Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Homecoming Celebration

Five years ago on December 4th, Duchess landed on American soil and became a part of our family. In adoption terminology we would call this her Gotcha Day, but she prefers to call it her anniversary.

The day of her arrival is so vivid in my mind. I had waited nearly two years for that moment. The King and his brother traveled together to India to while I stayed home with our four boys. The day they were arriving in the U.S., my sister flew in from Denver to see her new niece (she never left the airport and flew home just a few hours later). Some good friends also arrived with cameras to capture our special day on film. We all stood by anxiously awaiting the arrival of their flight. When the plane finally landed the time crept slowly by as we waited for them to get through customs. We were all very impatient to meet our newest family member. The boys and I stood, noses pressed to the glass, hoping each of us would be first to shout, "I see them!" I don't remember who was the first to yell those exciting words, but I do remember my eyes welling up with tears and the feeling of relief when I caught that first glimpse of my Indian princess riding down the escalator in her father's arms.

Close enough to finally touch her.
The shoes she came home in. They were the smallest size The King could find in India. I love that he put socks on over her tights!

They emerged through the doors and all four boys and I ran to hug The King and welcome Duchess. Oh, that first touch! I ran my hand across the top of her head and brought my hand down to caress her cheek. Her hair was surprisingly very course, but those cheeks were so very soft. She was more beautiful than the photos had portrayed her to be. Her huge brown eyes were filled with fear and she was anxious and unsure about what was going on. She was wearing her special arrival outfit I had purchased months before, a pair of blue shoes that were a size too big, tights, socks, and tiny glass bangle bracelets The King had bought for her in India. She clung to her daddy, pushing away any hand that tried to touch her. She was not impressed with her new family! The King was exhausted and his luggage had been misdirected. He handed Duchess to me so he could quick hug the boys and then was off to make sure his luggage wasn't on the next plane back to India.

"Hey Lady, you are scaring me!"

I was so in love with this little girl. I had been staring at her photos for six months. I knew every detail of her face by heart. I wanted her to wrap her little arms around me, and snuggle her nose into my neck. I just wanted to hold her close. I was certain that deep in her heart she knew that I was her mommy. Not so. I was a total stranger to her, and the only person she knew, was no where to be seen.

I will never forget that feeling of holding her for the first time.

She began to wail, and scream, scratch my face, and claw at my eyes. She reminded me of a wild kitten who was being held by human hands for the very first time. She was doing all she knew to do to get me to let her down. She wanted to escape and was frantically looking around for her daddy.

"Where is my Daddy?"

I walked away where I could be alone with her. She was very frightened by this time and fighting even harder to get away from me. She was scanning the crowd for her daddy while continuing to scream. We were drawing a lot of attention and I kept waiting for security to come and arrest me for kidnapping. I was actually kind of hoping they would come...I could have used some assistance with her. I should have known better. They are more interested in stopping terrorists than white women kidnapping Indian babies at the airport.

Her last attempt to attack me was by pounding on the top of my head with a closed fist about five times. I could not believe her resolve. She was one spunky little girl. I heard my sister burst out laughing when she saw my head pounding. I was not sharing in the laughter. Where was the little girl I had been dreaming of for two years? She was supposed to come to me and love me as much as I loved her. There was never a wildcat in my dreams. No one had prepared me for her reaction and I can honestly say I was wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. I was emotionally exhausted by the time my husband came back to relieve me of the screaming ferrel cat.

We sat down to wait for their luggage and The King thought that maybe I should bribe her with a little food. It was worth a try. I pulled out some Cheerios and she fell for it hook,line, and sinker. In minutes she was on my lap eating those little O's one by one.

"Who are these boys and why are they in my space?"

On the hour long ride home from the airport I sat in the back seat with Duchess. She would look at me with those huge dark eyes and soak me in. And I could not take my eyes off of her. I could not believe this day had finally come. About half way home, she smiled and reached out to touch me! My heart melted. From that moment on she was really my little girl. Not only in my eyes, but hers too.

Her first few months home she slept snuggled up tight in my arms. She became my little shadow. We did everything together. We went everywhere together. I had read everything I could about attachment disorder. I was going to make sure we bonded. We had skin to skin contact, I bottle fed her, I didn't allow anyone but our family members to hold her in the beginning. I even had the pastor of our church announce that while we worked on attachment, we asked that no one would try to hold her. I was going to do it all right with her. I had been told that it was best if she didn't have any other care givers for at least six months after being home...and I tried. But my mom died four months after she came home and we were forced to have a few nights apart from one another. She regressed and we had to start our bonding and attachment time over. Those were hard months. There were times I was afraid she would walk off with any stranger. She just didn't have the same 'boundaries' with people she didn't know as my biological children had shown. She was just a little too friendly with people for my liking. So I kept her reigned in and continued to do all I could to let her know who she could trust, who she needed to turn to when she needed anything, who were the ones who would always be there for her.
Our new and improved family!
We couldn't look more different but I can see myself so clearly in her mannerisms and in the things she says. I can see areas of my life that need improving just by watching her. She knows who her family is. She is secure with us. She is not perfect, nor are we. She is very demanding of attention and likes to control conversations...even those she is not a part of.

Her first night home. Look at that smile. We had so much fun with her that night.

Sleeping with the big brother (Squire) who prayed three years for her. He wanted to show her around the house and this is how I found them later.

I am often asked if she knows she's adopted. We talk openly about it, but only when she brings up the subject. We answer questions as they present themselves. It began when Prince Charming was born and she started to talk about when she was in my tummy like he had been. She was sad when I told her that she did not grow in my tummy, but that she was in another mom's tummy in India. I told her that she is special because she got to grow in my heart instead. At this time in her life, she is very proud of the fact that she is the ONLY one in our family who is adopted.

She has recently asked why her India mom didn't keep her. I was glad that I had thought of an answer for that one ahead of time because of another adoptive family that I had met. They had told their daughter that that mommy was very poor and couldn't care for her. I had thought that I would use that explanation for Duchess, but then I thought about all the times I tell her no when she asks to buy things at the store. I usually say, "No, we don't have money for that right now." I don't want her to ever think that we can't keep her if money is tight, so instead I told her this: "She didn't have a husband and it was very hard for her to find a job and take care of a baby without a husband, so she took you to a place where they take care of babies. That's when God helped us to find you." It must have been a good enough answer because she hasn't asked again. I pray that God will always give me the words I need when she asks questions I don't really know how to answer.

I overheard her telling a friend one day that she didn't have a dad in India so that's why she 'got adopted'. Her friend came up to me and asked, "Is she really adopted?" I thought it was funny that her little friend didn't notice there was a color difference between Duchess and the rest of us.

She frequently makes comments about her color. She says she wishes she could be white like me. I tell her that I wish I could be brown like her but I that I am thankful for the way God made me. I did tell her once that I used to lay in the sun to try to get more brown when I was younger. "You did?" By her expression, you would have thought I'd hung the moon. I always tell her I love the color she is and so does God. We wouldn't want her any other way.

A few weeks ago she came up with something that I think is very sweet. She told me she wished she had skin like Maiden's. I told her that would be very sad because I love having a little girl with brown skin in our family. She said, "Yeah, if you didn't have me you wouldn't have a chocolate girl. It's a good thing I'm from India so you can have a chocolate girl and a vanilla girl. If you didn't get me, you would only have a vanilla girl." And I agreed. She has definitely added flavor to my life!

Happy Anniversary sweet Duchess. You are a true blessing from God!


  1. Oh you're such a tease. I'm guessing you didn't mean to hit "Publish"!

  2. Katie is so quick. When I was composing this post I accidently published it instead of saving it. In the two seconds it took me to fix it, she had already seen it!

  3. I like this version much better! Thank you so much for writing this all out. It's such a beautiful story.

    She was so spunky! I remember her blowing raspberries at me because I told her not to go around the back side of the table at the little school when the 3M guys were there and we were making ice cream.

    I wished I had a little girl like her, too. I always wished I had brown skin like my cousins. I am so thankful for flavor in our family, too. Bring on the chocolate!


  4. Oh Michelle, I just love the picture of you crying holding her, I can just see your eyes bursting with love!!! It feels like yesterday when you sent that card out with your first family pic at the airport with her!! I can't believe it has been 4 years!! Tell that little cutie that Auntie, cousin, whatever, LOVES CHOCOLATE!! She's so cute I'll eat her up!! :)

  5. Michelle,
    I never knew! Oh my gosh we are moms with similar hearts, arn't we? I loved this post about your Duchess. She is BEAUTIFUL! And this was a great post that all who adopt would be benefited from. What a family God had knit together for you. Isn't it stunning that he loves us so? And uses our adopted kids to teach us about how much he loves?! I will never understand how we have become so blessed with these children. May God grant the wisdom you seek to be your daughter's mother in the ways she needs, and fill her heart's aching places with answers that remove the sting or cause her to be filled with compassion that changes the world...as yuo have.

  6. What a blessing to your family! She is such a spunky little thing. I can't believe it was 5 years ago already, I remember the e-mail updates like it was yesterday!

  7. Michelle,
    Your story is so beautifully told, I am sure Duchess will treasue it when she is grown up.
    I am always so amazed and impressed with your strength, wisdom and courage, I can tell you are all really special people. Lucky Duchess!
    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Oh Michelle, I really enjoyed reading about her homecoming. I loved the picture of you holding her and crying too.

    Much love,

  9. You made me cry. Very sweet post.

  10. Wow Michelle;

    This post is full of love, wisdom and much beauty. I will hold it in my heart and remember as I am also walking the path of raising adopted children...'chocolate and vanilla.' LOVE THAT!

    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted


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