Surviving, Learning, Laughing: A Little Girl’s Smile

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children. Read more of Jane’s post adoption blogs by clicking here.

by Jane Ballback, Holt Adoptive Mom

Unlike the day we picked up the boys at the airport, my husband Steve and I were cool, calm and collected when it was time for our daughter, Stacee, who arrived in May of 1990. It was also the boys’ third birthday, so there was much excitement. We got to the airport at 10 a.m., her plane was on time, and everything went smoothly. I thought she looked very “lost” and exhausted, but that is understandable, so I thought a nap might make things right.

That evening at her welcome home party, she continued to look very sad and tired, but I didn’t think this would last long. I was wrong. The next morning when I went to pick her up from her crib, she was very awake and rested but wouldn’t let me hold her close to me. Every time I tried, she would push me away with her little arms. Despite the fact that she was only five months old, she was strong! I spent the day trying to see if this behavior would easily extinguish itself, but it did not. She didn’t cry and fuss a great deal. She just wouldn’t let me hold her.

I had my husband babysit while I went to the nearest store and bought one of the baby “slings” that allows you to have your baby face you while you hold her on your chest next to your heart. She literally couldn’t push me away at this point, and the behavior soon disappeared, even when she wasn’t being carried. I continued to carry her next to my heart as long as I could hold her weight. By this time she was very calm and receptive in my arms, but I knew she loved being next to my heartbeat.

What didn’t go away though, was the incredibly sad look on her face. I knew that Stacee had been born in Daegu Metropolitan City — the third largest metropolitan area in South Korea — which is about 146 miles from Seoul, South Korea. I didn’t know how she was relinquished or how she got to Seoul, I just knew that those five months were very traumatic for her. I don’t know how many “hands” she passed through, I’m just guessing she got sadder and sadder as time went on. Even a five-month-old baby can begin to lose all hope.

I did everything I knew how to do to get Stacee to relax and smile. Like my two boys, I put Stacee on a structured schedule where everything was predictable and stable. The boys would also spend many hours doing goofy things to get her attention and make her smile. She continued to eat and sleep well and began to adjust to the rhythm of our home. After a while she didn’t look incredibly sad, but she didn’t look incredibly happy either. She arrived in May, and it was about seven months later in December, in time for her first birthday, when she began to laugh and smile. I don’t think it was any one thing that finally brought about this first smile, just a combination of calm steady love and care that finally allowed her to begin to believe she finally had a home of her very own.

Please enjoy this slide show that depicts Stacee’s first years in our family.

Read Jane’s post-adoption blog, here!

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