Sarah came to us acting very competent . She felt like she could do anything that needed to be done. I am wondering if it is because she never had a parent to do these things, so for 8 years she had to do it herself. The tag in the her new clothes were bothering her so she cut them off. She cut a hole in the clothes! She wanted to use our iphones and camera and she did fine but she had no idea what she was doing!
She often told me I had bad breath- I knew she was right (especially after coffee) so it didn't bother me. I would quickly brush my teeth or pop in a breath mint. We noticed that Sarah's breath didn't smell too good either. I am sure it was because the NEVER brush their teeth. They say they do in the referral but they do not- can you imagine keeping that many tooth brushes organized and clean- illness would have spread even easier than it did and I am sure they did not have the money for toothpaste. (maybe it is different in a foster home?) Later we found out that Sarah was often told by other children that she had bad breath. I think she said it too me to protect herself. Another emotional survival skill. She never says it to me now.
I also think that all of her senses were hypervigilant during this stressful time in her life. All smells bothered her. It was all so new to her. Kind of like a dog smells someone new, Sarah literally smelled us.
Since I am onto the senses I will continue in this area-
Taste- Sarah wanted to taste and smell all the foods. She didn't taste it like we would, it was much more intense. She would put the food in her mouth, feel it's texture with her tongue, move it around in her mouth, she would be in deep thought, smack her lips a couple times and let us know IF she liked it our not.
When she ate she smacked up a storm and enjoyed every morsel of food. She was all Chinese no western foods at all (while in China).
Touch- I think she was not used to much touch because every time we even gently bumped she would say ouch. Any touch was an ouch (I think we taught her the word "ouch", I can't remember what word she said). Each time she would look at us as if we hurt her AND to let us know it was OUR fault. I learned not to touch unless I got the okay to touch her. I didn't want to have her reject my touch OR get my teeth accidently knocked out! Of course with each day this got better and better. By the time we were home 4 plus months it was gone.
Spacial awareness- Sarah would run into everything. She would twirl in small rooms and hit the wall or a post. She would be walking and not watching where she was going and go straight into a wall or piece of furniture. She would walk so close to us that if we stopped she would run right into us. Again it was our fault. In time we taught her to say "oops, sorry!" We also had to teach her to give people personal space. She had no concept of personal space.
Hearing- see was sensitive to sound. When ever there were loud noises she would put her hands over her ears. We had an ipod with chinese childrens music on it. She loved it (until she broke it later when she was at home). We will bring this to China for Emma and Ellie, too.
Sight- There was so much new for her to see. Either her eyes would be arting around trying to take it all in OR staring. Oh my, can she stare! She stared at anyone who was different, had a disability, had dark skin, was not Chinese, who was fat, who had long hair, who had pretty colors on... you get the point. We still have to remind her not to stare to this day! We tell her if she looks at someone to smile, that it seems much more friendly!
Her name- When we met Sarah her name was Ming Ming. It is a beautiful name and I wondered how were we going to introduce the name that we had picked out for her? Was it even the right thing to do? Early on our guide asked us the name we had chosen for her. She asked if she could tell her and we said yes. I was a little nervous and hoped she would like it. I also knew she would let us know if she didn't like it. I wanted her to like it. I had no intentions of thinking of a new name for her if she didn't like it. Whew- all went well and she became Sarah Ming Ming at that moment! Once we were at home Sarah asked to be called Ming Ming, again. We obliged but then we would forget and once again call her Sarah, she was fine with that.
Love at first sight? No, not for us and not for her. Tenderness and admiration at first sight, YES for us! We were eager to get to know this new family member. Eager to feel love and in awe of her and how she survived. We respected her right away.
I am trying to be honest in all that we experienced with our new daughter. I am telling you the things that stood out in our minds. The things I read about and saw in her.
The most important thing is that you know this was the most incredible experience I have ever been through. Sarah amazed us in China and she continues to amaze us now! Our experience with her makes us feel good about doing this again with Emma and Ellie!!
Along with everything I am posting she was a joy. Katie and I had fun with her in China and I know she had fun with us! This little girl was meant to be in our family and we are so thankful she is in our family!!
In my next post I will talk about attachment, family, meltdowns and safety.