I’ve always been a person that prefers roller coasters over rides that spin me around. This preference translates into how I live my life. I try to embrace the ups and downs and I am a believer and preacher that God can put purpose to all of life’s highs and lows. I have to believe that this will hold true for this entire adoption journey.
You know those picture books with only a squiggle on the first page, where lines are gradually added and the picture becomes clearer and clearer as you thumb through the pages? When we walked out of our ministry meeting on Tuesday morning, I felt like I was on the 3rd or 4th page of one of those books. Today, that picture is almost completely clear. The picture of how the foster family operates and of the motivation behind all of the drama that has taken place surrounding our adoption is now very easy to comprehend.
The picture of exactly what is going on with Sophia is also pretty clear and I can’t say that it is very pretty. I am not certain that she is autistic. She rocks her head from side to side and rocks back and forth from one foot to the other, but it appears to be a form of comfort that she has practiced since infancy. Everything that I see about her seems to be institutional behavior. I was shown a video clip of her in her crib at the orphanage when she was only five months old. She was rocking her head from side to side, just as she does now. She has never known what it feels like to be held in a mother’s arms. She has never been taught appropriate responses or emotions and she has never been given any type of boundaries.
Today I watched her run around the park. This was a gift. We have been under the scrutiny of the foster mother, Jovana (her primary care-taker), the foster grandmother, the babysitter, and social workers and ministry officials. Today was our first opportunity to spend time with her away from the foster home. I watched her inappropriate reactions and her complete lack of empathy for any other person. I was taken back to camping in Colorado and watching a pack of wild horses. They were beautiful. They had wild eyes and they seemed to run in no specific direction and with little regard to their surroundings. They would run right up to the edge of a cliff and then just jerk backwards and take off in the opposite direction. This is what I saw in my daughter. A completely untamed, uncivilized, intelligent beautiful creature.
I have felt very unnecessary. She has many mothers. They may not parent her as I would and they may not force love on her, but they still fill that role. She has never had a father-figure and this makes her “Tata”, a valuable asset. She does seem to enjoy him. She is taking an interest in Kira, Chase and Seth but I have to work hard to keep her from being aggressive towards them. She has given me affection when she wants something from me. When I have told her no, she has hurt me. Today I had her on my shoulders and she began to kick me and pull me hair. It hurt. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. It hurt.
Chad keeps reminding me to focus on the small victories. She never rides in a car and it took us about half an hour to convince her to ride with us to the park today. And…she only cooperated after Jovana climbed in and rode along. When we got ready to leave, she held our hands and climbed right in the back so that she could be by her “brat” and “sestra”. She said (in perfect English), “See you tomorrow” to the kids as we dropped her off. And…tomorrow night, we get to keep her with us.
This might just be the ride of my life, but I have to have faith that in the end it will be worth it.