in the crib room
you and one of the ayi’s as you walked us out to the car
the ayi with whom you were playing when i came in
the babies having snack while we played.
Oh baby. You were so beautiful. Tiny and pale, and dressed in the size 6 month dress I had sent for the family day we would all meet. You were dressed up, in the little matching socks too! You looked up and saw me, curious, and went back to playing with your own foot. I dropped my purse, the bear. I walked over, opened the gate, sat down on the floor next to you. Talked. Touched. Smiled. We giggled and smiled together. The nanny watched, smiling. She then picked you up, and led us upstairs. Showed me your crib. Your room.
Sweetheart, they loved you there and cared for you but yes my heart broke. The windows were all open or broken and the heat was stifling, as were the mosquitos. You were covered in bug bites! I finally remembered the bear, and ran downstairs to grab it. We played with it together and then I held you. Oh baby you were so tiny! The dress was huge on you; I guessed that you were maybe 15 pounds. Your hair was so short, although they had honored my request not to cut it again. For over an hour we played, laughed, snuggled, talked, babbled, played with my phone, took pictures, sang and clapped, and danced with the bear. It was amazing. Holding you? It was heaven. I knew that you completed my family. I knew you were my daughter. I knew you were mine, as much as a human can belong to someone else, and equally, I was YOURS. I would be yours forever. I swore it then and I swear it again now.
At this point a door opened and closed, and one of the foster coordinators came in. She was not the one with whom I had corresponded. She was younger, and she met me with immediate affection and enthusiasm and expression, something not generally seen in China so openly, especially with a Western stranger. Within moments she shared her story with me, weaving many comments about God into it. I hugged her again, explaining we shared the God connection and she was thrilled, hugging me again! We talked a bit about your schedule, habits, preferences, personality…she spoke to one of the ayis and translated my questions and the ayi’s answers. I learned much, but you never left my sight. It was almost time to go and I was absorbing every moment.
Suddenly, a door opened and closed again.
My driver. He came inside to ask to use the restroom. As he started speaking to ask, he looked around and saw.
Not with his eyes….with his heart and apparently with his soul.
He saw the play space. He saw the nannies. He saw the kitchen, the high chairs full of little ones, the one in which you now sat, barely touching food. (They said you were a slow picky eater….not the case. I just discovered you still needed foods fed to you at this point.) He stood there, mouth open, eyes turning red. He then quickly turned away and ran off to the restroom, then out the front door.
Nap time had arrived and schedules in a group home are very important. It was time for me to go. Walking out that front door was one of the hardest things I have EVER done. I gave you hugs and kisses. They were obviously foreign to you, but you seemed to enjoy them, and even gave me a few giggles as I nuzzled your neck and rasberried your cheek. You stayed in your ayi’s arms as she walked me out. The coordinator was heading far into Beijing so I offered to give her a ride as I had no time restraints. I never took my eyes off you as I got into the car. I snapped photo after photo of you, the house, of you, and more of you. MY DAUGHTER. I felt the eyes of the driver burning through the rearview mirror, but I never looked. Even as the car pulled away I watched you, my tears flowing, until you went back inside and the door closed.
The woman in the car with me, barely a woman as she was so very young herself, maybe 22 or 23, held my hand tightly. She spoke to me of forever and soothed my heart as I so did not want to leave you for even a moment. At this point I finally looked at the driver. His eyes were almost as wet as mine. I spoke quietly to the woman, mentioning the driver. She spoke to him and his eyes returned to the road. Over the next 30 minutes they spoke, her mostly, while he said bits and pieces, alternately balling his eyes out openly and then smiling. She too, began to cry, then grabbed my hand again, and spoke words that will be hard for me to ever forget, not that I would want to… “He had never seen this. He saw all the children. He felt shame. He felt sad. He could not pretend this not happen here, that China does this. But so many little ones, so bare their home. It saddened him they have no hope. But I explain to him the great hope that they have. Yes, your baby has you. But all the babies have the hope of a heavenly Savior, a Creator and Father no matter what! He tell me his family never speak of God. No God. And he has never known hope. I tell him of the hope we all have. We talk much. He say he want the same hope and he prayed with me to know God. He will bring his family and his brother and family to my secret church this weekend. He believe!!”
I cried with her. I cried and looked at him as he began to cry so openly. I had never seen such open expression of emotion. In America we hide our feelings like these. Feelings of pain or loss we share but feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness are supposed to be hidden and locked away so no one can know our hurt. And he was so present with it. Marlowe it was so beautiful. Being a part of it, even watching, was precious. And it made me think so much.
My precious baby girl….this is the hope for you. Me? You will ALWAYS have me. I am your mother, forever and always. No human being on the planet will love you more than me. But my life is finite. My brain is limited. There is a hope and a love greater than mine, and that is in the One who created you, breathed you into being, gave you the spitfire stubborn will and strength and gusto that made you fight tooth and nail to stay alive when the odds were stacked so high against you. My love, you are a fighter. You are precious and perfect as you are. Meeting you that day changed me forever in so very many ways, ways I can’t and won’t even describe here but will whisper in your ear. My love for you has only grown. And as we “met” on forever family day, as we “gotcha”, it was actually you who GOT US. Wholeheartedly and completely. Man, did you get us. And we all met you two days later where you remembered the bear….
holding you in my arms knowing this was it, this would be forever
And fell completely in love all over again as you truly met the whole family which was now YOUR family!
you were a tad overwhelmed as we all smothered you!!
Happy Forever Family Day my precious baby girl. I love you more than there are stars in the sky, and more than there are fish in the sea, and more than there are grains of sand on the seashore….
no one giggles the way you do, baby. love you soooo much!!!