The First Year

The last month or so has been really challenging for me. Certainly I was struggling with self-care, but it’s more than that. I realized over the last month that Hope and I were entering a new phase, and I am having trouble adjusting to our realities.

I remember reading, what seems like an eternity ago, how you go through the honeymoon phase, the rough phase, a smoothing out phase and then, potentially rougher phases.

I think we’ve hit a rougher phase. And I think we’re both just roughing it.

I am realizing that so much of Hope’s challenges are largely invisible. Sure, she has some physical scars, but the emotional, psycho-socio scars…they are so hard to tease out sometimes. It’s easy to forget they are there sometimes until denying their existence is simply impossible.

Nearly 18 months of love, therapy, medical help, stability, routine, hard fighting, and it’s finally safe enough for Hope’s deeper issues to show themselves.

That’s a huge win to celebrate on the anniversary of our finalization, even if it doesn’t feel celebration worthy.

It’s kind of like opening the closet and finding one of the lighter Stephen King stories.

And interestingly, I feel more alone than ever in my on ground life, save for my most amazing couple of lifelines. You see a year after finalization and nearly 18 months after placement we couldn’t possibly have problems, right? Nope, no problems here.

I just lie and say we’re doing great, perpetuating the myth that post-adoptive families don’t struggle.

I was doing some reading this week about parental expectations, ahead of the recent episode of Add Water and Stir; the articles I covered explored adoptive parents’ emotional health. General findings were that APs with misaligned parenting expectations were at greater risk for depression, lower resilience, more challenges in bonding, and an extensive list of other depressing ailments, which all in turn trigger more challenging behaviors from adoptees. And the cycle continues.

Just awesome.

Oh and did I mention that most of these studies were done two years post placement and/or finalization? Hope and I are only 1 year out and these last two months have me feeling like I’m clawing my way through life.


Now I know those studies don’t *have* to apply to me and Hope, but I am increasingly aware that my expectations of parenting and of Hope are just…just off.

I thought they’d be more realistic after our first year together.

They are better than they were, but I’m thinking they aren’t as low as they should be.

Yesterday was my and Hope’s “gotcha” anniversary. It’s beautiful, but it’s also bittersweet. We kept things fairly low key with manis, pedis and brow taming, dinner and dessert on Friday and dress shopping today for the 8th grade dance yesterday.

Shopping for the dress was such a nightmare that she asked to stop shopping, and I silently cried on the way home. Oh and we left the mall with no dress and Hope debating whether she should even go to the dance because she is ugly with no friends and no style and it will probably be awful anyway. No one wins.

Lately I’m crying almost as much as I was right after the initial placement. I’m feeling not very attached. I’m not even wanting to hang with her as much. I’m just having trouble dealing to our normal right now.

Yeah, this is our normal, and it kinda sucks. My kid doesn’t have many friends; she runs them away. She doesn’t get invited to anything; she differentiates the group she hangs with from school as just being that rather than true friends. But the kids at the new church? One couple hour block of hang time, and they are friends. I hope they become friends, but it concerns me that she thinks they are already friends.

I had and have so many hopes and dreams for us, together and separately, but I think they may just be too much. I’m trying to let go some of those hopes and dreams because I am not sure Hope will course correct, whether I can get her there (wherever there actually is), that I can be emotionally ok with not meeting milestones when they are supposed to be met, that I’m terrified about what the future holds.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so pessimistic about the future, even if I do believe we will make progress. It all makes me so very sad. Really it’s grief.

I’m disappointed that commemorating our first finalization anniversary turned into something that brought in the gray clouds. I’m hopeful that the coming weeks will bring more sunshine. I’m hopeful that the coming year brings more progress.


About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted my now adult daughter in 2014, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©, 2013-2022. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

7 responses to “The First Year

  • Andrew

    I really appreciate you sharing your journey. It’s beautiful and insightful and parallels ours in many ways. Sending love and appreciate from NYC to you and Hope.

  • TAO

    I’ve read a lot from many families that there is an unconscious build up in the child around the anniversary…I didn’t pay it much heed until I realized that I get that unconscious build up relating to the passing of my son and my mood finally makes me look at the calendar (I don’t recognise time passage anymore) and then I have my answer…something about implicit memories. Triggers suck. I’m sorry you guys are at that point.

  • AdoptiveNYMomma

    It took me awhile to learn to take more joy in baby steps. Your dreams may be off a bit but not matter keep aiming for them and congratulate yourself on the baby steps forward not the slides backwards. They happen BUT progress is progress. Take time to grieve and know you truly are making progress.

  • Sara

    Your honesty is amazing. It allows the rest of us to see inside a world we may never fully understand. My heart hurts seeing the ways you struggle, but I am in awe of your strength in facing these challenges. Peace to you and Hope.

  • Jackie

    I will be thinking of you! Your honesty really stands out and is appreciated.

  • TheChroniclesofaNonBellyMama

    it sucks to have to be going through this with Hope. It’s interesting to see where you guys are at compared to where we are at. It’s similar with fostering except that we get to go through all of those things BEFORE we make a decision about adoption. Going through all of those phases (Mary has been with us 15 months now) and we have experienced MOST of that stuff. I can’t even sit here and lie and say that we considered NOT adopting her, because ish is hard, and at Hopes age (twice Mary’s) i can only imagine twice the baggage and emotions, and lest we not forget teens and hormones and dramatics! I’m really hoping things smooth out. I pray that you dont change those dreams that you have of a life with you and Hope. Kids change, we change, life and circumstances change. Good things will come, awesome times will happen. Rough patches are the norm, and we just have to deal with that. But when those clouds disperse and you have a gloriously sunny day, well, it makes it all worth it. Still with ya ABM, still with ya…

  • thecommonostrich

    Something in your post caught my eye… “It’s finally safe enough for Hope’s deeper issues to show themselves.” That IS huge. That’s something grown adults can’t even accomplish. Just put that in perspective.

    It is so important for parents to be open about the fact that this shit is hard. Adoptive or otherwise, we all have expectations about what we think it will be like. Reality isn’t usually cooperative. The struggle to be better parents to the kids we have (not the ones we thought we’d get) is REAL.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I adore this TED Talk from Andrew Solomon: It may seem off topic, but it gets to the heart of how hard and beautiful it is to raise children who are different from you.

    I have no idea it any of it will resonate with you, but I get something new out of it every time I watch it.

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