Oh, goodness. As I reflect on the first day of becoming a parent, tears come to my eyes. And at the same time, I’m laughing at myself because I can very vividly recall the first day like it was yesterday.
Before bringing the girls home, the adoption agency prepared us as much as they possibly could. Mind you, they had less than three weeks to fully prepare us for this journey. One thing they told us was that when the girls came home, we needed to do EVERYTHING together as a family for at least the first week. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
Food for days.
Because of this, Chris and I decided to wait until the Friday morning that we would first meet BW and bring her home to get groceries for the week. The thought of having to take a 5 year-old, 2 year-old and 9 month-old to the grocery store together was too daunting. (But apparently the thought of adopting them was not.)
I went to the local grocery store and got the small cart that I usually get. You know, the one that’s too small to have a seat in it for a child and basically has two baskets on it. I thought this would suffice.
As you can imagine, the small cart would no longer do for a family of five. I made it halfway through the store, filled up the cart, and took it to the cashier. I calmly told him that I was bringing home my three girls today and underestimated the amount of food we would need for a week. I asked if I could leave the cart with him while I filled up a regular sized cart.
Twenty minutes later, I was in line purchasing the groceries in my two shopping carts. The man behind me in line made a comment about all the food I was getting so I let him know my husband and I were adopting three girls and bringing them home later that day. This would be my first encounter of letting a stranger know our story, that said stranger experiencing so many emotions that tears filled their eyes, and then the stranger thanking me for adopting these girls/telling me about their kids/sharing an adoption story of one of their family members. But in that moment, all I could think of was how much more money we were now spending on groceries!
After I purchased all the groceries, Chris took off with our compact car. Just hours before we would meet BW, we traded in the car for a minivan. When you only have seven days to prepare to bring home three kids, sometimes you have to wait until the morning you bring them home to get a minivan!
Chris made it back to the house with our family mobile about twenty minutes before we needed to leave to meet BW for the first time and then bring her home. We had hoped to meet the three girls before bringing them home. But, again, we only found out about them three weeks before they would come home with us. And we only knew we were officially going to be Mommy and Daddy seven days before bringing home BW.
The moment life forever changed.
I don’t recall what Chris and I talked about on the way to the adoption agency where we would meet BW. We probably talked about the minivan, as in, I probably complained that we were now a minivan family. Or maybe I told him the story of the two shopping carts. Perhaps we discussed what we were going to do with BW once we got home. All I can remember is the feeling of butterflies in my stomach.
I didn’t want to be nervous. I wanted to be excited and happy and joyous when I met BW. But in reality, I was terrified. What do you say to a five year-old when you instantly become their Mommy? I had absolutely no idea. Would she call me Mommy right away? Would she like me? Would she want me to be her mommy? Would she walk over to me? Would she run away? Would I make it through meeting her without crying? And if I cried, would she be ok with that?
All the feelings. All the questions. All the unknowns.
Chris and I made it to the adoption agency a few minutes before BW would arrive. Those few minutes felt like forever. And now I realize those few minutes were the last moments in time that Chris and I would know life as it used to be. Everything was about to change.
Meeting our oldest daughter for the first time.
BW slowly entered the room where Chris and I were waiting to greet her. The two buns on top of her head were adorned with a bright pink bow that matched the belt on her cream and yellow Princess Belle dress. She walked in on flowery wedges and carried her brown purse more like a teenager than a 5 year-old.
As she walked in behind her host family that had been caring for her the past few days while Chris and I prepared the house for the girls’ arrival, BW just looked at us. She looked at us with her two large, beautiful brown eyes unsure of what to do next. The host “mom” told BW that Chris and I were her new Mommy and Daddy. And apparently, the host mom had been using the names Mommy and Daddy for us all week as she prepared BW to meet us.
Chris and I smiled at BW. We didn’t hug or touch her as we were unsure how she would respond. Instead, we said hi and told her how excited we were to meet her and be her Mommy and Daddy. Again, she just looked at us. All I wanted to do was cry as I was overcome with emotions. But I didn’t think that BW would appreciate me crying in that moment.
Donuts are daddy’s favorite.
There were several toys, games and books in the room we were in. The adoption agency suggested we play with one of the games together or read a book. BW wasn’t really into that. She was still just looking at us.
Chris and I continued to talk to her. Eventually, she picked up a pair of bunny ears and without saying anything, handed them to Chris. He tried to put them on her head, but BW had another idea. She shook her head no and pointed to Chris’s head. He smiled and put them on. As he did this, her face finally broke into a smile! We all laughed as Chris pretended to be a bunny.
Then BW found a pillow that looked like a donut. She picked it up, handed it to Chris, and told him to eat it. As Chris pretended to eat the donut, BW laughed. And it was a beautiful heart-felt, child-like laugh. The type of laugh that makes you laugh. The type of laugh when you know a child is enjoying whatever it is that they’re laughing at.
Once Chris let her know how much he loves donuts and that donuts are his favorite food, BW kept handing him the donut pillow to eat. And every time Chris would pretend to eat it, she would smile and laugh. BW finally became comfortable enough with us to put on a show with two of her animals. She then had both Chris and me put on a performance for her. And the laughter continued.
With all the laughter, smiles and love we were all experiencing in those first moments, I knew we were somehow going to survive being the Willard Family of Five. I had no idea in that moment that survival would be the theme of our lives for the next year…