This week, on Cate’s one year Famiversary, I’ve been thinking a lot about those first few days with our girl, and what we did to prepare for them. Cate was living in an awesome medical foster home because of her eye tumor. They were providing so much more than just eye care. She was being as well cared for as she could be in terms of emotional support. Cate had multiple medical diagnoses in her file. What would those diagnoses mean? Almost more than her eye, I worried about her brain. Her diagnosis read “brain anomaly”, and there was an abnormal CT scan to prove that there was some sort of difference.
This week, I read back through my journal entries leading up to Cate’s adoption. I worried a lot about the unknowns. I worried a lot about things like whether or not I would be parenting her for “a lifetime.” My journal entries were a lot like conversations with myself. “You might be parenting her forever.” “You will always parent every one of your children to some extent. Isn’t that what parenting is about?” “Yes, but to what extent? Will she always live with me? Will she need me to physically care for her? What happens when I get old?” Oh man, if only I knew then what I know now.
Ultimately, there was a point in these journal entries that I simply wrote ‘NO EXPECTATIONS’ and underlined it twice. It was to be a reminder to myself. Travel for this little girl with exactly ZERO expectations of her. Go with no qualifiers. Expect nothing from her and see what you get in return.
I hung onto that during the journey. I will hang onto it during Gigi’s journey to us.
As I look back at Tess, Bo and Cate’s adoptions this week, because they all have Famiversaries within the next eight weeks, I find myself reflecting a lot on my expectations of them. Surprisingly, the parts of our journey that are my very favorite, the ones that bowl me over with joy so completely, are the moments when I had NO expectations. Tess received a terminal diagnosis a month after arriving home. We were told to take her home and simply see how long she lived. It could be decades, it could be a year. No one knew. You all know how that tale has unfolded. Bowen had been disrupted in country about a year before Joe was set to travel to bring him home. We spent many a late nights discussing what Joe should expect from him in terms of behavior. Fear? Anger? Catatonia? We decided to expect everything and nothing all at once. Bowen is a naughty little joy. He behaves just the way we think he should because we don’t think he needs to behave any specific way. He has limits. He occasionally toes the line on them. We pull him back. Cate’s development was an unknown for us. If you follow me on Facebook, you know how often I post Cate related anecdotes. She is hilarious. We are so completely overjoyed every time she does something new, even when that something involves ‘arm farts’ at ten o’clock at night from her bed. It’s a stage of development, right? One we didn’t know if we would see. So, when we do, it makes us so very proud. If she misses a stage, we address that issue as it arises. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.
Almost a year ago I was asked what I would tell myself about our adoptions if I could go back, what advice I would give myself if I had a time machine? I would tell myself to keep right on keeping on. Embrace the idea of having zero expectations with every thing you’ve got, Becky. Love your babies for who they are, not who you want them to be. Then I would tell myself that ‘We rise.’ You will have some of the darkest days you can imagine ahead of you as you try to find people to save your baby girl’s life, to understand your son, and as you watch the doctor’s remove your sweet baby girl’s left eye. You’ll rise to these challenges in a way that you have never, ever risen. You’ll do it, and you will come out the other side of it so much the better person. You’ll do it for them, but also, because of them.
–FullPlateMom, who is not stronger than anyone else, just maybe more stubborn.