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March 24, 2010


I saw Slum Dog Millionaire so I thought I knew what India would look like but it looked nothing like that at all.  Instead, it looked like rural China and that was oddly interesting to me because Maddy was originally Chinese.  Well, she IS Chinese but she was originally Chinese in the sense that she lived there once.  Then, for a few years, she was American.  Now she'll be Indian.   A little girl with a Chinese face growing up in India.   I sure never thought it would end up like this.

I felt the tears stinging the back of my eyes and took a few deep breaths and tried to will them away.  No time to fall apart.  What is done is done.  All I can do now is try to make a horribly painful situation as painless as possible for her and deal with my own grief later because, right now, it'll only get in the way.   

I tried to reassure myself.  Her new parents will love her and she'll have a good life.  Most people are good.  In time, she'll embrace her new life. I hope she learns the language quickly. 

Oh God, please help her forget us just as quickly.  

She didn't know why she was sitting between Mommy and Daddy in the backseat of that big old car going down that long bumpy dirt road.   I was wearing a black dress and heels and Andrew was wearing a black suit.  She knew we always dressed this way for important things so she must have been reassured.  Maybe even excited.  She looked comfortable and content in her long white faux fur Hello Kitty jacket with a big fur trimmed hood pulled over her head.  From my angle, all I could see was her little nose.  She's such a petite thing at age 5 -- her hands and feet were barely larger than a toddler's.   I knew I'd always remember what it felt like to hold her tiny soft hand in mine and that realization made me happy and sad.  Happy because I loved her and sad because I would miss her.  I screwed up -- I wasn't supposed to love her.   I broke the rules.

I gave her shoulder a squeeze and told her that her exciting new adventure was about to begin.   I was just a mother giving her child reassurance and comfort.  Just like Moms are supposed to do in times like this.  In a few minutes she'd know it was a lie but she'd be too overwhelmed to notice the betrayal.  Maybe someday she'd appreciate her new life enough to forgive me.

The car stopped in front of an old building with a sign I couldn't read.  There was a pretty woman in a sari standing with three men and I knew the woman must be her new Mommy but didn't know which of the men was her Daddy.  I assumed one was from the government office that oversaw adoptions and the other was a translator.   Things were about to get difficult (for everyone) so I tried to prepare her.  I stooped down and smiled and told her that this was her "forever family" but the words felt obscene to my own ears.  I hoped she didn't notice that she'd heard them before and I was sure I'd always be sorry that I said that to her today.

Everyone spoke for a minute in a language I didn't understand then one of the men pulled Maddy's furry hood off and almost pulled her over backwards in the process.  He wasn't trying to be mean about it, it's just that she wasn't expecting it and it caught her off balance.  She's only 30 pounds and I nearly pull over over backwards when I brush her hair.   No harm done and I suppose, under the circumstances, that it's only natural that they'd want to actually see her. 

She looked startled but quickly recovered.  Then, without smiles or formalities, he pulled off her coat completely.  This time she was better prepared and didn't stumble backwards but I could see that she felt vulnerable (naked?)  and I worried that she'd run to me for comfort and protection.   I really hoped with all my heart that she wouldn't do that because I didn't want my last memory of her to be her little face all twisted up in fear and confusion.   And I didn't want her last memory of me to be the look of motherly angst on my face as they pulled her from my arms.  

Just thinking about it made my breath come faster and my heart and head pound with increasing intensity until I was completely overwhelmed and hyperventilating.  And that's how I woke up. 

Oh Dear God!  It was a dream!

I laid there in my bed next to my husband and tried to catch my breath.  It was such a horrible dream but, at the same time, there was such a joyful realization that it was just a dream!    I tried to analyze it but knew that I'd probably never get back to sleep if I did.   It was 2:34 AM and I really wanted to sleep.  I also wanted to NOT think about this irrational sadness.  Maddy was in her room in our nice safe house and all was well.  My babies were sleeping and I should be sleeping too.    Since I almost never dream the same dream twice (even when I want to), I didn't think I'd have anything to worry about so I welcomed the thought of a different "movie" playing in my brain and fell back to sleep.  I was wrong. 

The next dream was Andrew and I back home without Maddy.  We'd still not explained to Gwen what happened to her sister and we were pretending that we were all okay with everything.  It was like we'd known all along that it wasn't a permanent arrangement and it was expected that we would adjust our hearts accordingly.   My personal agony was my own doing because I wasn't supposed to get attached to her.  I broke the rules when I loved her and, even worse, I really broke the rules when I let her love me back.  I couldn't help but worry constantly that she was also feeling miserable, confused, lonely and lost.  I worried that her new family wasn't treating her well.  I worried that she didn't feel loved or safe and missed her Mommy and Daddy and sister, Gwen.

The grief felt like a huge heavy blanket that I couldn't throw off.  I desperately wanted her back but didn't know how to do it or how to tell anyone how much I loved and missed and needed her.  Not even my husband.  Not Gwen.  Not my best friends.    I finally had the idea to have someone translate a letter to her new family asking if we could reimburse them for their adoption expenses and get her back.  I remembered that we had a tough time when Maddy first came to our family and hoped that maybe they were having a tough time too.  Part of me hoped everyone bonded instantly but part of me hoped it was bad enough that they'd willingly accept my offer and give her back.  And with all this worry was the realization that getting her back was not part of the plan and I might not be able to keep her.   But the idea gave me hope and helped me breath a little better.  

One night, I dared to open up about my feelings and the tears and big sobs came with such force that I was sure my husband would have to wait hours to find out what was behind all of my heartache and grief.   The pain came in waves and each wave was bigger and stronger than the last and I wasn't sure if I'd survive long enough to ever tell him why I was so broken.  It was the biggest hurt I've ever felt in my life and it was finally coming out and that is when I woke up.  Again.

This time, I didn't go back to sleep.  Instead, I laid there in the dark and tried to catch my breath and cried quietly and thought about what the hell could be causing this kind of horrible dream.  Then I remembered that Gwen and Maddy had school at different times the previous day.  It was the FIRST time that ever happened and it meant that each of them was stuck here at home without the other for four hours.  Four hours that were very hard on them with no sister to play with - no sister to fight with - no sister at all. 

For the first time in the only life they've ever known, they didn't have a sibling

At the time, I reminded them that this was exactly why I'm always telling them how lucky they are to have each other.    I guess I, fleetingly, imagined what it would have been like if we'd not adopted a 2nd time.  Or if Maddy wasn't SN and we were still waiting for some other "Maddy" (with a LID of 5/25/2006).   I do remember thinking - for just a split second - about what would have happened to the little girl named Min Xiao Xian if she was never our "Maddy".  Would she have stayed in China at the orphanage?   Would she have been adopted by another family?  What would they have named her?  Would she be living in a different country?  Would she sing her favorite songs in a language I'll never understand?  Would she still love bacon and art?  Obviously, this caused those dreams.  My subconscious latched on and put these questions at the top of my dream queue.  

At 7:30 this morning, I went into Maddy's room and crawled into bed with her and nestled my nose into the crook of the back of her little neck (like I always do).  I closed my eyes and breathed in her sweet, sweaty, morning smell.  I slid one arm under her limp sleepy torso and wrapped the other around her and pulled her in close for a nice long snuggle.  As she stirred awake and hummed and cooed in my arms, I fought hard not to break into huge sobs of relief.  Maddy was here -- in my house -- with her family.  Just where she belongs.

Sometimes it takes a dream like this to really make you realize how blessed you are.


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