It’s National Adoption Month, and my newsfeed is full of adoption stories like ours. Stories about the decision to adopt, the complicated process, the financing, the trip to China or Korea or the group home in the next town over.
There’s a theme in all the stories. Parents, parents, parents. What it was like for us parents.
Jax, I want you to know that I remember what it was like for you, too. This is what I’m talking about this National Adoption Month – not my story, but yours.
Your dad and I planned your arrival for years. We completed enough paperwork to kill a small forest, budgeted, chose an adoption agency, took the required classes, and made travel arrangements. We made the decision to adopt and we chose you. We knew where you lived, what you ate for breakfast, and I knew every single detail of your face from the two photographs I kept with me as I counted down the days. I didn’t know the precise details of what parenting you would look like, but I knew I was coming home from China a mother. I knew my life was changing in a grand mal sort of way.
You, little dude, didn’t know squat.
You had no knowledge, no idea, not one inkling of what was about to happen. You were taken from the only place you knew, in donated overalls you’d never seen before and pink jelly sandals that squeaked when you walked, and lifted onto a bus. You traveled for two hours, arrived at a gray, drab government building and taken to the elevator, where you went up two floors. (Had you even seen an elevator before? Did you know what a bus was?) You were the last child to arrive in the small, loud room, already crowded with people who looked and smelled nothing like you.
I knew you instantly.
You didn’t know me at all.
I picked you up, and you started yelling, terrified and confused.
You yelled for the rest of our trip in China. You screamed and bit and flailed your tiny little fists against my face and chest and legs in protest. You howled at the bathtub and fought off my hugs like a prizefighter. You yelled until you were empty and depleted, your little body forcing you to sleep. You woke up yelling every morning to a day that was just as foreign and scary as the day before.
When we got home, everything was new to you – water faucets, beds, floor lamps – and everything was terrifying. You shouted at the air conditioning when it powered on, you yelled at the blinds when they bumped into your window, you screamed and hit me when I loaded you into the car. I nicknamed you Little Dragon because you breathed non-stop fire.
You were a fighter, and I loved you harder for it. But I worried that your heart was broken beyond anything I knew how to repair. I worried that you weren’t going to give me a chance.
But then, oh my little boy, you let me brush the hair out of your eyes with my fingertips. You looked at me and smiled when I sang. You woke up to my face hovering over yours, and reached for me to pick you up.
You stopped yelling.
You brought only your heart with you from China, and when you put down your fire and stopped fighting, you risked every single piece of it. You didn’t stop being scared, you just stopped being scared alone. You let us love you and, in time, you loved us back.
Seven years later, it is still the bravest thing I have ever seen.
I’ve got the blog and the words and the audience. But you’ve got the story worth telling, kiddo, you’re the one with the gritty and real and ferociously hopeful story. I promise to do my very, very best to do it justice.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram.