It’s hard to even believe that this picture was taken on December 28, 2009. Maggie came to us as a quiet, floppy, shocked little girl. She had no idea what was happening and, really, neither did we. We had no idea what a complete joy and blessing Maggie is or how much we would love her immediately. We also didn’t know she was deaf. Looking back at our China pictures now, I see how Maggie was so confused and detached. She couldn’t hear what was happening around her, and she had to have been scared to death. She did not respond to her Chinese name or to our voices. She did not take a bottle for 3 days, got very constipated, continually looked at her hands, and laid her right ear down on tables or floors to hear the vibrations. (She preferred to lay down on the floor rather than sit up.) Her little body went through so much as she grieved and tried to understand what was happening. I think her way of dealing with all the changes was to just shut down. How could she have known that we were going to love and care for her, that she would have a forever family and all the hugs and kisses she could stand. She couldn’t. She didn’t. But, that is okay. We have taken it slow; and, day by day, we have watched her unfold like a beautiful flower.
Her special need was multiple. A heart condition (a small VSD, ventricular septal defect) and microtia/atresia which we later found out was also severe hearing loss (a.k.a. deaf). We were told she could say “ba, ba, ba,” smile, and stand on her own and that she was lively and liked musical toys. All the pictures of her showed her to be a healthy looking little girl. We had done all the research, read special needs blogs, attended a seminar on what to expect when you adopt internationally, and prayed a lot for our daughter.
I remember when I first saw her through the curtain at the adoption center in Guangzhou. Maggie looked a little like her pictures; but, really, she looked very different. I saw her head was crooked to one side, her facial expression was out of sorts, she had what looked like bug bites on her face, and her head was oddly misshapen. Chuck and I waited til it was our time to officially meet Maggie, and she was first handed to me. With a pink toy duck in one hand, I reached out to Maggie. Finally, I was holding my baby girl. This was the moment I had dreamed about for so long. There was a big smile on my face, and my heart was beating so fast. I took a good look at her. I loved her so much already, and it was evident Maggie had some things to overcome. She was more like an infant than a 14 month old. She would lean way back when I held her, and she stared at her hands constantly. At one moment, I stopped to pray and tearfully thank God for Maggie. I asked for wisdom to be her mother, and I prayed that Maggie’s pain would be washed away, that she would know she is accepted and not rejected. It was a crazy Gotcha day, and I was so overcome with emotions and questions. Was she ever held? Did she ever have toys to play with? Just how neglected was she? I thought she was lively and talking? What really went on in her orphanage? I had a feeling that Maggie was severely neglected. I was right. I also watched her intently and knew that she was very smart, and she was a fighter, chosen by God to be my daughter and destined to overcome her special needs. I saw it. I knew it. My heart felt it.
Although we did a lot of research on what to expect and knew the self-soothing and floppy, flat affect was “normal” for a child who was institutionalized in an orphanage in China, nothing could really prepare us for the reality of it. You see, Maggie was just another baby in the orphanage. She probably spent over 20 hours by herself in a lonely crib with no toys and no sounds. She learned not to cry and to soothe herself by rocking back and forth and looking at her hands.