Sisi holds out her fat little toes for me to paint. She has a tiny nail on her baby toe, just like me and it makes me smile. God is in these details. I paint her nails aqua, just like mine and she says, “I like it the polish.”
Next I take her hands and paint them too. Her fingers are her own and I wonder about the womb they were created in. She is made up of genes and chromosomes and traits and it is all a mystery. Somewhere, more than 5000 miles away is the woman whose body made my daughter. It takes my breath away.
Adoption is beautiful and painful and miraculous and awful. It is born out of loss and in Sisi’s case, out of two losses. She lost her birth family. She lost her foster family. Now, at four, she is asked to change her identity. She is asked to accept a new mommy and a new daddy, new sisters, new brothers, new family. She is asked to accept and embrace a new culture. Gone is kebapche and shopska and tarator. Now there are burgers and ketchup and Chick-fil-a. The music is different, the customs are different. She had to learn to shake her head no and nod for yes. In Bulgaria, it’s the other way around.
She misses home. Misses kepapche and misses her school and most of all, misses her foster family, her foster mom. This grieving she is experiencing is all a part of it.
Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s a miracle. But it comes at a cost.
Sisi is three months home. She is learning so many “America” words. She no longer says, “Dah” or “Neh” but says, “Yes” and “No.” Hot dogs are still sevanche, “let’s go” is still hi-day, “get dressed” is still “oh-bleach-uh”. But dresses are no longer “lochla” and “sockche” is just juice now. The Bulgarian is fading away and English is roaring in like a tidal wave.
She loves school and loves her teachers and friends. She loves church, loves Miss Amy, who she calls “Church”. She’s been in the creek with Pappy and loved every minute of it. Busch Gardens is her favorite place. She asks to go outside to play on the monkey bars with Clairey everyday. She’s crazy about our animals, sometimes a little too crazy. Okay, most times too crazy about our animals.
She’s adjusting. We’re adjusting. It has not been easy for anyone and it’s not going to get easy anytime soon.
But it is worth it.
Here in America, Sisi has access to medical resources she would never have had in her own country. Here in America, Sisi’s special needs will not stop her from living a happy, healthy independent life. Here in America, Sisi is a Carter and we are her own forever family.
I love this wild child. She is loud. She is persistent. She is exuberant. She is brilliant. She is precious. She is a gift.