The Wonderful Terror

Since telling Hannah* she is going to be adopted, I've had the amazing joy of talking to her via the miracle of Skype every Friday at 7:00am (2:00pm in South Africa).

Previous Skype conversations were always a bit awkward for me - what to say? how to say it? when to say it?

There wasn't much I could say about my life here because most of the worthwhile chatter stuff of my life was wrapped up in the adoption and the other stuff was boring adult stuff. But now that she knows, a whole world of conversation has opened up to us.

I can share with her about the finishing details on her room and tell her of future plans. We can talk about school and church and what they will be like. We can gossip about Nana and Grandad and Auntie Jill and Uncle Jake and the cousins.

The conversation possibilities are endless, as are her questions.

Will I make friends? Do you have a toothbrush for me? Do I need to bring my face cloth? Will your boyfriend's dog bite me? Do you have clothes for me, or do I need to bring mine? Does it snow there? Why is the time different? Why is it summer there and winter here? Will I have to sleep alone? What's the first thing we will do when we get to America? And the most often asked question of all, when are you coming to fetch me?

Each new question a reminder of how exciting and overwhelming and terrifying this must be for her.

Everything is about to change - the all of her life will be entirely different. Every detail of her life new except for the nuts and bolts of her being.

How do you cope with such a thing? What questions do you ask? What questions do you not ask? How you cope with the wonderful, terror of it all? And how do you do it with an eight-year-old brain?

Most of the books say to take everything very slowly - you don't have to introduce everyone all at once. You don't have to go everywhere and do everything. Sit at home. Bond. Allow for the child to get adjusted to a new home, new bedroom, new clothes, new shoes, new toys, new smells, new food, new family.

Then slowly add in more. Go to the grocery store. Allow her to pick out a few foods she would like to try. Visit the homes of family and close friends. Go to school. Meet the teacher. Visit the classroom. Introduce new things slowly, recognizing everything is new.

This morning on Skype, Hannah got to talk with my parents. We've Skyped with them before, but I was sitting beside her. She knows them from their pictures in her "new family" book, but still they are strangers - still they are new.

She grinned wide, but had few words. She was polite and friendly, but her nerves were obvious. You could almost see the gears working in her mind, I know these people are important. I know they are my grandparents. I know they're the people who want to take me to buy a new bicycle when I arrive in America. But I don't know them. I don't know what to say to them.

The same was true for my parents. What do you say to someone who you've waited for so long, but you don't know her. You don't know her personality. Her wants, her likes. All the information you have about her is second hand.

Nerves abundant.

Hannah asked me this morning about another family we know who are also adopting a little girl from South Africa. She wanted to know when she would be arriving so they could be friends. I said I didn't know for sure, but likely it will be several months or even a year before she arrives. I told Hannah she would be the expert on America by then and would be able to show her new friend the ropes because one day all of this will no longer be new. One day all of the new will be old and familiar and comfortable. One day the wonderful, terror will be a distant memory and something we laugh at.

I both look forward to and wish the day away. I love her wonder and awe now, but I know I'll be grateful for her understanding then. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Now she sees dimly, then she will know in full.


*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all online activity regarding my someday daughter and her adoption.