Monday, February 25, 2013

Unexpected Grief

Anyone who's adopting internationally can tell you, information about their child's family ranges from very little to non-existent.  There's a likelihood of biological siblings, either current or future, that the child may or may not have been raised with.  It's a blip on the radar, something that is disregarded, for the most part, as inevitable.  

I've had this ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky dream about finding Alexis' family.  Meeting them, sending them pictures and updates.  Once I arrived in Congo, I understood why that was such an unrealistic goal, as Kinshasa has close to 10 million people living there, many of them homeless or close to it.  

Today, I saw a picture of a little boy up for adoption.  And for the very first time, since laying eyes on my daughter, someone looked like her.  Having been to Congo, I've seen thousands of beautiful brown Congolese faces.  And I can honestly say that I haven't seen a smidgen of resemblance to a single person that I've come in contact with.  But this little boy is the spitting image of my little girl.  In fact, he looks so much like her, Alexis first thought that it was a picture of her that I was holding.  (So did other people, in fact).  

This mommy began to speculate, began to dream.  What if, by some grace of God, I'd stumbled upon my daughter's brother?  

There's this huge hole in my heart, that aches to give my girl a history, a family connection.  I will never have baby pictures of her.  I wasn't there to see her take her first steps or smile her first smile, and I cannot record those memories for her like I've done with Robby and Ella.  And I ache, so desperately, to be able to give that to her!  I yearn to tell my daughter her story, the small details that make a person who they are.  And I can never do that.  

Alexis told me that she doesn't know that boy.  That he is, in fact, not her brother, as I'd almost convinced myself was true.  And I'm hurting today, for the brother I cannot give Alexis, and the family I can't give that little boy.  Adoption, while beautiful, is loss.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's in a name?

Three weeks ago, this beautiful girl decided that she wanted to be called her middle name, Alexis.  We've felt very strongly, from the very beginning of our adoption, that any child we adopted from the Congo would be losing enough, without us taking away their name as well.  Thinking about the losses in our daughter's life: her family, her friends, her culture, language, food, people who look like her, sound like her...  I know that we are giving her new things by coming here, very important things, such as a home, and education, and most importantly, a family.  

But the reality is, we've also ripped her from her world. When our daughter looks back on her life, I want her to feel that when she weighs the balance of things, that we've given more than we've taken away.  We've adopted a whole person, with a history and a culture and a name, and those things are all a part of the beautiful girl that we're blessed to call our daughter.  

That being said, we also feel very strongly in allowing our daughter to have as much say as possible in this transition.  Our girl has had so little control over her life, and we've always been open to her changing her name, in whatever form that takes.  So when, during a conversation about names and what we call people, Mbo decided she wanted to be called Alexis, we were open to that.  For the sake of her Idaho birth certificate, she will be Alexis Mbo Hanson.

We know that this might be a journey for her.  She may change her mind, many times over the years, in fact. But we love and support her in this, and in all things.  I am so very proud to be this girl's mama.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Life in the Hanson household

When I was pregnant with Robby, people told me "Once he's here, you'll wonder that he wasn't here all along."  And I found, when holding my beautiful, perfect newborn, that as amazing and strange as that sounded at the time, it was true!  It seemed unbelievable that Robby had ever not been with us.  A part of our family, integral to our lives.  The very same happened when Ella came home.  Our beautiful girl changed the dynamics of life (and the power balance), drastically, but life before her?  What was that?

And Friends, I feel so blessed that the very same can be said of our newest addition to our family.  Be it a honeymoon period or a time of grace or simply our new life as we know it, life with our Congo princess could not be easier.  

These past couple of months have definitely been filled with new things, for us as well as Mbo.  There have been dental cleanings, cavity fillings, doctor appointments, blood draws, fecal samples, immunizations, parasites, language barriers, lost teeth, shared rooms, new schools, changed routines, family additions, social security applications, green cards, re-adoption paperwork, tax questions, workout routines... and on and on and on.  

But through it all, Mbo has reacted with grace and resilience, far more than I'd expect from a 5 year old.  She LOVES her brother and sister, but she's learned to stand up for herself.  When she gets home from school, she flies into my arms with a grin, and she can't wait to tell me all about her day.  While she is growing amazingly fast in her English skills, she sometimes struggles to find the words to fit a situation.  But once things are figured out, she laughs and laughs at the misunderstandings, willing to see the humor in the mistakes.  I sometimes wonder, how did I get so blessed, to be this little girl's mama?  

It seems amazing to me that just over a year ago, I was hesitating to accept the referral of an "older" child.  I grieved a little that I'd never again experience being a mama to an infant or toddler. I worried about what kinds of behaviors we might be bringing into our home.  I ached for the precious years I'd never regain with my child, those early moments.  And while all of those emotions are perfectly valid, perhaps even sensible, my heart breaks to think that I might have missed out on this amazing girl, my wonderful daughter.  

For any of you considering older child adoption, let me leave you with this:  for nine months, we got solemn, somber, sad pictures of a little girl across the world.  She didn't smile.  She didn't look at the camera.  And that same little girl, within a month of being home?  Mbo's happy spirit shines through, every day.  

This is the difference that love makes!