It’s been just over a year since we were sent this photo of Tarike, a 6-month-old baby girl from AAI, our adoption agency:
It’s a surreal moment when you’ve waited so long; the expectations are wound up like a ball of twine and that one precious photo carries so much weight. I remember looking at the photo and wondering, “Is that my baby?”
Adoption is an enormous exercise in faith. Thankfully mere humans at any level in the process don’t really have a lot of control over which children end up with which families. In my opinion, God has His fingerprints on all of the paperwork, as He in His sovereignty makes a way for families to come together.
Let me just be completely honest here and tell you that I remember very clearly thinking that I wasn’t sure this was our baby. I had no love-at-first-sight event going on. Something felt very incomplete or inaccurate. It was this feeling that led us to pursue another child in addition to Tarike. Because when we sorted through the feelings and tried desperately to listen to God’s voice in prayer, it wasn’t that we didn’t want this baby, it was just that she wasn’t supposed to come home alone. But that’s another story for another post. This post is about our little girl, Eliana.
So after we accepted her referral, with our agency we have the good fortune of lots of access to fellow adoptive parents who are at various stages of the process. The value in that is not just the information sharing and community, it’s the photos. Traveling parents will take photos of your children as you wait to bring them home, which is priceless! We were able to see snapshots of baby Tarike every week or two.
Well it turns out it’s a blessing and a curse people, because your child in the orphanage is typically not thriving. They may be doing just fine, eating enough, playing, learning, but they are not in the environment they need to be in, which is a family with loving parents. And therefore, they are not thriving. It’s a very difficult thing to see when you can’t reach out and hold them.
Every photo I received of baby Tarike made me worry. She had a blank look on her face, her tongue was always hanging out. She didn’t look like there was a lot going on upstairs, if you know what I mean. I wondered if she had some unknown disabilities that we wouldn’t truly understand until we got her home. I was afraid of what we were getting ourselves into. Here’s an example of what I was seeing:
It pains me to publish this photo. I’m like all parents, I love my little girl fiercely and I put most of those wretched shots in a folder never to see the light of day! But I have a point here that I think is worth sharing, because maybe there’s another adoptive mom out there right now who is looking at a photo someone took yesterday of her little one in another country and wondering what she’s getting herself into.
I was still worried when we went to visit Ethiopia. Tarike had good motor skills and she was pretty interactive. She ate well and seemed to sleep well. I couldn’t put my finger on any specific issue, but we were still seeing that lolling tongue and blank stare.
So we trusted God that he was bringing this little girl into our lives for a reason…there could be no mistake of that, I felt it beyond a shadow of doubt. What else could we do but trust and pray for her? We decided to change her name to Eliana, which means “God answers,” because He was faithfully answering nine years of prayer with this little girl.
When we brought the kids home in May we had medical checkups for them within a few days of arrival. Eliana had ear infections and a bad case of giardia, but otherwise seemed healthy and developmentally appropriate for her age. After about three weeks, once she started feeling better, she stopped looking blank and this beautiful, funny, exuberant personality began to emerge.
Now she’s been home for five months, and I can’t tell you the joy and delight she’s brought to our family. She is a joyful, smart, adventurous little girl who we feel so honored to call our daughter. It’s tough to take photos of her because she never stops moving, but here are some shots over the past few months of this delightful little creature. Adoptive parents, just remember how powerful your family’s love and care will be in transforming a child. it is such a beautiful process to be a part of!