It is finally starting to feel real to us that we will be getting on an airplane very soon, going to China, and adopting our baby girl. We are beyond excited…but also quiet and thoughtful. We know that being parents to two children instead of just one will challenge us. We know that parenting a child who has spent much of her life in an orphanage will be new to us. Every parent needs to be aware of each of their children’s strengths and weaknesses, propensities and personalities, and we seek to be students of both of our daughters in those areas, but with Madeleine CaiQun there is another dimension, that she will come to us with so many life experiences of which we were not able to be a part. Many of them will be forever lost to us, but we can make good guesses about others, and because of the different ways in which she and Miranda have spent the beginnings of their lives, we need to parent them differently.
Friends and family, we ask for your help in doing that. What follows is more detail about what that means.
When a baby is cared for by her birth family, she is, from birth, surrounded by familiar people, by those whose voices she has heard while in the womb. For a baby, relationships are built and deepened as the baby expresses a need, and that need is met by her caregivers. She learns to recognize and express her needs, and she learns that her needs will be met and that she will be warm, well-fed, safe, and loved.
For a child growing up in an orphanage, that cycle is broken. She has experienced trauma in the separation from her birth family and the transition to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. On top of that, orphanages are often under-funded and under-staffed. It is quite likely that a baby in an orphanage who expresses a need does not receive any response at all. When (if) her needs are met, they are met by shift-workers, whose schedules form a rotation. She does not have the benefit of consistent relationships with a mommy and daddy, primary relationships that then form the basis for her to build other relationships in the future.
As Madeleine CaiQun comes into our family, we will need to build those parent-child relationships from scratch. We will need to teach her that we are different from shift-workers and from any other adults she encounters. We will need to show her what it means to be mommy and a daddy and what it means to be a daughter. To that end, for an extended period of time, Matt and I need to be the only ones to meet her needs.
We are so grateful to all of you who have been a part of our journey to bring Madeleine CaiQun home. We have been so blessed by your support, whether it has come in the form of financial help, preparing meals to freeze, offering encouragement and prayer throughout the process, helping me to organize our playroom and get the girls’ bedroom set up, or so many other things that so many of you have done to walk alongside of us on this journey. We know that you are excited for our little one to join our family and come home with us, and we so look forward to the relationships that she will one day have with you. We do not lightly ask you to hold off on forming those relationships – but we know that in order for those relationships to flourish, she needs to build relationships with us as her parents first, and we need time to bond with her.
Specifically, we ask that you refrain from offering food, comfort, or affection – this would include things like holding her, giving hugs or kisses, holding her hand, or any form of affection typically reserved for family members or close friends. Please feel free to wave or smile at her and to interact with us as we are holding her, just as you would when we have Miranda with us. In general, we plan to keep her near us, just as we would with a new baby, but if you see her seeking food, comfort, or affection elsewhere, please re-direct her toward us.
This will be a tremendous help to us as we seek to surround our little girl with love and teach her what it means that she is now in a family. If you have any questions or want to know more about any of this, please let us know. We are happy to discuss these ideas any time or point you toward some of the resources from which we’ve learned as we’ve walked through this journey to adopt our daughter.