It was about a week ago when I received an update on our daughter in China. A few pictures, some of the treasured ten I have. Some brief, mostly clinical words, translated a bit roughly from the foster caregiver to the adoption agency staff. Words and pictures that I hunger over, devour, zooming in on each equisite detail of this mysterious child who will become my daughter. Not bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh . . . but a heartbeat that my own heart knows.
To my total surprise, the picture showed her beautiful hair shaved short and a more tentative, and discouraged looking child than before. Perhaps ashamed to be facing a camera that will record her image for her new parents, without the hair she must have loved. An orphaned child already has so little of her own; to not have even the rights to her own hair is a further travesty. In the picture they have placed her holding a small package with her name, our name and our adoption number.
There stands our daughter. Looking for all the world like an orphan.
When the truth is that she is treasured, wanted, loved, waited for, valued.
It broke my heart.
How dare they cut my daughters hair off?! Why? Who? How? And why now . . . just when she is preparing to come to America where the shaved head will be just another way she looks less normal, less typical, more out of place? Don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t care less if we get her with a shaved head or long hair. But I’m willing to bet other nine year old girls might think she looks funny or like a boy!
(The reality is, of course, that the Chinese government subsidizes and provides for JQ’s care in foster home where her caregiver has every right to shave her head if they see fit. Our daughter looks quite healthy and well fed and we have no real reason to believe that she is experiencing anything other than a safe, if institutional, upbringing. We just wish she were here in our family where we could look after her, feed her, hold her, and begin becoming family together.)
This is the journey of adoption. We have deep love that pulls us across continents, ethnicities, and into a plunge of love-risk that sometimes feels unfathomable. We sacrifice years of savings and opportunities and our future but yet we do not have the ability to protect her from abuse, neglect, or the simple act of a radical hair cut. We must simply continue to trust. Trust that she is well and that soon we will take her hand and help her walk towards wholeness in a brand new world.
So after I received the photo, I cried. A lot. And then I cut off nearly all my hair too. Solidarity, sister.
And as I took my second, third, fiftieth look at my daughter’s newest photo, I rejoiced, that for the first time in my life, I was able to really see my beautiful daughter’s beautiful ears.
And all because they shaved her head.