One of the other big items we purchased was a "Family Interaction" package where we could submit 10 questions we'd like answered and also request a few new pictures and a longer video. We received the translated answers and new pictures/video last Thursday night and Matt and I were as giddy as 2 kids on Christmas morning as we opened them up.
Our little one is certainly growing up!
Isn't she beyond precious?! I can tell that they put a lot of thought into getting her "all dolled up" for her video appearance for Mama and Baba.
The pictures were probably taken one after the other, so they all look a lot alike. She still has that same serious/contemplative expression on her face that we saw in her earlier 3 referral photos.
The video was wonderful and shows a little more of her personality (and also some sweet moments between her and her foster grandmother). I took a still-shot picture at one part that captured a brief grin.
We cannot wait to get some big belly laughs from our sweet girl!
A little more of what we can share about Abby. I mentioned before that she is living in Southeast China. This gives you a little more of an idea where she is.
Abby turned 14 months yesterday and in last week's video we could see that she is walking all over the place. (And apparently she loves to walk with a broom in her hands. Yay Abby! Mama will take all the help she can get!)
It looks as though she might be in the process of potty-training since she was sporting some split-pants in an earlier video.
Abby sleeps through the night consistently, but gets up very early. Heaven help me...a morning person, I am not!
Abby takes a bottle with rice cereal added to her formula and also eats some soft finger foods.
She is currently 18.5 pounds and is 29.5 inches tall.
The biggest piece of information we have learned about Abby's life is that she is not in an orphanage, but is instead being raised by an elderly foster couple. This is an absolutely huge blessing, and is quite honestly more amazing than anything we even prayed to be possible.
Abby's official paperwork still has her place of residence as the orphanage in her village, but the videos that we received with her referral made us question if she was in some kind of foster home situation. We wondered if she might be in one of the elderly apartments within the Social Welfare Institute (her SWI actually has far more space devoted to the care for elderly than for orphans) and when we were allowed to ask 5 questions immediately after accepting her referral, this was one of the things we asked about. We found out at that time that she had a foster mother (which we were ecstatic over), but that also left us with many more questions. Thankfully we were able to get a lot of those answered with this update.
Abby does indeed have a foster mother and father, although they are definitely more like grandparents (or even great grandparents). We do not know the circumstances why, but this couple is also raising their teenage granddaughter in their home. We imagine this young lady has spent a lot of time with our baby girl and we hope that she has been a wonderful "big sister" to Abby this past year. We have been able to tell from the videos that Abby's foster family really cares for her. They've allowed Abby to be playful and make a mess in one of the videos and in another you can hear the grandmother laughing loudly in the background at Abby's bewilderment over a lost shoe. These are such small, seemingly insignificant, moments...but they have meant the world to us.
Our baby is loved. She is well fed and reaching developmental milestones at the same rate that our own boys have. And while we haven't seen big smiles or laughter from her in the videos and pictures, we have been told that she has a 'ready smile' and we have no doubt that she is very content in her foster home.
Being completely honest here, when Matt and I first heard Abby was in a foster home, we wondered if it was best to separate Abby from all of that to bring her into our family. This was a hard thing that we wrestled with in our minds and in our hearts. We already have an immense amount of love for her and know that a wonderful life awaits her here, but we also believe that it would be preferable for Abby to be raised by a loving Chinese family in her own country with her own culture if that were possible. We have very strong feelings in regards to international adoption ethics and we by no means think we are more entitled to this child simply because we are Christian or "rich white Americans".
But the bottom line with all of that is that no Chinese family claimed her. Abby was abandoned by her biological family on the day of her birth. It is likely she was abandoned because of the 1 child per family law, but it could have also been due to poverty conditions or because she is a girl. (It is unlikely that Abby's biological family knew about her health condition at her birth.) She has been raised by what seems to be very caring people, but they are a much older couple and have chosen to not pursue adopting her themselves. I cannot say with certainty how it works with this specific orphanage, but in many Chinese orphanages, children that are being raised in foster homes are moved back into the orphanage at some point in time in order to free the foster family up to raise another young baby/toddler. And while Abby seems to be healthy at this point in time, her "special need" definitely needs the medical care that we can provide for her.
Matt and I went into this adoption with a deep desire to adopt a developmentally delayed child with medical needs living in institutional care in China. That has been the longing of our hearts from the beginning and we specifically chose not to pursue other programs with "healthy" children or children raised in foster homes. And while we are still passionate for institutionalized children (and always will be!), the Lord simply had another plan for our daughter.
As Mama and Baba to this little girl, we could not be more thrilled that she has been in a loving home from day 1. Not only has it made a tremendous impact in the person that Abby is now, it will carry over and be a part of her emotional/mental well-being for the rest of her life. It has been proven time and time again that children raised in some kind of foster home situation will attach and bond more quickly and usually much deeper (at least for a time) with their adoptive families. Yes, her grief will be harder in those first days/weeks/months, but in the long run it will be an amazing blessing for all of us.
There will always be 2 families in China that we celebrate and honor for the rest of our lives. The family that chose life for our Abigail Lian and the family that has raised her and loved her and helped shape her into the precious child that she has become.
From the beginning of this adoption journey we have prayed for the Lord to protect our child and to wrap her in His loving arms when we were not there to do so. We have prayed daily for her health and her emotional well-being and for Jesus to surround her with His love.
You may have noticed the necklace Abby is wearing in the updated pictures. A huge cross resting on that little chest. We are not sure if Abby's foster family is Christian or if they just happened to have that necklace laying around (with less than 5% of China's population professing Christianity, it is not likely, but is possible). We may never know the answer to that question, but what we do know is that the Lord has been near her through all her struggles. That simple necklace is a beautiful visual reminder for us. We may have empty arms and anxious hearts as we wait on the other side of the globe, but our loving Father has never parted for even a second from our baby. His baby.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
We already love our Abby Lu so much and cannot wait to be united with her in just a few more months!