I remember the moment I met her, just 9 months ago. She was the tiniest 3-year-old I had ever seen. When I held her, I even thought she might break. I silently wondered, “What happened to the healthy toddler from the referral picture?”
Less than 5 minutes later, our facilitator shrieked, “Look, another one!” which meant, “Here’s your second daughter!” And as I reached for my new 1-year-old, I was completely unaware that my emotional ‘detachment’ with my tiny toddler was set into motion.
My sister-in-law and my teenage daughter accompanied me on this trip, and I had made it abundantly clear to them that I had to be the one meeting the needs of my new Treasures, all in the name of attachment. I had to figure out how to feed them both, bathe them both, change one’s diaper and take the other to the toilet. While I was wearing my game face and keeping up with the girls, Kenzie and Sheri did a fantastic job of taking care of me J
Our first night together I decided to bathe the girls separately to give them some one-on-one mommy time. I was stunned when I gently placed my tiny 3-year-old into the bath and she began bathing herself like someone who had been independent for years! I immediately took the wash cloth from her, and explained that Mommy would help her from now on. But my heart was broken.
She fell into her crib, exhausted from the events of the traumatic day, but 30 minutes later she was frantically trying to get out. She’d had an accident in her sleep, likely from an unfamiliar food she’d eaten that day which upset her fragile digestive system. Once I got her next to the tub, she shocked me again by trying to clean her soiled clothes under the running water. I again explained that this was Mommy’s job from now on. Again, my heart was broken.
My 3-year-old daughter had been caring for herself in ways she shouldn’t have to. And because she hadn’t needed anybody, she was reluctant to bond with me. And unfortunately, I rolled with that. Oh, I still mechanically cared for her, but my heart wasn’t in it. We sort of had this mutual detachment going on. Except I’m the mommy, and I know better. I pleaded with the Lord to soften my heart and prove to my child that her future is much different from her past, that she will be treasured, nurtured and surrounded by a family who loves her.
And there was something else. Because of her cleft palate, my daughter couldn’t communicate easily. I didn’t realize how frustrating it is trying to bond with someone who can’t talk. Or maybe I was just excusing myself.
Once we were home I began to worry that my daughter would be confused about who her mama was if I didn’t step up to the plate. I was ashamed. And then, the Lord knew exactly what we both needed! We’d been home a few days and she reached for me. It seems like a small thing, but it was huge!
And then she found ways to get my attention. And I began to give it. And as we began to seek the medical care she needed, I had opportunities to comfort her. We began to make eye contact. She wanted to snuggle with me rather than pull away. Instead of happily letting her go to other people in church, I began to cuddle her myself.
And now, 9 months later, there is trust. And there is love. Mutual love, between a mama and her precious daughter. Thank You, Jesus!