One gets only a day or two in an entire lifetime
as incredible as the day we first saw your face.
Nancy McGuire Roche
I well remember how much I loved this quote. It was in June 2006 and my husband and I were making our final plans to fly to China to meet our new daughter who was waiting in an Orphanage in Hunan - just 10 1/2 months old. In the form of a website, I kept an online journal for her, and about our travels in China.
Today, nearly 10 years later, it seems surreal reflecting back on that journal, reading our sentiments as we waited to become parents, reliving that incredibly wonderful moment we met her for the first time. There really aren't the words to describe that. We watched in amazement over the next week with her as she transformed from a rather weak, very undernourished, nearly immobile 10 month old baby, into a beautiful, robust blossom of a baby - strong, happy, eager, thoroughly excited about this new world that had opened up to her. The change in her in just one week was phenomenal - proof about how just a little bit of nurturing and nourishment can heal even the most dire of situations.
At the time, I felt instantly as protective of her as I felt proud that we were so blessed to have this child as our daughter. So honoured to be living the miracle of becoming her parents. I was balancing the knowledge that we needed to bond with her, and how much she needed to attach to us - the first consistent adults in her life. And even though I knew that was the very best thing to do at the time ... my deepest desire was to take her out to Pride Rock, just as Rafiki did after the birth of lion cub Simba (The Lion King), and raise her to the world and shout "Look! This incredibly beautiful child and this amazing soul is our daughter and she is here as a precious gift to all of us, adding deeper meaning to our existence and our world!"
But I didn't. We were sensible because we wanted to follow the advice of experts and spend at least the first six months just 'being a family' while we all developed that bond that we all had missed during those first, critical 10 months of her life. Celebrating our daughter's arrival would have to wait for a while.
So, why am I writing about such personal insight into our family?
Because celebration is at the heart of what I do. Celebration is what I bring to this world. Celebration is what I hold the greatest passion for and it is the ritual that is often missing from our culture, especially when a child comes into the world. Baby Naming. Adoption Welcomes. Rites of Passage - there are so many reasons, and so many ways to celebrate the presence of children in our lives.
We devoted those first six months quietly as a family, bonding and attaching with our daughter, and providing her with the space and the safety to bond and attach with us. And then it was drawing closer to the time when we felt ready to introduce her to our world.
So, nearly a year after our daughter came home, we designed and organised a Naming Ceremony for her, and invited everyone who would cross paths with her in some way. I wanted other people in our daughter's life to experience their own worlds becoming more beautiful because she was now in their lives as well.
We asked our friend, Pauline, who is an Interfaith Minister, to preside over the 'blessing' and the formal 'naming' of our daughter. She is named 'Annaliesa Grace Xiaohong' and her name is deeply meainingful. We wanted her to have a family name, so 'Annaliesa' is a blend of my grandmother's name and her sister's name - two of the women I most admired and loved in life. 'Xiaohong' is her Chinese name.
We designed the ceremony around one of my favourite books called 'The Twelve Gifts of Birth' by Charlene Costanzo. (I highly recommend the book; in fact I give this as a gift to a baby/young child at every opportunity - birthdays, naming ceremonies, baptisms, adoption welcomes ... )
It tells the long ago story, in faraway kingdoms, when wise women travelled swiftly to the castle whenever a new prince or princess was born. Each wise woman (faerie godmother) presented a noble gift to the baby. The wise women understood that the 'twelve royal gifts of birth' belong to every child, born anywhere, at anytime. Unfortunately, the custom of the land prohibited the women from proclaiming the gifts to all children. But the wise women gathered one day and made the prophecy that some day all children of the world will learn the truth about their noble inheritance and when that happened, a miracle would unfold on the kingdom of earth.
We wanted our daughter to know the secrets of the wise women, and the story continues to say that when a child is born, as they take their first breath, a great celebration is held in the heavens and twelve magnificent gifts are granted to them. Those gifts include:
The gifts of ...
Strength ... Beauty ... Courage ...
Compassion ... Hope ... Joy ... Talent ...
Imagination ... Reverence ... Wisdom ... Love ... Faith
(In fact, I made colourful boards with each of these words being displayed all across the top of her bedroom walls. Even at age 10, she loves those words decorating her room. We have had so many lovely chats about what those words mean to her and to us as a family.)
Using this book as the background for our ceremony, we made promises to our daughter to love her without smothering her independence. To shelter her without stifling her spirit. To give to her generously without expectation. To encourage her to explore this world, hand over hand, pushing limits far beyond the security of her room, her home, her garden. We promised that we would inspire her to jump feet first into life as though it were a huge puddle; we knew that she would delight in the joys and the messes of the splash!
We know that there will be people in her life who may tell her “Be Cautious, Don’t Trust, Stay Safe” … those who might make her doubt the strength she feels in her own legs. There are those who may try to silence her, who might stand in the way when she expresses her spirit. There are those who may challenge her values because of their own limitations, and perhaps try to impose a sense of wrong onto her.
But this 'theme' to her 'Welcome and Naming Ceremony' encourages her to remember her twelve gifts of birth, especially her gift of courage and the sense of wonder that she will hold in her heart.
Participating in such a meaningful 'Welcome and Naming Ceremony' symbolised our hope that she would never feel that she has to compromise herself. That the world is an awe-inspiring place if she allows it to be so. And that it is our deepest hope, as her parents, that she will always fly with the freedom of joy and adventure. Most important, we wanted the day to symbolise that she is always surrounded by love - in that moment, in this moment, in every moment during the rest of her life.
The celebration continued by honouring grandparents, acknowledging the role of Godparents, marking the significance of our daughter's full name (telling the stories behind our choices), and presenting our daughter with the gift of some 'life gifts' in the form of little charms in a silver box:
A tiny silver key - the gift of Empowerment
A tiny silver flower - the gift of Inspiration
A little clover - the gift of Luck
A little silver angel - the gift of Protection
A tiny silver heart - the gift of Love and Friendship
We continued the ceremony with a blessing for my husband and myself, as her parents, and an expression of our hopes for her and her future.
And we concluded with a blessing for my daughter's birth parents, declaring our immense gratitude to them for choosing to give our daughter life so that she could be united with her forever family.
We scattered poems, music, readings and a few stories throughout the ceremony, but this is the heart of how we chose to honour our daughter, and to raise her to our world with pride and deep gratitude.
This is just one way that a child can be welcomed into a family - this was our chosen way. I invite you to contact me if you are considering something similar, or even if you aren't sure what you'd like to do, but you know that you somehow want to acknowledge your child's presence in your family. It would be an absolute honour to chat with you about that - a conversation that is completely complimentary!
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