Belated Evan Day Post

NOTE: We don’t want to bring everybody down, but I think anybody who has adopted an older child will recognize our situation.

Well, that was one of the most brutal experiences I have ever been through.

We arrived at the welfare center (down a series of narrow, twisty back alleys in Northern Tainan) at about 9:45, 15 minutes early. My stomach was already tied up in knots. We didn’t know what to expect, but a smiling, English speaking young woman led us up a flight of stairs to a sunny, open room filled with gigantic stuffed animals, Hello Kitty dolls, and various plastic toys for young children.

We cooled our heels there, watching Ava play with the toys for about half an hour, growing progressively more nervous. Finally, our translator, a middle-aged woman wearing glasses, showed up. She talked to us for quite a while, and when it turned out the social worker and Evan’s foster mother and Evan were running late, she translated his most recent report out loud.

Us with our wonderful translator, Mei-Chun

Then they were there. Evan’s foster mother, or Ah Ma, as we were soon to discover, was a short, stout woman with greying hair. We found out later she has at least one adult son and a grandson, and she either fosters or has fostered a number of older boys.

Evan (Chun-I) clung to her, desperately sucking a pacifier. She explained through the translator that he normally doesn’t use the pacifier during the day, but seemed to be a bit nervous. They had explained to him who we were, and he obviously had some idea that something bad was in store for him.

Playing peek-a-boo with Diana, but he wouldn't hardly let go of his Ah Ma.

Over the course of several hours he slowly and reluctantly parted from her and started to play with the toys. We ever-so-patiently approached him and tried offering him toys and snacks. He pointed at us and called us, “Mama”, “Baba” and “Jiejie”, but allowed very little touching. My personal high point was when he let me throw him up in the air after watching me do it to Ava.

They rolled a car back and forth a few times, but he was too afraid to play much.

His Ah Ma basically took care of him the entire time. She changed his diaper, fed him a bottle, and even wiped his chin when I gave him a drink of water and tilted the cup too much. Much to our surprise, she pulled out a large suitcase stuffed full of favorite clothes, toys, blankets, and a few dozen individually packaged bags of formula/rice mix. All this in addition to the fully packed diaper bag she gave us. She made a point of showing us every toy and article of clothing and explaining how he liked to play with them. A heavy grey coat was “because it is so cold where you live”.

It soon dawned on us that she hadn’t done all this for our benefit, but for Chun-I. He had been with her since he was three days old, and it was clear despite her stoic attitude her heart was breaking. This suitcase packed to the bursting point was her final chance to care for him.

When it was time for her to leave, she hugged him, tears streaming down her face, he wailed miserably and Diana and I started to cry, too. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more miserable.

We rode in the taxi to the rail station with a devastated, screaming child (he wailed “Ai Yah! Ah Ma!” over and over and over between screams and sobs. I half expected the taxi driver to drop us off at the nearest police station). Evan kept pointing, we assume trying to tell us to go to his Ah Ma. He finally fell asleep on the train platform and slept most of the way to Taipei.

He was relatively quiet until we got to our room, then the “Ai yah! Ah Ma!” started up again. He crawled away from us and pounded on the door. Every time we pulled him back he would attempt to shut his diaper bag and carry it back to the door, wailing for his Ah Ma the entire time.

After a few attempts to engage him, Ava quietly asked if she could go to Grandma’s room. She left, and Diana was able to get Evan into the ergo carrier. Walking around the hotel seemed to make him happy, at least happy enough he stopped crying, so she spent hours doing that. I fell asleep, emotionally and physically exhausted, and woke up about nine to the sight of her and Evan sharing noodles at the tiny room desk. He was talking and pointing, and even smiled at me when he saw I was awake.

Diana got him to bed with us, somehow, and he slept fitfully through the night, waking and crying his “ai yeh! Ah Ma!” but only briefly.

He woke up at 5:30, and that’s where we sit today. He is more or less happy if you keep him moving, but inconsolable otherwise. He did okay when we went to apply for his visa this morning, but Diana hasn’t been able to get him to take a nap, or eat much of anything. He’s exhausted and in shock. I guess we all are.

I thank God my Mom was able to come with us and give Ava somewhere happy and comforting to be. I went swimming with her today, even though it’s by far the coldest day of our trip. Playing with her gave me a much needed emotional boost and some slight confidence that I’m an acceptable parent.

This is not the fun part, I guess. We really do feel he’s having a normal emotional response. I also feel obliged to remark on how awesome Ava is being. She’s completely gentle and sweet with Evan, even asking us if it’s okay to kiss him on his head at night (note he is bawling his brains out, so her hesitation is understandable). My Mom has also been a rock for us, following us all over Taiwan without complaining, and giving Ava a fun, happy companion (and safe haven) with Diana and Evan and me so frazzled and distracted. And crying all the time (so far only Evan).

P.S. I came to pick up Evan’s visa by myself (I walked from the hotel– yugh, the air pollution here would kill a horse today. How do the residents stand it?), and I was a half hour early so I went into a nearby Dante’s Coffee shop. They made my cappuccino in one of those little automatic coffee vending machines! Stick to tea in Taipei, I suppose is the lesson here.


11 Responses to Belated Evan Day Post

  1. Johnny says:

    We’ve been there with a toddler who is cognizant of what is going on. It is heartbreaking, but it will get better.

  2. pinkpoppies says:

    My heart goes out to you, but you have worked so very hard with Ava that I know you both (and Ava too) have the strength to give this little boy all your love to help him flourish. You recognize his loss, which is critical, and validating his need to mourn is important. He has lost a lot but you will give a lot too. Take care, Pink

  3. Myrna says:

    Dear Nathan & Diana,

    I started reading the blog and burst out crying myself so I can only imagine how emotional it was for you. You have no need to worry if you are good parents, you are. The picture of Ava and Evan rolling the car back and forth just about did me in. They are just too cute. I am not at all surprised Ava was so patient. She is an amazing child with a huge heart!!!! I see happy times for all of you and of course, all of us too!!!! If I remember correctly Ava was a bit pensive at first too. It is all just a matter of time and a matter of a short time. I know that within days things will be so much easier for all of you and that makes me so happy for you. Just keep being the awesome people you are and in no time Evan, as Ava did, will realize how totally awesome you both are. I am so happy for you and thank you for the blog. I can’t tell you how many times I checked yesterday, even though I have an alert for when you post!!!! I just got back from the gym and as soon as I walked in the door the computer went on. I was so happy to see I had an alert for the blog!!! Enjoy the rest of your trip and have a safe and happy trip home. Can’t wait to see all of you.


  4. Lis says:

    hey guys – i commented on FB, but I’ll say it again … as hard as this is, you all know it is a good sign. What comfort to know Evan has only known love and care his entire life. The fact he is mourning the loss of his foster family shows how attached they were and that he will attach to his new family. OMG what you wrote about the foster mother just sucker punched me emotionally! But again, what a gift for him to have had such care!

    We will be thinking about you all as you journey home. You know the only way through it all is going through it, and each step brings you closer to a place of healing and comfort for all. If any family can be a rock of comfort and calm and security for a child, it is yours. And sounds like Evan will add a little spicy energy to the Bamford clan!

    love love love to you all! xo Lisa, Rick & Clara

  5. Paula says:

    Your explanation of your emotional experience with Evan is heartbreaking but all of us know what a wonderful life and unconditional love Evan will have with you. Things will get better and better every day, as I am sure you remember from your experience with Ava. Now you have not only two adults to help Evan transition to his new life but Ava, a wonderful sister, to help out, also. It was very emotional even for me just reading your blog to imagine the feelings the foster mother must have gone thru but how fortunate for Evan he has had such a loving life with her thus far. Thank you again for sharing your experiences so people who love each of you so much can feel a part of it, too. I am looking forward to meeting Evan very soon! Just an aside, I am so happy that Kathy has been able to be there with all of you; I know it has been a huge help to you and will always be memories that she treasures.

  6. Dan says:

    It’s a very touching story. We’re glad to hear that you are all together now. I’m sure that Evan will adjust to his new family very quickly.


    Dan, Wenguo, and Shuya

  7. Joyce Mina says:

    While reading thru your blog, I can’t help but remember teaching pre-adopt classes and discussing the difficulties our children go through during the initial transition. It is wonderful that Evan spent the first 1.5+ years with a loving foster mother but the bottom line is that you look different, you smell different, you sound different. He’s just sad to be losing her, and you know that this is something that he needs to do to grieve that loss. The silver lining is that he’ll soon realize that he’s safe with you and all you want to do is to love him and care for him. Evan is so fortunate to have all of you for a family and in turn, you’re all blessed to have another little member in your family. Congratulations to all of you . . . hang in there, it’ll definitely get better!

  8. Wenguo says:

    I read the post with tears, both sad and happy tears. I understand the emotional sadness a child has to go through in such a young age. But I’m thrilled to see that he is in your arms. You are such an amazing parents. Oh, Ava is such an amazing sister. Evan will thrive under your love and care. Congratulations! Can’t wait to see you!

  9. Paulette says:

    Couldn’t agree more with what everyone else has written. It is so sad for Evan to have to go through this mourning process and you are obviously all hurting. Diana, you have two amazing gifts of nurturing and patience, which are just what he needs. You must be exhausted after spending all this time worrying & trying to console Evan. But I know you will continue to provide that through this difficult time to get you all through it and for a lifetime thereafter. Whoever said Evan is blessed to have parents who will allow him to grieve is so right! Nate, it is wonderful you could spend some time with Ava and reflect on your patient and loving parenting, which you now are able to offer to Evan.

    Love all of you and am here for anything you need when you get home. Hoping for a safe return.

  10. Julie says:

    Oh what an emotional, wrenching day, but do know that he will thank you one day for this incredible opportunity you have given him. His heart may never heal all the way, but the oceans of love your pour into will seal happiness into his soul…forever!
    We are all thinking of you and showing pictures to the girls – Claire is jealous that Ava got to go “on vacation” to get her little brother!

  11. Stephanie says:

    In the beginning, there are no winners at this. I remember Emma rejecting me in China, man that was rough, but you go with the flow and know that the ride eventually becomes sweet and meaningful. There are so many thing I could say, like that it’s good he’s mourning, it means he can love and bond. I could say in the grand scheme, in the big picture these moments, no matter how painful, are a mere blink of an eye. But what I want to say is…I’m proud of you guys. Again.

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