“So… how is she really doing?” a friend asked me recently. “Great! She is doing so, so well!” I replied, earnestly. My friend let out her long-held breath and said “That is so good to hear, Steph. So the feeding and the swallowing and the hearing and the immobility and her eyes and the lingering terror that lasts for days when she refuses to eat… those are all resolving?”
Wellllll…no. Nothing has really changed, but also, everything has changed.
When your child is a child in a file it’s easy to see them as a series of goals, especially when both parents are first-born and type A. When your child is a child in your arms, when they make the transition from “former orphan” to “beloved daughter” before your eyes, goals become cuddles, plans become kisses and the rabid goal-focused “plan” slowly crumbles, and that is okay. Those first weeks were a blur of appointments with hard to hear information that left my mind reeling because I soon understood that our goalpost needed to change, dramatically and fast.
She may not be able to hear, but her smile has changed from tentative and unsure to taking over her entire face, eyes scrunched and hands clasped in joy over the most simple of joys.
She may not be able to crawl, but who needs to crawl when you so adorably throw your hands up for a sibling to carry you with them wherever they go?
She still cannot swallow, but she has begun to trust us enough to attempt food on a spoon, a task that previously sent her into a meltdown in sheer terror.
We are unsure about her eyesight, but still she knows when we are close and her face melts into a smile because being close to us is her favorite.
Medical appointments still yield days of refusing to eat and crying in fear, but every time she lets us a little closer, trusting our intentions, swaying in our arms as we pace the floor with her in her moment of need.
She is nonverbal, cannot swallow, cannot crawl, probably cannot hear, possibly cannot see well, with a surgically repaired heart and extreme post institutional trauma but when I look at her beautiful face, all I see is wins.
The day we walked out of that orphanage felt like the starting line, and in many ways it was, but lately I am spending more time accepting that in many ways, too, it was the end. Rosie’s biggest need was never for therapy or hearing aids or a feeding clinic. Her biggest need always was for a family, for safety, for arms to meet hers when she reaches out to us, for a mommy to hold her when she is afraid, for a daddy to lovingly feed her one drop at a time when she is hungry but terrified to eat. I don’t know what the future holds for her but I spend exactly zero minutes of life worrying about that because I know that when God authored this story, He always knew that when His precious daughter needed an earthly family we would be here and we would be enough. I see in her face every day, her smiles and her relaxed body, her curiosity and her silliness that we don’t need to worry about whether we are succeeding. The best thing we ever did for our daughter was accept and understand that her biggest need was a family who loved her exactly how she arrived in our arms, not conditionally with a dream of future success.
We were never meant to undo what has been done. We were just meant to love her. We were never meant to change her, but she has changed us all. I think often that this was the biggest plot twist that I never expected… we set out to change the life of a child and show her love like she had never experienced, but maybe she was always meant to change ours and show us what love really looks like.
She is doing great. Really.