Saturday, April 16, 2011

One of the things I didn't know 5yrs ago

When we started the adoption process for the first time almost 5 years ago, I thought if we did our research (and BOY did I!), picked a great agency, flew through the adoption process,picked the right flights, had plenty of hairbows (LOL), and showered Kemry with love, life for her would be no different than if she had been born into our family. Sure I knew some kids had scars and problems bonding, but that was OLDER kids, right? Not babies. And kids from orphanages, not kids from loving foster homes! So or baby would come home at just a few months old and not even notice anything had changed. BOY WERE WE NAIVE!!!!!! I had heard of attachment issues and RAD, but knew that most kids with those issues were severely abused before adoption and older. I skimmed a few online articles and websites on the subject, but that was the extent of my "adopted kid issues" training and basically all of those backed up what I thought- babies don't remember the loss of their first mother and adjust without any problems. Kemry came home to us at 7mo old and we immediately knew these people were all quacks!!!! She grieved and grieved HARD. Only, the experts, including pediatricians, refused to believe her issues were adoption related because she came to us at such an early age. She didn't like that her perfect little world had been turned upside down. She wasn't waiting on us to come get her like we were on our side. Adoption was very much more about US at that point than her. I feel God used Kemry to show us that we didn't have to adopt one of those "older harder kids" to get a child with deep scars from "just" loosing a mom. So for 2 years, she continued to protest us being her new mommy and daddy. She wanted us to hold her but then didn't want us. We weren't what she wanted but she knew she wanted and needed someone. At this point I started reading everything I could get myhands on about attachment and bonding. most books were written about the older child because, well ya know, "babies don't have those issues". The more I learned and talked to other parents the more I realized they do, but they are often ignored as being related to adoption. There's a saying that it takes a child being in their new family the same amount of time they were without their family to get past the grieving and to bond. I myself have said this 100 times at least without putting a lot of thought into it until now. Suddenly it occurred to me it's such an incredibly OVER simplified way of thinking of the lifelong journey many adoptees take to accept and deal with their story. For some they may not need to put a lot of thought into it and may adjust well from day one. For others, that deep sense of loss will stick with them forever.

She finally came to trust us and deeply bond with us, but it's obvious the scars from the "miracle of adoption" are still there and may always be. Today she is a very happy little girl for the most part and adores us as we do her. It's so easy to forget she is adopted because she is so deeply a part of our family. I sometimes "forget" that I didn't birth her. Even though she is a well adjusted little girl who loves her family smiles all the time, and doesn't seem to have a single need in the world, she still hurts because loosing what she lost in her first 7mo of life (her birth mother she was DEEPLY bonded to from conception as well as a foster mother who had loved her for 7mo) is traumatic.


The other night she woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible night terror. Instead of being afraid (terror), it was deep intense sadness. She cried so super hard and I couldn't console her. Finally she woke up from it and I asked her what was making her sad. She said with huge tears rolling down her cheeks, "I miss my mommy." I knew she didn't mean me even though she and I are very close and bonded. I knew it was something much deeper than I could fulfill. The bond between a mother and her baby already at BIRTH is DEEP. Loosing that is a huge deal, even if the baby goes straight home from the hospital with the adoptive parents, they know. They know they aren't with the same person they were with for 9 mo. Even in the perfect adoption situation, something terrible had to happen for adoption to be needed. Going into this I thought love was all these children needed, but while they of course NEED love, that's by far not going to erase what they have been through. Of course we don't spend every day talking about everything that happened to our children for them to become orphans, but we don't pretend it hasn't affected them either. Almost 5yrs later, we are still learning and growing on this journey to provide all we can for our children. There's SO much to know and even the experts still have so much to learn. Most of what I am learning about my children I have had to get from little bits of information from naturapaths, neurologists, psychiatrists, other parents, child development experts, etc. Not one person has all the answers and not one book can cover all the dynamics of what they are dealing with. And to think I once thought LOVE IS ALL THEY NEED.



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10 comments:

Paula said...

I think the loss of the birth mom even to a small baby is starting to be recognized more by "the experts" but there is still a long way to go. Even with older kids, so many people don't understand the terrible loss and grieving that the children go through. Love is great, we have definitely learned it isn't enough. Adoption is wonderful in many ways, but every adoption also starts with a tragedy to a child. I love my adopted kids to pieces, but I know I will never replace their birth mother in their hearts, and I don't want to. Hugs.

Pineapple Princess said...

Beautifully written. Would love to hear more about what you've learned!

Laurie said...

So true! I often wonder if some of Bella's behavior issues aren't adoption related. Everyone thinks I am crazy and I should discipline her like you would any other child but I just can't. If she is grieving about an adoption related issue and can't verbalize it, I am NOT going to punish her for that. I can't find any counselors around here that deal with adoption related issues either.

Amy said...

Kelly, what a beautiful and insightful post. I totally agree with you and also with Laurie. We've been so fortunate, but I know that a lot of P's behavior and "issues" are adoption-related. I rarely try to explain my motivation for how I handle things anymore because it does get old when other people try to tell you that your child is "just spoiled" or "too dependent". Now, if it comes down to it I'll say, "that's just how we do it".

You inspire me, Kelly!

Sharon said...

You said this so succinctly and beautifully, thank you. Our daughter has been home a year (adopted at 5 or 6)-we're still looking ahead at the long road before us. It is difficult to know what's really going on in her mind and heart sometimes. We've learned a lot this year, but still have so far to go!

The Hopkins Home said...

I have a dear friend who brought her 2 adopted babies home from the hospital - met them the moment they were born but they still grieved. I think it's wonderful and brave of you to post this very real part of adoption - many people don't want to hear this part. They want to think it's all sunshine and rainbows - a win-win for all involved when really a child has suffered a tragic loss in the loss of their first mother. Even in abuse cases there is loss in a child's mind. Your children and so fortunate that you are aware and helping them work through it. My friend grieved for a long time that her children might be forever scarred and may never get completely over the sadness of being adopted....but you know - we all have something. We all have something in our lives that challenges us, makes us sad, something - not one of us in exempt from trouble in this fallen world. We can't make the world completely perfect for our bio kids either - we just have to love them all the best we can and equip them to deal with life (whatever the circumstances may be) the best we can and help them to know and understand that we serve a God who promises that though in this world we will have trouble we can take heart for HE has overcome the world.

veggiemom said...

This is so on the money!!! Thanks for this!

Ruthanne said...

As usual, you are telling the truth and advocating for your kids. It's so hard to know what is attachment and what is their personality because there is no way to separate the two. I try to 'err' on the side of attachment but, like you, I sometimes 'forget' that I did not give birth to them and have to remind myself of where the issues may stem from. It's hard to explain to people sometimes without always sounding like I am making excuses but it's how our life has to be for now. We stick close to each other and are rarely apart unless I am at work. Even then, it is stressful for all of us when I need to find an alternative daycare for a day or two.
In many ways, I'm glad it's not easy (although our road has been easier than most) because I don't ever want to forget to care for them emotionally as well as physically or to 'forget' their adoption pain.

(sorry...that got long but I know you're not actually surprised by that. lol)

Sammie said...

I wish more families would talk about this. I know when people are in the paper chase they can't imagine that they might experience this. Even if they read this, they still can't imagine it. The more its talked about though, it will help families who have adopted to more quickly understand that things they may be seeing in their child, are really grief, and while they are overjoyed to have this child, that, her/his needs must be looked at and treated differently.

Carissa said...

I'm so glad you shared this. Our first adopted son was 8 weeks when we brought him home. While he hasn't shown that level of sadness yet, I am sure that it will come when the questions start. And now that we are adopting again - older children from Ethiopia - I am trying to brace myself for that sadness, and those hurts that I can't put a bandaid on. I'm sure I'll be talking to you a lot in the near future!