Let me tell you about a hero that I have come to love and admire.
It all started almost a year ago now when one day, out of the blue, we first heard about her. The day I read her file and thought, "God, this is not what I had envisioned - I do not know if I can do this. I have never heard of this condition." To which my strong husband said, "You don't know if you can say yes, BUT can you say NO?"
It continued almost six months later when we met her in a noisy, sweltering hot room. She was handed to us at age three and a half with a bottle and an empty expression - I remember looking at her sweet face and thinking, "What have your last three and half years been like for you? Where is the little girl that should be smiling out of that somber face?"
I will never forget the first laugh she gave us - it was hard work, but we got it - a laugh that made us laugh along with her and yet cry as well. I remember thinking, "Oh little one, it shouldn't be that hard to laugh."
I will remember the way she walked with such a heavy gait - the unsteadiness - the unsureness of her steps. I remember thinking - we have to work on this - so we started having races down the hallways of those scorching hot China hotels - all in hopes of seeing some new coordination appear in her steps.
All the silent tears she cried when we laid her down each night - she never made a peep - but her silent tears said it all - no child should have to have silent tears - I vowed inside to do all I could in my power to end those tears - to never give her a reason to have to suffer silently again.
I remember the times I would ruffle her hair or touch the skin on her arm and she would pull away from me - and yet, I'd touch her again and again - squeeze her tighter - or tell her, "No honey, Momma wants to touch you, Momma loves you."
I remember her smiles - she smiled at EVERYTHING - she was just happy to play, go out and walk - it didn't matter - she was just happy.
I remember watching children take toys away from her and she had no fight in her - she just let it happen and then would watch the child play with that toy that used to be hers. I kept thinking, "Where is your fight? Get mad, scream, do something."
I remember the HOURS she played on the airplane with two styrofoam cups and a set of chopsticks - I am not kidding - HOURS. Which made me ask, "How can a three year old occupy herself for so long with such mundane objects?" That was not the first we'd see of that - nor the last - this little girl could make anything a toy - including menus that would become babies, 2 liter bottles that would be rocked to sleep - ANYTHING - she knew how to occupy herself.
I will never forget her face as she saw the crowd at the airport waiting to welcome her home. The sister that would not hardly give her breathing room and wanted to help her walk around the airport, the staring faces that all just wanted to say Hi. And then her face - just soberly staring at all of her brothers and sister in the van as we drove home - it was almost as if she was saying, "Where did all of these kids come from and when will they be leaving??"
But she adjusted - in no time, she had 3 big brothers wrapped around her fingers and a sister that doted on her every minute. Still she would not talk to us - we got simple words like "momma, da da, eat" etc. but nothing more.
I remember the nights of putting her to bed and her screaming and screaming. I remember thinking, "The screaming is horrendous, but at least she is making sounds - there are no silent tears - for that I am glad."
I can only imagine her feelings as she is taken from doctor to doctor, from therapist to therapist, from clinic to clinic. All we hoped to do is find out where her sweet words were and how to unleash them. We wanted to make sure all was ok in her small body - and for that I am grateful to SO many doctors.
I can hardly imagine what went through her mind when she started 4 weeks of dental work - 19 teeth that needed to be fixed - but she sat in that chair with very little "deadener" because she broke out so badly from the first dose - and she never made a peep. Her tongue may have tried to shove the dentist out of the way, but her body laid there and did not fight.
It has been that way with every doctor we've seen. She has not fought - in fact, each time we are told, she does better than some adults. She was taught to lay still and that is obvious - she does that "with the best of them."
She has come a long way in five months - she is saying a few more words, she is GALLOPING now, trying hard to master jumping around the house, and smiling confidently when she says, "Mine." (Thanks to our speech therapist!!) She knows how to make choices (thanks also to our fabulous speech therapist) and she smiles when she gets to make a choice. How does a child make it to age 3 and not know she has a choice, does not know that anything is "hers"? I may never know those answers....
All of this came rushing into my mind today as we sat in, yet another doctor's office, filling out the pages of paperwork. It hits me every time I have to write "UNKNOWN" in so many spots on her sheets. I hate it - I hate it that I know almost nothing of her first three and a half years. I hate it that I have no idea why her little words are "stopped up" inside of her. I hate it that I can't find that trigger to unleash those words. I hate it that I can't erase a past filled with fear and pain. I hate it that when I go to play with her and raise my hand, she sometimes flinches. I hate it that sometimes when I am trying to make some headway, I can see the curtain cover her face - I know she has retreated again.
I will not give up. This little girl is my hero. I may never know what all her past has held, but for me I am trying to let that go. She is here now - we are so blessed to have her. She is our little lover - she wants to hug us and plants kisses all over everything - she is just so happy. She won't let us leave without a "bye" and a kiss on the lips - and it isn't a peck on the lips either - it is a two-handed grab of your cheeks to pull you down to her level so she can plant a kiss on your lips that stays with you long after you've left home. She's the first one to run to the door when you come home - she has to greet you with her soft "Hi" (that is sometimes not-so-soft but that's ok too - because it's a word and we love that!). She goes to bed every night now without a peep - she is happy to sleep on the bunk under her big sister - BUT ONLY if you sing "Good night Jada" before you turn off the light. She loves that song that I made up for her in China, and even sometimes during the day, will find you and ask you to sing "Night Night" as she smiles. She attacks life with gusto - our little wonder that has MAYBE 20/100 vision, we are told, with her glasses on. Nothing stops her - she is a survivor and she loves life. And we love her - we love our Jada Faith. We are so blessed - she teaches each of us lessons everyday -
I have learned something very valuable - you don't have to talk to communicate - I usually know exactly what she is trying to tell me. She is bright - she can communicate clearly without words. She has picked up a lot of sign in a few months' time. We are not scared of what the future holds - we have heard terms like autistic, mentally retarded, severely delayed, nearly blind - they've all been thrown out there along with others. But labels don't frighten us - God gave us Jada - she is not a mistake. God planned her JUST LIKE SHE IS - and I don't waver on that. Do I wonder what the next years hold? You bet I do, any parent does - but I am trusting - God can work miracles and He can give grace in unreasonable amounts - we've already felt that - we rely on it daily!
As a doctor gently reminded us today - we have a long road ahead of us - a VERY LONG ROAD - but she is a charmer and she will go far! Jada, thank you for teaching me so much in five short months - you are a gift to us all.