Been a hot minute or hot 2 months!
Know what happened? Exactly what I was sure would. I’d put up a wall, overthought the eff outta everything and then I’d be too “busy.”
I got hung up on making the Google happy, trying to be searchable and all the other ish bloggers have to worry about.
And, frankly. I’m just not there yet. I just want to write! I want to share my heart. My books. My food. Whatever is on my heart.
Today, something HUGE is on my heart.
I guess, you should get tissues or something. Just in case 😉
Happy 3rd Belong Day to my sweet Maleigh Jean ChangCheng DeLoof!
Today, I’m writing from an airplane trying my best to keep my tears in check as I type.
You see, 3 years ago today I was sitting in a room with my husband and 3 other families in a civil affairs building in Hefei, Anhui in China.
I was trembling. They had us seated at a table and my legs were itching to get up and pace. Tears were at the back of my eyes, ready to spill over.
I’d pictured this moment for the last 6 months. In April 2016, we decided to complete our family by way of international adoption. We had no clue what we were doing but we wanted one more baby. And, we didn’t want me to carry it.
There was no grand gesture or lifelong goal to adopt. It came to us when we were on a cruise and watched a family adopt and thought. We could do that. We have love to give. We wanted one more baby. It felt selfish almost. Because I was desperate to have one more but my PTSD from Jayce’s delivery spilled over into my pregnancy with Everleigh and I just couldn’t carry one more. It terrified me.
For 6 months, we completed meetings, home visits and 18 million forms. We first saw her face on April 25, the 13th anniversary of my brother, Steve’s death. She has a lifelong and life threatening medical condition we had never heard of and for days, we reaserched and joined groups to learn everything we could. We said yes, despite huge fears and on May 6, on my brother, Steve’s birthday, China gave us preapproval for our baby. There are no coincidences. That’s what I know.
I had pictured this moment. I pictured this sweet, little dark eyed baby being placed in my arms. I pictured crying in pure joy. I pictured a video of this entire moment to have forever.
What I got instead was one step into the room and said sweet, little dark eyed child looked around at all of the white people in that room and lost her ever loving mind.
She was so tiny. At 21 months old, she weighed only 16 pounds and was the size of a 9 month old. She was so pale. But that didn’t effect her lungs or strength as it turns out. She was placed into my arms a screaming and writhing octopus of epic proportions.
No, she did not want that bun that her nanny swore she loved. She didn’t want to see pictures or anyone’s phone. She wanted to go home. And home was not with us.
I remember we were trying to sign documents and the orphanage director pulled her out of my arms and left the room with her. She was disrupting EVERYTHING. Every other child hung out cool and calm. Not ours. Steve and I sat wide eyed as they removed her and we could still hear her screaming from down the hall. We felt so helpless. We just wanted to run to her.
Finally, after what felt like forever, she was brought back to us. And, the screaming commenced. After an hour of pacing in a very hot room, both of us dripping with sweat, she gave up and hung loosely in my arms, asleep.
As we finished up, they made her wake up for our adoption decree photo. Loudly they clapped at her and yelled “wake baby!” And she paused enough for a picture before screaming again.
She slept on my chest on the drive back to our hotel. We took her to dinner and it seemed congee and noodles were the way to her heart. She ate and gazed at us but never really quite smiling. I remember she ate with her face resting on the table. She was so dang sad.
That night, we got her back to the room and she refused to let me remove her shoes or her sweatshirt. Yes, 90 degrees and wickedly humid in Hefei in September and they put her in a sweatshirt and she wouldn’t remove it. When I tried she pointed at me and yelled something in mandarin at me.
It loosely translated to “Maleigh wins,” I think.
The next morning she woke up and as soon as she saw us, her little bottom lip shot out and she began to whimper. As though she had thought it was all a bad dream...then boom! We were still there...Then, you guessed it.
She began screaming.
She begged us for her nanny. She repeated phrases as she sobbed that we couldn’t understand.
We had videos of her walking when we viewed her file 5 months earlier. But she wouldn’t walk. She sat slumped over and wouldn’t make eye contact. She was so so so broken. So incredibly traumatized. And I felt so guilty that we are a huge part of her trauma. Sure, it was for the best right? Or that’s what people say. Those people probably haven’t looked a traumatized baby in the eyes who is being ripped from everything she knows. Being ripped from her home country.
I remember sobbing in the bathroom eating a Snickers as Steve tried to soothe her. I remember after we finally got her to sleep, finding Steve sitting on the side of the tub crying.
Who were we? Would she ever feel safe with us?
She hated the hotel room. She’d refuse to take her shoes off and would yell and point at the door when we would get into our room.
Listen. If you ask Steve and I to describe the hardest moments of our entire lives, I would bet that we would both describe these moments in that hotel in Hefei. We were all so broken. We were all so lost. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea what we could do to even try to fix it.
Days dragged on and on day 3 we went to her orphanage and honestly, that’s a blog post of its own. So, I won’t go into detail but what I will say is I left that place so angry. Angry that anyone thought her seeing her nanny again was good for any of us. Eff that whole day. Eff that whole dayyyyy.
But, before she said goodbye, her nanny told her “you are safe. This is mama and baba. You are safe. You are loved. They will take care of you.”
And the next morning...I was in the bathroom and Steve walked in holding her and she waved at me. Until that moment, she had never let Steve hold her and he didn’t push it. But that morning, she woke and REACHED FOR HIM. And I think he and I both cried. I mean. We both definitely did.
That was a pivotal moment. From that moment on, in China, he was her person. I wasn’t allowed to tickle her. She would side eye me if I tried. But, she would give him full body giggles and run to him. I won’t lie. I was relieved and also so hurt. But, it wasn’t about me. It was about her.
She required me at bedtime though. Sleeping on my chest to the point where she would get so tight under my neck that I would have to pull her downward just so I could breathe.
We survived that week in Hefei and moved onto Guangzhou for a week.
That week was EVERYTHING. She did a complete turnaround and was happy. She would blow kisses and giggle when we video chatted with our family at home. Her personality was finally beginning to show.
We all survived 24 hours of travel to get home and were greeted by so many friends and family after a late night flight.
The minute she was home, that was it. She LOVED Jayce and Everleigh from the moment she laid eyes on them. And she made the rest of the family bribe her with various foods before she’d give them too much attention. Food was and continues to be her love language. She’s my child after all, ha!
I don’t know why I’ve shared so much of her first few days in this post. Some of these memories are memories I have tucked away. Some are still too painful to share. But, it felt like it was time to share just a little of her story today.
Every moment in China was worth it.
Maleigh lights up every room she enters. She loves REALLY big and finally without fear. She laughs with her entire body. Smiles with her entire soul.
She is a self proclaimed “jokester” who wants to own 1700 pandas, and be a firefighter like her daddy. Oh and she doesn’t like babies. He’s had 4 new cousins since she came home and she doesn’t like them till they’re toddlers. She says “all they do is cry and poop and keep her up.” She’s not wrong, I guess!
What I know is this. 3 years ago, our lives were flipped upside down. We were terrified. Unsure. And second guessing our lives.
And now, sitting here 3 years later, I don’t shed tears because of how hard those first few weeks and even months were. Not anymore at least. Not one of us left China without some kind of trauma.
I shed tears now because we could have missed every moment if we hadn’t said yes to adopting. it rips my heart out to think we could have missed this.
Every kiss. Every “I love you.” Every wink, she’s a winker. Did you know that? It’s the best! Every snuggle. Every giggle.
We could have missed all of it.
Our lives would have been so different. Our children’s eyes have never been opened to a world of adoption. We would have missed so much love and happiness.
It’s not all rainbows though. Trauma still shows up at the worst times. And Maleigh has so much medical trauma. Bloodwork quarterly proved to be tricky. And she still struggles being separated from me. She still cries and begs me not to leave as she bravely will look at me and say “but you always come home, mommy. Right? Always?” Reminding herself to be brave. And that rips my heart out. Who taught this baby that she had to tuck away fear and be brave more often than not?
And while it’s not always easy, know what’s harder?
Picturing our lives without this panda loving, power ranger obsessed little girl who proudly tells the world her name is “Maleigh Jean Hong Kong Deyoof” and she’s from China. No, that’s not her name. Lordy. But, her sister thinks it is and now she does too!
There are children all over the world, internationally and within your own country that need you to do the hard things so that you can have these moments. There are so many orphans waiting to have that label removed from them.
If you have ever for a second thought you could adopt or foster, open your heart and run to your baby. They’re waiting. And they need you to help love them through the hard. The blessings are endless, friends.
If you’re not open to adoption, and believe me. It isn’t for everyone, then I urge you to reach out locally. I guarantee there is a family or organization that you could support with your time and/or finances. Adoption is hard and adopting families need a village to raise funds and they need a village to support them when they’re home. Even if it’s just making them a pan of mac and cheese and telling them you’re there if they need you.
Everyone can do something, friends ❤️
Have you been touched by foster or adoption? I’d love to hear from you!
Keep embracing the ish, friends!