“So how are things going?”
This is the question I get asked most often, followed by some variation of this comment, “I mean, on Facebook everything looks perfect. Like, wow.”
Perfect doesn’t exist in real life. Everything over here is not perfect.
It doesn’t really make sense to photograph night terrors or those moments when her fear comes flooding back. It doesn’t make sense to photograph and share with a general group the behaviors that concern us and make us worry and re-imagine the future. And those aren’t things to share on Facebook or even this blog. These are the things we share with our social workers. We are her mama and baba–her protectors, not her publicists…and that means we protect what we share publicly (and even in this post, I am keeping stuff intentionally vague).
Truth is, the day to day is hard…and some days, it is just brutally hard. But, every trusted expert we’ve talked to says we are in the trenches or the valley…and THAT is exactly what it feels like. Can you imagine what it must feel like for her?
I found myself really trying to adjust other people’s expectations pre-adoption. “Well, she could have severe delays.” or “Well, she might have an attachment disorder.” or on and on. I am so thankful or agency required a lot of training and as best as they could, help adjust our expectations. I am so grateful that my husband and I read every expert’s book that we could possibly read before we traveled. Because y’all, to be the decent parents for the hurt our girl has endured, we have needed to draw on these resources and more. We have needed to draw on our faith in ways we have never experienced. This is not just the “first time parent” stuff (sure, there is some of that) that people love to tease us about. It is also the reality that we are parenting a precious child who has endured lots of trauma. We see the impact of that trauma in tangible ways everyday. I still find myself trying to adjust people’s expectations (and frankly my own) post-adoption. “Yes, I know you think she is doing great because she is over friendly with strangers, but really, that is not a good thing.”
Sure, we see the typical two-year old stuff. But typically, babies aren’t abandoned. Typically, babies are not raised in orphanages. Typically, when a baby cries, a baby is held and soothed or nursed. Typically, babies don’t have a rotation of five caregivers who have your child call them “mama.” No, that’s not a mama. Typically, a baby does not have to go to your pantry over and over just to make sure that there is food because the fear of going without is very real. Typically, a baby does not meet her new parents for the first time in a hotel room, only to turn around and see that two of the women she called mama are gone, vanished.
Typically, babies don’t have seven “mamas” in two years. Seven. I am the seventh mama, and that title comes with baggage.
Typically, a baby does not lose every single person she loves in her life TWICE. I want to repeat that.
Typically, a baby does not lose every single person she loves TWICE.
So yes, things are hard. And as hard as we feel it is, can you imagine how hard it is for our precious girl?
Again…Typically, babies don’t have seven “mamas” in two years. Seven. I am the seventh mama, and my new title of “mama” comes with baggage. That baggage is not because of who I am, but because of the history that I bump into.
During the day, when it is particularly tough, I think about the scripture plastered all over t-shirts and posters and blogs, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Lord, thank you that this verse is plastered everywhere.
Caring for a girl who is no longer an orphan in her distress. Sometimes, I think we overlook that “distress” word and sometimes feel tempted to slap on rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. Distress though. Distress is defined as “extreme anxiety, sorrow, pain, anguish, agony, torment, misery, unhappiness, sadness, grief, desolation, and despair.” We see evidence of distress and we care for her and meet her in that place every day. I feel like as a mama, I have entered into a precious girl’s distress. Sweet girl, I am so sorry for all of the hurt.
I have been reading “Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow.” Even though I don’t agree with everything in the book, I have found it very, very valuable and would highly recommend it. Don’t skip a stinking page or chapter. If you don’t think that chapter applies to you, all the more reason to be informed.
I want to share with you the page that made me cry out to God and say, “Father! Thank YOU! They wrote this page for us to understand our precious girl’s behavior and feelings and heart.” It’s the page I read to Bry as soon as he came home from work. It’s the page that I re-read every day and ask for the Lord’s help.
“It is difficult for most people to understand why these children reject what all children need so much–love and nurturing. The answer is simple: They learned early in life to trust no one. They learned that people leave you if they love them. They learned that the ones who are supposed to nurture them do not. And most important, they learned that parents–the very people you are supposed to trust with your life–are capable of hurting you and are not worthy of trust. As a result, they learn a new cycle that goes something like this: I have a need, I am aroused, I make you aroused, we push each other away.
These children are terrified of being hurt again, so they reject nurturing from their new parents. After all, they think, when these new parents get rid of me, hurt me, or neglect me (their expectations), it won’t hurt so much if I don’t love them. Here is something I can control. When they get rid of me, it will be because I made them do it.”
I see this in her every day.
So this is what the Facebook pictures and updates don’t show, but is the reality in the day to day. And we see this manifest in different ways every day (ways we don’t share publicly).
Keep praying for our precious girl. We love her. Keep praying for us too.
Every day, we continue to care for our precious Lydia Grace when she shows her distress…