One year ago today, we got our Madeley James.
It’s so hard to believe that it’s only been a year because I really cannot remember how our family survived without her…but on the other hand, I remember that day like it was yesterday.
We had arrived in Jinan, China the night before and that next morning when we woke up, we were just so excited to meet this sweet girl whose picture we had been staring at for months. The orphanage had sent us this one little video of her in July, and I probably watched it a thousand times. I would watch that video and just wonder what it was going to be like to be her mama.
Our translator told us that later in the afternoon, they would be bringing our little girl to our hotel room…so we waited. And waited. And then…
…they arrived. Oh my word! They handed me this sweet little squishy thing and I was IN LOVE. Just like Ashby, she cried a little at the beginning and wouldn’t make eye contact, smile or lean into us, but my heart was happy to finally have my girl in my arms. She was 23 months old and had been living in this orphanage since she was found at two months. She was almost two and yet on an all formula diet and had never had solid foods. She could walk, but she had a hard time just sitting up on her bottom (because she probably just laid on the ground a lot) and she was covered from head to toe in bed bug bites. She was content sitting in our laps and liked to watch the big kids play around her, but she looked sad too…I can’t even imagine how confused and scared she was.
After dinner and a bath, we took our first picture with all four kiddos. Andrew and I just couldn’t get enough of her. She fell asleep on the bed after this and we just sat there and stared at her. We had so many questions in our heads about who this kiddo was and how she was going to fit into our family dynamic…but for the moment, we just stared…and smiled…A LOT!
Miss Madeley had decided to remain stoic while we were in China. She was figuring us out and deciding whether or not she could trust us with her heart. Her precious little heart that had been living in an orphanage without a family for 21 months.
And slowly, as the days passed in China, she started opening up to us. She started trusting us with her heart.
We arrived back home as a family of six and our lives have never been the same since.
I asked all of the Shulls to tell me their thoughts on Madeley and here are our answers…
Kensington: Madeley has always been my sister. Not just this year, but before that. God knew she was my sister and I love her so much.
Smith: Madeley is the highlight of our family.
Ashby: I love playing with her because she’s so funny and so silly.
Andrew: She has been my ray of sunshine. Whenever I feel tired, or sad, or angry, or cranky, she always has a way of being positive and pulling me out of it without even talking. Her soul is just happy.
Shay: Madeley is just JOY! She is the happiest, easiest, cuddliest kid I’ve ever known. She loves so big, and we are all so blessed to receive her love every single day. This past year has been the very best year for our family. She has completed us in a way I didn’t know we needed to be completed. She is the exclamation point on our family.
1: Language- I feel like Madeley has a fantastic grasp on her language and communicating. She strings three or four word sentences together all the time and says things daily that surprise me. Her receptive language is spot on too. However, put her next to another kid in her Sunday school class or her preschool class and you realize how far behind she still is. She’s almost three, so we’re far behind…but I feel like she’s making HUGE strides every day. Our social worker came for our one year check in last week and was very impressed by how well she is speaking and even more impressed by her role playing activities (she can pretend to drink tea or be a mommy, things like that). We have a long way to go to get her “caught up”, but I feel like we’re making progress every day.
2: Physical Development- I would say that physically, she’s probably caught up to other almost three year olds. She climbs up and down the stairs independently, she gets in and out of her bed on her own, she rides a tricycle, she runs, she tries to jump…she’s a very active little girl. She’s very small for her age…but that might just be her. She’s grown about 4 inches since we’ve received her and gained 7 pounds…so physically, she’s growing and thriving.
3: Sleeping- She’s a rock star. She sleeps in the bottom bunk in her room with Ashby every night for a solid 12 to 13 hours plus she takes anywhere from a 3 to 4 hour nap every day. She’s a fantastic sleeper! Wait for it…she’ll even tell us when she’s ready to go to bed too. To hear her little voice say “I go night night” makes my mama heart just melt. Yeah, she gets an A+ for sleeping.
4: Food- For a kid who never tasted solid food until one year ago today, she has mastered the art of eating. Especially meat. This kid doesn’t want the sweet stuff (don’t bother buying her a popsicle or ice cream, she’s not going to eat it), but if you see a corn dog stand, get her two. She loves all things PROTEIN. Eggs, chicken, beef, pork, sausage…she loves that stuff! She does not eat fruit (I’ve gotten her to eat a banana a few times but other than that, she will not eat fruit) and she only enjoys veggies if they’re cooked and soft (or those veggie packs that look like applesauce). She loves certain carbs: pasta, rice and French fries…but seriously, she’d rather have more meat. This is our carnivore 😉 .
5: Attachment- This is the one thing we worried about most with both adoptions…and for good reason! You often hear so many horrible stories revolving around that one little word. Madeley is VERY attached to all of us. She attached quickly and hasn’t shown any signs of regression. That being said, she DAILY has moments with me that really reinforce her background. Our social worker said it best last week…Madeley doesn’t mind leaving me, but she does not want me to leave. Let me explain, if I’m holding Madeley she WILL NOT go to you. Period. If Andrew takes her from me, she loses her mind. But, if I sit her down on the floor and Andrew walks in the door, she runs right up to him and cuddles and kisses him. She just does not want anyone taking her from me. Not even her dad. If I need to leave the house, I have to have her on the ground before I walk out the door. I cannot pick her up and say bye. If I say bye while she is playing/doing something else, she doesn’t care. She’ll wave and say “bye mama” with all smiles…but if I pick her up and cuddle her and then tell her I’m leaving, she will lay on the floor and scream her head off. She walks into school all smiles saying “bye mama” and blowing kisses, but if they were to try and take her from me, she would scream. She decides on her own to separate from me, but no one else is taking her away. Attachment is complicated.
6: Poppy- She loves the dog. She also loves to boss the dog around. She is often telling Poppy to “get out” just because I think she likes the power 😉 . The dog listens.
7: Potty Training- She is 100% potty trained. She even sleeps in undies.
8: Going Out- She loves to go and do and see. She is friendly, loves to wave and say hi, loves to ride in her stroller, but also loves to walk and pretend she’s a big girl. She is VERY social!
9: Playing- We play a lot at our house! Her favorite things to play with are these magnetic shapes we have. She loves to carry them around (we have them in a big Ziploc bag) and then dump them out and build things. I’m actually kind of impressed with what she builds. She often creates patterns with the shapes and then she’ll want a high five when she’s completed her work. She also loves the big Duplo Legos too. She loves stuffed animals but not really Barbies or dolls (that’s Ashby’s thing!). She love, love, loves for me to read her books and then often “reads” them herself too. Anything that makes noises or lights up, she loves too. She plays well independently, but would much rather play with one of the other kids.
Here are a few other little tidbits about our Madeley James…
1: She wants me to sing her Jesus Loves Me before she goes to sleep…and she sings along with me too.
2: She LOVES to refill the toilet paper at our house. She owns this job LIKE A BOSS. If she sees that the roll is just about out, she runs off to get another one and then takes great pride in throwing away the old one and putting the new one back on. I can even say to her from the kitchen “Hey Madeley, Kensington needs more toilet paper in her bathroom” and she’ll run off to handle the task. That is HER JOB around the house and don’t you dare take it away from her. Isn’t that funny? It makes me laugh!
3: She says “uh oh spaghettiOs” every single time something happens and it cracks me up! Who taught her that? Clearly she heard it from someone, but it has stuck and she says it several times a day. It is so darn cute!
4: She also says “thank you, Mama” about a hundred times a day and it melts me. I can do the littlest thing for her and she’ll say “thank you, Mama”. How long did she need a mama to help her? How long had she waited for that? I lose my breath just thinking about it. Thank you, Mama. Three little words that I try never to take for granted.
5: We have had her 365 days. And every single time we’ve laid her down to sleep…whether it be a nap or to go to bed at night…she rocks herself to sleep. This is such a common behavior that kids from institutionalized settings have and every.single.time she still does it. She immediately turns to her side and starts rocking herself very hard to sleep. We can stop her, cuddle her, pick her up and rock her ourselves, but she will ALWAYS end up doing it herself. How many nights did she rock herself to sleep in that orphanage because she needed someone to do it for her and they just wouldn’t or couldn’t? So, she learned to self-soothe. And no matter how many times we’ve tried to soothe her ourselves, she always reverts back to rocking. It breaks my heart every time.
I often think about the “what ifs”. What if we wouldn’t have adopted a second time? What if we would have waited until Ashby had been home longer? What if we would have gotten a boy instead? What if? What if? What if? If really boils down to “What if we would have ignored God’s specific calling?” and that my friend, scares me. We would have missed so much. Is God calling you to adopt? I KNOW IT’S SCARY. I KNOW IT’S EXPENSIVE. I KNOW THERE ARE SO MANY UNKNOWNS. I KNOW! But I also know that I WAS MEANT TO BE THIS CHILD’S MOM AND SHE WAS MEANT TO BE MY DAUGHTER. We didn’t have the answers when we set out to adopt either time…and there were moments during both adoptions that I could have been talked out of it…because I’m a weak human being with fears and insecurities that often make me not step out on faith…BUT PRAISE JESUS that HE is stronger than my weaknesses because he carried us through this adoption knowing how beautiful it was going to be. Let Jesus carry you too. Let Him show you the love that comes from adopting a child. If He is calling you to do this, LET HIM DO IT.
Our family is not perfect, this kid is not perfect, this adoption has not been perfect…but God has continued to bless us through it with His faithfulness to our situation. He has loved us, loved her, given us joy, hope and peace that only comes from Him.
I pray daily for both of my girls’ birth moms. I pray that God can give them a peace in their hearts that lets them know their girls are okay. Wouldn’t that be a horrible feeling? To not know. When I think of Madeley’s situation, I often think of Moses. Moses was born during a time when baby boys were killed at birth…but his mama held on to him as long as she could and then when she knew she couldn’t hide him any longer, she made a basket, placed him in it and sent him down the Nile with his big sister watching. Madeley wasn’t abandoned at birth like so many kids across China. She was abandoned around two months…which means that some mama out there tried to keep her as long as she could. She held her. She nursed her. She looked into those big eyes and probably never wanted to let her go. But for some reason (a reason we will never know), she had to leave her abandoned two months later. Oh my word. I cannot imagine the grief. Can you? Can you imagine putting your baby in a basket and walking away? With every fiber of my being, I know that mom did not do that because she wanted to BUT BECAUSE SHE HAD TO. I pray for her every day, and I pray the Lord has given her peace that another mother is loving her baby. Because I do. I love that baby so much.
If adoption is on your heart, I beg you not to dismiss it. You think you’re going over there to rescue some kid, but believe me when I say this, they are going to “rescue” your heart more than you could ever imagine.
Before we close out today’s post and I go off to celebrate our One Year Gotcha Day, I thought I’d share some pics of our Madeley James from this past year. We just love this girl so very much. xo
One year ago, we set out for the first time as a family of six…
And I can say with all certainty, this nugget right here as been just the best thing we’ve ever done to complete our family. Andrew and I could not love this child more.
Happy Gotcha Day, Madeley James. You got our hearts. We love you so much.
To see some other post adoption posts, just look below…
To see more about our journey to adopt Ashby, see below: