Tag Archives: Finalization Emotions

A Month Away

I’ve been struggling lately, and I’ve really been struggling to write as well. For nearly two years, I’ve been able to write through pain and joy, highs and lows and achievements and falls. Presently I feel like I’m just fighting to keep up with just about everything, including writing, though writing really does tend to bring me some kind of solace.

Hope and I will celebrate our finalization in 31 days. It’s shocking that a year has nearly passed. Hope and I are closer than ever; consequently we fight like hell too. The closeness is good for her, and us, I guess. I know it’s good for her, but I struggle with being the sole, full time, emotional hole filler-upper. It really is exhausting, and I wish I saw a path for it to lighten up in the future.

There are still lots of developments that I desperately hope for Hope and me. I hope for:

  • Improved social interactions. The lack of being able to make and maintain healthy friendships is a drag on both of us. There are no party invites, there are no movie invites, and there are few phone calls or texts. I only recently realized just how isolated Hope really is when I observed her with some classmates.
  • The ability to be real. Hope is still “acting.” She’s like a mockingbird; she mimics her interpretation of surrounding behaviors. I say “her interpretation” because the mimicry is clear but it’s just…off in some way. Maybe it’s because in her efforts to replicate behaviors she has to one up everyone. Its makes the mimicry obvious and hollow, and it keeps her on the outskirts socially.
  • A cessation to the food theft and trash hoarding. Food security was not an apparent behavior when Hope moved in. I don’t think that it’s really the heart of the issue now. I’m starting to believe that it’s some kind of self-regulating hiccup that I don’t yet really understand.
  • A break in my own self-critical anxiety. Seriously, I’ve got to learn how to lighten up. I know I’m a good parent. I see the changes that have occurred in the last year. I know that it’s because I’ve worked my ass off. I need to be a bigger champion for me and less of a Debbie Downer.
  • An enhanced ability to manage the schedule and various tasks. Gosh, we still have so many appointments. Therapies for each of us individually and together. Band stuff. Support groups. General health appointments. I’m really getting overwhelmed by it all. The thought of camp commuting this summer is also freaking me out.

There are lots of other things I could put on this list when I sit down to mentally itemize the things I hope for; it really is overwhelming. I suppose, I wish that our normal was…I dunno…more normal, whatever that is. I want to get back to some semblance of happy. Happy hasn’t really lived with me in a while.

That’s the downside, I guess. But there are some back-slap worthy upsides that I’ve managed to cull from my memories of this last year. I think it’s important for me to make a list of things we’ve achieved (or survived depending on perspective).

  • I know Hope’s diversionary tactics well, and I can call her on them. Yes, I know all about the magic words, the “spasms” that occur in her hands, feet, temples, ears, nose and throat…Last week she pulled out her bag of tricks during a family meeting about chores. I shut her down on all of that quickly and it allowed us to get to the heart of the matter.
  • Meltdowns are so very different than they used to be. Rages are quiet now; still powerful and still house-shaking, but they are different. And I’ve become more comfortable in riding them out. If Hope wants to rage about something I think is absurd, I let her rage. I let her self-soothe and I know it will blow over. I’ve learned to not feed them the attention they desperately demand because it’s a quick way to have both of us be out of control. Girlfriend can go be mad in her room for an hour or two and rip up her important papers, throw stuffed animals, whatever, but there’s usually a clearing after the storm. I’ve learned to wait it out.
  • I have a much better sense of my limits now. I wrote about my ability to handle the gigantic problems, but be stumped and rattled by the little stuff. I know that. Hope knows it too. It doesn’t always change her behavior, but it allows me to change mine. I haven’t gotten to happy yet, but I’m on the right path.
  • I can walk away from a meltdown. This right here is powerful. It throws Hope off her game and it gives me a chance to calm down and just be. My “walk aways” also involve turning off the TVs or other noise makers, not necessarily leaving the room but finding something else in the room on which to focus my attention.
  • Despite the things that are totally my personal meltdown triggers, I am more deliberate about using my communications skills. I feel….When you… I had to do this last night.
  • I understand her self-soothing and her attention seeking behaviors. I’ve also learned when to feed those monsters. Man, Hope’s emotional age has caught up a lot in the last year, but boy when the chips are down she’s still a little kid in a teenager body. Last night after I did my “I feel…When you” and then walked away, she banged on the table and human beat-boxed for an hour. And I let her. She made a bad choice, I told her how I felt about it and what the consequences were and moved on. She made a racket to see if she could push me further. Yappy and I retreated to watch Real Housewives of New York with some of his toys. #nope #notfeedingthemonstertonight
  • I have a relationship that allows her to ask me just about anything, anytime, anywhere. Now sometimes I wish she was just go rely on Google, but I suppose there is a lot to be said about her desire to seek me out as the fount of knowledge. We’ve talked about sex (in such detail it would make porn stars blush), sexuality, gender identity, religion, politics, race…you name it, she’s probably asked. We’ve had the discussions at home, in the car, at the airport, on the train, on the bus, while sightseeing, in the middle of church…EVERYWHERE. And while I’m often annoyed by timing and location, I must have done something right if she feels that she ask me anything.

It will be interesting to see where we go and how we change during year two. Despite being down in the dumps a bit, I am hopeful that we continue to find our groove. Things will be changing this year as Elihu becomes a greater part of the picture and I’m sure there will be some drama around that. But I’m still optimistic that my little family will be ok.


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.

super-happy-dance-smiley-emoticon

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.


About Last Night

Last night I just lost it. Last week, our pattern broke and there was no downturn in moods or behaviors. That was super awesome. But this week has been an exercise in challenges day after day, moment after moment. We had a tech blackout for couple of days, there were hours where she was sent to her room. The defiance, the yelling, the anger, the lying…oh the lying. By last night I was over it, so over it. So I went to bed.

After a back and forth related to a couple of what should’ve been minor issues, I just threw up my hands and said something that seems unthinkable. It was a mixture of truth and a lie all rolled into one.

I said, “I don’t care.”

I’m sure in one of the dozens of books I’ve read that I’m not supposed to say that. Ever.  And of course I do care, but I consciously just threw up my hands and told her that I didn’t care how long she stayed up, didn’t care that she wouldn’t do her chores, didn’t care that she found the need to retwist her hair last night inconvenient, I didn’t care that she got nasty with a teacher requiring a phone call from the school and I just didn’t care what she did last night.

I went to my room. Did a couple of work emails, twisted my hair, showered and went to bed at 9pm. Lights out and everything. For a few minutes I lay in the dark thinking, “This is so absurd. I know this is a mistake. I know there must be some other kind of way to deal with all of this.” But I just couldn’t will myself to get up and deal with one more minute of any of it last night.

I woke up a couple of hours later and the house was dark. I thought of all the things in our routine that I do to make sure she is ready for bed. The hair twisting, the water bottle filling, setting the alarm, closing the blinds, making sure the closet door is closed, fluffing her pillow, fluffing her bedding when I tuck her in, kissing her forehead, clicking the light, asking her to tell me “when” as I draw the door closed and putting up the doggie gate so The Furry One doesn’t go wandering.

I didn’t do any of it last night. It bothered me; I’m sure it bothered her. I missed kissing her forehead most of all.

I got the petitions from my attorney yesterday to finalize my adoption yesterday. Coincidence? Probably not. Of course I’ve already signed them; I need to drop them off at FedEx later today. I’m so excited about this next step. I didn’t even hesitate to sign the papers; mailing them seems to be another story. There’s just a lot of emotions and it all boils down to less than 10 sheets of paper and a check to my attorney.

Ten sheets of paper and there’s a 12 year old in my house. That’s so crazy.

Seeing that paperwork just has me…wondering what the hell I’m doing. Oh I’m not backing out; I’m all in, but it’s kind of like buying your first house or car and you love it and it’s so exciting, but you harbor questions about whether you can really handle this even though you’ve run the numbers a million times. Even though you are handling it.  You just wonder what the heck are you doing and how the heck did you end up here.

I’ve read that this emotional hiccup is normal and passes, but ugh. I can see, in the light of day, how my brain and heart just needed to shut down.  For some reason it was just too much.

This morning I had to deal with a scared kid who looked like Don King. I sent Hope to school rocking her first puff today. #irockroughandtuff

Her thoughts?

“I’m going to get picked on today.”

Hey, I did decorate her puff with a lovely flower. But yeah, I’ve got to do hair tonight.

Over breakfast, I prayed for peace over this house and I silently prayed for peace in my heart and patience…dump trucks of patience.


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