Sunday, August 5, 2012

Unexpected grief

I went shopping for a baby shower yesterday.   My friend is having a baby girl.
I haven't been to a shower in a long time, so it was fun to look around and get all mushy at the cute little pink outfits, bedding, and baby gear.
I may have gotten baby fever.
But my dear hubby would have to be on board with that, so I guess I'll need to take an aspirin.

Miss Mari was with me as we cruised the aisles of Tar-Jay.  She oohed and aahed and asked lots of questions.  "Mommy, what dis for?  Mommy, you think she will like dis?  Mommy, can we buy dis?"

Me:  "Well, honey, that is brown with turtles on it so I think it is for a boy.  Let's get something pink."

We got to a rack with packages of Sleep 'n Plays.  I melted as I remembered cuddling my babies in them...little feet lost in folds of cotton in those newborn days, lost in what appeared to be a tiny outfit until wrestled onto a tiny, curled-up-into-a-ball newborn.  I remembered the little Winnie the Pooh gown that all my babies wore and could almost feel them, diapered bottom in my palm as I cradled them on my shoulder and the ribbed cotton that felt so good and smelled even better after a bath in that yummy lavender baby wash.

And then my heart sank.

Mari never wore that gown.

I never got to buy her baby clothes.

I missed those days with her.

She never smelled like lavender.  She was hungry and small and barely survived her infancy.

I looked at her...healthy now and growing.  Five and a half and learning to read.  Fluent in English but still with a trace of her Ethiopian accent.  I wanted to cry.

I took a deep breath and thanked God.
You see, the past month has been tough.  She hit an easy spell and I thought we had "made it."  But one day, we went to the city and decided to stop by an Ethiopian market.  We had never been there before and she had been asking for injera.

I have tried and tried, but my injera attempts have been dismal failures.

So happily I took her in, and the smell of the market nearly knocked me over.  It smelled like Addis Ababa.  It was like going back in time.

We brought home two packages of injera and she could hardly wait to have some.  She ate it with every meal for the next two days.

And then she stopped eating.

That purchase set her back a good 6 months...and I am so sorry I bought that injera.  She put her little foot down and decided she wanted what she wanted and if I tried to give her healthy food she would just pretend she couldn't chew.  Or throw up.  She pressed every button and I got terribly frustrated.  I will admit I did not handle it well.  I couldn't believe we were fighting this battle again.  Could not believe it.

But I have realized something this past year.  I have prayed and tried to figure out why she presses my buttons in ways my other kids don't.  I mean, they were all adopted, for crying out loud!  I have the typical frustrations of childish misbehavior and sometimes just want them to take a NAP, but they don't press my buttons to the degree that she does.  And then it hit me.

When my other kids act up, there is a part of me that draws on the warm fuzzies of their infancies.  I remember those soft fat folds and long nights and staring into their eyes.  I remember holding them on my chest and just feeling them breathe.  For hours.  I remember coos and first smiles and first steps and slobbery kisses.  My earliest memories of them are warm.

But with Mari, the first days were hard.  Scratching and biting and screaming and...
Wait, we'd been told she was always happy all the time and they were worried about her neurological development because she never cried.  Someone, somewhere withheld the fact that she did, in fact cry.  A lot.  She was what you'd expect a child who has experienced loss and death and hunger to be...scared, angry, and manipulative.  I don't have easy days to draw from.  I am going to have to create them.

And I believe that is what that trip to Target did.  The Lord stopped me in my tracks and reminded me, so sweetly, that my little girl was once a baby.  Once she was hungry, but I was not there to feed her.  Once she was scared, but I was not there to comfort her.  She has hurts deep inside...hurts that she cannot articulate, but are powerful and painful.  I have to draw upon what God shows me...because He was there with her when she was an infant.  He saw her first steps.  He heard her cries.  He brought her to us.  I have to see her through His eyes...unselfish eyes.  I have to keep those boundaries crystal clear for her sake, but when the conflict is over I need to get over it.  Move on, and teach her to do the same.  I need to imagine her in the forest, on that bed made of sticks and held by a mother who was afraid she would stop breathing in the night.  I need to remember how she clung to me when we arrived home and how she suffered with night terrors and could not tell me what she saw because she didn't speak English.

So I took my littlest girl and we walked over to the stuffed animals.  I haven't bought her anything "fun" in a while.

"Do you like these animals?"


"Which one is your favorite?  There is a dog, a purple zebra, a sock monkey, a cheetah..."

"That one.  I like that one, Mommy."

"You like the tiger?  Do you want me to buy it for you?"

Big eyes shone and she smiled.  "Yes!"

She walked out of the store cradling that stuffed tiger like a newborn baby.
Like I cradled my first four babies.
Like I wish I could have cradled her and protected her from all that hurt her.

"What are you going to name him?"


Of course.  Superhero.  Perfect for a little girl who has overcome much and who I am trusting, with all that is in me, will someday spread her wings and fly.


  1. This was so beautiful.
    - christina

  2. You have no idea how this pierces and touches my heart. A wise word from a wise Mama.
    Only God could have known how much I needed to hear that. Thanks for being His faithful messenger my sweet friend.


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