It was eight months ago today that we brought our daughter home and began our life as a family of nine. I will never forget the day we met that little girl in the pink dress. The look on Mei Mei's face during those first moments together is etched in my memory. She was so brave and clearly intrigued by us. At the same time, she had the "blank look" I have come to recognize as a sign that she is overwhelmed and nervous.
You see, 8 months ago, we were total strangers. I was already in love with her or at least the idea of her. She had seen our photographs but could not be fully prepared for what was to come. We were instantly mommy and daughter, all the while still strangers to one another. The dance of attachment was beginning for us but we were nearly four years late to the party. I didn't know her cries, her looks or her needs. When you bring home a new baby from the hospital, you study them. You ask yourself countless times a day, what does she need? I found that the same was true for our little Mei Mei. I needed to become a student of her, study her sounds and her actions. I would love to tell you that I did this perfectly but I did not. There were times we were both in tears from sheer frustration. There were times I was not as patient as I should have been and lost sight of what was really important. I have had to apologize and ask her for forgiveness more times than I like to think about.
The beautiful thing about a family is that we just keep loving and moving forward. There have been countless victories in these eight months, reasons to celebrate and solidify the bond that we have created. We parent our seven children in a way that gives us the great gift of time. We home school so there is no need to rush off in separate directions each morning. Granted, Daddy has to go to work but we are all excited when he walks back through that door! Learning the rhythm of our family has been accelerated for Mei Mei as she watches the way I interact with all her siblings on a minute by minute basis. Giving her a solid foundation of what family means is our priority. We know that her little heart still has plenty of healing to do. A child who was abandoned at the approximate age of two certainly needs time to feel safe and secure. She asks me often, "Momma, gonna go bye bye?" I rarely leave the house without my children but the thought of being separated from Momma is still unnerving for our little girl. On the rare occasion that I leave the kids with Daddy or Grandparents, I remind Mei Mei, "Momma comes back. Momma always comes back." We have a little song we sing with these words. It is an important ritual for us.
Naomi's big sister, Miss Ruthie, is just a few months older than her. Miss Ruthie was our only girl for four years. We had no idea how their bonding would go but we prayed fervently that they would be a gift to one another. Their relationship has exceeded our wildest hopes. I will never forget one of their first nights together, Miss Ruthie hugged Mei Mei tight, looked at me and said, "Mom, thank you so much for my sister!" They take great joy in spending time together. They are little mommas to their baby dolls. They love to color and make crafts together. They sit next to each other for every meal. They are taking a weekly ballet class together. The sight of them in their little tutus is more than this momma's heart can stand. They attend the same art class and story time class at our home school co-op. They are precious little shopping buddies and love it when we have girl dates. They often say, "girl power!" when they accomplish a difficult task. I am grateful to have a front row seat to watch their relationship develop. A sister is truly a gift.
We have been amazed by Mei Mei's patience and kindness with all her siblings. She has learned to stick up for herself when she needs to. We think this a terrific sign of how comfortable she has become in her family. Her adoption was our first experience with adopting out of birth order. Mei Mei is older than our two youngest sons. They were two years old when she arrived home and she was weeks away from turning four. We felt that Miss Ruthie would keep her identity as our oldest daughter and the little boys would keep their identity as our babies. We were right. The transition has been seamless.
Every night when I tuck Mei Mei in bed she says, "Momma, sing Jesus!" She snuggles her teddy bear and baby doll and settles in for this comforting nightly routine. I rub her back and sing this song, "Jesus loves Mei Mei this I know for the bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus love Mei Mei. Yes, Jesus loves Mei Mei. Yes, Jesus loves Mei Mei. The bible tells me so." Then I lay my hand still on her back and whisper a prayer in her ear to the King of Kings. I thank him for her life. I praise him for the restoration he has done and will continue to do. I ask him to continue to bind our hearts together. I pray for her best friend from the orphanage who is happily home with her family. If I forget this part, I am quickly reminded. I ask God to draw her heart to his. I pray that she will grow up to boldly walk in the calling he lays on her heart. I have no doubt his plans for her are great. When I say amen, I kiss her little face and tell both my girls, "Goodnight my princesses."
In the past eight months, there have been challenges to overcome, memories to make and milestones to celebrate. We are no longer strangers. We are well on our way to forever. Not only do we know the steps to our dance, we are tearing up the dance floor.