The stranger and I sat staring across from one another for what seemed like hours. My foot was falling asleep - I shouldn't have chosen to sit this way - but I didn't dare move. His eyes blinked. His lip trembled. I thought he was going to start crying again, or worse yet screaming. My husband should have been back by now. How long could it possibly take to buy two waters??? I reached out a hand. The stranger across from me shrank back in abject fear. It was me versus a 22 month old and he was winning.
This is what the first few days of motherhood were like. Reaching out, repeat rejections, my new son clinging to my husband for dear life. At my very touch my son would cringe, howl like I had burned him. Intellectually I knew this was part of the attachment process. Intellectually I knew our son's whole world had been torn from him. This was merely a physical reaction to his emotional state, but still I was hurt.
I tried little things. I helped him put on his coat or passed him a piece of food. I held his hand when he crossed the street, each day the hand holding lasting a minute longer than the last. Ever so slowly my son began to thaw. Then we returned home.
In his new environment my son had no choice but to cling to both me and my husband. Still each time we would pick him up his body remained rigid. Each time we hugged goodnight my son would keep one arm between his body and ours - careful not to get too close.
Then came the day when my son randomly came up and flung his arms around me. Bursting with love he nestled his face into my shoulder. I stood in shock.
It's been two months since we returned home from China and each day gets better and better. Watching my son as he grows and thrives in his new environment has got me thinking: What barriers do I put up on a daily basis? In what ways do I physically or emotionally put an arm between myself and the thing that scares me? What would it be like to rush into the "next thing" with arms spread open and a huge grin on my face? Seems to me like a risk worth taking.