Tag Archives: Adoption Difficulties

The Day After Someday…

One day I may share the details behind these feelings in more detail, maybe, maybe not.  Just know that today rates as one of the lowest days of my life.  This adoption thing is a beast.  Trauma lingers and just wreaks havoc long, long after the original incident.  It’s stunning how the long the reach is and how devastating its touch remains.

Today was so difficult because I had to step up and be the mom of a child who has endured unspeakable trauma.  I’m not proud of the stripes I had to earn with the decisions I had to make today, but I made them just the same.   And I am heartbroken by them.   I have had some tough days in this life, but few will compare to the day I had to make a decision that will be one of my and Hope’s life crucibles. I know that everything will change after this.  It’s scary, but there’s also hope in the midst.  Just know that today was a tough, tough day for me and for my lovely Hope.  But tomorrow will be a new day for us.

Tonight I am practicing my own self soothing behaviors watching trash tv, eating fried chicken fingers, eating a rustic loaf of bread slathered in butter and cheese and losing myself in a bottle of blush vinho verde…yeah, the bottle, it’s yummy.  Oh and I’m trying to catch up on a few things at the office.  I shudder to think how my late night, tipsy emails about spreadsheets will read in the light of day.  Oh well.

My wish this evening is that someday my precious Hope will find it in her heart to know that the drastic decision I was forced to make today was in her best interest, that I did it out of love, that I did it to save her.  I hope someday, sooner rather than later that she won’t be so very sad about leaving bad things behind and embracing goodness and light, and that she will, on her own volition, someday choose to step into happiness in this new chapter with me, the Furry One and all of the many people who have come to love her after only a few weeks and months.

I hope someday that the trauma of the necessity of my decision will fade and that the hurt, anger and downright fury born today will be replaced with love, joy and true healing.  I hope someday that she will know and trust that I will always have her back, to care for her, to always put her essential needs first.  In the face of anger and heartbreak I proved that today.  I hope that we both recover from all the events of the day and that we will find our happy together, healing and healed, safe and sound, loving and loved.

This journey is the greatest test of faith I have ever endured.  Everything before was a test for this moment. My Holy Homeboy doesn’t promise us peace, he promises us peace in the midst of the storm.  I’m still paddling in the storm; you can’t see all my tears because it’s just raining so damn hard.   But we’re going to be ok, we will make it.  Be encouraged, somehow, I am.



Thoughts on Normalizing Adoption Experiences

Hope didn’t arrive yesterday.  Instead Snowstorm “Janus” arrived and dumped about 5 inches of snow and brought a bunch of wind with sides of single digit temps and below zero windchills.  When did we start naming winter storms, anyway?


It was frustrating on many levels, including the social worker who kept asking “Is it really all that bad out there?”  Lady, I’m not a meteorologist, but they’re saying its bad and flights are cancelled.  You are bringing me the most precious, important delivery I’ve ever received, so can you take a chill pill and roll with it.

I travel a lot.  Weather happens, and it messes plans up.  Yep it’s annoying as hell, but it’s beyond our control.  You take a deep breath; you rearrange plans and you post up somewhere with a beverage and get over the self-importance stance that the universe is somehow targeting you.   It’s so not about you.

I spent the day on the couch, doing some writing and answering emails while enjoying good glasses of red and some gourmet popcorn.  I even took a nap; I can’t tell you how rare that is.

So today we get to do a do over on the placement.

Responses to the delay did make me emotional in other ways though.  I’ve been kicking around writing about this emotional slice for some time, but it feels touchy and sometimes ouchy, like I’m b*tching about not getting support, but getting it and it not fitting right for my needs.  That’s true sometimes, but it doesn’t feel like a polite thing to say to people who care about me.  It’s a topic that in some ways feels isolating and hypocritical, and like I’m trying to make a comparative statement on my family drama.  That said, I imagine that a lot of other adoptive parents feel these emotions and fellow blogger, Mrs. Family of 5 posted a great blog yesterday, Things that Matter, that touches on some of the stuff I think about and feel these days.  I thought about writing a redux on my Ten Things post from months ago, but decided that this probably needed a different approach.   So here goes.

I find that non-adoptive folks are eager to normalize my experience of becoming a mom in ways that feel, well, weird and sometimes, oddly dismissive.  I’m grateful for the sentiments, but sometimes behind the mask of strength there are some real tears.

What do I mean by “normalize?”  Well, take for instance the snow delay…a wonderfully supportive friend said, “Well it’s like an extra-long labor in giving birth.”  (I feel like I should apologize for saying this was painful, but it was. Gosh I have guilt about being offended, sigh.).   I’ve never been in labor so maybe it is like that without the physical pain.  But why did the comment tickle my innards?

Well, even though I always wanted to adopt, always knew this was a part of my journey, I thought I would have biological kids, at least one.  As I was approaching 40, I looked back and saw a minefield of gyn issues that might make it challenging.  Then a surgery 18 months ago that was critical and urgently necessary was so invasive that it wasn’t until after the surgery that my primary care doc and a reproductive specialist said that having a biological child was now not an option for me.  I no longer had that option, and I hadn’t even seriously tried for so many reasons.  Now I couldn’t.  I felt and continue to feel robbed.  Being reminded that my “laboring” isn’t ever going to be physical because somehow my body failed me is piercing.  It hurts.  And it happens with a level of alarming frequency.

Sure, I probably have fed it with my paperwork pregnancy t-shirt (I’ll own that), but the back story of infertility for a lot of adoptive parents remains painful even after a child has come into your life.  You don’t forget it.   People don’t mean to be insensitive, but they just don’t know because you don’t go around blabbing all of your business all of the time.

But this isn’t just about infertility, the desire to normalize my new mom experience happens in many ways.  Hearing a snippet of my confabs with Hope often trigger things like, “Oh that’s normal; you don’t need therapy for that.”  “Oh, you’ll get used to that, that’s just what teens do.” “I’m not sure why that freaks you out, it sounds normal.” “You don’t need to make a big deal of any of that, you just need to love her through it.”

Sigh. I often just try to hide the grimace of pain and just put on my mask, nod and reply, “Yeah” and wait until I get off the phone or go home to have a controlled cry about it.  I don’t want to say anything in response for fear of pushing folks away and being more isolated than I already feel.

It’s rare that I am able to share the backstory that led the conversation because to do so reveals so much of Hope’s sad story that isn’t my business to tell.  The story is riddled with so much trauma and loss.  I’m not sure I could’ve survived Hope’s life up to this point.  I know that on the surface our interactions may seem normal, but sometimes they really are not normal at all:  The sadness in driving past a cemetery triggers loss memories that take days to deal with.  A flip through a photo album of happy Christmases is a reminder of the many schnitty holidays she’s endured.  A visit to the local shelter triggers a memory of a lost puppy in the middle of a really chaotic life that leads to hours of cry filled rages.  The anxiety words that seem so random in conversations that make outsiders look at me with confusion or exasperation because Hope seems rude and disruptive when she’s really anxious and perhaps scared and I’m not even sure why.  The endless negotiations that are necessary to try to avoid more loss and trauma for her.  The self-censoring that is necessary because your parents and friends get offended when you refer to your traumatized and sometimes verbally abusive kid whom you adore as “my little dragon” (not  in her presence) because she spits hot, blazing and, sometimes painful, fire.

These are just a few things I and others like me don’t or can’t share.  It’s not normal, but it’s our normal.  It’s not that we don’t want to be everyone else’s version of normal, but often we just aren’t, and getting to that kind of normal and “happy” is a way off dream for a lot of us.  And society just doesn’t do abnormal very well.  So even when there are efforts to be inclusive and to reach out, we withdraw.  The cost-benefit and risk assessments just don’t bear out enough positive data for us to step out into a space that is really going to see, appreciate and make room for our versions of normal.  There are just too many qualifiers necessary to make it work.

One of those qualifiers is that so many people like to think adoptive parents of older kids are in line for sainthood, and so we, somehow, must be able to handle the messiness with the grace of other would-be saintly people.  Not really.  Nah, we’re just regular Janes and Joes who wanted a kid and thought, “Hey an older kid!  I can do that.”  We are not saints and being saintly is just way too extra.

So we seek out others like us and relationships that give us that space to just be as abnormal as we can be.  We are grateful for those connections but it also means that we experience loss in withdrawing from meaningful relationships that we’ve loved for so long.  And we can’t talk about that loss either, it seems like whining because everything on the outside is supposed to look normal, remember?

Sure everyone has their ish that they deal with behind closed doors.  None of us is really normal.  But the quest to be and to make everyone around us assimilate to that faux standard is really hard.  And messy, really messy.

In my day job I am constantly beating the drum of diversity, the need to celebrate it, to embrace it and to respect it.  I realize that those lessons are valuable here as well.  We want to find our space in that place called “normal.”  We are families that can be a bit different.  We’re different, and we would love for that difference to be acknowledged and respected.   There will be shared experiences that transcend all this stuff I’ve babbled on about.  But there will be experiences that are really different as well; they may be behind the veil.  This is true for all of us, bio, adoptive and various forms of blended families too.  Let’s respect one another and in our quest to be supportive, let’s not always default to normalizing.

Besides, isn’t normal overrated anyway?

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.   And thanks Mrs. Family of 5 for unwittingly giving me the courage to finally write about this topic.  I thank you for your courage to write about grief and loss.

Back to waiting—Hope’s ETA is 9:30pm EST.  I will be there With. Bells. On!

Why this Life is also Miserable

After the pithy night of paper rain dances at the hookah night club on Saturday, I was moved to think about my life up to this point and how glad I am that it’s changing.  In Why this Life is Awesome, I found myself looking back at versions of my former self, appreciating her and happily running toward the new me.

The reality is that my existence as ABM is really, very new; heck, I am practically an infant!  I can’t even claim the 1:7 dog year conversion, here.  I’m wet behind the ears and have milk on my new mom breath.  So that brings me to a contrasting post on why life is also really miserable at the moment.

The adoption process is an odd thing.  It’s exciting and joyous and reflective and forward looking and deeply personal and really exposing.  It’s a growth phase that is transformational.  It’s emotionally draining and exhausting and devastating and it makes you question your capacity and your heart’s true desires.

It can make you doubt yourself in ways that can be almost self-loathing.

It can make you as sensitive as a snake having just shed its skin or as terrified as a chipmunk knowingly being eyeballed by the snake that just shed its skin.  It can be so isolating and so lonely because you can’t bear to tell anyone how rough the transition really is because you don’t really believe they will understand or relate or even believe that what you are experiencing is even close to reality.

It’s just a constant exercise in enduring emotional upheaval.  Some days in the midst of such rainbow sparkly super-awesomeness you find yourself in a really dark place, pondering whether the adoption boogey-man is around the corner.

(I have no idea what or who the boogey-man is, but I’m convinced that he’s out there somewhere wreaking adoption havoc.   I know because I see it in other bloggers’ posts as well as my own.  Eff you, adoption boogie-man…)

Meltdown triggers are all over the place, sometimes you know where they are, and sometimes it’s a surprise for EVERYONE experiencing the moment.

And so learning to apologize becomes a bigger part of life.  You need a dump truck to carry the loads humility that you actually need, but often you’re so wired and hurt and angry and frustrated and BLAH that you can only manage a teaspoon of humility and grace and you just dig your heels in and refuse to apologize or play fair.

The need to learn who is safe to confide in and who isn’t and whether folks are switching up those roles is a hard fought lesson to learn but one that’s critical to your very survival.  Some people around you are struggling to figure out their new roles and how that role fits in with all you’ve got going on; your heart breaks because sometimes these folks catch the worst of your messiness even though everyone is fair game for your misery-induced exploits.

A constant sense of defensiveness looms because you just don’t know when the next comment that feels like judgment about your decision-making or just your experience in general is going to emerge.  Some slights are entirely imagined, and yet you just go off the deep end anyway only to have to bob back to shore and find a humble pie to nosh on.

There is a prickly annoyance on some days when someone just says just add prayer and stir when what you feel like you really need/want is a serious, “Hey God, we need to have a sit-down, holla at you moment,” like the one in the book of Job or you need a burning bush experience like Moses, all lit up brighter than a Christmas tree.   Prayer while awesome seems so woefully inadequate even when it might be the only thing you’re capable of doing with some degree of sanity.  Oh Lord, hear my cries.

God help you if you are naturally a high achieving, control freak like me.  I have so little control over anything; some of the control I voluntarily laid down, other aspects of my autonomy seem to be wrested from me by a WWE primetime wrestler who cracked a chair over my back.  Failing is supposed to be a healthy complement to achieving, but the truth is it feels like crap.  I should add that one’s definition of failure can also become so skewed that it’s probably meaningless.

You thirst for encouragement and support just like you were stranded in the desert without food or water for days.   “A good job,” “atta girl/guy,” or “you’re doing great” can be enough to cling to for a week because you just needed some affirmation that you aren’t screwing up.  Sometimes you just need someone to say, I hear you and I affirm what you’re saying without any additional commentary.   That’s all you need to help dry the tears in that moment.

You create scenarios in your mind practicing how to react more appropriately when someone says something shady so that you don’t go all Dexter on them.  Never mind that your kid may be practicing the same scenarios.

You grimace in actual physical pain every time someone say something about how lucky your trauma surviving, grief consumed, loss-experiencing kid is to have you.  It’s a complement but folks don’t understand that you are really the lucky one, even on the days when luck seemed to have taken a hard left somewhere in the Artic on the way to your house.

You create coping mechanisms like my sorting strategy, “Am I going to die charging up a mountain on this issue or am I’m going to die walking in a parking lot on this issue?  I refuse to die in a parking lot so I’ve got to let that issue go.”

You engage in controlled cries.  You engage in out-of-control cries.  My own love of handkerchiefs has only deepened during this year.

Hear me well, this is hands down the best time in my life.  I’ve grown more than I knew was possible, but it was fast and painful.  I’m a frigging basket case.  I’m so ridiculously happy about Hope.  I try to focus on what life is going to be like when she arrives here for her extended visit.  I live for discovering what life will be like when she moves in for good.  She and I are becoming peas in a pod.  We click.  I get her.  It’s all this other crap in the roux that I don’t get, that I struggle and wrestle with.  It’s hard.  And I don’t even know yet if or how hard it might be when she is permanently placed.  Haven’t really a clue.

And every moment isn’t consumed by darkness, but the darkness is present, sometimes in the background like an operating system.  It’s just there, intermingled with unspeakable joy and happiness.  I see other bloggers and sometimes the darkness lifts and fades far away as time passes and everything and everyone gets settled.  For others it lingers as families deal with things like oppositional-defiance or reactive attachment disorders.

Adoption is a wonderful, magical choice and I am so glad I’m on this journey.  It is both sweet and bitter.  I’m still running towards this next chapter and all that is unknown about it.  But some days it’s a dark, rocky, lonely place.

So, in honor of National Adoption Month, go out, hug an adoptive parent, affirm their choices, build-them up, listen when they need to cry or vent or just cry some more.  Listen to their amazing stories of their amazing kids.  If they look like something the cat coughed up, offer to take their beloved little one(s) to the Baskin Robbins for 45 minutes so they have a little bit of time to just get themselves together.  You might do that for your friends with bio kids, think about offering for your adoptive friends and family too.  Give them a call to just check in on them because they may not be asking for the support they need to hold it together.  Learn about support structures and how you can be an adoption ally.  Trust them to make good choices for the kids they chose to love, and recognize that you don’t know all the deets for their situation that led to their seemingly draconian decisions, and no matter how close you are, it isn’t really your business to know anyway.  Don’t say any of this stuff; really, just don’t go there.  Forgive us when we are inelegant and sharp in response to well-intended feedback, advice or commentary because we may have just been bombarded with 12 other opinions.  Know that we are so happy you are walking this journey with us; we need you more than you know.  We longed for this path to parenthood, but we might never have imagined all the emotional space junk that comes along with it.

So there you have it.  My adoption public service announcement.

I feel compelled to again say, in spite of all of this, this is the best time in my life.  I would immediately do it all again for nights like last night when Hope said I was her mom.  There are still many Best. Days. Ever.

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