One night last week, I went into our daughters' room to tuck them into bed. I kissed my oldest daughter, and we said our goodnights. Moving on to our youngest daughter, I bent over her and kissed her cheek. Something wasn't quite right. She wouldn't respond with her usual "night-night." I repeated my goodnights, and she still lay there in silence. I asked her if she was okay, and her eyes began to dart back and forth rapidly. She has nystagmus, which makes the eyes go back and forth searching for a point of reference. Her nystagmus isn't usually very noticeable, but when she is highly stressed, it kicks into high gear. And when her eyes are darting quickly, we know she is anxious or upset or scared or very sad.
My mind began to go over the evening's events, trying to remember anything that could have upset her. Usually there is a pretty obvious trigger (Mama saying no to something, brother getting upset with her for taking a toy, being in an overstimulating environment, etc). But, nothing that evening had seemed to bother her. Even as I was brushing her teeth before bed, she seemed her usual self, but in a matter of 10 minutes, she was in her highly stressed/sad/upset mode. I tried in vain to figure out what the problem was.
I'm a mama. I fix things. I've been fixing the hurt feelings and hurt bodies of my young ones for 14 years. That's just what moms do. It's in our DNA. We want it "all better"...and the sooner, the better.
And then I remember. I'm not only a biological mama but also an adoptive mama. In many ways, things are the same as I relate to my youngest daughter, who was adopted. But in some ways, things are different. There is a span of three years of her past when I was not present. There is a biological history that I have no information about. There are hurts and abandonment issues that go way down deep to a place that is inaccessible to me. And, simply put, Mama cannot fix those things.
I reached my hands out to pick her up, and she looked away...eyes darting. I got closer, offering my arms again. She would not move toward me, this time with tears on the verge of falling. I moved in and scooped her up, and she lay her head down on my shoulder, clearly feeling defeated by whatever was going on inside her. I asked again if she was okay, but she was quiet. We went down to the couch where Daddy was, and I rubbed her back and held her close until she fell asleep.
It was one of those moments that arise and reminds me again that these children...these precious ones that have difficult pasts, abandonment issues, and survival skills from years in an institution...these little ones are unique. Mama cannot reach down inside and pull up the hurt and wash it away. Mama cannot put a bandaid on the ouchie. Mama isn't enough.
And it drives me to my knees again and again. God IS enough. He is what she needs, no matter what the issues are, no matter how deep the pain is. He is the one I point her to. Her whole life, as issues arise, I will have to admit my inability and point to Him as her healer, her hope, her Father.
This point is the same with our biological children too. We cannot be there for everything they will ever face. We cannot mend every broken heart they have. We have to point them to Him as their sustainer, healer, hope.
But for children with difficult pasts, parenting has extra hurdles, more unknown factors. Parenting them requires letting go of many variables that you simply have no control over (whether they were exposed to alcohol or drugs while in the womb, abuse that may have happened before you adopted, a past that you may not know or understand, survival instinct that may cause them to shut down every time they get upset, painful memories that you cannot change, etc).
Sometimes all I can do is hug her and rub her back and tell her that I love her, knowing full well that all I can give is simply not enough. As I sat on the couch holding her the other night, my mind drifted to Sandija. God is letting us have the privilege of entering the life of another orphan for 5 weeks this summer. With the warm bundle in my arms, I felt the full weight of my inadequacies. I know what it's like to not know what's going on inside their little hearts...to ask what is wrong and to hear nothing but silent tears. I know what it's like to look into their eyes and see pain that is far too deep to reach, and even if I could reach it, I wouldn't have the power to heal it. I know what it feels like to realize that everything in me is simply not enough...to realize that I really cannot fix everything.
Lord, I cannot do it. I am too weak. I am too human.
In my weakness, His strength is perfected. In HIM ALONE do orphans find mercy.
So, I lay myself once again at His feet...all my inadequacies and weaknesses transparent before Him. Grace pours down in waves...grace enough to fill me and overflow into these unique children. It's all Him. I am a conduit only...empty, absolutely unable to produce the flow on my own...but rather to let His love and hope flow through me...and to trust that all the healing that I am unable to give, He CAN do through my fervent prayers. Amazing really.