I’ve been waiting to write and process the time with Abby – and the farewell – until the other two girls went back to school. I really wanted to concentrate on them for the week following the trip I was home and so I just shoved the grief and joy and confusion and anger and all the thousands of emotions swirling around inside me aside until I could sit down and give it my full attention. And so I found myself for the last week having a nervous energy – I was in the washroom last night and wondered if the wallpaper would come off easily when we get around to re-doing the washroom. Next thing I knew I had stripped the wallpaper off the entire washroom. Or we have had a massive burn pile left by the previous owners – I mean MASSIVE (we guess 20ft x 15ft and about 4ft high when it was at it’s biggest). We’ve picked at it over the summer – but Saturday I spent the ENTIRE day burning a little bit at a time, and a little more, and a bit more… until 12 hours later it was gone. I don’t sleep as well – oh! I need to research college programs for the girls! what other movies has the actress been in from the show I just watched! what Christmas gifts should we make this year! And on and on. Anything – anything! – to keep my mind off of one precious little girl on a little island in the Caribbean.
And so as I have continued to stall all morning – but it’s time.
As I mentioned before – the weekend before we left (our last day with Abby was a Monday) I was a mess. The final day of our two week visit finally came. I felt total peace. I was going to go and have an amazing day with Abby. The entire day we treated no differently than any other day with her – we played, we walked, we had snacks, we cuddled and goofed off. It was a great day.
But then it was time.
Time to take Abby to the nursery and walk away without the promise of tomorrow – in it’s place was simply the hope of someday. To put her into the room with the 13 other children she shares it with and trust that she would be loved and cared for well. We had been up on the third floor balcony playing, and had to walk down the stairs one floor and return her. Mark was carrying her. Halfway down he couldn’t go on. In his words he posted on facebook:
“Hardest. Goodbye. Ever. Our two weeks with Abby went way too quick. I was completely unprepared for the wave of emotions that hit as we walked her back to the nursery for the last time today. I had to have Krista take her back on her own…I could not dredge up the strength to do it. So heartbreaking. We’ll see you soon, my Abby-baby.”
It’s interesting how we all grieve and process things differently. Mark could not enter that nursery as his heart broke and his tears poured down and he handed her to me. I could not leave my broken heart without taking her into the nursery and seeing her in the arms of her nanny. Team parenting.
So I walked into that nursery – she clearly knew something was up as Mark and I were both crying and I’m sure I was covering her in kisses and whispering my love for her all over again. I am thankful one of my favourite nannies was present right then. She knew we were leaving and upset, she scooped Abby up and gave her the snuggles that would have to hold her until we return. She had Abby say goodbye and give kisses and comforted her.
And then… having to turn my back on Abby and walk out. Close the door. And head home. I can’t even think of it now without crying.
When we went to leave for the guest house Abby was at the window waving – and we both waved goodbye and cried some more. When we got back to the guesthouse we simply crumbled. I can never remember an all consuming grief and heart ache like that. We just cried and cried and took turns comforting the other. I curled up in a ball in my bed. I couldn’t even think what I was suppose to do – how was I suppose to go on with my precious girl left behind?
Slowly, the tears subsided. We could breathe a little easier. And the mundane tasks of preparing to fly home in the morning helped take our minds of our girl.
Packing was emotional too though. That sweet little dress we brought her – likely won’t fit by the time she comes home. (Fortunately her BFF Ruth is a little smaller than her and the dress looked perfect on her!) The books we had read to her – some we had left, some we brought home for her book collection here. Packing her sippy cup and not knowing when we’d need it again. Packing each item wondering if we keep it for the unknown time she comes home, leave it in Haiti for her or someone else or throw it away.
We went to bed early because our flight was super early (wake up call at 4am!) and because crying wears one out.
Tuesday came and all day we were in and out of tears on our flights. There was a young Haitian girl on our flight about Abby’s age. I’d look at her one moment with a smile on my face reminiscing about my own wee girl. The next minute I’d be crying. I was a wreck.
I looked forward to seeing our family when we arrived home – but I didn’t know if I was prepared to talk about Abby. It still ached.
But then, I found that talking about her kept her present. We laughed as we told stories of her excitement over finding dog poop or her sassy ways. We loved talking about her and showing the photos. It wasn’t that the hurt disappeared – but it was slowly being partnered with something else. Hope. Hope for the day she comes home. And joy. Joy for the life we’ve been given the honour of loving and raising. The ache is there, but it’s not alone now.
So how am I doing now?
What surprised me this last week was the anger and loss I felt over missing Abby’s first two and a half years. We were waiting for a child and she was needing a family – but because of the crazy adoption process we missed out on so many moments. I’m beyond grateful that the orphanage values photos and there are so, so many of her over the last two years – but I would have preferred to be the one documenting these milestones. But now as I look back on my older two daughters lives – yes, those milestones of first steps and first teeth and babyhood were amazing… but what is more amazing is the memories made that they remember as well as me. They will never remember their first tooth coming through – but they will remember vacations and hikes and family jokes and time spent together. And so I eagerly anticipate building these moments with Abby too.
I feel like I’ve been given a year to prepare. Yes – we’ve been in the adoption process for over 5 years so I should be more than prepared – but meeting Abby was the first time the idea of adoption moved to the reality. And so as much as I dread the wait and long to squish that little munchkin in my arms again – I have a lot to do. Yes, we have to get her room ready and work on collecting an entire wardrobe, book collection, child necessities and more. But those are the unimportant things. Fun – but not as important as… preparing to parent in a transracial family in an extremely white community. Researching how parenting a child who has spent years in an institution is different than parenting children raised in a home setting from day one. Getting healthy – chasing a toddler needs a lot of energy! Making changes to my schedule to have more time at home with a wee one. And so much more. And so, I will take this year as a time of preparation. I’ve got a list of books I’m waiting to devour.
I was also unprepared for how this effects friends – and our children’s friends. For many of them, this is their introduction to adoption of any kind. I have loved all the questions and enthusiasm from kids and hearing so many of them say they think they’d like to adopt when they grow up. I know not all will – but, it’s an idea that is being presented to them now in a real way as something that they too could do. Our kids friends have told us how they checked for photos of Abby everyday while we were gone and how much they love her already. And, the support we have been given is unbelievable. Even today – the first day of school – getting messages from friends who recognize this is likely a tough day for us. Any big occasion – first day of school, birthdays, Christmas, Easter… is one more moment we are missing out on celebrating as a complete family and so they are hard. Friends support means so much! And so many friends who have messaged us eager to hear more about Abby and to let us know they’re praying for us.
And I still struggle with some of the emotional side of adoption. Adoption is beautiful and powerful and amazing… but it always stems from loss. How will I share this with Abby in a sensitive way? We don’t share her story publicly – that’s her story and she can decide if she wants to share it when she’s ready – but how do I share her story with her? How do I keep her Haitian culture alive and present in this future Canadian’s life? And then I wrestle with if adoption is the best route for these children… they’re so happy and loved and cared for. But then I always come back to – no child should be raised in an institution. Even the very best orphanage care… is still an orphanage. And my mind wrestles back and forth through countless issues relating to international adoption.
And so, as you can see I’ve slowly started moving in to my new normal. My heart is a little heavier in places – but even though part of that weight is the ache for my girl, another portion of the weight is joy and love and good memories with my girl. I might cry a little easier than I did before – and that’s okay. I read articles and books, I pick up a piece of clothing or two when shopping, we try Haitian recipes, I put photos of Abby around the house, and I pray for my girl that she knows that just as sure as we walked out of that room that horrible Monday… one day we will walk back in and never turn away from her again!