We were not allowed to visit the orphanage when we met Izabella in Xi'an City. Even though we asked, and asked again. I have mixed feelings about this. I longed to see with my own eyes the place were our daughter was cared for--where they gave her lifesaving surgery--where she slept while I was praying for her, wishing and waiting for her. I wanted the reality of her life--not one that my head conjured up.
As I was scanning the photos in this recent visit batch--I came on a picture of a room in the orphanage with a slew of toddler beds. Izabella was sitting next to me as I clicked through, but not paying any attention--she was reading her books. When I got to this photo--I wondered if Izabella's bed was in this room? So, I asked the only person that could tell me, "Izabella did you sleep in this room?" She said, "Yes!" I said, "Which bed was yours?" She said, "This one Mommy, the one by the window." At that moment--another answer to prayer. God answers all our prayers--in HIS time. And although this might seem like a small thing to some. To this Mommy's heart--it is one more piece of her life I know. All these pieces are forming a picture, a history of our little girls life--before coming home.
|Izabella's bed was the last bed on the right just before window.|
Discovering these pieces of your child's past is a bittersweet experience--for obvious reasons. Ironically, these pieces are not "unknown" to Izabella. She remembers, she knows, it was her life, she lived it. I think to dismiss this fact, I feel we'd be doing her a disservice. Sure, some were too young to remember--as far as we know. Some just don't have a memory that allows those memories to stay with them. Some just block it out for survival purposes. But so many things she says and does--tell me she does remember. This knowledge is a responsibility that I have struggled with how to handle. Is it hurtful for her to remember? Is it traumatic to show her pictures of the orphanage? In the end--every time--I opt to not shield her or protect her from the things of her past that are unknown to me--but not to her. My fears are not hers. And every time she shows me there is nothing to fear. She shows me the good in it all. Yup--at this age--she can do this. I guess I could dismiss it all and tell myself--good or bad she doesn't really remember--she's just making things up. But this just doesn't feel right to me.
Afterall--we know she greives the loss of "the things and people of that part of her life" that is gone forever. But, the question for me is, why would you grieve the loss of something horrific? Some say it's because it's all they knew--they didn't know better. But for me, none of these answers are answers--more like excuses or easy, comfortable ways to make it all ok, to forget and move on with her as if it didn't happen. However, I know every child's circumstances are different--and every child remembers and reacts differently to those experiences. Which leads me to believe--this is not the approach that is best for her--or us.
As I manuever this territory ever so carefully, I am assured she is ok with so much of it. I like most mom's, want her to be proud of her life--every moment of it. The good, the bad, the joys and the sorrows. I want her to not forget all the loving people including her birthparents and all the doctors, nurses and orphanage caretakers that loved on her for those 28 months. That gave her their best! And how they made an impact on this beautiful, joyful spirited child. I want her to go through life holding onto the memories of those early years as a part of her life that formed the survivor, the strong and compassionate side of her. The part of her life that gave her gifts that we will only realize much later in life--when faced with challenges that we can't predict today.
You know, we want them to be proud of their heritage, identify with the Chinese culture, we encourage them to hold onto the language, the traditions of their birth country. But we don't openly encourage them to remember the details--the good things--the little miracles that happened to bring them to where they are today. Instead we want them to grieve it, leave it and move on. Seems a contradiction to me.
I might be horribly wrong about all this--I hope not. I hope she can be proud of her heritage, the colorful culture of her birth country. But I also hope she can remember all the love and the courage of her birth parents--living in that culture--and making the sacrifices they had to in order to give her life.
But, her life is not a mystery to God. He knows every detail of her life before meeting us and coming home. And I know He was with her every step of the way and is with her now as well. And I am comforted by this--HE is in control and has allowed her to her remember--while she can--and do so with hope, with faith, with love and with all her child like abandon. I thank God for being there when we couldn't and even when we are today. And I thank God for giving her the ability to remember and recall those years with out a us--with the love and forgiveness that can only come from a God that was right there with her through it all. Never leaving her. As Izabella has told me so many times, "God hold my hand.", "God help me find pink castle Mommy." "God with me in hospital Mommy." "God my friend."
Right now, she doesn't want to go back--she loves her home, her family and life here with us--and tells us so multiple times a day--and looks forward to every day--to her future. Some day that might not be true--and as much as I wish I had a video of those 28 months of her life to hand her to help her process all this as she figures our her own identity--I realize--that's impossible. All I can do is be here for her--as she makes her way through the memories--or the lack of and pray she comes out of it--the beautiful spirit she is today.
In the end--the reality is--I will likely discover little pieces of her life at Xi'an City CWI here and there. Which I know will be such a huge treasure to her. So I will continue to pursue any lead to pieces of her life in China. But the one piece, the most valuable treasure of her life in China -- I will likely never find, her birth mom and dad's faces, names and life history/family. But, no matter, she remembers, and I document as much as I can the memories she shares. The clues to her past that if she doesn't remember--she can recall through her Mommy's journal.
She has given me glimpses of who they were. But for now--I see them in her face, in her personality, in the things she loves and all the things that are unfolding in her. That's the closest thing she has to them--I will remind her of this when she wonders. I hope that's enough for her--when and if she wants to know more.
I pray that she'll always remember, if not their faces, their love, their sacrifice, their courage and know that that beautiful joyful spirit of hers was passed on from them to her. And they loved and nurtured her beautiful little spirit for a precious 10 months (or more--since we don't know the exact amount of time they had with her) and again, although I don't know any of this for sure--the evidence is clear--in who she is today. There is no denying that. She's precious beyond words.
Thank you God for taking such amazing care of our little girl. She's a treasure!