The First 386 Days

Arella’s giant number 2.

Saturday morning we were playing in the game room and the girls discovered the giant number 2 with pictures of Arella from each month since birth that we made for her 2nd birthday party. Thank you Pinterest.

In little sister fashion, Zoe promptly asked where hers was. I felt so guilty. The first birthday we got to celebrate with her was her second, and it was everything she wanted from her beautiful blue Chinese dress to Minnie Mouse cupcakes and elephants. We celebrated with family and friends and she wore a smile across her face for days.

Mommy with Zoe at her 2nd birthday party.

However, Mommy with two toddlers and eight months pregnant could not muster energy to make the giant number 2 again and sort through thousands of pictures to get it finished in time along with everything else for her party. I only managed a collage with four pictures in a frame. I’m actually impressed I even did that. It was a rough month.

Zoe was very sad that morning as she discovered this monstrous MommyFail. But as we started asking her questions about it, we learned that it wasn’t the giant number 2 she wanted. Zoe wanted to see her baby pictures, her actual birth day pictures, like we have of her sister and brother.

We tried to explain, as best we could to a 3-year-old, that we didn’t have any.

The tears came quickly.

“But why Mommy?” Ouch.

She had asked, for the first time, the day before if she was in my belly like Arella and Zadok. When I gently told her no and reminded her that Daddy and I came to China as soon as we could to bring her home, she gave me a silly, pretend sad face, like she already knew and that was the end of the discussion.

But on this Saturday morning, she was truly sad. She continued to cry quiet tears. We brought out the few pictures from her orphanage that survived the x-ray machines at the Changsha airport that we were forced to put them through. She seemed to light up a little bit as we talked about her first home, and we showed her the orphanage director holding her. Then she asked why she isn’t happy in the pictures.

What do you even say to that?

We cuddled with her as she grieved and tried to understand why she was different from her siblings. It’s so hard not having answers for her. It’s hard watching her not be able to fully understand, which brings even more hurt and confusion.

I told her I wanted to make a book for her of when we first met her and brought her home. A book that she could look at as much as she wanted and could show to others. A small smile began to appear through the tear streaks as she nodded her approval.

“A book for Zoe?” she said.

Yes baby girl, just for you and all about you.

Then she resumed playing happily with her big sister in their room.

Zoe’s book in the making.

She was a bit disappointed that I didn’t finish it an hour later. And I’m just going to tell you, it’s not the easiest to explain to a “threenager” that it will take time and you have to be patient. But she continues to ask about it almost daily, so I think she will hold me accountable to finish it quickly. She must know about Mommy’s procrastination issues!

I’m so very thankful that I blogged so much during our journey to get Zoe. You can look back and read our journey, too. I’d recommend starting from the day Zoe was finally in our arms. My hope was always to transfer it into a book that our family can touch and hold and look at as much as we want to, especially Zoe.

Please don’t mind the adorably upset photo bomber.

We do not have all the answers or pictures from her first 386 days of life. We will grieve with her, ask questions with her, and be there as she navigates those tough waters of figuring out where she came from. But from day 387 forward, Zoe became part of our family, forever. And as you can tell, that has been thoroughly documented with pictures and smiles. Lots of super-happy-joyous-love-filled smiles.

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