Category Archives: Post Placement

By Any Other Name

I had chosen names for the children I would never give birth to. I only chose what would be first or middle names so that they could be adapted to names desired by my would be husband/life partner.

Those names were so important to me; each had special meaning. Each were strong names on which my children could scaffold their identities.

And then, one day, the realization set in that I would not get to use any of those names for biological children.

Even now, writing this, the sting of quiet tears fill my eyes.

And then Hope came along.

Hope got her pseudonym from being my “Hope Kid.” When I started the blog, I had just received her profile. I remember sitting in my office, opening the email, reading the little bit of information attached and then opening the attachment to see her picture.

I immediately fell in love with her.

In my heart I felt like she was my daughter. I just knew, which was ridiculous because she was the first profile I received having just started the national search with my agency the week before.

I also knew that there were many steps to be made before she and I might be matched. I dubbed her my “Hope Kid.”

After we were matched, I started just calling her Hope in this space.

It’s turned out to be a good strong pseudonym for her. She and I are both so hopeful.

At 12, I never once thought about changing her name. Her in real life (IRL) name is unusual and lovely.

A few folks asked if I considered changing her first name.

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No. I mean, she was 12 and It. Is. Her. Name. And well, Hope had lost everything else, everything, why on earth would I take her name from her too?

And she’s feisty, why on earth would I want to start our life with a fight about changing her name?

As we neared the date of our finalization, I did have to make a decision about her last name.

Sounds like a no brainer, right?

I mean, she would just drop her given name and take my name.

No.

It was her given name. It was hers. It was given to her by her parents, who loved her even if they didn’t always love themselves.

I thought about all those adoptees who talked about their birth names and the surnames of their birth family.  How hard it was to find people when names changed. How challenging taking on a new identity could be.

Because Hope is an older adoptee, I had the luxury of having a real conversation with her about her name. I’d like to think that even if she had been younger, I might have come to the same conclusion because it works for us.

Hope had just assumed that I would make her change her name. She understood why I might do that. She has resolved that it was just the way of the world, or rather the way of her world. In Hope’s world, she rarely got to make decisions, she lost lots of things and well, she supposed she was just happy to be getting a forever family.

I asked her what she thought about a third option.

I asked her what she thought about just adding my last name to her existing name.

The first thing she did was write it all out and count the letters.

There were a total of 29 letters in this proposed name. Four names, two of them last names, no hyphens and 29 letters.

She asked if the name would fit on forms.

So, I cruised the internet and found a few forms that we would have to eventually fill out and printed them and let her practice filling them out.

It worked.

I asked her if taking my name would be hard for her; she said maybe. I told her that she could drop it she wanted, and just sign things with her birth name. The four-name thing would just be her “government name.” I explained the times when she would need to use it.

I asked her to think about it.

When I told folks that this third option was on the table…well, there were so many questions. So many.

Why couldn’t I just change it? Why didn’t I want her to be fully a part of the family? Wouldn’t this be confusing for her? How would this help her move on?

There was a lot of criticism.

I stayed focused on me and Hope during the whirlwind.

In the end, extending her name was our choice.

During our Facetime finalization, Hope exclaimed to the judge that her new name was 29 letters.

She continued to use her birth name for a while, and then one day, she didn’t.

I’m not sure exactly when she started using both last names, but I know that now she wouldn’t dare sign her name without both.

When her birth family found us, they were surprised that I didn’t drop their name. I think it brokered some trust with them; I had no intention of erasing her identity.

Again, I have the luxury of having an older child who is capable of telling me her feelings. I know that even during the worst of times she endured, she would leave me in a flash if she had the chance to be parented by her birth parents again.

I’m hardly a saint and I’m judgmental as hell, but I’ve also had the luxury of having my birth family my whole life. I get it and I don’t blame her at all. If I had known them before, and known what I know now, I would’ve been rooting for them.

But our paths were different, and all I can do now is honor her family by supporting her in keeping the names she was given.

Our family is stronger for it.

And what have I really learned from this part of our journey?

I learned that I’m glad that we didn’t have to make a choice based on her safety and a desire not to be found. I think this would have been so much more difficult for her if that was necessary. For her to have to change her name, her identity, to remain safe, is a whole other level of trauma. We are fortunate that we were not faced with that situation.

I learned that even though I have replaced Hope’s birth parents in parenting her, I am additive in her life. For Hope, I didn’t just replace them. I am her mother, without question, but I am her second mother. I can never replace Hope’s birth parents; I can’t erase them. Even with a name change, that history, however brief, is still a real part of her life.

I learned that Hope’s name is her name. I am honored that my name has become a part of her name and a part of her story, but her story didn’t start with me. It won’t end with me either.

I imagine that her name will change again sometime in this lifetime.

And again, it will be Hope’s choice to shape her identity.

I learned that there are various ways to integrate a child into your family.

I learned that a last name can be more than enough of a connection to a new family.

I realized just how much power adoptive parents have…to change a child’s whole name…or just to get to name a child…it is a privilege that should be acknowledged as such.

I learned that the sting of not being able to have biological children rears its head more often than I care to admit. A discussion about changing a child’s name precipitates asking what might you change it to? And then your list of dream names springs to mind…and it drags that little bee sting with it.

I learned to treasure my own name even more. I love thinking about the origins of my name and the story my parents tell me about naming me.

I don’t know that at this point in my life I will change my name even if I get married. I’ve been with this name a mighty long time.

I do know that I’ll still be ABM whatever name I chose, and that Hope will always be my Hope and joy, no matter what her name evolves into during the course of her life.

 

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Coping to Survive

We’ve had to make some drastic changes around Casa d’ABM recently in hopes of getting Hope back on track with a few things. It’s tough and painful, and it feels like all I do is pick on her and focus on the bad stuff.

But it’s not all bad stuff. I’m focusing on breaking bad habits and building skills that she desperately needs.

But I’m sure that for her, it feels like I’m picking on her.

Sigh…so in some ways, it’s kind of a short-term, no-win situation.

Damned if I help; damned if I don’t.

So…I’m back to throwing a bunch of interventions up in the air and trying to figure out which one fits, makes sense for us, and has the best chance at effectiveness.

Hope’s general outward response?

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My response to her response?

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Our joint response feels like it’s playing out like this:

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Yeah, it’s like that.

We recently had an interesting chat. Hope was sharing her frustrations about coping with a bunch of stuff.

I asked her to give me some examples.

She did.

I made some suggestions.

She rebuffed them and doubled down on how her approaches were foolproof.

I noted that clearly they weren’t, otherwise this would be a moot conversation.

“Oh yeah, right.”

So, I probed how and when she developed her ways of coping. I asked her to explain to me why they had historically worked for her.

My heart hurt. Most of her coping strategies involved swallowing her emotions, withdrawing, learning to be ok just being sad because that was apparently her lot in life. I interpreted so much of the coping to be a sad acceptance of tragedy, the desire to limit her emotional trauma by just not being emotionally involved at all, and straight up denial.

How does that work for anyone??? How can you live like that?

And then it dawned on me.

These coping strategies are right on target if your goal is to survive your situation. If your goal is to just get to the next day relatively unscathed, without much physical or emotional hurt, then if you just fold into yourself, you can survive.

But what if your life doesn’t call for those specific skills anymore? Are those skills transferable in a more stable life? If all of your basic Maslow’s needs are met, and theoretically you can focus on some of those more abstract life goals, do those survival skills still serve you well?

Spoiler alert: They don’t work. You need a different set of life skills if you are moving from dysfunction to function.

I began to understand my daughter’s frustrations. She was using the tools she had developed and refined for years to survive in an environment where they didn’t really help her.

Just imagine that you are a whiz with a power drill; I mean, amazing! And then you are asked to go do a car repair…with just your drill. Let me know how that works for you.

Without being critical, I began to try to explain to Hope that she was going to have to try something new, and that I knew that was weird and scary, but her old bag of tricks wasn’t going to serve her optimally in this chapter of her life. In fact, her survival skills were becoming a hindrance.

She didn’t buy it. It’s ok, it will take some time.

Our kids, they are brilliant in their resilience, but their transition to normalcy is so hard for them to wrap their brains around. It requires them to trust, and that’s something they don’t really do. Hope tells me that she trusts herself, and that’s about it.

She does trust me, but there are some hard limits, and I know where those limits are and I try to earn my way beyond them.

It’s not easy though. I’m fighting years and years of her expertise in living her life in a way that she gets to see tomorrow. In nearly 44 years; I’ve never had to work that hard. Not on my worst day have I had to work that hard to survive. I can’t imagine that much change in her world view after only 3 years; that expectation is not appropriate.

She’s changed some. Her expectations of me increase, and with them her belief that I’ll deliver and ability to meet those expectations increases. But it is very slow, very incremental change.

As our Year of the Try comes to a close, I’m pondering next year’s family theme. I’m thinking the development of life skills is probably something we might give some focus in 2017.


Thoughts on Celebrating Adoption

Fellow blogger Tao, on TheAdoptedOnes, penned a interesting post on why she can’t celebrate adoption recently.  I love Tao–don’t know if she knows I hold her in such high esteem, but yeah, Tao, ABM loves you!  I have learned so much about adoptees and the adoptee voice from reading her posts; it’s made me think critically about what kind of adoptive mom I want/need to be and what kind of support I must provide my daughter.

Tao starts off this thoughtful post by measuring her words; she knows what she’s about to say might rock some folks’ boat a bit. The recent post challenged me on celebrating my and Hope’s adoption. I was intrigued about the distinction between thankfulness and celebration–being thankful for adoption when necessary but not celebrating its necessity.

I get it.  I totally get it.  And Tao spells it out easy peasy and compellingly.

I have written a lot about all of the people in Hope’s memories who live with us; it really is a case of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Certainly, I wish her birth family had been able to care for her.  I wonder how her mother feels about losing her.  I wonder whether there will be any reconciliation between Hope and her mother or even her extended family.  There’s a lot of messy there, which, of course, is how Hope found herself in need of a home.

I wish she didn’t need me.  Hope herself has said as much; in a perfect world she would have grown up happy and healthy with her parents.

All of that is true.

The path of loss that brought me to adoption is also very real and true. In that parallel perfect universe, I would’ve married the love of my life, birthed some babies, completed my family through adoption and lived a long and happy life.

But none of that had happened when I slid into 40 with a prediction that I’d need a school of engineering to help me conceive and that it was still unlikely I could carry a child to term; oh and a couple of loves in sheep’s clothing had run past and nothing had turned out as I had hoped.

It was only recently that I realized just how much I mourn the loss of the life that never was.  I mourn it deeply.

Yeah, I wish that creating my family through adoption was unnecessary. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

What I’ve learned on this journey is that lots and lots and LOTS of emotions can be felt all at the same time. For much of my life I think I experienced or maybe just acknowledged a dominant emotion at any given time.  But now, two- plus years into this adoption journey, I know that emotions are messy as hell and you can feel dozens of them simultaneously.

I feel devastated about Hope’s life before me.

I feel angry about Hope’s life before me.

I seethe about Hope’s life before me.

I worry about the effects of Hope’s life before me.

I worry about Hope’s future.

I grieve for Hope’s loss.

I grieve for my own loss.

I am furious about my own loss.

I am confused by how things turned out.

I feel betrayed by my body.

I feel feel fury for wasting precious biological time with several jerks I dated for too long.

I feel scared that I won’t ever have the life I desired the way I desire it.

I feel terror that I won’t ever be enough to Hope.

I feel joy that adoption gave me a chance.

I am thankful that Hope and I got each other in the deal.

I feel the struggle of being a single parent.

I feel the struggle of raising a Black child.

I feel the challenge of sorting the the messiness that was Hope’s life before me.

I could go on and on and on and on about my feelings.

I also celebrate adoption.

I celebrate my and Hope’s adoption.

I hate saying I adopted Hope.  The phrase makes it seem like I acquired her when it was so much more than that.  It’s one of the reasons why we like “Gotcha;” Hope and I have concluded that WE got each other in this deal.  We know that the phrase isn’t used that way typically, but we have interpreted in a way that fits us.

I don’t know if we will have a full on celebration on our finalization anniversary in a couple of months. I know we will acknowledge it, likely privately since it’s our thing.

But I know I will celebrate it in my heart. I’m ok with that being an incredibly selfish thing to do and say.  I will also be sad that it was necessary for me and Hope and for Hope’s family.  In that perfect world, our adoption would never have happened.

But here we are.  And we feel all of it, both of us.

And even though Hope is on the other side of our hotel room right now, no doubt watching inappropriate vine videos (based on her cackles of laughter) and my not so secretly wishing she might go to bed early tonight, you know like at 4pm 9pm, I am so enormously thankful to be given the chance to raise her and to be a mom. I am just ok enough with my selfishness to celebrate while still feeling all the burden of the other emotions.

This isn’t at all a swipe at what my fellow blogger was saying; not at all.  I don’t expect Tao, or Hope to feel the way I do.  I also acknowledge the privilege always afforded the adoptive parents’ voice in constructing the adoption narrative.  I get that too.

This triad and its attendant emotions is hard.  There isn’t really a clean reconciliation of all of the feelings. We all just muddle through, sifting through lots of emotions and lots of truth.

So, I totally get where Tao is coming from, and I feel that too.  But I can still warmly celebrate that something wonderful emerged from resounding losses. For me, that’s been a good, if not challenging, thing.


Add Water & Stir: Old Holidays, New Traditions

Every family has traditions and rituals that provide a rich source of family values and shared memories.  These rituals are particularly important for adoptive families as they help to give children a sense of belonging, family unity, predictability and security. However, developing traditions that incorporate everyone’s expectations can be challenging, particularly when considering older child or multi-cultural adoptions.

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Join ComplicatedMelodi’s Mimi and AdoptiveBlackMom’s ABM as we chat about our thoughts on creating new traditions in our families and our plans to celebrate the holidays. Of course, we will have the Wine Down with some interesting pop culture observations and offer our recommendations.

Note:  Schedule Change for this week!  Catch us live on Google+ on Sunday, October 19 at 6:00pm CST/7:00pm EST.  If you can’t make it, you can always watch the rerun on our Google+ page, Youtube or download the podcast from iTunes or Stitcher.


Gotcha’s Eve

Tomorrow is the big day, and I’m so happy that we’ve stumbled back into a positive groove. I seem to forget that whenever we have an extended period in the car, we tend to hit an upswing. Something about our car talks…we get honest, we talk about challenging stuff, we bond, we laugh. I really need to drive Hope around more for longer periods of time.

Anyhoo, last night I hit my agency’s older child adoption support group that meets once a month. Participating in the group always puts me in an especially reflective mood. So here are some of the things I talked about or thought about or dreamt about…

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Long adoption waits sound awful, unless yours happened at breakneck speed. There are things that I struggle with when I go to support groups. I totally get the long, long waits that many families endure as they wait for a match or a placement. It sounds painful to wait for years for the dream to come true. I go to group, and I’m asked to  tell my story:

  • Sent my additional agency application January 7, 2013.
  • Finished PRIDE training at the beginning of April.
  • Full application submitted end of April.
  • Home study done in June.
  • Matching starts in mid-July.
  • Receive Hope’s profile as the first profile on July 30th.
  • Hope and I were matched on August 29th.
  • Visits in October, November and December.
  • Placement on January 22, 2014 – 1 year and 2 weeks after I initiated the process.
  • Finalizing on June 6 – 1 year and about 135 days after I started.

Jaws drop every time. Waiting families say how lucky I am. This kind of thing never happens. Yeah, I know.

The reality is that I thought it would take a much longer time, but it didn’t. I suppose the Holy Homeboy thought I was ready, even when I woefully thought I wasn’t. I’m not saying families who wait aren’t ready, but I have come to believe that their kids may not be ready for them. Hope is mine because we were both ready at the same time.

That said, the rate at which this process has occurred doesn’t feel enviable; it feels crazy overwhelming. It wasn’t supposed to be so fast, but it has been. I have no regrets, but OY! There was no honeymoon. There was not much time to get ready. There was just change at breakneck speed all the time. If you wish your process was faster, just know that it’s great to be speedy, but the grass isn’t necessarily greener.  This process is just hard, no matter how fast or how slow. I feel like I’ve had all the experiences just crammed into a shorter period of time and that has been rough.

I didn’t think my love life would exist for a very long time.  I hadn’t given up, but I just thought that whole part of my life would be put in a cryogenic state for who knows how long. Well, ha, the Holy Homebody apparently chuckled at that notion as well. Just weeks after placement and weeks before the lowest point of my whole life and of this process, He placed someone in my life for this season, and man, it’s pretty stunning and pretty awesome. And I fought him; I mean really, this was the worst time ever to meet someone and try to date, right?  But dude never flinched at the messiness that surrounds me. And I finally just gave in to it. And there is a joyfulness alongside the mayhem that this process brings that was/is completely unexpected. I smile in the midst of it all a lot more thanks to this development.

I have no idea where things might go, but it’s nice to know that there’s a life out there to be living as a new single adoptive mom.

I also recognize that the all the bravado that some of us single, independent, successful gals spout about not needing anyone to take care of us is well, right now, for me, a bunch of BS. God has seen fit to break me all the way down during these last few months to really teach me that I needed someone to show me what it’s like to be taken care of by someone who can go deep during the best and the worst of times. And you know what? I’m sold. It’s decadent to just be taken care of. Like I said, I have no idea where things might go, but these last few months will be a new gold standard.

So single adoptive moms: there’s hope on the other side.

And that’s all I have to say about that <grin>.

I was wrong in my original desires to adopt a much younger child. I originally thought I wanted that 5 or 6 year old, you know, school aged but young enough that I could “handle” them. I mean really how hard could it be to raise the little one? My agency really emphasized that with older child adoption, be open to the 10 and up crowd. After looking on websites before matching started, I realized they were probably right, so I pivoted and said 8-12ish.  Hope was at the very top of my age range, but she’s a perfect fit.

It’s taken me months to really buy into the neuroscience of trauma. Last month I really shifted my reading focus to explore issues of brain development and the impact of emotional and physical trauma to young children. Things clicked and I started understanding that many of Hope’s more annoying and challenging behaviors are really related to brain development. There just some developmental things that didn’t happen that need the support to develop. We have to backtrack a bit. She’ll get there; she just needs time and the environment to grow. My job isn’t to heal her; my job is to create the environment in which she can heal. Learning the difference opened a new well of patience and understanding.  It’s helping me grow into becoming a therapeutic parent.

Hope is old enough and developed enough to be able to try to explain why she wants/needs/demands to do some of the things she does. I realized during the last two weeks, especially, that this is a blessing by itself.

So what does this have to do with the original plans to adopt a much younger child? Well, a much younger child wouldn’t have Hope’s self-awareness. A much younger child wouldn’t have Hope’s coping skills. I don’t think a younger child would have the words to help me understand why his/her emotional upheavals were so easily triggered. The healing struggle for us both would be so much harder.  I didn’t start out with a level of patience that would work with that kind of situation.

I’m woman enough to know I couldn’t handle adopting a much younger child. Such a placement would’ve been far riskier for me, for us.

I’m glad I changed my age range, and in hindsight, I’m glad I now understand why I needed to.

I wish that I had gone to more support group meetings before placement.  Maybe someone would have told me some of the things that I now share in group. Things like how my relationships with friends and family change, how tired I would be, how I should’ve stocked up on tissues, handkerchiefs, and red solo cups for all the tears and drinking. How I should’ve started anti-depressants earlier; how I might’ve avoided the event that threatened to disrupt us. How I would go through periods of anger and resentment; how contagious trauma is, how I might cause emotional harm to some folks around me just because I was so tapped out and didn’t have the support systems I desperately needed and wanted. How I needed better plans for self-care going into my placement; how to navigate Medicaid. How it was ok to be sad and happy, to laugh and to cry, to occasionally cry in my tumbler of shiraz, while sincerely wondering how I would make it.

If I had heard these things, known that it was “normal,” known that I wasn’t alone for parts of this journey, maybe things would’ve been a tiny bit different. Or maybe my outlook might’ve been different because I knew more…I don’t know. But I do know that the support group meetings earlier on might’ve helped me in some small or big way.

I now look forward to the camaraderie that comes with sharing war stories and triumphs. I try to share what I’m learning about this journey and myself.

Individual therapy keeps me on the rails. Going to talk to a therapist is just not something that a lot of Black folks do. I’ve often heard that *that* is a White folks activity; we just don’t go around telling our business like that. Well, I write a pretty transparent blog, so maybe you’ve guessed that I’m all about being willing to go to therapy. I’ve gone to therapy off and on since I was in college. I’ve often said it is one of the most delightfully selfish, narcissistic activities I could possibly engage in—paying someone to listen to me talk about my ish for an hour every week or so. My selfish reptilian brain loves going to therapy.

I realize that the investment in myself all these years has helped me muddle through this process and these last few months, especially. I also realize that it’s time to dive back in regularly, making that time and resuming that investment (of course my therapist passively hipped me to the notion that I needed to resume regular visits by saying, “So, I’ll see you in about two weeks?”). It is the safest place on earth for me to talk uncensored about my life, other than prayer.  Now I do individual therapy for me, and I do it for Hope. She deserves my very best and there’s just some stuff that I need to work through in order to be able to always try to give her my best. It’s a process of pursuing improvement, just like everything else.

If I had to give some folks early in the process some advice, going to therapy to just give yourself some time and space to work on your own stuff would probably be it. It’s ok to be selfish when it comes to mental health and well-being. Invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is probably in your kid’s best interest.

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So, it’s late. Actually it’s no longer Gotcha’s Eve; it’s past midnight. Hope will be my legal daughter in about 13 hours or so. That is so ridiculously crazy! I can’t wait. She’s been my daughter for months, but now we’re really all in. I’m ready to celebrate, even if I haven’t a clue what comes next. I just want to savor these special moments for a good long while.


Fear Still Rules the Day

Up until last evening, I wasn’t sure that we would finalize this week. We had one document that required my signature and the signature of some higher up in CPS. My attorney confirmed the date yesterday. Friday is Gotcha Day.

I told Hope last week that we would be finalizing soon. But I was nervous to tell Hope that it was happening this coming Friday. It will all be official in three short days. I just didn’t know how she would react.

I told her over dinner. She sat there stunned. Then she changed the subject and pretended like I never said anything about it.

She does this sometimes in therapy too. She was just avoidant. I decided to just let it go.

But of course it can’t be the simple. It’s never that simple.

Twenty minutes later she picked a mini-battle over a myriad of little dinner-related things. And then there’s the blow-up, followed by the stomping to the room, followed by the concert of badly sung Justin Bieber covers (done for the express purpose of annoying me), door slamming, muttering and other self-soothing behaviors.

I let her be, interrupting her only to tell her to ready herself for bed and to refill her water bottle.

She was still grumpy when I came in to tuck her in, hesitating about whether she wanted me to read her a story.

Of course she wanted a story, and I deliberately chose a longer one to read last night just to be close to her a few minutes longer.

Then when I kissed her good night, she huffed and she puffed, and she screeched at me to close her closet door. Then she bid me goodnight back.

Fear is wicked.

She’s been through this adoption thing before. It never got this far, but someone else tried to tell her that it was forever. It wasn’t. She’s been through this before. It’s terrifying to think that something awful could happen before Friday that would cancel forever. So, the best option is to try to trigger the worst possible scenario before it can happen on its own.

Finalization, for all its celebratory notions, is also a reminder of things that she doesn’t want to be reminded of: all the reasons why she even needs to be adopted at all. And that sucks. It really, really sucks. And when stuff sucks, everything around here sucks, at least or a while. It doesn’t suck quite as long as it used to, but yeah, it sucks for a while. Attitudes, short tempers, tantrums and tears, push/pull behaviors, fight picking, and sometimes, mercifully, the silent treatment. I don’t really like the silent treatment when she retreats into her own little world, but honestly of the choices, it’s the one that is easiest for me to face and for me to overcome.

And even though somewhere in there she’s happy, maybe even ecstatic, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter that I’m planning a family party. It doesn’t matter that there will be cake. It doesn’t matter that she’s been practicing signing her new name for the last week and a half. None of that really matters.

All that matters is whether Friday is really going to happen. Hell, she’s having a daily meltdown at school and having the school staff call me daily to see whether I’m really picking her up or whether I’m going to be home if she takes the bus because she swears I’m going to abandon her.

This is happening every day. She was telling me that they were making her call. When I met with the staff today to discuss how the calls were heightening her anxiety, I realized that it had nothing to do with the school at all. She just wanted to know if I was going to be there.

Right now, all that matters is whether or not Friday is really going to happen. Will Friday be the beginning of forever?

Yeah, and after it happens, the all that will matter is what happens after Friday.

It’s a new chapter, and neither of us knows what the hell we’re doing or what to expect next.

It will be fine. We will muddle through. Someday we might even thrive. Hopefully, we will do more than survive. We will be fine.

But right now, we are a slave to Hope’s fear right up until the court’s declaration. Sadly, fear will still rule the next few days. I’m praying that the chains of fear will be broken before Friday.

This is my reality of getting me and Hope to permanence, and it continues to be the other side of happy.


The Other Side of Happy

So, yes, I’m happy. I am. I’m screaming happiness. Just screaming it! So happy. So stinking happy.

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And I plaster that poop-eating, heel-clicking grin on anytime someone asks, because really, let’s not kid ourselves, no one really wants to hear about the other side of happy when so many great things are happening in your life.  #tripsondenialriverforeveryone

So, I’m so overwhelmed that there’s a part of me that is just miserable and empty in spite of all of the happy, and I really am happy.  I wasn’t lying about that.

I marvel at how all these feelings can just coexist.  The duality of emotions on this journey will forever stun me.  #getsmeeverytime

So much has happened in my life in the last four years, the last two years, the last 18 months, the last 4 months, the last month. In fact the last month represents the time when so many things have come to fruition. So many hopes and dreams and things I’ve worked hard for and prayed over have  come to pass. And it doesn’t stop there.

Next week, I’ll finalize Hope’s adoption.  Yep, we have a court date.

When I got the date from my attorney by email yesterday I actually started sobbing.

OMG, this is happening.

woohoo-smiley-emoticon

I was happy but I was also scared schnittless. If I hadn’t been illegally reading my email while sitting at a traffic light, I probably would’ve passed out. Instead I cried. But in the moment, they weren’t tears of joy. They were tears of fear, of the smack of reality, of wondering what was next, of hope that things will get easier, of wondering will I ever feel confident enough, of wondering if and when all of my own supposed support systems will ever feel stable, supportive and safe enough.  Will I fail her?  Am I really, really that selfless?

I am exhausted and despite my happiness, I am back to a week of not being able to stop crying. Maybe I need a med adjustment, because this is just ridiculous.

A few weeks or months ago I wrote about feeling down and some folks pointed out that I was possibly suffering from Post Adoption Depression. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I just knew I couldn’t stop crying, and I was driving a broke-down fire truck from one fire to the next and then role playing ALL of the firefighter jobs that must exist with a small water gun. I barely felt like I was functional.

About two weeks ago, I just started sinking again. The crying and crankiness returned. I just wanted to sleep or at least pull the covers over my head and be left undisturbed. I just mourn the ability to come home to peace and quiet and snuggle with The Furry One and decide, because I could, to just have a martini and cheese toast for dinner. I mourned the days when I didn’t need a sitter. I mourned the ability to pick up and go to the Caribbean for a long weekend if I found a good deal. I mourned the days when I didn’t have to do teacher conferences about questionable grades and behavior or anticipating the mayhem of being a chaperone at the upcoming band trip. I missed the days of less village drama. Life literally changed overnight, and I haven’t adjusted.

And yet, I can’t imagine life without Hope, and Hope comes with all of that and then some.  She’s a game changer.

Then, last evening I got a response email from a colleague who finished her PhD about six months before me. I’d shared in an earlier email that I was feeling like I should be doing “something” (school related) and was feeling guilty about not doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. Heck, one time I wrote a final class paper from a hospital—sure I’m supposed to be doing something? Surely I can’t be experiencing some post-EdD completion let down.

Uh, yeah, she wrote back—that post-doctoral listlessness is normal. Yeah, there’s a let-down period with a risk of depression after the euphoria of being done passes.

eyeroll

Really, now this is a thing too? GTFOH!!!

Awesome, my doc and shrink are going to love this. Could be worse, I could be a new Dr looking for a job. So there’s that.

A lot has happened, and a lot is happening. All happy things, but things that require or recently required huge amounts of cognitive and emotional energy over sustained periods of time.  And my brain is just tired. I’m emotionally tired.  And the number of folks with whom I can share this, completely unedited, unfiltered, uncensored at all, is a pretty small number. I’m grateful for them, I am <thank you if you’re reading, you know who you are and each of you are godsends>. But I find myself mourning about the censoring I am doing; the censoring I’m required to do in some core areas of my life.  It’s really just like folding into yourself over and over again, like a bad piece of origami and you’re just waiting for the someone to toss you because the folds didn’t come out right.

Never in a million years would I think that when my dreams come true, mostly in the span of a few weeks, that I would not be wholly ecstatic and bouncing like Tigger.

Happiness isn’t without a price, and it can exist with sadness.

Here’s hoping I can swing back and stay on the topside of happiness and soon.

For now, I’ve got a Gotcha Day party to go plan.


Big Holes to Fill

I had a lot going on this week; much of it left me exhausted and cranky. Despite my bad attitude, I really, really tried to practice better “therapeutic” parenting. It’s paying off, even if sometimes things just seem weird. So, here’s the highlight reel.

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The mask is finally coming off. Four months in, Hope’s mask is finally coming off. I hate to say her behavior is regressing, because in truth, it’s not. A few weeks ago, in the middle of a conversation about something she dropped some baby talk on me. Yeah, baby talk, like goo goo gaga kind of stuff.

Huh?

Say what now?

Whatchu

Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Hope?

I just kept talking and she just kept babbling, and I tried to just pretend it was no big deal. And she did it for the rest of the conversation, and I nearly came unhinged on the inside. What in the holy hell is this???

Since then, she’s tried to climb into my lap several times. Now, you need to know that I’ve got body space issues. #getoffmegetoffmegetoffme I need a buffer. I love hugs and stuff, love them, love them, but um, on my terms. Sitting on me is not on my term list, but I’ve tried to be comfortably uncomfortable for now. Then there’s the bedtime stories, which is actually a lovely ritual. And then this week, she asked could she do some arts and crafts with macaroni, glitter, construction paper and glue.

Seriously, all I could think was, “There is going to be effing glitter ALL. Over. My. House.”   I have no poker face and Hope knows it.

blinkgif

Um…glitter? #icant

She looked sad and I was all like, “But wait…I was just thinking…um, sounds like an awesome idea (#fauxenthusiasm)!!!”

Stanly happy

With each of these things Hope always includes her rationale for wanting to do it: “I never got a chance to do this when I was little.” It’s actually really sad. She needs these memories and developmental markers to move forward. That’s the best motivation I could possibly think of for tolerating glitter in my house.

It does require some kicking around in my brain. Years ago, when I was thinking about what my adoption life would be like, I envisioned a 5 or 6 year old kid in the house. As I went through the process, I realized that in order to actually get a 5 or 6 year old I would probably need to foster or wait years and years and years. Fostering was too emotionally risky for me and years and years, well, I don’t have that kind of patience. I made a very conscious decision to adopt an older child and along with that my whole vision changed about what I thought would be going on in my house. I never dreamed that macaroni and glitter artwork would be a thing that would happen.

I’m guessing you should all place your orders now for kindergarten style glue ornaments…you *know* you want one. Don’t be jelly when my crafty ornament covered Christmas tree is better than yours, all courtesy of Hope’s Crafting Bonanza.

But seriously, all of this stuff is good news, she feels safe. She knows I’m going to help her fill in the gaps; that I’m going to help her create childhood memories that she has a right to have and to still want. I’ll try to be mindful of that every time she tries to crawl into my lap. It’s like cradling a granddaddy long legs. Love her.

I am searching for information about Hope’s bio parents. Now this is a sticky issue. I really have zero interest in these folks, but Hope is an older adoptee and as much as she’s wrestling with healing and filling the gaps that her bio parents left neglected, I also see her tossing things around in her head about who she is and where she came from. There are also things to which she is entitled that I’m intent on trying my best to make right. Things like knowing where her father rests and having the flag she’s due from the VA is important to her. She grieves deeply over the losses that lie within the loss. I can’t make everything right and I don’t think she’s ready for the info right this moment, but I want it for her.

I’m fortunate to have a friend and colleague who does extensive genealogy research. In short order she’s found lots of info—some of it not good, but valuable nonetheless. I’m grateful for my friend and her efforts to help me just get some info. I’ll print it, put it in an envelope and put it away. I have no idea when the time will be right, and I have no idea how that conversation will go. But my gut tells me that getting and saving this info for her to have if she wants will be important at some point.

I’ve come to think about bio parents a lot. I am on several online support sites and most focus on relationships with bio families who have selected families to adopt. These stories are so different from those of us who go the route of foster-to-adopt or in my case focusing my search on children who were already legally free to be adopted. Hope has lived a lifetime already. She had a life that she remembers—the good, the bad, the ugly—before me. That life is real and includes real people who she remembers, people she wonders whatever happened to them. I just want to be able to hand over some things if Hope’s curiosity ever blooms into something more. And I’ll be there for whatever comes after that, because I’m certain something will come after that.

I wish my curfew was later. So in my 20s I stayed out all night on the regular. Leave the club at 3, in the office by 8. In my 30s, I hit the club less and less. Leaving the club at 3 could only happen on a Friday because I needed the weekend to recover and I only had two cocktails. I eventually just fell madly in love with my couch, my bed and one of those backrest things. By the time I turned 40, my regular curfew entailed figuring out how fast I could get home from work and into my PJs—my goal is usually about 6:30 since I have to include time to walk The Furry One. I felt like I earned a gold star if I could find an episode of Law and Order and grab dinner by that 6:30 goal line.

Now I’m almost always home or Hope is always with me. On school nights we need to be home by 8:30 so I can get Hope to bed on time. The weekends are a little more flexible, but Hope’s phobia of bugs is worse at night and she hates being out with all the moths (really this is a thing) such that staying out really can be a miserable endeavor. Respite care allows me that that time out, but I try to be back at bedtime. I’m just getting hype, and it’s time to head home at 10:30 so I make it on time.

soul-train-dancing-o

Just when it’s time to turn up, I’ve got head home and miss the Soul Train dance line. Mess….

Suddenly I have all the energy in the world, and I really want to be out late. Sigh, but I can’t stay out later yet. Hope just isn’t ready and we haven’t found the right sitter. We have a couple we like, but we just haven’t found “the one” yet.

There’s something ironic about the fact that less than a year ago I knew I could go out if I wanted to but preferred to stay home on the couch, and now I have limited opportunities to go out and I want to be out all night. Those are the brakes of parenthood.

I am happy. Sometimes it is so, so hard to be mindful of what’s going right in life. It’s easy to just get mired in how hard it is; I mean really, just look at the first sentence here—I’m whining about it being hard to be mindful. Ugh!

But seriously, I was talking to a good friend this week. Several of my closest friends are going through mayhem of their own; but this friend said to me a couple of days ago that in spite of whatever mess exists, she’s happy. Well, it was such a lovely statement. I was so happy for her. I was so proud of her. It was just such great thing to hear from my friend about her life and about her outlook.

A few hours later I was thinking about this conversation while walking The Furry One. I was thinking about my current state of affairs. Was I…Am I happy? I don’t mean like really right this moment, but rather from that 30,000 viewpoint?

Yeah. I am.

Happy doesn’t always come the way you think it does and it doesn’t always have a silver lining. It might come with several side dishes of crazy, frustration and “you’ve got to be kidding me…”

But yeah, I’m happy. I have the family I wanted, even if it’s not the way I thought it would be constructed. I have a kid that I love, even if we’ve got issues. I’ve got a dog who has been a beloved companion for many years. I have family whom I love and who love and support me in ways that actually build me up. I have accomplished many of my life goals at a relatively young age. I have a great career that I love and which feeds me intellectually and creatively. I have friends who have been with me through thick, thin, cray, sane, poverty and comfort and so much more. I love and I am loved. Yes, I’m happy.

It’s nice to take a breath and just be mindful enough to see the happy.

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So we’re brunching and traveling today. It’s a beautiful East Coast day and tomorrow I’ll take Hope to see the bikers in Rolling Thunder. It’s a real sight to see and noisy as all get out; I think she’ll get a kick out of it, and it will be a great opportunity to see some DC monuments on Memorial Day.

Be blessed.


Thoughts on Resiliency

Oh, y’all thought I was going to talk about Hope’s resiliency? No this post is about my own elasticity.

Honestly, nothing is wrong at home, really. Hope and I are doing fine, being normal (whatever that is), but there’s just messiness all around that has me feeling stretched and tired and cranky and just ugh.

Overflowing toilet, faux belly aches, missed buses, rejected dinners, continued village fallout, a nosebleed that lasted more than an hour, a demand to do laundry for one item, a sick dog, an epic grief attack, a meeting with the school counselor, the attorney, the adoption support rep and the fact that my hair looked remarkably like Fredrick Douglass’ hair yesterday.  Seriously, Frederick Douglass…I know that sounds vain, but don’t you find that you can handle things better when you’re having a good hair day?

Frederick_Douglass_c1860s

Frederick is serving some serious side eye. Yeah, I was channeling this yesterday. I’ve even got the mean silver streak. Sigh…

Last night I poured a big glass of wine, fixed myself a cookie butter sandwich and washed my hair. Then I set about to google “Adoptive Parent Resilience.”

Ugh. Oh that was fun. #notreally

It always amazes me that while there is tons of research on child resiliency, there seem to be little about parental resiliency, much less about adoptive parents. Certainly there are resources, and it would seem that having access to resources seems critical to nurturing parental resiliency, whether you’re an adoptive parent or not. That said, I find myself wondering how parents just deal.

I mean, I just do deal and I know the adage that parenting is the toughest job…blah, blah, blah. But when it seems like Rome is burning and you’re the empress and you have a personal fan instead of at least a fire extinguisher, you might feel inadequate on a good day; absurdly stupid on the next.

So my next search string was “Self-care for adoptive parents.” This search was much better; apparently I stumbled on the right lingo.

I did find this article: Self-Care: Barriers and Basics for Foster/Adoptive Parents. I found this particular barrier resonated with me:

“Fourth, too many parents simply do not know what would help them. They know something is missing, but can’t put their finger on just what might make them feel better. Parents are often told, “Call if there is anything you need,” but it is hard to call and ask for help, especially when you cannot even articulate what you need. This leaves many parents vulnerable and exhausted.”

And also this because I just posted how someone is always doing worse:

“Compounding matters, recent disasters—9/11, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the earthquake in Pakistan, and the prolonged conflict in Iraq—remind us all that there are always other people who are worse off. We are taught as children to be happy with what we have since other people have it much harder. It is little wonder we sometimes feel guilty because our ongoing trauma pales in comparison to these catastrophic tragedies.”

Yeah. That.

So, the recommendations in this document are cool. Yeah, I need to find a few more things to personally look forward to and I need to just be ok with being different. I thought I was, but I’m not. And yes, connecting with other parents helps—there’s a delightful notion of finding commonalities in the countless struggles. It is validating, and reinforces that this stuff is “normal’ for this population, but does it make me feel better? Not really. And giving yourself permission to ask for help feels useless when you really can’t put your finger on what really would be helpful other than a good cry that can happen somewhere other than in your master bath with the bedroom and bathroom doors closed, sitting on the toilet because that’s the most private place in the house. #maybeIshouldtrythewalkincloset

On other sites I stumbled over, respite is the be all, end all solution to my resiliency problems. But as a single parent, I don’t have a partner who can pick up some slack and I’m sensitive about how I use the geographically accessible village and I love my sitter service and it’s worth the money, but “respite” makes for a pricey night out before I even leave the house.

So, now what?

Oh, I pray a lot. A lot; a lot.

So here’s my current approach to trying to practice self-care:

Lower expectations. Seriously, I’m lowering them all the way to the floor. Having so many unmet expectations can’t be healthy, so that’s where I’m going to sit down and take a rest for a while.

I’m tired of having expectations that the school counselor is going to respond to my email about bullying on the same day or that I’m actually going to get to play Boggle with Hope when she gets home from school or that some folks in my life will ever meet me where I am on this journey or that the Absurdly Hot Therapist’s scheduler will actually give me a consistent set of appointment dates or that Hope won’t lose her shiz every time she sees a bug as tiny as an ant or that I won’t cry inside when Hope and I go out and I get the crazy eyeballs from people while she’s in the middle of a meltdown because I can’t stop it and I feel like it’s a commentary on what kind of parent I’m perceived to be. I’m tired of a bunch of stuff, even though many things are going well.

I’m just tired of having expectations that are just not going to be met.

I never knew my skin was so thin. Maybe this process just strips so much from you; maybe you need that thick skin coming in just so you have a little reserve when it’s all sloughed off as you progress through the process. I don’t know. I do know that in terms of resiliency, I could use a lot more bounce to the ounce. #rogertroutmanfan

So there’s my current two nickels of thoughts on parental resiliency. Lower expectations to reduce heart and head pain risk. That’s my goal for the next month or so as we move toward finalization.

So, fellow bloggers, readers, parents, how do you keep it together? How do you recharge, how do you make it work?


What Happened and What Didn’t

I just did a lessons learned recap that covered more than a week so I thought I’d share some highlights of the last couple of days that just seems to be a good commentary on where were are on our journey.

Our Super Bowl trip has been booked! The end of June promises to be a time for big celebrations around these parts. My degree completion, the end of Hope’s school year, her birthday and finalization of our adoption. So what do folks do to celebrate so many events? Go to Disney World of course.

I actually hate Orlando (no offense to anyone who’s from there or currently reside there). But Disney is a bit of stimulation overload coupled with an outrageous mouse tax. Fortunately, we’re staying with a friend and we look forward to the days enjoying the sun, beach (Daytona) and the big rat’s park.

God has jokes. I know I mentioned on a previous blog that Hope recently asked me to read her a bedtime story at night. This is something that’s been integrated into our evening routine. This weekend we hit the library to check out a few things and I picked up some evening reading for us. At some point yesterday I found myself rooting around in a closet where I found this gem.

God's got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

God’s got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

I bought it years ago. Actually I bought 3 of them. I gave two away and have been searching for a kid to give this book to for several years now. Ha! Well, I don’t have to look any further since I read my lovely princess a story from it tonight. You just don’t know the plans God has for your life. He had me scoop up this book probably 4 or 5 years ago, only to have me trip over it after my 12 year old daughter asked me to read to her nightly. I have long believed that God is going to send an Isaac into my life since I am so aware of how he jokes me.

Hope’s hair is growing. So Hope’s hair has been out of the braids now for about two months. We’ve got a routine down now—full wash on Sunday evenings in preparation for the week. I’m a lazy naturalista. I don’t fret over products. I don’t put too much heat to my hair because I’m lazy not because I’m afraid of heat damage. I’ve taken increasingly to wearing fro’d out twist outs and when my hair is stretched scooping it back into a banana clip.

I have to blow Hope’s hair out for her twist outs. We’ve tried wet twists, and let’s just say no one is happy about the results—lots of sucky sighing. We’ve discovered that el cheapo ORS Smooth and Hold Pudding works well as a styler for both of us. It’s great; not too heavy and leaves her hair shiny. Not my favorite product on my hair, but it’s good.

Hope wants long hair. She’s is frustrated by shrinkage. I have to blow her hair out again mid-week just to loosen things up a bit. But I’ve been snapping pics along the way. Top left-first day post braids before I trimmed those see through ends off. Pink shirt about a month ago. White shirt is today.

So much hair!

So much hair!

I can’t wait to show her the progress, especially when every few days she’s stretching and saying, “I think it’s to my jaw line now.”

She wants to do a memory project with me. While standing in the Dollar Tree today, Hope describe a craft project in which we capture memories in a wooden box from this time and put them away to show to her future kids. It was so sweet. She has written out a plan and everything. Next weekend we’ll hit the Lowe’s to make this project a reality.

I put together an emergency anxiety kit. I should’ve done this ages ago. It’s got a silly putty, a stress ball, a backup external charger for electronic devices and a granola bar. Into a Ziploc and Into the purse it goes. We had a bit of a social meltdown on Friday and I thought to myself, “You’re a mom, you don’t even have baby wipes, what the hell is wrong with you???” Now I’ve got things that help her manage stress, which helps me manage my stress.

Movies in her bedroom are the gift that keeps giving. She really would prefer to watch things with me on the big tv but there is something decadent about watching a DVD in her room that is a special treat. It’s a treat that gave me 5 hours that included an adult beverage, 5 chapters of a trashy novel, several episodes of Will and Grace #justjack and several episodes of Designing Women #lightsoutinGA. She actually went to bed on her own and fell asleep watching Finding Nemo. It was awesome.

We had not one fight. Not one fight or bickering moment. I’m starting the week with such a positive outlook. I can’t wait to see her smile tomorrow.

In the words of Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”


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