August 14, 2013

she wasn't always mine

Two years ago today, my husband and I walked into a government building in Guangzhou, China, to receive our daughter.

As we entered the building, my thinking was fuzzy on account of little sleep.  I had spent the better part of the day (and night) before twisting my hands, sweating, and even vomiting, thinking about seeing and holding Jubilee for the first time.

A lot of people celebrate this day, which has been given the cute name, "Gotcha Day," but due to the fact that this is the first week of home school and things are a bit frenzied at our house, August 15th crept up on me.  Feeling like a terrible adoptive mom for not having rented a circus clown and baked three dozen pink cupcakes, I phoned Daniel at work.

"Let's just celebrate next month, Honey," he suggested.  "On a certain day next month - I can't remember which day but I have it in my calendar - Jubilee will have been home longer than she wasn't."

I agreed to that plan, and so Jubi's 2nd Gotcha Day will go uncelebrated...though not entirely without event.  Poor thing chose today, of all days, to become lactose intolerant (I was wondering when it would happen, since only 1% of Asian adults are able to digest lactose).  After I made her drink all of her milk at lunch, because I always make the kids drink all of their milk, she turned a terrible color yellow-green, grabbed her belly, and bent over the trash can with her mouth hanging open.

After ten minutes trying to throw up, with no success, she tried getting the milk out of her system a different way, requesting to be placed on the toilet.  This is a picture of Jubilee, miserable on her Gotcha Day:(
For me, this picture is a reminder - on this very important day - that I am not her biological mother.  I am not lactose intolerant.  I am not Asian.  She was not always mine.

In fact, until the day next month which Daniel has marked in his calendar, she has spent more time as a child known as Hong Hong than a child known as Jubilee.

I forget that.  I forget it when she's getting under my skin and I'm short with her.  I forget it when she touches me lightly on the arm with her nimble fingers and whispers, "I love you" in my ear.  I forget that I am not entitled to her; that before August 15th, 2011, I had no claim to her at all.  Even now, she is on loan to me from God - as are all of our children - and I am ashamed of every moment with her that I have taken for granted.

While I watched her trying to throw up today, championing the pain all by herself (though I quite ineffectively tried to enter in by rubbing her back), I looked at her.  Really looked at her.  Her Chinese eyelids, her poofy lips - the forerunners of her profile - sticking out beyond her tucked-up nose.  I looked at her brown, brown skin, the color of bread crust, and I felt so distant from her.

I felt silly for imagining myself to be her mom.

And then quickly...very quickly, for I knew it must be swift...I banished such thoughts from my mind.  You are her mom, I scolded myself.  You are the only mom she's got, so you better stop dwelling on her "adoptedness" and the fact that you just poisoned her with milk (because of course that was unintentional) and scoop her up and kiss her nauseous face.

And so I did.

Because she is mine now.