My Etsy Shop!

>

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

International Adoption: Behind the Blogs

I have been writing this post in my head for a long time, almost 6 months actually. And I debated it for several reasons, one being the effort it would take to actually type it (can you say TIRED??) and two being the consideration of how my daughter may feel one day reading it. So I have prayed and feel like God gave me the ok to write it for 3 reasons--to encourage those who have walked a similar path that they are NOT alone, to help those whose experience was different to understand us others, and for those who have not yet adopted to see all sides of the journey. So without further adieu, I will share what it has been like for our family since meeting our newest family member.

I read a good bit about struggling with attachment and the possibility that it may feel awkward at first with your new child and even post-adoption depression, so I felt like I was prepared for that possibility. I prayed that that would not be the case for us and that our first meeting of our baby girl would be wonderful-and it WAS! It truly was one of the holiest moments in which I have ever participated and God showed us a side of His love that was truly magnificent. With this fabulous first moment where the clouds parted and angels sang and all the world was rainbows and happy tears came a reassurance to me that, yup, we were a-ok and would not have one bit of trouble with loving and attaching to this sweet creature. In fact, we were already hopelessly entranced by her. Within just a few minutes of holding her, I could tell she was not well--she had very rattly breathing and just seemed pretty out of it, so I was a little concerned. As the rest of the days in Ethiopia went on, she continued to have a hard time breathing, even one night had me sitting up praying fervently that she would not die because she was wheezing and struggling to breathe so much. I was very worried at that possibility-I realized didn't even know if this was normal for her, if she had a serious illness, how to comfort her, where a doctor or hospital might be-she felt very unfamiliar to me and it was a weird feeling for a mom of 3 to feel like she had no clue what to do with a baby. I felt less competent with this tiny stranger than I ever did with my first daughter and it was unsettling. I just wanted to get her home and get her taken care of with familiar doctors and pharmacies and rocking chairs so we could begin our joyous new life as a family of 6. The trip home was fairly uneventful, she slept great and it was wonderful to get my other 3 kids back in my arms at the airport, wonderful and FAMILIAR. We got her to the doctor the very next morning where it was debated whether or not to put her in the hospital, but she was ultimately put on significant breathing treatments and medications and round the clock care, plus bottles to deal with every couple hours (a big difference from my nursing experiences) and so our new life together was not joyous, but rather chaotic and crazy. She continued to have breathing problems that eventually landed me and her in a locked-down isolation unit at a hospital an hour away from home while they tried to figure out if she had TB (which she did not, btw). We got out of the hospital on Mother's Day and I realized I felt totally disconnected from my other kids from not having spent much time with them at all in the last month, and also from this baby whom I had been spending all my time with, but who I really didn't know b/c all that time was spent with doctors and medicines and hospitals. Well, NOW I was ready for that joyous family of 6 thing. But again, it didn't happen. Instead, I began to get to know our newest little lady and guess what? She was NOT fun at all!! She screamed all. the. time. LOUDLY. And a LOT. As in ALWAYS. The only thing that would even come close to getting her to stop was to hold her, all the time, and no, not in a carrier. It was exhausting. And I wanted her to stop, a LOT. Not to mention that her screaming would then set my 2 year old into a wailing, inconsolable crying fit of her own and we spent many a day with 2 very loudly wailing children next to me on the floor while I silently wept, amongst great Mt. Everest's of laundry and heaps of dirty dishes and tumbleweeds of dog fur on unvacuumed floors, and asked God why He had called us to THIS? Was this what we had prayed for, hoped for, wanted, anticipated so eagerly for the last year? Is this what all of our friends and family had been so excited about? Had we misunderstood what God asked us to do and this was the consequences? I felt like I couldn't function normally in any way and it felt like my family was all coming unglued. And the biggest panic I had was that I COULD NOT GET OUT OF IT. I debated giving AGCI (our agency) a call and asking "What is your return policy?" but really felt that "because she is driving me to the brink of insanity and shattering the peace of our household with her ridiculous, never-ending caterwauling screams" was not a reason they would accept for disrupting the adoption. But really, I would panic-this is FOREVER. I cannot get out of it and I am stuck and my life will never be enjoyable again, my other kids will resent us and their new sister for ruining their nice life and our family will be a shambles and I will celebrate all my holidays alone while my children prefer to be with their in-laws and talk about what a horrible family they grew up in. Did I mention I felt a little panicky here and there??? And the worst was the blogs of other families who had adopted, too-with their shiny happy pictures and stories and reports of feeling like "they have always been a part of our family and were meant to be with us! we are so blessed!" Ugh. I just felt like this little person did NOT feel like a part of our family, and I resented her coming in and up-ending everything that was good and comfortable and happy about our family, even if it wasn't her fault (and even if I had also felt this way about one of our bio kids when she was born and had severe colic). And then oh, the GUILT. It was consuming. Well-meaning friends would squeal with delight when they saw my little girl for the first time and say "Oh Jody, you must be on cloud 9!" and "How wonderful!"and "You are so blessed!" as I would manage to eek out a smile and respond "mmmmhmmmm", while silently flogging myself with the whip of guilt--"what kind of mother are you?" "how can you feel that way about a helpless ORPHAN? don't you know that God called you to love her?" "you ARE blessed, and not even grateful, how terrible..." "it is really not that bad, you are just being selfish and unloving" Not to mention the guilt of all the attachment information swirling around in my head: do not let your baby cry, immediately meet their needs so they know they are loved and cared for, don't let anyone else hold/feed/TRY TO SILENCE them for the first few months, spend time holding and cuddling your baby as much as possible and if you do not, your baby will never ever feel like you are her mother and will grow up severely dysfunctional-how does one do this with a baby who never ever is still or quiet ever unless she is asleep?? That was the other thing-this girl, once she could breathe, would NOT be still, ever. And drooled and spit up literally 24/7 so I was always filthy and smelly, she was always filthy and smelly, and it was just unpleasant to say the least. I would relish the times she was asleep and hiss vicious threats to my other children through clenched teeth:"if you wake that baby up, you will never see the light of day again, and also will be forced to eat spinach and lima beans for every single meal until the day you die! and we will stop having Christmas. and fun. forever." The whole time she slept, I felt the urgency to do whatever I could possibly do during that time b/c when she woke up, I was going to once again be a slave to the whims and demands of this loud 15 pound little tyrant. The minute I heard her start to stir in her bed, I would say "no no no..." and wish her back to sleep. And again, the guilt-'what is wrong with me???' Other moms posting about "oh I woke my baby up b/c I missed him so much" and I am thinking "here! take mine then so you have something to occupy your time!" And another kind of guilt that I couldn't shake-had we made a mistake taking our child from her homeland? How would I feel if I had to relinquish my children and some person of another race, another culture, another language, another EVERYTHING took them across the world to absolutely NOTHING familiar?? That guilt was haunting and paralyzing (and honestly still is some days--I place those questions at God's feet regularly). I felt empty and spent and angry and sad and overwhelmed and confused. THIS was NOT what I prayed for. THIS was NOT what I wanted or seemingly what anyone else was going through. THIS was NOT what God called us to. Or was it? I would constantly replay the last 18 months of our life, and sometimes even further back to things God had done, and I knew without one speck of a doubt that God had walked us right here. "But Lord? Right here stinks." And He said "I know, but I am right here too." And honestly, some days that was an encouragement, and some days I yelled at Him, "Then DO SOMETHING!!! Fix this!!" I began to pray very specifically to have a heart of love for my baby girl. To love her with my feelings, not just with my head-because I was willing and able to do whatever necessary to take care of my girl and provide for her, but I just felt no affection, just anger and frustration. I clung to articles by Melissa Fay Green where she talked about similar experiences with her newly brought home son. I would read, and re-read them. She is a champion of adoption, had done it multiple times, and yet, could it be possible that she had a hard time adjusting to her new children, too? God showed me many other women and families who had adopted, and struggled like I was, as well. And I began to realize that it did not mean that this was how things would be forever, even if it was for now. And I remembered the dark days of colic with one of my other daughters and how now she is without a doubt one of my favorite people on this planet. And I surrendered it to God and asked not for Him to "fix it" anymore, but to give me the stamina to walk through it with Him. I knew He had called us to this little girl, and I knew He was good, so I knew I needed to choose to trust, even when it seemed like unending darkness sometimes. And you know what? God has slowly knit our family together and grown great, deep affection and love in our hearts for each other. It did NOT happen overnight and it was at times very challenging. But I can honestly say, now, that I love our newest daughter passionately and love to spend time with her and feel like she is every bit as much my own as my other 3 daughters. Yes, life is still exhausting, and yes, she is still crazy busy and LOUD and likes to be heard and attended to, um, promptly--I guess she knows she is number 4 and is not about to be lost in the shuffle, haha! It has been a long 6 months and we have been stretched and tugged and pulled and broken. But I would hope that we have been broken like warm bread, that from being broken can be shared to nourish others rather than broken into jagged pieces that wound and cause pain. This was ultimately my goal in sharing our story-to take our brokenness and use it for God's glory. To encourage others who may be struggling to feel affection toward their new children. To raise awareness amongst those who are adopting that it may not be like you expect, and that is ok. And to let my newest little Thing know I love her--and that I would do every minute of the last 6 months over if I needed to for her to be here as my daughter.

19 comments:

Erin said...

As I was reading this, I was thinking "when is 6 months for Jody?", because I swear it really does take 6 months for things to feel sane and click and the flashes of hysteria of "what have I gotten myself into" to fade :) But those aren't things we mamas feel safe blogging about. Because if I admit that I'm gonna lock that little bugger up in a box if he bites his brother one more time today...well I might have the police knocking on my door! Glad you're starting to see the light, the transistion was/is HARD!

Steve Amstar said...

Wow, that was very relatable. Thanks for sharing all the emotion and feeling. That took real cahones to put out here.

And I hear you. Boy do I hear you...

Are These Kids All Yours? said...

Thank you for sharing in honesty! Although it is not all the time and every time this happens......it is not all the time every time- that things go "well". Thank you for sharing your heart because it isn't easy. Thank you for still choosing to love even when it was hard. Thank you for not giving in, and know that you are a normal adoptive family!!! Thank you!

Tisha said...

Thanks Jody. I hate that is hasn't been milk shakes and rainbows for you, but it is so nice to know that I am not alone. As I type I have a 2 year old throwing a fit because I told her no, you cannot shake the open can of Diet Coke in the house. There are days that I am at a lost as to what to do, but know that the Lord will see us through. No matter how hard the days get, I know this is His will for us.

titushome said...

Jody,

Thank you so much for following the Lord's direction to share this. I've bookmarked the page...:)

Sarah T.

Jana said...

Wow. First, you're a great writer. Second, awesome message and it will no doubt be a huge encouragement to many. Third, I hear this all the time. People saying their Ethiopian kids are loud. As I write, I can't concentrate because of the sounds emanating from the trampoline out back....He is darndest, loudest, nuttiest child I have met. I can certainly relate to what you've talked about here! Thanks for saying it so well!
fraserfive

The Young Family said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. This post is a pearl tucked away for later. I love your vulnerability and REALNESS. Your daugther is blessed to have you as her mommy!!!

Tim Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

What can I say? We are still there.


(Oh and the deleted comment was mine. I am on my in-laws computer and it was on their account -- thought it would be confusing.)

Josh and Kristi said...

Jody, as I read I kept shaking my head in agreement and chucking...because we've been there and made it through. You articulated very well the emotions of mom. 6 months home was our magic number too, and now it just keeps getting better:) Thanks for your honesty.

Dawn said...

Great post my friend!!

Maria and Family said...

I am so happy you have made it to the other side :) honestly with all the sickness and missing your 3 girls that really adds stress. With boo, she came home very sick over and over and over. she would wake every stinkin hour for over a month thru the night, and naps were counted in minutes :( i was beat up.I did start to feel some resentment and confusion...it is natural , your whole world is upside down. with tatiana the attachment was amazing and she was loving even when not sleeping well where boo was angry. BUT SHE IS A SCREAMER. still. she crys alot. sometimes hysterical and i have no idea why1?!!?? but slowly we make it thru. her homecoming/attachmetn was much better and smoother then boo but i have been where you are and i am sending you hugs :)

Laura said...

Amen. I have had some tough days too... Okay, about 8 hard months, after our adoption. We had a miracle bio baby 4 months after our adopted son came home. I can completely relate to what you shared, and have also had a 2 yr old and a baby screaming in my lap while I cried. Thank you so much for this post, it did my heard good.

We too have come out of the first difficult months of learning to love, and now are onto regular ol' 2 yr old tantrums. I'll keep checking in to see how life is going.

:o) Laura
www.kickpaddlebreathe.com

The Hull's at #4 said...

I think Zoe is going to read this post someday and thank God he picked you to be her mom. Thanks for sharing Jody.

Ang said...

Thank you for sharing. As we prepare to pick up our babies in Ethiopia, I'm thankful to hear the "real" story behind some of the photos that others share. I tend to look for the rainbows and ponies, when I should be facing reality. I remember some of these same feelings the first few weeks I brought my son home from the hospital. I felt like the worst mom b/c no one shared that I might feel sad, depressed, etc. (or perhaps they did and I didn't listen) It passed, but it took a few months. Again, thank you for your honesty.

Blessings and Prayers to you,
Angie

Margaret said...

OH, OH, how I can relate....the guilt, the crying, the feelings of lonliness and thinking it would never end!! But it did...and now I look back and know it made me a stronger person, better parent, and closer to our Heavenly Father!!!

I pray that a year from now, you will look back on this post and update us, because it will be different!!!!!!

missy said...

i've wanted to comment on this blog for awhile, but have been hesitant b/c i think i can be one of the "sunshiney" bloggers. i can SO relate to guilt as a mother in various forms and i'm so glad you were honest. everyone's struggles are different, but some feel more "bloggable" than others. i'm glad you chose to put your story out there to encourage the rest of us. and i'm glad that you are where you are now. time to know someone has an amazing and healing affect in growing love.

so, a lot of words to just say "thanks".

Sunday said...

I want to thank you for your honest words. I can totally relate to so much of what you spoke about. My transition home with Elyse was hard as well. The light at the end of the tunnel is what people need to realize...these feelings don't last forever. But while they are there, they are very real and very difficult. I was consumed with guilt as well. I am really thankful for your honesty as this is what people need to hear. I am speaking at an international adoption conference tomorrow and I pray that I can be as honest to help as many people as possible prepare for the transition home. Your little girl is just beautiful!

Kristi J said...

Wow...a lot of this sounds like my experiences with my bio #2 and #3 who had lots of sickness and hospitalizations from birth and my #3 who had constant collic...I know from experience that every baby has their own personality and disposition attached...It just happened to be that our adopted child has by far been the easiest one for us...We always say we had to adopt to get a laid back baby :) I just didn't blog yet when we birthed #2 and #3 or you could have read all about it :) Thanks for your truthfulness..I know someone will take your words and cling to them when they are feeling the exact same things...So glad things are looking up for you, kristi