Those of you who have known me in real life as an expectant mother can easily remember me with my hand on my pregnant belly. I’m the kind who doesn’t want to miss even the smallest signal from my little one. It feels awkward and unnatural to me to keep my hands down at my sides while my baby is right there.
Why is that?
Why does a pregnant mother look forward to hearing her unborn baby’s heartbeat? To feeling the small nudges that mean tiny legs are kicking inside her? To seeing her baby’s form on the ultrasound screen?
Why does she keep those ultrasound pictures close at hand over the next few weeks, studying and memorizing each line?
Maybe to keep her radar tuned in to her baby’s wellbeing?
Yes, but I think there’s more to it than that.
Of all the new pictures we have of Katerina, the ones that make me choke up every time I look at them are the ones of our missionary friend holding her.
Why is that?
Katerina is seven hours away from us by time zone, at least fourteen hours away from us by travel, and months away from being in my arms as my daughter. I cannot listen to her heartbeat, or feel the roundness of her head, or rub her feet, or carry her cradled against me as I go about my tasks.
Our missionary friend is far away, too, and I have never met her. But I can read her blog and email her, and she will email back to me. Real words with real meaning exchanged with a real person. She really went to the place where Katerina is. She really touched Katerina, and felt the light weight of her in her arms. And then she went home and used those same hands to type her story to me.
And send me proof of this reality in the form of photos and videos.
In doing all this, she has given me the precious and unexpected gift of connection.
Have you ever heard a pregnant mother talk about what makes her baby seem more real? Katerina is a little more real to me now than she was before. She has been real all along, just like an unborn baby is absolutely real! But it is hard to connect with someone you cannot see and do not know.
Last Wednesday afternoon, as I studied each picture and video for the details that would help me connect with our coming child, I felt…
…fresh shock that this itty-bitty girl is turning nine years old this month. With this shock, a gratitude at the dawning realization that her tiny size is what has kept her in the baby house–kept her from being transferred to an adult mental institution. Does anyone remember the medical doctor on the Serbia video explaining why children stop growing? Katerina’s extreme failure to grow and gain skills has doubtless saved her life. She is still being treated as an infant.
…startled to see her in the same crib, in the same spot, in the same room she was in a couple of years ago. And sadness at the implications of that.
…gladness of heart to see that she looks almost imperceptibly healthier than she did in those older pictures. She looks a bit older, her hair is thicker, her skin has more color. I don’t think it’s wishful thinking that make her arms look just slightly rounder. Could it be the granny/child program? The workers said they can tell an improvement in her since she began that program. Who knows? Perhaps that was a direct answer to the prayers of those who have prayed for her since she was made available for adoption.
…doting admiration. We got to see her smile! And her smile is perfectly fetching, despite the fact that toothbrushes and toothpaste are unknown in orphanages. This fact is certainly true of Katerina’s orphanage. It is not her fault that her teeth have never been brushed.
…fiercely protective. We see her Down syndrome more clearly in the new pictures and videos. We see nine wasted years of no hope, no vision for her potential. No therapy, no toys anywhere to be seen, nothing to challenge her.
…respect. She is a survivor. She is alive in there, despite her orphanage behavior. She is able to interact with what goes on around her, and express her personality. We have been praying that God would prepare her to connect with us, and we can see the potential in her to do that.
…eagerness to bring her home, to wash her and make her smell good, and dress her in the pretty girl clothes we are beginning to collect for her. Eagerness to give her all the help she needs to blossom. Eagerness to watch her bond with her new mama and daddy and brothers and sisters, and see who she becomes. We talk about her daily, and even the little ones include her in their conversations.
…most of all, I felt affection. Affection for the workers who are caring for her the best they know how. Affection for our missionary friend, seeing how tenderly she held our small child for us. A breathtaking surge of affection for this precious, defenseless little Katie-bird with the big brown eyes.