We arrived in Guangzhou yesterday and are staying once again in the beautiful and elegant White Swan Hotel. Luke loved the plane ride from Nanchang to Guangzhou; he loved the big seats with the tray table that went up and down (and up and down…), he loved zooming along the ground and taking off up in the air, and he especially loved the peanut snack and his very own bottle of water.
By the time we had checked into the hotel we were really hungry, and so we headed off to Lucy’s for some good ‘ole American food (well, kind of). So now we know that Luke loves pizza, French fries and ketchup, and spaghetti. He will do fine in America. He hasn’t met a drink yet that he doesn’t gulp down, including milk. Forget the dumplings; give him a dinner roll or banana bread. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate pound cake at the buffet breakfast? What could be better than entering the Straka family with a pre-existing love of chocolate?!!!! I’m seeing his May 1 birthday cake: chocolate with chocolate icing, chocolate chips and chocolate sprinkles…the “Straka birthday special”…
Luke continues to enjoy running to each and every elevator, pushing the “up” or “down” buttons, and then the appropriate floor. He announces loudly to anyone or no one, it doesn’t matter, “ONE!” or “TWO” depending one where we are going. With great authority and enthusiasm, I might add.
But at some point yesterday evening, a bit weary from our travels and from trying to negotiate life in a different culture, living out of a suitcase, packing and unpacking, and attempting to get to know a fully formed little boy with his own personality and life experiences that haven’t included me until 1 week ago, I started to feel a bit pitiful. I commented to Andy that while I loved Luke’s merry and outgoing personality, it seemed that he would be just as happy going off into the sunset with our guide, or any other friendly adult for that matter, as staying with us. While my intellect knew that bonding and attachment take time and don’t happen in a significant way after only knowing someone a week, my heart was yearning for a sign that Luke recognized me as someone more than anyone else, someone special, his mommy.
I think this is the hardest part of adoption for me: trying to be patient as the attachment and bonding process works itself out over time with consistent parental love and affection and the relentless pursuit of a child’s heart. But I always long for instant attachment! I yearn for my child to want to be held as much as I want to hold him or her. I want my child to trust me, while knowing that there are layers of loss that need to be tunneled through and shed before deep trust can exist. I know these things, and yet such knowledge doesn’t erase my heart’s desire to love and be loved in return. It is this waiting to be loved reciprocally that is especially hard for me at the beginning of an adoption journey with a new child. I can wait for that love to develop, I will wait; but it is hard.
My most fervent prayer recently has been for Luke to feel our love, to know that we are his forever Mommy and Daddy and not just 2 people passing through his life, and for him to be able to love us back. Not just in his endearing, charming, sweet, Luke kind of way. But in a special I know you’re my parents and you’re totally for me and will be with me forever kind of way. I know, that’s a lot to ask of a newly adopted 3 year old. But God is a big God and nothing is impossible for Him. In the midst of chaos and change and uncertainty, God is steadfast; His love is everlasting, deep, unfathomable. I know these things. And so I ask for my own little miracle.
After Valentine’s Day dinner with 2 other families in our travel group we arrived back at our room where the highlight is always the before-bed bath. Luke LOVES the bathtub! He loves playing in the water, loves scrubbing his face, loves the soapsuds, the washcloth, the freedom of floating in the big tub with his little body, and most of all the nightly bath capsule that magically turns into a farm animal. Last night he chose a green one, and was ecstatic to see it turn into a duck. “Quack quack” he chirped, breaking occasionally into a mixed Chinese-English rendition of “Twinkle twinkle little star”. Merry as could be. Life is good. Really good.
Until a bit of a slip in the tub from some overexuberant “swimming”, and Luke must have hit his lip or bitten his tongue…something to do with his mouth, because out of this little guy came the most pitiful wails as he put his hands over his mouth and just sobbed. We scooped him up out of the tub, checked for disaster (no blood, teeth seemed intact upon quick inspection in mid-wail), and then I cradled him in my arms, his tiny little body engulfed by a giant bath towel. I rocked him and held him and loved him while his wails turned into shuddering sobs and then forced little bleats….I held him close, and he melted into my arms. His “real” cries turned into “fake” ones (those of you with the same kind of mommy ears know what I’m talking about) and it occurred to me that Luke liked this embrace, this rocking, this being held within the cocoon of the towel…he was letting my love and comfort sink in, and wasn’t this what I had begged God for? For Luke to feel my Mommy-love and to sense, to know, that this was different than anyone else’s love?
I held Luke and rocked him for a long while. And then we moved on to the after-bath ritual of “creaming up” (can’t have dry skin in a dermatologist’s family!), brushing teeth and PJ’s. I planned to run downstairs in search of a Dove bar or 2 for Andy’s and my Valentine’s night celebration, but as I headed out of the room, Luke panicked and burst into tears, holding his arms up to me and crying out my name: “Mama! Mama! Mama!” This has never happened before as Luke has seemed equally as happy with Andy as with me. He is happy when we are both with him; he is happy with just one of us if the other is off somewhere; it’s been really nice in a lot of ways. No clinging. No anxiety. And yet no signs of special attachment either. Can’t have it both ways.
But now there is a little boy at the door of the hotel room calling out desperately for his mama, and I think that God has answered my prayer. I forsake my quest for chocolate (not something I forsake lightly, but this is big, bigger than chocolate). This is the first time Luke has cried for me. I feel needed, wanted, special. This is my little boy and I am his Mommy. I scoop him up in my arms, and as he buries his head in my chest his sobs abate. I can comfort him. This is huge.
I cuddle Luke in the dark on the couch; I wrap him in a blanket, I hold him until he falls asleep. I am part of the miracle of attachment. I am Luke’s Mama. Thank you God.