Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5 Things I've Learned about Adoption

Merline arriving at the airport in Knoxville
It has been a little over a week since we brought Merline home.  Much has happened in that short time and I've learned a lot of things already but I know I have much more to learn (probably the hard way).
Since I'm an "expert" now, I will share a few things I've discovered about my new family, Haiti, and adoption. 

1. Understanding each other is tough.
I am impressed with how much English Merline is already speaking, but crossing the language barrier is still a big hurdle. The other night we spent about an hour trying to figure out what "Maggie" is.  We exhausted all our iPhone apps, let her go through literally everything in our kitchen cabinets, and called three different Haitian friends before we finally learned that "Maggie" is one of those little cubes of Chicken bouillon.  Go figure.   
Some of the misunderstandings are nice though.  She says lots of things that just make me smile.  I think my personal favorite is she says "yesternight" instead of "last night".  I don't plan on telling her the correct way just yet because for some reason it just brings me joy when I hear her say it.   :-)

2. I now know real zombies don't look like the ones on tv.
They look "normal like an alive person, except their eyes are totally black and they carry snakes in their coat."  And they don't really eat brains - that is just for movies.  In reality, zombies satisfy their appetite by eating babies.   This was all good information for me to learn.

3. Finding food she likes has been tougher than I imagined.
Merline is seriously confused about why all restaurants in America don't offer rice & beans on the menu.  I'm also amazed  by how much salt and sugar she wants on her foods.   And generous amounts of it too.  Sugar in milk.  Sugar on frosted flakes.  Salt on pork.  Salt on rice.  Salt on spaghetti.   It's becoming much clearer why we see so much diabetes and high blood pressure at the Les Anglais clinics - because Haitians apparently put sugar and/or salt on EVERYTHING.
Names of food are confusing to her also.  We went to sonic a couple nights ago, and she thought when we ordered a corn dog for Emmie, that we were actually feeding her dog.  

4. Adoption = Loss.
Merline with Cuadise, her birth father
Rachel and I had discussed this and read about this before we adopted so I thought I knew this before she got here;  but I didn't really KNOW it like I do now, even after just a week.   I had this idea of "she'll love it here because we have running water,  lots of food, good roads, and air conditioning!"   But I must remind myself, she lost her mom when she was 2, she lost her dad when she was 3 when he gave her to the orphanage; she lost her biological siblings (2 that died, 3 that remain in pap & jacmel); she lost her orphanage where she'd lived most of her life to the 2010 quake; she lost friends that died, were adopted to other places, or that remain at the orphanage;  she lost the culture she grew up with; she lost her normal way of life;  she lost the caretakers that cared for her;  she lost her biological dad and siblings a second time when she said bye to them 2 weeks ago;  she lost her language;  she lost her school & teachers & classmates.  She has essentially lost EVERYTHING that was FAMILIAR to her.   And even if we think her version of familiar of carrying buckets of water from a cistern or going without electricity for days might suck;   It is still 'her familiar'. And familiar is comfortable.  Familiar feels good. 
Now she spends her days learning new family parents, new siblings, new technology gizmos at every turn (like escalators, water dispensers, & automatic doors)  new foods, new schedules, new language, new friends, new culture, new rules, etc.   And the fact that we have a giant dog that not only comes inside the house, but he actually sleeps on our beds!?  That one is really hard for her to figure out.
It's all new.  It's all unfamiliar.  It's all steps to regain some of the things that she lost.  And it's baby steps. 

5. My family is awesome. 
Emmie, Merline, Riley, & Molly
Of course I knew this already but I have been reminded how blessed I am to have an amazing wife, great kids, and a supportive extended family.   2-1/2 years of waiting on the adoption process took it's toll on our family and now that Merline is here, there are still tough times coming.   But I can't imagine going through this life with anyone else.   The selflessness, grace, & patience of my wife and kids is amazing.   Looking forward to what God has in store for the 5, excuse me, 6 of us!