Tag Archives: Adoption Post Placement Challenges

A Stormy Week and a Weepy Mom

Ugh. So the last few days I’ve really struggled. I mean really struggled with Hope. Honestly she’s been fine; I just haven’t. Therapy was rough on Friday, mainly because while I’ve been enjoying the routine and the joy of motherhood the last few weeks; the reality is that I’m not sure how much of it is real. Hope has a way of shutting down or acting out in therapy that rattles me somewhere deep inside. It makes me not trust myself to pick up on how she’s really feeling. It makes me realize how desperately I need respite time away from her that isn’t just me going to work. It just cascades from there…I have learned things this week, but these things feel much darker than in recent weeks.   I’m feeling navy blue and off my game at the moment. I hate feeling like this week’s recap is a slam post about my daughter, but I try to be really transparent about what I’m going through when blogging and well…it is what it is.

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I need respite time. So I’m in the process of interviewing caregivers to help out with my little family. Hope is a handful and she exhausts me mentally, physically and emotionally. When stuff goes left, I hit the wall hard and I need a break. My level of resiliency is not what it should be; a horrible afternoon can send me spinning in the wrong direction for several days. I honestly have no earthly idea how I’ve gotten through the last couple of months other than divine assistance. I’m tired…worn out. The need for respite is also a constant reminder that while I have a village of folks who are loving and supportive, the one person I want in my corner is just not there.

I continue to struggle with my own emotions and reactions to Grammy’s visit nearly a month later. I know I have family and friends that read this blog and probably think I’m running my mom down in ways likeI feel she’s done to me recently. The truth is that I’ve concluded I am overwhelmed by grief about the crumbling of this relationship. I’m devastated to conclude that after months of planting seeds of doubt concerning my ability to single parent a kid with a traumatic history that she was the first person to actually cut and run. It hurts to have friends’ parents call me and check on me and offer encouragement while my phone sits silent, waiting for my mother to call. I’m resentful about feeling like I need to swallow the disappointment and anger because I still want Hope to have some relationship with her Grammy and Grandpa. I worry about whether fostering what feels like such a dangerous relationship with my mom is even in her best interest.

So I am deeply grieving the unmet expectations and the perceived abandonment.

I feel like a hypocrite. So I gave a lecture at Iowa State this week. It felt good to get out and flex a bit professionally since I’ve been behind on just about everything in the office for going on 3 months now. The lecture was good and well received. I felt sharp. During the Q&A after my lecture someone asked me a question about success in diversity work on campus, and I found myself talking about the need to have reasonable expectations and different definitions for success.

I often tell a story about a program one of my organizational members launched with a partner institution. Three years into the program the partnership yielded fruit; the secondary partner was delighted that it only took three years; my member was frustrated because it took three years to get this one “fruit” from the partnership. The member took their toys and left the partnership. The point of the vignette is that the partners never agreed on what success would look like to cement the partnership.

Playing that script in my head during a three mile walk this morning led me to believe that I have a skewed perception of what success will look like for me and Hope. Oh sure I know I want to see her be well/better adjusted, safe, secure, fully functional, emotionally age appropriate etc, etc…but what do I see as success for our relationship? Hmmmm. Can I describe what success looks like for me and Hope? Not exactly; not in concrete terms. Everyone says we’re doing really well, but what does that mean? How can I counsel folks on defining success and expectations when my house is such an effing wreck?

Hope gets on my damn nerves like 60% of the time.  My sister was telling me about a comedy show she recently went to, and the comedian joked that he loved his daughter the most when she was asleep. Yeah….that. Ok, the percentage of nerve rattling ebbs and flows, but I’d have to say on a big picture evaluation, 60% sounds about right.

Hope wants to live in a world of absolutes, one of those absolutes being that she wants to be right 100% of the time even on the ridiculously, absurd things she tends to say. She only wears X brand of jeans and utterly refuses to consider any other jeans. She still occasionally breeches the sanctuary of my bedroom without asking. She eavesdrops like a mug, so I’m trapped in my house with no privacy. She whines constantly about phantom aches and pains for attention. She’s gotten comfortable enough to start lying and being manipulative. This week she decided she wasn’t going to go on a class field trip; she sprang the permission slip on me on Friday morning, 10 minutes before she needed to catch the bus. Her manipulation game is crazy weak though; girlfriend needs to call me after studying the Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince in a few years. She was furious that I allowed her to miss the bus while I informed her she was taking that damn $2 and that signed slip AND this completed chaperone form ‘cause WE were going to Lake Accotink in a few weeks. Her plan B? To just not turn the forms in to her teacher—I literally could see the plan forming through her forehead. ABM’s end game? Preemptively email her teacher that she has her forms and $2.

It seems that my early rising patterns are rubbing off on her. Initially I complained about her ability to sleep to 11 or 12, but when she strolled into the kitchen this morning at 8:49am, I cursed under my breath because the couple of quiet hours in the house I’ve come to relish on the weekends, being pseudo alone, evaporated into thin air.   She wanted a hug and to whine about something and cereal and…whatever.

I love her madly, but she gets on my damn nerves. I feel some shame about that because I feel like adoptive parents are held on this pedestal where we are supposed to love our kids and marvel that they manage to poop every day after their arrival. Oh well, I guess I fail at staying on that stupid pedestal; I spike her water with miralax so I know she poops, but I can’t say I care or clap about it.

It’s hard living with someone who isn’t capable of even asking if you’re ok. This is an off-shoot of the expectations issue, and I know that to some extent it’s really not fair for me to expect Hope to care much about me. I also hear that the level of narcissism exhibited by tweens and teens is stunning. But it would be so nice just once for Hope to ask, “Hey mom, are you ok? How are you?” Living without that kind of compassion or empathy is hard, especially without a partner in the house with me to offer it from somewhere else. It’s just hard minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day knowing I have to just be ok with possibly not hearing it anytime soon…maybe even never. I don’t know if we’ll get there; maybe we will, but for now, it really hurts. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally; I know I’m supposed to disassociate these behaviors, but ugh.

I am depressed. I’ve been here before. I’ve been a tough adoption soldier these 10 weeks or so, but I have more than the blues. This is something else. My eyes are exhausted from leaking tears. I mean I can only manage a good hard cry every week or so, but other times, my eyes just leak tears. Hope notices sometimes and other times I think she pretends not to notice. It’s time for me to visit doc and look into better living with chemistry. I was aware of this dark cloud sliding over my head, but despite several weeks of really wrestling with these clouds, I know I just can’t shake it by myself.

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So, that’s where I am this week. I’ve got to finish working with the dissertation editor, and I’ve got an education module I’m behind on (again) and then tomorrow is picture day for Hope, so there’s hair to do tonight.   Sigh…Ok week, let’s get on with it.


Home and Hope

So my first business trip away from Hope was a bit stressful. There were lots of check in, some Skype sessions, and lots of texting. We were both anxious. I got a note from the math teacher and I had to make calls in the middle of a meeting.

I nearly had a meltdown when my flight from Des Moines to Chicago ran so late that I missed my connection home. I had to spend the night in Chicago. This would’ve been bad enough given that it was after 10pm; my corporate credit card expired on Monday and I didn’t have my luggage or fresh clothes at the ready. But now, such travel drama meant that I wouldn’t be home to see Hope off to school like I promised.

Damn, first trip and I’m breaking promises already.

FloridaGif

I was fit to be tied, as we say.

But I called; I skyped and I called again. Hope enjoyed time with her godmother. And Godmommie wasn’t leaving until this morning anyway. The truth is that she was fine. They were fine. We all were fine. Things were fine.

She was thrilled to see me this evening. Even more excited that I brought home high quality bacon from pig country-Iowa. Hope was happy that I was here tonight to take her to dinner at Panera, to pick up a few things for school at Target and to twist her hair.

I wish I hadn’t had to work so hard while I was on this trip and that I could’ve enjoyed the hotel time. But now that I know we can do this travel thing, I’ll be ready next time…which happens to be another overnight next week.

In the meantime, Hope’s hair continues to be gorgeous and some little girl at school wants to touch it all the time (such touchiness annoys me #donttouchthehair). She’s embraced her hair in a way that exceeded my expectations. We tried on ballet flats tonight—that didn’t take long! She’s made friends at school, even if some of those relationships were cemented over bug candy that I purchased for her.

This evening she blurted out a list of things that she was happy about being my daughter and the cool things she’s done since she’s been here.  Whoa!  These are the times when my heart sings. It is precious and everything I dreamed about as I thought about being a mom.

Tomorrow is therapy and we haven’t been in a couple of weeks and so much has happened and so much hasn’t happened. I wonder what will it will be like; I always assume the worst when we go. And I wonder how we will be and what our resiliency will look like tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned.


Uncontrolled Cries

So today is the day I have hit my emotional bottom.  It’s been 54 days since Hope arrived.  We’ve had ups.  We’ve had downs.  I’ve learned a lot; I’ve endured a lot.   I’ve laughed a lot and I’ve cried a lot.  There were a few days when I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed.  I finished writing the last two chapters of my dissertation during these 54 days and sit on the precipice of attaining my highest academic achievement.  I met someone who brought a little color and calm in an otherwise difficult time.  I love my daughter; I am committed to her, and I’m hopeful that one day we will be the kind of mom and daughter that I dreamt of a long time ago.

And on this 54th day, I sit in a local Panera crying uncontrollably while shoveling obscene quantities of carbs in my mouth, knowing I’ll regret it later, but unable to stem the tide of snarfing.   Several very nice ladies have stopped over with stacks of napkins and kind smiles.

I don’t lose it in public often, very rarely.  I cry a lot, but I try to do it privately.  Today, I really am unable to pull my scattered self back together.  Today I am completely unhinged, and the only reason I’m not in my bedroom crying in a ball with The Furry One looking on fretfully is because a loving cousin rushed over to kick me out to find some respite alone.

I debriefed with Grammy this morning and the full on rejection, accusations and inability to believe in me or the long term success of me and my daughter is just too much to bear.   All other real or perceived battles with Grammy are unable to even come close to the emotional upheaval I am grappling with today.

I didn’t say much on the call.  I attempted to call her to debrief yesterday, but told my dad I didn’t have the courage to do it.   He didn’t understand.  I won’t bore you with all the gory details but here’s a little Sports Center highlight reel:

  • Hope is going to bring me down; all her problems will negatively affect me.
  • Grammy is physically afraid of Hope and will not provide respite for me.
  • Grammy thinks that smelling wine on my breath after coming home from a work reception means I have a drinking problem.
  • Grammy insinuated that my daughter might be possessed.

Oh and one from earlier in her visit:

  • She didn’t think it wise to make hotel reservations to go to my graduation until after my defense because you know, I might eff up.

I’m not sure what to do with this and all the rest that I can’t write here.  I’m so disappointed, but most of all I’m angry…angry with myself.  Grammy had already shown me repeatedly that she was not the person I would be able to rely on during this journey.  But she told me she wanted so much for me to give her a chance, for me to open up, for me to lower the cloak I had around me and my daughter and let her in to help us, to love on us and to be Grammy.  So I did.  And the first exposure to our reality sent her doing a drive by drop-off.  And me sitting here with a heart full of regret that I ever let my defenses down at all and a feeling like I never will again.

I know at some point I’ll let Grammy back in because I want to model for my daughter how to get over such incredible pain and how to forgive.  But I have no earthly idea how or when I will be able to muster what’s needed to do that.  Hopefully next time I’ll be better prepared to wrestle with the possible rejection and abandonment that may follow.  Also, maybe next time I won’t carb load while sobbing at the local eatery.  Maybe next time I won’t need respite because my reserves will be deep enough to plug the gaping hole that might appear in the aftermath.  Maybe next time I won’t be hurt and disappointed at all because Grammy’s reserves will be deeper, and she will be able to embrace us as we are, thorns and all.  Maybe she will believe in us then.  Maybe she will actually believe in me too at that point.

When I first started this journey I was rather put off by how conservative the adoptive community seemed to be.  I had a healthy sense of my faith and belief system, but I rarely saw folks who were like me—pretty liberal, comfortably Christian, but not showy about it, progressive, Black…the list goes on and on.  I still don’t always see myself in this community, but I know and appreciate how much I have found my place and how my faith in God has evolved, especially during these 54 days.  I’m in a constant state of prayer.   I’m still not as conservative as I perceive many in the community to be, but I get it now…this calling requires something more, something deeper than ourselves.

I’ve often said I don’t know how something would get done, only that it would get done.  It always has gotten done.   I have a set of footprints and a small cross on my right ankle reminding me that when it’s only one set of prints, it was then that God carried me.  My faith has always been there, but it is a bit more on the sleeve now.  And so I’m puzzled that the model of faith I’ve had, Grammy, just doesn’t believe in Hope’s healing from trauma and in the ultimate success of our family as I believe.  I believe we will be delivered.  I believe that Hope will grow up to be happy and healthy.  I believe in her restoration.  I believe that we will be ok, better than ok.   I don’t understand how Grammy doesn’t believe that.  I don’t understand how she can utter words that don’t speak wholeness over us.  I just don’t understand, and now I don’t think I want to hear what she is saying at all.

What’s the adage? If you can’t say something nice….

I know she loves me, but today was just too much.   It was just heartbreaking.

Today is the 54th day in this post-placement journey, and it was so, so very hard.

Now that I’ve made numerous people uncomfortable at the Panera, I think I’ll take my weepy self to the beauty supply to buy crap I don’t need.  I will blow out my afro tonight and paint my nails and give myself a facial.  I will reach out to the new sitter service I found and see about setting up once to twice a week respite so I can practice some self-care.  I will thank my friends and family who have come to my rescue.  I will pray for me and my daughter.

I will pray for Grammy too, even though I am not sure what to say.


New Experiences Bring New Lessons

Bless the Lord, 9:31 came early tonight!  I am so tired, but Hope doesn’t feel all that great so she actually went to bed before bedtime AND with a snow day tomorrow.  Thank you Jesus.  I’ve just come off of a long annual conference with long days and late nights.  This adoption journey was full of new experiences this week with Grammy’s 5 day visit.  New experiences bring new lessons.  So here’s my weekly recap.

Wishing for someone else’s reality check and watching someone else’s reality check are two different things.   Hope lost her shiz with Grammy this weekend…*came*completely*unhinged.    And Grammy wasn’t ready; not even a little bit.  Now I admit that I kind of wanted her to have a taste of what my life is like so that she could get a much needed reality check and get off my case about my decision making and what she thought I should be doing.   But last night, watching Grammy watch me navigate an epic, raging, meltdown full of Hope’s drama with tears in her eyes was actually worse than the meltdown.  I’ve kind of gotten used to the meltdowns, especially when I know what triggered it.  In this case, Hope was pissed that I was away from her and unavailable to her when she wanted me because of work.   I realized after Grammy left how upset she really was:  She had organized my pantry.   She knows I hate her going through my stuff, but she just couldn’t help herself.  When I opened the pantry, I started to cry because I realized my momma must’ve been so upset.   Hope couldn’t understand why I was sobbing.

Nobody treats my momma bad and doesn’t hear about it from me.  Not even Hope.  Nah, girl, what you ain’t fitting to do is talk to my momma—not just Grammy, but my mommy—any old kind of way.  No ma’am.  No indeed.  No.  Just.  No.  Even though I know and understood Hope’s triggers with Grammy, Hope was so over the top with my momma that I just could not have a reaction that didn’t up the ante on our recent meltdown.   Watching my frazzled momma drop Hope off at my event this evening (at the corner with her hazard lights on—yes, y’all Grammy did a driveby drop-off!?!?) after a second day of Hope acting like she has no hope, broke my heart.   No one can talk crazy to my momma but me.    #yaheard #dontcomeformymomma

Validation is important.  Can we touch and agree on this?  Amen!  While watching Grammy stumble through the last few days was painful, it also served as a much needed bit of validation for me and my Hope, as I allude to in earlier posts.  This older child adoption situation ain’t Pat the Bunny.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Those of us who are called to this path are like Scandal Gladiators—this ish is work.  Understanding the effects of childhood trauma and withstanding the emotional sandstorm that is left is its wake is a reality that people will have a hard time wrapping their heads around.  I hated seeing frazzled Grammy, but now she knows why I kept us cloistered for a while, soaking up some privacy while the crazy that is my life was allowed to prance naked around the house unfettered.  Don’t nobody want to see that!  #driverrollupthepartitionplease    But now she knows, and she gets it and touches and agrees.

Hope is too smart for her own good.   She is a mess.  But that’s ok, I’m just as crafty.  I have to bring my A game with her every single day.  There are times when I catch her pushing me, and after I rear back with my response she almost smiles.  I don’t like engaging some of her negative behavior and I’m getting better at knowing when to be strategic about it.

Last night during our brouhaha , I turned out the light while she was yelling and announced that it was time for her to go to bed—NOW.  Her rage level clicked up a bit, and she yelled that she was going to get up and turn on a light, and I couldn’t stop her.  Oh for reals?  I calmly replied, “No, you aren’t going to turn the lights on, and I am absolutely sure of it.”  She said, “Oh, what are you going to do?  Come in and take the light bulbs out of all the lamps?  Some of my fosters did that. ”  ABM: “Nope, I’m going to go in the kitchen and throw the circuit breaker to your room.  Ain’t nobody got time to take all those light bulbs out when I can just flip the breaker and ensure darkness—hope you’re not trying to charge anything. Oh and I love you more than anything in this world.  Good night”

Yeah, no sassy, smart ass responses to that one.  She was quiet and in bed in less than five.  #girlbye

Hope always comes back.   It never ceases to amaze me that after one of Hope’s meltdowns, the thing she wants, the things she craves is time with me.  Sometimes my feelings are hurt, and I really want to withhold the one thing she wants and needs.  Sometimes I don’t have much to offer so I just can manage to sit quietly with her while she does all the talking or babbling or whatever.  Sometimes I feel more resilient and can bounce back and embrace her right away again.   I admit that I want to be selfish and take time to just lick my wounds or cry or just lay down and watch the ceiling fan.  Sometimes the need to be self-protecting is essential to just allow me some space to recover, and I let her know I need a longer time out.  And still she comes back.  She waits for me.  She wants me and needs me.  Knowing this, seeing this push/pull pattern encourages me that she won’t fight me forever, that one day she won’t have to come back because she won’t push me away.

So that’s it.  I’m tired.  Defense is in 11 days and I still have a bunch of stuff to do.  Tomorrow is another snowday, which really annoys me.  It was a day off and I hoped to rise only to put Hope on the bus and then enjoy a ABM day with little responsibility for a few hours.  Oh well.   At least I can sleep late.


I Know My Kid

So, last night I took Hope to a work event.  My little lady was poised, charming, conversational and gracious.  I am so ridiculously proud of her!  I knew there were moments when she was very overwhelmed with all the new people, the fancy-schmancy environment and food and just the overall new experience.  And yet, she positively rose to the occasion.  I was ready to leave at any moment to save her from the mayhem.  But the quick escape wasn’t necessary.  But she was just awesome.

Grammy decided to stay home last night, so Hope and I had some solo mother-daughter time, which was a good thing.

It also served as another validation moment for me and Grammy and our ongoing discussions.

So Hope and I jetted off for our little outing, and before we could get to the condo elevator good, Hope started confiding about some things that Grammy had done or said that upset her over the last few of days.  At the top of her list?

“I am NOT a baby.  I am a pre-teen.  I know that it’s awkward to call me that, but I’m not a baby.   It irritates me and I don’t know what to do.”

Ah yes, you see ,Hope has had so many things snatched from her that are a part of her identity; her chronological age is not “snatch-able,” and her identity as a soon to be teenager is so serious!   Now, she does like to be babied, but just don’t call her a baby.  She hated the idea of being tucked in every night until she came here and then begged me to do just that.

Hope’s list of Grammy-related irritants was lengthy, but she was adamant that she really likes Grammy a lot, but she just didn’t want to be upset by some things.  A lot of the little irritants may not seem like a big deal to other kids but they are a big deal to her.

So, her little vent session concluded after a few minutes, and I asked her to give me the top three things that really bothered her and she rattled them off.  I explained that I would talk to Grammy about it.

Ha!  Hope’s list?  Oh yeah, it mirrors my list of things to know that I repeatedly tried to explain to Grammy over the last few weeks.

You want to know why?

‘Cause I know my kid.   #yeahIdo #whatchoutnow

I get her; I know what upsets her.  I know what motivates her.  I know the limits of her coping skills right now.

And Hope didn’t feel like she was heard or ‘got’ or understood.  And she didn’t have a voice with Grammy, so she just pulled out her silly putty and tried to be patient, polite and gracious until I got home.

So then I had to talk to Grammy.  Oy vey…It went ok, but I know she didn’t like it and I’m not sure she got it either.  I know it was uncomfortable.  I know that getting her to understand that this wasn’t an ask, but rather this was an expectation that some of these little things just don’t happen again was hard for her.  Hope will grow into all her fantasies about grandkids, one day, but not this visit or even the next one.

It’s hard to have that talk with a new Grammy as a new mommy.  I could see and feel the sadness and frustration in knowing that her fantasy grandchild complained about her.  I could see and feel the hurt and defensiveness when she said it wasn’t that big of a deal, so why couldn’t she do blah, blah blah?  Well, um, because you can’t, it causes drama that we don’t need.

Today’s check in call, Grammy sounded a little tired and a wee bit frazzed.  Didn’t I say that Hope would be all the way live by Saturday?  Yeah…#Iknowmykid

This week has been a good experience for all of us.  Just a few bumps in the road with a lot of lessons learned.  It’s been a good week that included me being able to have my wine outside of the house, served in a glass instead of a tumbler with the benefit of adult conversation.  So glad Grammy is here!


First Adoption Crisis In Progress

This past week has been nothing short of exhausting.  I’m grateful for my friends and some family and many fellow bloggers who have offered support.  I am not alone.  It makes me sad that so many families slug through these trauma-induced swamplands, but it is helpful to the spirit to know that I’m not alone.

So, here’s what I’ve come to know this week:

This “Sandwich Generation” mess is a bitch.   So sandwich generations are the folks who are sons and daughters of living parents and who are parents themselves.  In this midst of this mind-blowing crisis with Hope, Grammy has been absent.   Honestly, I want my mommy, and she’s not out there.  She did share that she had a passion for kids like Hope, but she didn’t say she had a passion for me.  She did say that she didn’t agree with my decisions regarding Hope.  She raised questions about my ability to raise Hope as a single parent.  While I sit at the bedside of a kid who is presently telling me she hates me 100 times a day, I also sit and wonder what I did to deserve this Grammy freeze out.  I feel like I’m catching it from all sides.  My life is filled with gray at the moment when I prefer the definitiveness of black and white, so I’m inclined to just tell Grammy to kick rocks and go play in traffic.  Sigh, but that probably doesn’t meet the WWJD standard now does it?

I am resentful about the need to be the bigger person.  I’m pissed about feeling like I need to act like an adult.  I’m annoyed as all get out that Grammy has failed to be the person I’ve built her up to be.  At church this morning I went to the altar to ask for special prayer for me and Hope.  The sermon had been about relationships that provide refuge in times of trouble. #messagefromGod The parishioner who prayed with me this morning asked, among other things, that all members of the family strive to act appropriately, as Jesus would, during this crisis.

Well, dang. So convicted…

Fall down 7 times, and keep getting up.

So, I will continue to pray that the relationship with Grammy be restored and that we both act as one another’s refuge.  In order to do this, I’ve got to let this pissed-off’dness go.  #notreallyready

Yeah, I’m going to have to ask to be delivered from this anger and hurt and ushered into a space of forgiveness.

Something tells me I’m going to have to pray *that* prayer repeatedly. #lowSouthernBaptisthum #shadysideeye

Anger and hurt deliverance prayers for everyone!!  In dissecting this mess with Grammy, it’s not lost on me that Hope and I share a lot of parallels.  Like Hope, I’m struggling with all the new expectations, the new roles, the fear, the anger when expectations are not met; only I’m feeling this mess towards my own mother.  So prayers are going up that my Hope also be delivered from the anger and hurt she feels after so many years of disappointment.

Friends are everything.  Old ones and new ones…You learn who your friends are on this journey.  Your closest circle knows the most or as much as you are willing to share; they peep through the window and then they extend their hand, a handkerchief, a hug.  They are compassionate.  Even when they don’t know what to say, the empathy that rolls off of them gives you something to hold on to.   I was telling a new friend this week about my love of the book of Job; I find it to be a fascinating expose on man’s relationship with God.  My friend, who was trying to convince me to just allow some folks to care for me this week, chastised me by saying, “Well you know, Job’s friends weren’t really schnitt, but they showed up.  Let me show up for you.”

That was too deep, and my sassy “I got this” façade came crumbling down.  And I’m better for it.

I’m also delighted that my Holy Homeboy has seen fit to begin a new season with an old friend who was my bestest bestie until a stupid falling out nearly a decade ago.  A week before this crisis started, we ran into each other at the local Costco.  I’ve missed her so much that we later both admitting to crying after the interaction as we continued to shop in Costco.  Her reintroduction into my life has been a special blessing.

Adoption drama needs its own version of Google Translate.  It’s incredibly hard to spend time with someone who just says they hate you over and over again.  Absurdly Gorgeous Therapist (AGT) called me to check in and reiterated that new adoptive parents must bear the brunt of all the anger of trauma and lost these kids feel.  Yeah, dude, I know.  But that ish is whack.  Yeah, there, I said it.  It totally sucks arse to sit and just be the whipping post.  Oh, and let me not to forget to mention her boundary pushing efforts to be just generally rude and obnoxious. I think we should have a google translate app for every crappy moment.

Kid says: “I hate you!  I wish I’d never come here!  I wish you would just go away and die.”

Google Translation: “I’m not sure how to love or be happy, but you’re nice and kind and I have no frigging idea how to take that.   Please don’t stop being kind to me and for God’s sake, don’t leave me!”

Yeah…adoptive parents need that app and we need it yesterday.

Encouraging Turnarounds Lurk about.  Yesterday Hope said she would stop speaking to me forever.  I calmly replied that that might be kind of hard living in the house together, especially since she needs me for stuff.  Why not think about the things she might need to talk to me about…she started making a list and inside I smiled because it was one effing long list.  She needs me.  When she was done I said, sounds like we might have to talk a lot.  Today, she talked and played with me; ever so often she would announce, “I’m still mad at you. I still hate you.”  I just replied, “I know.”  She let me hug her for the first time in 5 days.  That’s got to be some kind of progress right?

Stress is the devil.  So remember when I said detangling Hope’s hair last week was like pulling out a yeti?  Yeah, well, I’m so stressed that my hair is now shedding like yocks of hair.  I swear I harvested a guinea pig out of my head this weekend.  Sigh…

I’ve cooked for the first part of the week and am really going to try to stay hydrated and rested.  I actually got a zit this weekend!?!?!  Zits at 41 are no bueno.  I need to find a happy place stat.  Today was all about hair and skin conditioning.

I have writers’ block.  I estimate that I only have about 10 pages left to write on my dissertation.  Needless to say, I’ve been distracted.   I cannot continue to dwell on this dang chapter; I need that cognitive energy for other things.   I pushed out a page today, but I need to pick up the pace.

The Furry One just likes to go pee in Hope’s room.   Yeah, he just does.  I’m going to go buy a Bissell Green Machine, and we’re going to have to learn to keep Hope’s door closed when she’s out and about.  My old dog is just an old dog, doing old dog things, I guess.   I still love him.  #shrug

So, that’s this week’s lesson recap.  This too shall pass; I know it will cycle back.  I’ll be more prepared next time.  I’m hopeful that this week, Hope and I can make progress, that we can get back to a little piece of our version of normal.  I hope my face doesn’t break out and my hair stays put.  I hope for more friend bonding, less dog messes to clean up and a completed dissertation.

Amen.


The Sand Storm that is Trauma

Hope is terrified of the idea of normalcy, of family, of happiness.  All of this fear and anxiety manifests itself like a furious sand storm that just beats you in the face with no end, goes up your nose, gets lodged in your ears.  It covers your hair, your eyelashes, your clothes.  The angry sadness finds its way under your finger and toe nails.  It’s in your private parts.  It’s gritty, painful, it’s everywhere.  It’s dangerous; it’s deadly.  It chokes Hope.  It chokes me, too.

sandstorm431x300

I knew I was going to fight this sand storm from the very beginning, but this week, it’s been relentless.  My beautiful Hope is stuck in all this sadness and anger and if the sand storm analogy wasn’t bad enough, my girl’s lack of hope for herself and the life she can have with me is sucking her in like quick sand.   I am doing everything I can to pull together all the resources necessary to drag her out of that sand.

I am so tired this week.  And I am terrified too.

She has described my very existence as really being the root of so many of her problems. I know it’s not true, but it lances a tiny bit of blood every time she suggests it.  In nearly the same breath that she’s cursing me, she will demonstrate a kindness towards me from somewhere so deep inside of her that is like the smallest most precious drop of water in a hot desert.

I see glimpses of her desire to just be happy; but they are fleeting.  They are overwhelmed by all the fear, pain and hurt. During some hours, it feels like there is nothing I can say to ease any of it.  The defiance is so rough that she will just deny anything and everything just so she can have some control.

The sky is blue.  No, it’s not; it is purple.

I love you.  I hate you.  I don’t want to live here.

I want you to stay here with me forever.  No you don’t; you want to throw me away.

Sigh.

It just doesn’t stop.

Trauma is just so awful. It makes people just believe they have no self-worth; that they aren’t deserving of anything that could possibly, conceivably be construed as love, hopefulness, joy, normalcy.

I’m finding that aspects of trauma are contagious.  Oh, I have experienced nothing like my lovely Hope has, but her trauma has now become my trauma.  Her pain is now my pain.  Her anger is now my anger.  Living with her, it’s all become mine too, but I’m the one responsible for helping her find her way, our way, out of this mess.   It is consuming and overwhelming.  It also hurts like hell.

People ask me how I’m doing.

Sigh…

I’m just doing.  I’m living moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.

I take a lot of deep breaths.

I cry a lot.  I cry for her.  I sob for her and all the dreams I have for her.

And I do this mostly in private, because how can you explain to people that Hope doesn’t understand how to be happy?  How can you explain that her fear makes Hope say she hates you?  How can you explain that Hope’s trauma is so consuming that she wonders whether she can just survive the day?  How can you get people to understand the long term effects of trauma in the face of being offered a “good life?”

You can’t.  So, mostly, you just don’t try.  So you live this process alone.

It’s really lonely.   Even when you have people around who are supportive and grasping to understand, it is still lonely figuring out how to survive the most irrational behavior you’ve ever experienced.  There are things you don’t dare share.  There are things you can’t imagine saying.  God forbid you say something that makes someone wonder quietly or worse, out loud, that it might be all your fault.  If the drama of trauma doesn’t keep you up at night, the fear of that kind of judgment will.

Yes, trauma is contagious.

And yet, I try to have hope for Hope even while she pushes me away and spews venom that hurts my heart.  I just want to hug her.  I want her to just stop resisting and rest in my arms for a good cry.   I want to soothe her tears, smooth her hair from her face, look into her brown eyes and tell her that I’ll love and protect her always, that it really will be ok.  I want her to understand that she doesn’t have to test me; I’m not going anywhere. I just wish she would stop fighting.

I just want the sandstorm to stop.

It’s only been a month today since she arrived, and I know that the reality is that the storm is just starting.


Musical Monday-Life on the Upswing

So if you’re an old school, hip hop head like I am, you might’ve come across the delightful knowledge that De La Soul decided to give away their entire catalog for free on Valentine’s Day.  Now I had most of the music, but there’s nothing like getting something free, and there’s nothing like getting good music for free.  Double Yes, Yes!!!  So I’m on the couch with my noise-cancelling headphones bumping to the extended remix of Buddy while re-writing a paragraph of my dissertation.  #grooving

Why mention De La Soul and the headphones, you ask?  Because I’m also in a noisy power struggle with Hope, who is doing her damnedest to play her saxophone as schnittily as possible right now.  I’m making her practice daily in preparation for a graded concert later this week.   Girlfriend thought that the agreement we made during our family meeting yesterday would be sated with a half-arsed 10 minute practice session. I don’t think so.

Had the nerve to yell at me when I politely told her she needed to pull another 30 minutes out of a hat.

So now my house sounds like a flock of geese are being tortured.

Oh wait…Queen Latifah is dropping her verse…Me, Myself and I is up on the rotation next.  #stilljamming

Oh, she’s mad, but she’s playing though.  And I can barely hear her.  #winning #sorryneighbors #TheFurryOneisNearlyDeafandDoesn’tCare

Just a minor bump in the road on this nearly perfect Monday.  That’s right, nearly perfect!

I had an epic meltdown yesterday when she effectively made us so late to church that I couldn’t find a parking spot.  This after I baked the blue cake! I secluded myself in my room for about 90 minutes while binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. Yeah, I should’ve hit a bedside Baptist service online or on the tube, but I was all about gluttonous self-medicating in those moments.

Despite my cake and self-sequestration, our first home-visit went smoothly enough yesterday afternoon.  I often read how some folks deep clean the house and such before a visit.  I tidied.  Look lady, we live here—emphasis on the live.  Laundry isn’t fully done.  I did load the dishwasher, the puzzle we are working on is still on the table and I just noticed the jam stain on the front of my dress after I offered her some water and blue cake.  Get over it.  Fortunately, Ms. E is cool.  She gave us both some good coaching and reassured me that I’m going to survive and that we are doing just fine.  She’s actually very excited for us.

Yeah, still feels like schnitt, but ok.  I’m starting to believe it will get better.

I’ve been to the gym for the last three days.  I had a nice holiday today while Hope went to school.  I’m starting to feel a little more like my sassy self.

For the first Monday in about two weeks I feel like I might have a grip on things.

She has now been practicing 17 minutes longer than I required.  She’s also playing rather well, seeing as it took a lot of effort to play all mad and crappy and I can tell she is getting tired.

Well, look at that (grinning), ABM won that struggle, didn’t cry, didn’t break a sweat or a nail and jammed the whole time. #stillwinning #stilljamming

Just maybe I can do this. 🙂


Three Weeks Post-Placement

It’s Friday and things are better.  Today is the second snow day this week and I’m wondering will the kids get any summer break around these parts.

Hope was delighted by the snow day; she’s a hard core nester/homebody.  She never got dressed, never bathed (I let it go for yesterday), and just was happy as a clam.

I was still sick with a racking cough.  I still have the racking cough, actually; I imagine it will be with me for a week or so.  I was kind of miserable.  I gave her lots of tablet time, made her practice her sax (Hey, it actually sounds like music now!) and lay in bed.  I fretted bit about how the house felt filthy to me, how I just wanted to sleep unencumbered and how I needed to go dig the car out so that it wasn’t so bad when the second storm hit later in the day.

I started to think about what I’m learning during this process.  I have been blogging more about my emotions in the moment and straying from the learning part.  It’s just been so overwhelming. So here goes my current list of observations and learned gems.

  • I know we’re improving even if it feels like walking across hot coals in hell.  She comes to me, she wants to be with me, and she gets frustrated when I say no but she is increasingly less likely to push me on things.  She’s never again asked to be taken back to WA.
  • There is a difference in when she decides to be straight up oppositional and when she is just being a typical annoying teen.  My dissertation research is, in part, about how personal values shape viewpoints on a particular issue.  There is a personal value called “face” that really is much like the desire to protect and preserve our public identities.  Anything that threatens what Hope perceives to be as personal identity space she digs in and digs in hard.  So teacher notes invade a space in which she is constructing her public persona.  School incidents are particularly threatening to how she sees herself and she will go down swinging to preserve her “face.”

Typical annoying teen stuff, she’s more likely to come to me later and tell me that her feelings were hurt by something I said or did—like when I told her “Fine, don’t wear your coat in 22 degree weather when you have a sinus infection.  Catch pneumonia <shrug>.”  Later she politely told me that hurt her feelings because she could die from pneumonia and surely I didn’t want her to die.  (I reminded her, no I didn’t want her to die, which is why I insisted on the damn coat #girlbye!)  Glad this dissertation is worth something more to me.

  • There so many things, like boundaries, that she wasn’t taught and must learn.  My biggest peeve is her traipsing into my room.  Yesterday she got into my bed.  Yeah, yeah, snuggling and all that, whatever.  I am desperate for some sanctuary and personal space, and my bedroom is IT.  I still tiptoe into my parents’ room back home.  Bedrooms are sacred space for me.  And despite several polite conversations, she just traipses in whenever she gets ready.  She’s walked in on me in my bathroom, getting dressed, you name it.  Drives me nuts and when I say something it’s all, “You don’t want me in your room,” with lots of attitude.  Yeah, you’re right, I don’t.  There I admit it.  It’s the only safe space I have.

While doing a puzzle in the living room yesterday during the storm, I also realized that she didn’t really know how to work on a puzzle with someone else.  She sucks up the table space by leaning all the way over such that her hands hang over my side of the table and will actually pick up pieces I am working on.  I had to take several breaks because it was almost invasive in a way that ruined the experience for me.  Yesterday was not the day to teach more about personal space, but clearly that’s something I need to work on with her.

  • There is a kindness of spirit in her.  She has made me tea every day that I’ve been sick.  She knows her skills of caring for me are limited so she focuses on what she can do.  At her core, she is such a sweetie.
  • A trip to the veterinarian determined that The Furry One is in the very early stages of kidney failure.  At 14 and 3 months, it is a normal sign of old age.  Given his overall health though, the vet confirmed that yeah, the rug pee fiasco of last week was indeed an declaration of war.  He’s actually engaging Hope more appropriately this week.  Had he been sicker I would’ve asked the vet to duct tape and paperclip this dog together, I’m way to unstable to lose The Furry One right now.  That would send me right on over the edge.
  • The weather is effing up my best efforts to get us on a consistent schedule.  I mean really, I can’t win for losing!  Two days off this week.  No band practice.  I’m increasingly behind at work.  It’s all a mess, I tell you.  And I know that the scheduling thing is going to be the way to glory for us.  I really need to have a talk with Mother Nature.
  • Prayer works.  Hope and I pray together twice a day.  She is responsible for one of the prayers.  I notice how her prayers have changed over the weeks.  The things she prays about are changing, she prays for our family.  She prays for The Furry One even though he peed on her rug.  She prays that she’ll have a better day at school.  I can’t honestly say that I’m deep in meditation when she’s praying because I’m trying to tune into what she’s saying and maybe not saying.  But her prayers are changing and I’m encouraged by that.
  • Hope is finally getting the concept of salvation.  She told me early on that she had been saved twice but it didn’t work; it didn’t “take” because she is so bad.  Lots of distilled theological conversations up in Casa de ABM.   She’s now talking about baptism and salvation and such.  She had a mini-meltdown this week when contemplating a lost family member and whether they were in heaven or hell; she didn’t know if they were saved.  It was a heartbreaking moment, but it revealed a few things to me:  She’s thinking about our talks, she’s applying those discussions, and she’s still grappling with grief.  I was sad for her, but I was also happy to know that I’m getting through that tough candy shell of hers.
  • She enjoys a little decadence, like we all do.  She gets excited to try new things, do things with me that foster families had previously promised but didn’t do and is thoughtful about each experience as it bonds us.  I’m the one who’s following through, who’s showing her something more.  She appreciates that.  One night a week is pizza night; during previous weeks we got take out.  This week I needed a fabric napkin experience as a Maslow’s Hierarchy element in my life (I loathe fast food) so I decided we would go out to eat.  She was almost overwhelmed by the local restaurant; she relished having a small appetizer and dessert.  She was tickled by the whole experience.  I was getting terribly ill during the dinner but I found such pleasure in watching her take it all in.
  • I had no idea 12 year old asked so many why questions.  Oh. My. God.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why to random stuff that I’ve never heard about that happened when she was 8?  Why to random stuff that happened last week?  Why to something that happened on a random show she watched but I didn’t?  I thought in going with an older kid, I would bypass a lot of the “why” stuff.  No, not really.  I can see how stunted in some areas she maybe.  She wasn’t in environments when she could ask why; she is now.  I can see that I’ve created a safe space for her to do that.  I’m increasingly comfortable with say, “Sweetie, I don’t know.  Can we Google it?”  By the 18th time I try to recite that without sounding annoyed and exasperated.

So, it’s Friday, one of the days when I can be a bit more reflective.  Hope is still snoozing and I’ve tidied the house, taken out the trash, opened a window and let some cool air in to air out the sickie germs, and written this here post.  If I hurry, I probably can get to the grocery store to pick up a few things and GASP—get some Starbucks and some Valentine’s chocolates that I don’t have to share!!!  OMG, OMG so exciting!!

OMG—Hallelujah!  Peace out!


Testimony

ETA: Oy–so tired can’t even spell my titles right…

Last week was tough.  It was tough in so many ways.

My heart broke when Hope described her angst about going to school.  I was frustrated because I still hadn’t finished the conclusion of the chapter I was writing.  I was really scared by some of the things we discussed in the initial consultation with the absurdly attractive therapist (Side note: My GOD he’s is so handsome it hurts, and it might be a problem since I can barely look directly at him without thinking I’m going to burst into flames.).  I wasn’t very productive at work because I was consumed with home life and I have no idea when some semblance of balance will be discovered.  I was frustrated by all the paperwork I needed to complete, the scheduling that needed to happen, the permission slips that needed to be signed and the school fees that needed to be paid (I’m convinced school fees are the new hustle).  Oh and I registered Hope for a few camps for the summer that cost a grip.

Then I had to get us ready for our first road trip.  The road trip that involved a weekend with the Grands and a wedding to go to and Hope meeting her godparents—who happened to be the couple tying the knot.

Oh and how could I forget the Friday night post- travel, middle of the night, ER visit? We started our health care adventure at a local Patient First, where I enjoyed some same-race adoption privilege in which despite my fumbling efforts to pull out my care authorization everyone assumed she was my kid.  On the one hand the ease of it was cool, but then the nurse kept looking at me like I was stupid because I knew so little about Hope’s medical history.  When we got to the hospital later and I needed a bathroom break, Hope cut through all the BS while I was in the loo and just told everyone that I was her new mom via adoption—everyone was so nice, gave good advice and relieved my terror when, essentially, Hope was not really all that sick.

Got all that?  Heavy sigh!

I am astounded by how much I accomplished last week, and how much must be accomplished to keep my house running.  There is always something.  And the some things almost keep me from thinking about anything meaningful outside of the Hope universe.   I’m still sad about the things, the critical things that keep my individual life running that I simply can’t get to.  I still struggle with feeling incredibly selfish at times about my own sadness and angst.

I’m tired and weary, but looking back, I’m not broken.   Bruised, yes, but not broken.   Taking time to reflect on the week in its entirety gives me solace that I made it, and hopefully I can do it again next week.

And I’ll survive next week.  And the week after.

But it does come at a cost.  It’s worth it for moments like the one in the car this morning returning to the DC area; I insisted on playing gospel for the ride since we were missing church.  She broke out singing Marvin Sapp’s He Saw the Best in Me.

For her, she was just singing it; but for me, I know the song to be true for all of us and especially for her.  She’s been struggling to keep her badass persona and it’s crumbling, little by little each day.  So moments of testimony that she doesn’t yet realize are such, bring me exceeding joy and comfort in knowing that she’s doing ok.

Now I have to just to make sure I keep grinding, so I can also be ok and so we can thrive.

Special thanks to those who reached out to me concerning post-placement depression.  I wish my agency had some info on it during the process.  But I’m glad to have discovered this issue and I am deeply appreciative that my experience was validated.  I thought I was going nuts. Thank you.


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