There are occurrences in our lives that become defining moments. They take us from who we were, to who we become. They change the way we relate to other people. Sometimes, they offer us hope when we thought there was nothing more to give.
Adoption was not the fairytale I read about in other blogs and what I expected it to be. I didn’t know that bonding, from my side, would be an issue and a normal part of the process. Instead, I felt isolated and like a failure. All these other families were sailing through adoption and bonding with their child, and here I was struggling to like my child, let alone love her. Nina had several significant behaviors due to growing up in an orphanage. And Nina missed one of her caretakers terribly. She asked for Ira almost every day, “Nina want Ira!” She asked for her when I would try to cuddle her. She asked for Ira when she would get hurt and I would try to comfort her. She asked for her caretaker when she was angry, mad, or in a rage.
Four months into our new life, Nina had her tonsils and adenoids out. She had significant issues with these that we could not wait. Any gains we had made to that point were quickly erased by the trauma of the surgery. It was all too much for Nina to take, especially as our communication was still limited due to language. We took her to a sterile, institution-like place. She was poked, prodded, and we made her throat hurt. The machines and tubes attached to her were scary. Her rages increased, her self-harming behaviors were out of control, she pushed me away and asked for Ira several times a day.
I wanted to give up.
One night, a few days after the surgery, Nina woke up spitting blood. Andy, my husband, was gone to seminary. I was alone with the girls, emotionally exhausted, yet I had to get help for my child. I called Mayo clinic and they said I needed to go to the emergency room as soon as possible. Too early I had to call for help, and I headed to the hospital with Nina.
The ER doctor in our small town suggested we go home and take Nina to Mayo in the morning. One of the nurses, however, looked me straight in the eye and said she did not think we should leave. A few minutes later, Nina was gagging on large blood clots and I saw a doctor who did not seem prepared to handle the situation. I handed her the number to Mayo clinic and she was on the phone with the emergency ENT on call, who sent a helicopter to get my child.
I watched the emergency team take Nina away, while I made my way home to get dressed and drive the hour and a half to Mayo hospital.
I was afraid.
What would this new occurrence mean to us? I was going to break, I was barely holding on to my sanity. Our relationship, this mother-daughter bond was not happening, and I was emotionally depleted. I was failing.
When I arrived at Mayo, Andy was already there, and Nina was in surgery. That night, Andy headed back to finish his week at school and I spent the night with Nina. She cried constantly, wouldn’t let me hold her. I was okay with that, because I did not want to hold her either. Still, I had to sit close to her or she would throw herself off the bed.
The next morning we were released to go home. I had to pack our stuff, and I needed to get the stroller from the car. I asked a nurse to stay with Nina. She was unable to do so, but assure me she would send someone to the room shortly.
Nina was crying, whining, wailing and flinging her arms while I tried to settle her down. She was not safe on the bed, and I could not leave her and walk away to begin packing. A woman in blue scrubs walked in the room a few minutes later. “I am here to play with the child while you get ready.” She announced with a strong Russian accent. Her name tag confirmed the woman had a Russian background.
“Do you speak Russian?” I asked
“Of course I do!” She proceeded to tell me where she was from (although I do not remember)
Nina was loud, screaming, and jostling.
“We just adopted her from Ukraine four months ago” I said, maybe wanting to explain Nina’s behaviors, because I did not want this worker to think I was a bad mother.
Immediately, the woman began to speak to Nina in Russian. Nina was loud, it took her a while to realize what the woman was saying. The lady raised her voice and came close to Nina, taking a chair and sitting next to us by the bed. The string of Russian continued to come.
Eventually, the too familiar sound caught Nina’s attention. She stopped moving and looked at me intently with big eyes. Slowly she turned to the woman, stared at her. Then she lifted her hand, pointed her little finger at her and said, “No. Stop.”
She then turned to me and said. “Mommy, I love you. Family. Mommy, daddy, Ellie, Nichole, Nina.”
She tuned to the lady once more who said something else to her in Russian and Nina repeated, “No. Stop.”
“She doesn’t like it. Something bad happened to her and she has bad memories. She needs to forget it, don’t try to get her to remember. She needs to forget.” The woman said.
The lady spoke to Nina in English and I felt my daughter’s body relax.
Somehow hearing the lady speak in her old language reminded Nina of the new love she had. Of the family that offered hugs and kisses. Of the sisters to play with. She knew she was loved, and that love had indeed made a difference.
I am not sure about this encounter, but I think God had a reason for us to meet this lady, this was a defining moment in my relationship with my daughter. She chose me. I was given hope. God gave Nina and I a little of His medicine. He reminded me that his plans are good, he walks with us, he carries us through. A God of miracles, of love, and hope.