Tag Archives: Older Child Adoption

There is No Magic

A few days ago Hope and I were in the car listening to a podcast. We were chuckling about the show, and then it ended and we listened to some of the commercials before the next podcast started. One of the commercials was about a new podcast on the magic of childhood.

I was only halfheartedly listening to the commercials. I caught the thought and let it slip through my mind.

But Hope was listening.

“There is no magic in childhood. None.”

She immediately had my attention. I didn’t know what to say.  All I could manage to say was, “Huh?”

“Magic? What’s magical about childhood? Nothing,”

We sat quietly at a light.

I quickly thought about all of her young years and the things she endured. I felt her trauma in my soul.

She didn’t say anything else, and I wasn’t sure what to say next. So, I didn’t say anything at all. It was one of the few times during our time together when I was completely stunned to silence. Usually, I can come up with something, but I had nothing. And I was just overwhelmed by the absence of magic in my daughter’s childhood.

I understand how she concluded that the magic of childhood was nothing but a farce. It breaks my heart. I have these fond memories of growing up. I remember my parents love. I remember birthday cakes and playing in the street with neighborhood kids. I remember when they took me and my sisters to Disney World and numerous other family trips. I remember feeling safe and loved. I remember so many little details that are clear to me know but seemed magical then.

I know that there are some memories that Hope has with her first family that are happy memories, but the number of those moment to moment memories are dwarfed by memories of instability, fear, and profound grief. The latter so crushing that she can barely see the good stuff in her mind. And she can’t separate those memories and just erase the bad ones. She has figured out how to reconcile the bad stuff; she can’t partition it to try to create some magic.

The magic of childhood is lost to her.

I wish I could change it all for her. I can’t, but I wish to hell like I could.

I have spent a lot of time and resources on helping Hope heal. I didn’t realize that I was also trying to create some magic in the waning years of Hope’s adolescence. I try to give her big and small experiences that will stick with her. I’m hoping they are special, magical, but knowing that she doesn’t think there’s any magic in childhood just makes me feel so sad.

I wonder will she still feel this way years from now when she has her own child? Did my silence, my failure to offer some wisdom about childhood magic, just reaffirm her grief? What can I do to make magic for her? Can I still create some magic for her?

I honestly don’t know what was I supposed to say in that moment that would validate her but offer a different narrative. I still don’t know what I was supposed to say to that declaration. I just don’t know what to say about there being no magic in childhood.


Things I Have Learned During the K-Pop Phase

We are heading into roughly the sixth month of Hope’s K-pop phase. This phase was preceded by the EDM phase. I thought that phase was challenging. It was electronic music all the time.

That phase didn’t feel that much removed from my interests though. I am a house music fan, so there was some overlap in our musical tastes. We occasionally shared songs; we rocked out at a EDM music festival.

I learned just how music affected Hope. I learned that she heard notes that I just couldn’t hear. I learned how she could thread beat influences through artists and songs like a seamstress. I really did marvel at how she interpreted the songs and how she put her playlists together.

In retrospect, the EDM phase was a good phase.

And then 10th grade started and kicked off the K-pop phase.

Hope fell hard for the boy bands. She didn’t particularly care for the girl groups.

I wasn’t as attuned to ADHD behaviors during the EDM phase, but now I see how easily she can go down a rabbit hole chasing new songs, information about the groups, e-stalking the group members. Some of this is typical teen behavior, but with Hope and the ADHD it’s always on overdrive. And because the K-pop scene has a whole culture thing to it—the group members live together, work together, get storylines on soap operas, spin off into solo careers—Hope’s propensity to get caught up in the minutia of it all is incredibly powerful.

Hope knows that I found this K-pop phase interesting for the first month. I was intrigued by the obvious American and Afro-Caribbean influences in the music. I thought her desire to learn Koren was really cool. Ok, we’re going to watch a K-drama? Cool.

The K-drama has 16 episodes and I just realized 10 minutes into the first episode that this is a Korean interpretation of Cyrano?

Record scratch—I’m out.

February is 7th month of this phase for Hope and I am trying to be supportive, but I was over this phase about 5 months ago. But this phase has shown me some things about myself.

I’ve learned that I have a reservoir of patience that I didn’t use to have.  I knew that I was more patient because: parenting. But I really had no idea how patient I have become. After 7 months the only good things I can say here is that Hope is learning a new language on her own and thinks that a career as an interpreter could be on the horizon—in Korea.  For a kid that thought she had limited options 3 years ago, I’m down with this line of thinking.  I loathe K-pop, K-dramas.

I’ve learned that living by the adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is one way of coasting through conversations about ish I can’t stand.  93% of our conversations are about K-something. It really is just about all she can talk about. When the conversation starts, I take a deep breath, a slow blink and just keep my mouth shut. You want to know why?

Because I don’t want to do anything to make her stop talking to me.

I might loathe K-pop, but I love Hope, so I just keep quiet, let her talk. I typically zone out a bit and drop back into the conversation every 30 seconds or so. She will regale me with the entire synopsis of a K-drama; she knows I hate it, but she wants to talk to me and she knows I’ll listen (kinda).

I’ve learned that Hope still has a lot to learn about money and responsibility. It’s February 6th and all the Christmas money is gone. She’s $20 in the hole to me and she hasn’t paid her phone bill which means she’s really $40 in the hole to me. Why? Because she had to buy K-stuff. This is also normal behavior for a kid her age, but something she definitely needs more time to learn about.

I’ve learned that K-pop may have made her more isolated. Hope can spend hours watching music videos and soap operas online. HOURS. She has access to the Chromebook to do homework and then after homework is done she can spend an hour or two as she likes. She has dove into this world, and while she has a couple of friends who also enjoy it, her obsession has actually resulted in less external communication than more. I believe that she dives into these phases initially allying herself with the people in her real life, but she just takes it so far that they get left behind. I blocked her online access for two days this weekend and made her emerge from the depths. I’m going to have to do this more often.

I’ve learned that as much as I can stretch and learn new things, I’m getting to the stage in life where I want my own box. I’m good and grown. I know who I am. I’ve accomplished some stuff, done some stuff, been some stuff. Hope has brought something amazing to my life: new stuff. I like a lot of the new stuff, but if I’m honest and keeping it all the way real, I like my stuff better. I just want my stuff. I want to curl up on my couch with my stuff and just be. Like if I could get one cable channel that just played Law and Order episodes (from all of the different kinds of L&O) all day, life would be 15 steps closer to my version of perfect. That’s my kind of stuff.  K-pop is not my kind of stuff. All that dancing and bopping around and reading subtitles on a soap opera? Not my stuff.  I mean if it was a Korean movie where I was making a 90-minute commitment, I’m in but a 16 episode show at this time in my life is just the most. I am a middle-aged woman and the cement around being set in my ways is quickly hardening. In short: I don’t wanna do new teenagy stuff; I need her to get some friends so I can get back to my Law and Order with my blankie and my dog.

I’ve learned that I’m super curious what Hope was like as a little girl. Seeing her now, as she develops these hopes and dreams about her future, I find myself pondering what did she dream about when she was little. Were the dreams temporally focused? Did she dream about life changing for her and her family right then? Did she dream about a future and what did that look like? I see how different things are from just three years ago; I wonder if there was ever a kernel of big dreams like being an interpreter in there long ago. There’s so much that I don’t know. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to ask Hope what she dreamed about when she was little; I don’t know what such a question might trigger.

I’m trying to see the stages as opportunities to learn about myself. Why do I react the way that I do? How do my reactions change from phase to phase? I’m hopeful that my stamina and patience continues to grow. Despite the annoyances, I am hopeful that it’s helping me be a better mom.

 


Three Years Ago

Three years ago today, Hope arrived at DCA with her social worker. She was originally scheduled to arrive the day before, but the weather on the east coast was so bad that her flight was canceled.

I remember heading to the airport that cold January night and waiting for her to emerge from security.

I was alone.

I was alone because I worried that a big group of folks would be overwhelming to a child who, for the previous few weeks, had resisted moving. Hope was afraid. She’s already experienced so much change in her life. She wanted to have some normalcy where she was for just a few more months.

Alas, all the adults thought that it was time to make the move. And so, she did.

I arrived at the airport early, snarfed down a couple of doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts while I waited for Hope to arrive and deplane.

This would be her second trip to see me and her final destination this go ‘round.

I remember she emerged from security looking tired, a bit overwhelmed and a bit afraid.

I hugged her. I was so happy she was here.

She hugged me back, but I don’t know if the hug really made her feel better.

We got her luggage, and dropped her social worker off at the hotel.

And then it was just the two of us.

It has been that way ever since.

In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago, and others, it seems like just yesterday.

Hope has grown into an amazing young woman. She is creative, feisty, and musical. She is loving and kind. She is polite.

We have built an amazing life together.

We are growing and stretching. Sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes, it’s just the best thing ever.

I love Hope so very much.

This family is everything. It’s beyond whatever I could’ve imagined.

I’ve learned so much about myself during this time. I would not have ever anticipated what this life as a mom to Hope would have been like. It’s beyond my comprehension.

It hasn’t been easy. In fact, often, it has been devastatingly difficult at times.

It’s been difficult for both of us.

Transitioning to motherhood was swift. Understanding the true impacts of trauma and how to parent through it is a work in progress. Checking my anger is a learned process; I’m improving.

Ugh, and the weight gain. I’ve put on about 20lbs of teen adoption weight.

I’m older and wiser though.

Hope struggled with the transition to permanence. She got there with time. We still struggle with horrible memories and persistent grief. As she approaches normalcy we see latent issues emerge, and we tackle them.

She’s a little older and possibly a little wiser too.

We continue to observe these moments in our history; we may stop one day. I don’t know. But we still do count these milestones. We think about how far we have come. We think about how bonded we are now; we think about our futures.

We have a little something sweet.

And then we get on with the life we’ve created together.

I love Hope, and Hope loves me.


The Threat of Desensitization

Over dinner tonight, Hope and I watched the evening news.  During the news, coverage on the murder of Terence Crutcher was shown.

If you haven’t heard of Mr. Crutcher, here’s the short version of how his life was cut short.

His car was stalled in the middle of a roadway. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were apparently on the way to an unrelated police call when they saw him.

Crutcher apparently thought they were coming to help him; they didn’t help him.

Despite initially walking towards the police, likely believing they were there to assist him, he realized that he was in danger and raised his hands above his head.

Helicopter video is online, along with the narration about how Crutcher wasn’t following directions and that he looked like a “bad dude, to be honest.”

He was hit with the stun gun, and shot beside his car.

More than two minutes went by before any life-saving efforts were attempted.

He was unarmed.

It’s just not right. It’s just not right.

I closed my eyes as the nightly news showed the video clip of Crutcher’s body laying alongside his car; it’s bad enough that he was shot and killed but the incessant need to show the bodies of dead people by the media specifically and public in general is just too much for me.

It is difficult enough to know that there is little dignity in life, but to be reminded that there is none in death is just beyond heartbreaking.

As I looked down into my bowl of pasta holding back my emotions, listening to Crutcher’s sister repeatedly say that his life mattered, Hope said, “I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with this time for this killing.”

She then went back to babbling on about band drama.

She didn’t miss a beat.

I read the response as, “This is something that just happens to us.”

And some days, it does just feel like that; this trauma is a chronic experience we are just enduring as black folks.

It’s kind of like what life felt like after 9/11; we begin a life under threat of terror. You go on about your life, day to day, year to year. There will be events, and they will be dramatic and traumatic. Despite our best efforts to “fight terror,” there is an acceptance that to some degree, this is just our life now.

Terrorism can happen at any time, anywhere.

We know that, and we accept it.

Terrorism can happen even alongside your stalled car as you think someone who is supposed to be there to help you, ends your life.

But the thing is, it should not be happening. All of this, the various types of terrorism, should not be happening.

This, this life of feeling like I should be deathly afraid of people who are sworn to help me, is something I do not want to be used to; this is not something I want Hope to accept as normal.

This isn’t anti-police, this is about being pro-life. I do not want to die with the need for an investigation into how and why I died.

Actually, I don’t want to die at all.

How could state sanctioned murder of unarmed black men become normalized? How could the shock of seeing black bodies lying in the street ever wear off.

Sure, Hope could’ve just wanted to get back to her band conversation (with which she seems obsessed!), but it was so jarring for me to think that in the last couple of years, that she might be desensitized to the routine of police overreach, overreacting, not helping, not being the good guys. .

Certainly her own history may numbed her emotional response to these events; maybe it’s Hope’s age that influences her responses. Maybe I read all of this all wrong.

Hopefully, maybe?

In any case, I’ve become acutely aware of a new threat to black lives: the threat of desensitization towards the death of unarmed black folks.

This threat is dangerous; the acceptance of these events as somehow normative can lead to the abandonment of efforts to seek justice. That is tantamount to giving up on justice.

I can’t accept that. How can I teach my daughter that justice…isn’t just elusive, but that because of the normativity of it all, that justice isn’t for us?

I don’t want that for my family.

I won’t talk about it with Hope tonight, but I’ll save it for another day as I ruminate on it. It is a conversation that we’ll have, though. I don’t need for her to emote like me, but I want to be sure that the gravity of this loss of life is never lost on her. I want her to live her life fully, without fear and without ever being used to injustice.

 

 


Caught Up

During a recent session with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, I got incredibly frustrated. All Hope wanted to discuss was band and her crush. For 18 minutes I sat there stewing in my increasing frustration.

Really? Is this what we’re doing today?

We aren’t going to talk about the fact that there were bugs in your room?

We aren’t going to talk about no chores?

I’m paying a co-pay for this ish?

AHT eventually got Hope to mention several things that were bothering her since school started.

I shot him some side eyes as I clearly didn’t think *those* things were nearly as important as the fact that she had a room that lured bugs to it.

Oh, I was righteous in my frustrated indignation.

AHT eventually asked Hope to give us some time to talk without her.

He asked me what I heard, had I listened? He told me what he heard. I acknowledged those things, but still wanted my drama to be acknowledged too.

I grabbed a tissue as I dropped a few tears.

He smiled and said, but you didn’t really hear her.  She is having a very hard time in school already, and she needs your help with that stuff more than you need her to tidy up.

Wait, what?

But what about *me?* #mynarcissismwasreal

Then he told me the good news. Hope is behaving like a ‘normal’ teenager. Her ability to communicate even about challenges is light years better than what it was months ago. She doesn’t practice avoidance and her confidence is up in spite of her lingering and new challenges. She can see a successful future even if she isn’t sure how to get there.

And oh yeah, she still wants to make me proud.

Well damn.

He’s right. Hope has grown emotionally so much this summer.

And I seemingly have regressed a bit.

How did I miss when she evolved into a kid who largely behaved like other kids her age? She hasn’t caught up on everything, but wow she has caught up a lot, given that she was emotionally about 5 when she was placed with me.

And me? I missed that what she really needed was for me to be responsive to her, to help her with her new problems, to just shut up and listen.

She spends so much time talking about band (and we know that I hate that) and what she’s fretting about ish that might happen a year from now. And she goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, for hours.

It has been easy for me to zone out after 20 minutes and take to my couch.

Instead this weekend, I stopped her and listened for that 20 minutes, and instead of zoning out and I asked her questions. I worked on redirecting her; I focused on solutions to current problems rather than imagined problems of 2017.

And I stopped the babbling and got some responsiveness.

She’s got some new limitations right now that we need to work through, and I’m going to have to chill. I’ve got to focus on being a cheerleader rather than a disciplinarian.

I’ve got to do the laundry. I need to meal plan so that I know she’s eating healthier, and I need to be sure she’s in bed at a decent hour whether homework is done or not.

I have a meeting with the counselor this week about additional support needs for Hope.

She’s finally catching up in some key areas, so it’s time for me to change strategy and catch up too.

This parenting is a constantly evolving game of come from behind and sprinting ahead.


So Much Love for Hope

This parenting thing is hard. It really is.

Parenting, in general, is tough.

Parenting a kid who has seen some things and gone through some stuff is especially tough.

There are days when it brings me to tears for so many sad, sad reasons.

And then sometimes, often when Hope isn’t even around when the rush of emotions warm me from the inside out.

I love my daughter.

Oh don’t get me wrong, not only is parenting tough, and this teen girl thing? Um, yeah, it’s a beeotch. The snarkiness, the attitude, the occasional defiance, the mood swings. It’s crazy with a capital C.

But this person, this soul for whom I’m responsible, I am totally in love with her. Madly in love with her.

Last night we sat on the couch and I watched her snarf down a Big Mac and fries after a very long day of school, band practice and tutoring. She was exhausted. I sat at one end of the couch, she at the other and Yappy in between us.

I studied her. I saw her tired, but relaxed, content, fully absorbed in this life we’ve created together.

I could never have imagined that this family of mine would exist.

This morning I got up early to do her hair for picture day. I fixed her breakfast. I ran a pair of hoop earrings up to the school after school started so she had them in time for her sitting.

As I was pulling into the parking lot, I just thought about how much I love this kid. My heart actually hurt with so much love and gratitude for her.

I also thought about how much her parents must have loved her; in spite of whatever problems they may have had. I just know that they loved her; they had to love her! I don’t know how they couldn’t; she’s just marvelous.

I drove her to school yesterday, and we immensely enjoyed the extra 20 minutes we had together. We joked and teased one another.

It is in these moments that I am just so overwhelmed with emotion.

I love her.

I love her even when I’m nagging her about her room and her homework and walking the dog.

I love her when I watch her sleep, covers strewn about.

I love her when she says, “Hey mom, we should…” which is her indirect way of asking if we can do something fun.

I love her when she is a total pain in my ass.

Love doesn’t really describe this emotion. Although I still grieve about the inability to conceive and carry a biological child, I can’t imagine loving such a child any more than I love Hope.

I adore her.


Curious about Her

Earlier this year, Hope asked me how I would feel about her trying to find her birth mother. I immediately replied that I would help her any way I could and that if a healthy relationship was possible I would help facilitate it.

Then she never brought it up again.

I know it’s still in there somewhere. Hope has strong feelings about her mother; I’ll say they are complicated and leave it at that.

Having been found by her parental extended family just after finalizing our adoption was emotionally challenging for both of us. It brought up a lot of resentment, a lot of grief, but also a lot of love and connectivity. Frankly, it remains a challenging relationship with our extended family, but families are complicated, right?

Right.

So Hope’s mom…I’ve always been curious. Not much is known about her. I know certain things about her and I know what Hope thinks she remembers, but was more likely told about her mother since they were separated at such a very young age. No one has pictures of her; I asked.

A few times I broached the subject with Hope about wanting to just know where she was, and Hope said no. She seemed intent on closing this door.

Given all that I’ve learned over the last few years, listening to adoptees, I figured it would come back around, probably more than a couple of times.  So, when she asked me about how I would feel about finding her; I wasn’t surprised by the inquiry. Actually I felt prepared for it.

Now that I look back on it and our growth through these last few months, I suspect that she was might have been curious  about*my* feelings on finding her mother than on her desire to actually find her mother.

But, even the most remote interest gave me permission to pull out my keyboard and start searching.

I had her mother’s name and not much else.

About two months ago, I thought I found her on Facebook. Some of the sketchy details matched up; not everything, but really close. I could not stop looking at her picture. I searched it for Hope’s features, her skin tone. I wondered what my daughter looked like as a newborn; did she look like this woman?

I was consumed by this profile for a good week or so, and then one day I convinced myself that this was not Hope’s mother.

I was disappointed.

I wondered why was I looking, would it be better if I waited for Hope to be ready? Clearly, this was more about my curiosity at this point than hers. What would I do if I actually found her? I wondered if she even wanted to be found. Most of all, having realized that I didn’t find her, I felt a little twinge of pain in thinking she was lost to me, to us, to Hope. I wondered what that twinge of discomfort felt and how exponentially magnified it must feel for my daughter…to be lost again.

I walked away from the search that day.

A few weeks later, one Sunday morning, while sipping coffee in my PJs and watching Law and Order, I found myself searching again.

I can only explain it as a deep, bottomless curiosity about my daughter’s background. I wanted to know her full story; I love her and want to know everything about her. I want to know or at least see the person who birthed her. I didn’t know what I would do if and when I found her, but I just wanted this information so badly. I’d like to say I wanted to have it for when Hope was ready and I could just give it to her, the truth would be that I desperately wanted to know for myself.  Who is Hope’s birth mother? What does that biological link look like?

I don’t know if it’s my own infertility grief or that I’m nosey, or if knowing would somehow bring me even closer to Hope. I still had no plan for what I would do with the information after finding it. Who would I tell? What would I tell Hope? Who would support me in this crazy wild goose chase?

I never doubted that searching was the right decision; I just couldn’t comprehend what I would do with information about Hope’s mother when I found it.

Well, thanks to the power of the internet, a big hint on a search string and $35 I found her in short order from the comfort of my couch that Sunday morning. It took me longer to get out my credit card and decide whether making the information purchase was the right thing to do than the actual search for the info.

Before I knew it, I had her address, her phone number, and a background check. Two minutes later I was looking at her face on Facebook.

When I saw this woman, I knew right away, this was Hope’s birth mother. I saw that as much as my daughter looked like her paternal family, she bears a striking resemblance to her birth mother: the shape of her face, her eyes, her hair, her long limbs. It was meaningful to see the woman who gave her life because so many people comment that Hope looks like me and I think that it’s just not true. Putting me side by side her birth mother and the blood relationship is apparent.

I read the report over and over, committing some of it to memory. I saved it to the external hard drive. I printed out a copy and put it in my file box.

And then I went back to Facebook stalking her. There wasn’t much to see, with us not being friends. I saw a few pictures, a few pictures of friends and relatives.  I would check ever so often in hopes that she was one of those folks who changed their profile picture frequently. She’s not.

I began talking myself into reaching out to her, but what on earth would I say? Was that the right thing? Who was I reaching for—me and my own curiosity? Or Hope? Was this contact in our immediate best interest? What if the contact was completely rejected? What if the contact prompted a lot of expectations?

The what ifs are endless.

I eventually discussed it with my therapist. She asked a lot of questions, a lot, over a couple of sessions. She convinced me to put the brakes on things. She also asked me to broach the subject with Hope and AbsurdlyHotTherapist.

I sat with it for a couple of weeks, worried about Hope’s reaction.

During a game of 20 questions I asked Hope how she would feel if I found her birth mother. She grimaced, and said very little. I let it go for a couple of weeks. I circled back around and reminded her of our conversations about finding her and how she reacted to the possibility of finding her. I told her I had found her, that I knew where she was and knew how to contact her. Hope thought quietly and said, “That’s ok, I don’t want to.”

And so, I dropped it. The file is away on the hard drive and the papers are in the box. I sense that we’ll revisit it when she’s ready. I’ll be with her every step of the way.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I thought of her birth mother often. I still have all of these questions. I still want to know if there are baby pictures, what Hope was like as an infant. I have a deep desire for answers about our daughter’s life. And I want to know about this woman who gave Hope life. I just want to know more about her, since she’s just such a mystery to me and to Hope.

But that’s all for another day. I may find out, I may never know. I’m not even sure I’m happy I found her since it feels like she’s kind of off limits. She’s like money burning a hole in my pocket, I want to spend by asking a million questions. But it really…all this curiosity is for another day.

I know that, for now, the status quo is what Hope needs to feel safe and secure. I don’t know what is behind her birth mother’s door, and I have to trust that Hope’s memories and stories are what they are. More than anything I want to support my daughter and her continued healing and development, and right now, it seems that she wants me and just me.

So, curiosity won’t be killing me this time.


Competition Pains

So this happened this week.

20160607_110919I had hand surgery on Monday, and I’m dictating this post (ain’t technology grand?). I’m in this pretty impressive bandage until next Tuesday. If you can’t see it, the bandage also covers my thumb, and as it goes, you actually do need your thumb for a lot of stuff, like a lot of stuff.

So, I’m laid up a good portion of this week.

The upside? I actually needed the downtime. There’s something wrong with your life force when you actually look forward to anesthesia sleep.  So I cancelled a few things on my calendar. Used dictation to remain somewhat productive and lowered my expectations of myself.

I actually took a nap today, and let me tell you, that ish was deeeeelicious! Yappy and I got back in bed and snoozed for a good hour and it almost briefly lived up to my fantasy of napping on white bedding with the perfect temperature and the ceiling fan whirling at mid-speed.

I’m wearing comfy, flowy clothes since I have time pulling up pants or clasping undies. So I’m just “free.”

So, aside from the hand/thumb situation (and the plastic bag I need to wear in the shower) I’m resting, snuggling with Yappy, and being nice and comfy.

And then there’s Hope.

You know, I proudly admit my petty, but seriously, Hope’s need for attention is just so extra sometimes that it really provokes my next level pettiness and that’s hard to manage. I’ve got a big arse cast and now she’s complaining about how her wrist hurts, how she can’t use her hands, how she’s suffering.

I swear, I can’t have a friggin few days to be the “catered to invalid.” She’s actually worse than she was 7 months ago with my last surgery. The narcissism is strong around these parts.

Hope hardly does chores, but my requests to walk Yappy are met with the usual teen “ugh’s” despite seeing how he jerks me on walks and how that not only causes me pain, but could mess up my surgical bandaging.

We ran into a neighbor this morning who asked me how my recovery was going; Hope jumped in and shared how her arm was greatly pained and that she really needed the offered prayers more than me. The neighbor gave me a WTH look and I just rolled my eyes.

At tutoring, she insisted that she was just in too much pain to hold a pencil.

Really girl?

Oh, I get it, I do. I get that she is a serious thirst trap for attention right now. I have finally realized that she really just wants to be around me—even if she insists on being a pain in the arse. I get that she can be a bottomless pit of need and that we are currently inhabiting the pit. But damn, can I get a few days? Can you bring me some damn beans and rice? Can you ask how I’m feeling?

Hey, how about you not compete with me on pain levels when I have on a frigging cast?

A CAST, GOSH DARN IT. A FRIGGING CAST!!!!

Seriously, I am in a fight for attention, and apparently sympathy, with my daughter…except that I’m not. She’s in this competition alone.

I finally get forced self-care; seriously, I let things get so crazy that the only way I will stop, drop and rest is to have a surgeon cut into and all around my effing wrist. Can I enjoy the lovely time to rest with a slight, but delightful medically-induced haze in peace?

Can you just walk the dog without me having to play along like I’m going to take you to the emergency room to have your wrist looked at?

Can I just live?

Damn.

I am so annoyed, and while I totally get why she is so self-centered and why it is hard for her to consistently demonstrate empathy, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get totally pissy and petty about it. I still love her like mad, but she can take her competition pains and shove it.


Thoughts on Infertility

I wonder if I will ever stop mourning my fertility. I imagine that there will always be a tiny part of me that will be sad and wonder what if…

What if I had done something differently?

What if I had tried to have a child earlier in life?

What if I hadn’t been selfish in loving my single, child-free life for so long?

What if I could’ve done something to prevent the surgery that closed the door on my fertility?

What if I could’ve, would’ve, should’ve…

What if.

As if, it would’ve made any difference. It probably wouldn’t have made any difference. But the thing is, I will always wonder, and I will always have feelings about it.

Someone close to me recently announced her pregnancy. Gosh, I’m so excited for her. Thrilled. Over the moon. She wondered whether this day would ever come.

I’m so glad it did.

But the news of her pregnancy…oh dear. I hate admitting the jealousy I feel. I hate feeling like I both want to hear more and hear nothing about it. I hate feeling alone in not being able to emote anything but joy around the subject as though it is the only emotion I feel.

joy and sadness.gif

Joy & Sadness     Giphy.com

I both delight and loathe the gushing in our circle about the pregnancy. I can’t help but compare it to the emotion exhibited when I announced my adoption of Hope. It’s not the same. I don’t have much to compare it to, so I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the same. I feel like it should be the same, and yet, it isn’t and that brings its own set of feelings.

I also wonder if I really, really did not give myself enough time to mourn. I moved to adoption phase only 6 months after my invasive surgery and only 3 months after my specialist told me that a pregnancy wasn’t in the cards for me. I often wonder if I had it to do again, would I take more time?

I don’t know.

I know that so much of adoption can be about timing, what if I missed Hope? Or Hope missed me or we missed each other?

Right now, with all that I’m enduring with Hope, this unanticipated mourning of my fertility feels like the thing that has drawn blood. It’s the event that has pushed me right over the edge of sadness. It’s the thing that took my damaged, cracked heart and crushed it.

And, really it has little to do with the pregnancy announcement, it has everything to do with the fact that I will never make one. My body won’t do one of the things that it’s supposed to be able to do.

And I can’t fix that either. It just is. And like much going on these days, it sucks.

Sadness.gif

giphy.com

It keeps raining here in the DC area. It’s doing nothing to improve my mood these days. The gloomy, overcast days…well, I can’t tell if they are reflecting me or if I’m reflecting them.

Sigh.

I’m headed for a change of scenery this weekend with work travel—cherry country. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to shake off some of these feelings while there. They are pretty heavy these days. Some work travel is probably just the thing I need to turn this frown upside down.

 


Thoughts on “Special Needs”

Yesterday I spent a rare Friday in my physical office so that I could enjoy lunch with a good friend and colleague.  She asked how Hope and I were doing, and I started my update with a heavy sigh and a weak smile.

As I gave her an abbreviated update, I realized that recently I’ve found myself really having to re-balance my world view and value system in order to parent appropriately. Sure, I think most parents have to do this, but I think that there’s probably something about adoption, and specifically adoption with older kids, that is a little bit different.

My and Hope’s backgrounds could not have been more different. In many ways, the only things we have in common are being black and some of the universality of what that means in terms of experience and culture.  I don’t mean to discount that, because it really is the foundation for a lot of our relationship, but really that’s it.

As we go through all of the diagnostics necessary to determine learning styles, brain processes, etc, etc, I am sensitive to Hope’s desire not to be labeled. I have to balance that with the reality that labels open the doors to more resources and help that she desperately needs.

I remember originally seeing her profile and the classification that she was “special needs.” I was told that, while there were some issues, the designation was more about race than anything else. I remember seeing it again after our finalization when I went to do my taxes and the paperwork for the adoption credit: “special needs.” Again, she fell into that label because of race, a black American adoptee.

In the last six months, I’ve been watching lots of symptoms emerge. I’ve been monitoring behavior, grades, performance, social interactions, all kinds of things. I’ve watched my daughter’s increasing anxiety trigger bad dreams, insomnia, stress word tics, nerve spasms…I’ve engaged all kinds of people: teachers, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists. I resisted pulling the “special needs” card. I struggled with my own quest for high performance and perfectionism and how Hope’s poor grades made me feel.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that my desire for Hope to perform well academically is rooted in my own need to have the “perfect” kid in the “perfect” adoption story. Neither is true or even attainable; though my Hope is wicked smart, more resilient than a rubber ball, and perfect in all the ways that really matter. Dealing with the impact of Hope’s past has been the first time in my life when I couldn’t really fix something. I’m a fixer. I have a problem; I find a solution or I create one. I thrive on making things happen. I have built my adult life on an identity that revolves around getting ish done, done well and taking it to the next level. This is who I am at home and at work. It is an identity that has rewarded me in countless ways and fosters a huge sense of pride in myself and my abilities.

Being mom to Hope is so challenging sometimes that not only can I not fix any of the issues that plague Hope; but most of the time, the last six months especially, I feel like we’ve just been regressing…just not moving forward. For her, it’s all finally starting to come into the focus that we’ve got a serious mess on our hands. For me, it’s like watching a slow crash finally make impact and not having been able to stop it or even minimize the devastating effects.

For both of us, the realization that Hope has (as opposed to is) special needs that are real and now visible has struck distressing blows to our self-esteem, individually and as a family. There isn’t an easy way to fix this and that shakes the identity I’ve created for myself. It provides Hope more evidence that she is broken in the identity that she’s created for herself. For us together, it feels like she’s stuck with a a mom who can’t fix it and I have a daughter who fears she’ll never make me proud of her (even though I am more than proud of her). Our relationship is rocky, right now—the push/pull dynamic coupled with normal teenage surliness is a bit of a powder keg at the moment with Hope being the one prone to fire flashes.

I found my mind wandering over coffee this morning how hard this would be even if I had birthed Hope. Would it be easier because I would have seen some issues as she hit developmental markers? Would I have been able to get her all the resources she needed earlier? Would she see her struggles as strengths by now? Before I knew it I was reminded of my infertility, how that fantasy didn’t consider Hope’s real life story, how that narrative was about my need and desire to fix this to prove that I could. It wasn’t really about Hope at all; it was about my need to shore up who and what I am and feel validated.

This storm we’re in won’t really allow me the luxury of seeing immediate results from my efforts or fill my need to be validated. I’m fighting against 12 years of messy dysfunction; it’ll likely take us twice as long to make sense of it all.

In the meantime, there’s this special needs thing. Hope does have special needs that must be met. She is both special and needy, but also amazing and, when the obnoxious teen part steps back, delightfully charming and funny and lovable. I still don’t know how I feel about labels; I guess I see them as a means to an end—they help me, help her—again, while she benefits, it’s about me tapping into resources to fix this. But I’m increasingly sensitive that for her the label is another crack in her armor, just more evidence that she is bad.  I still don’t know how to balance all that, and I desperately wish I could figure that out.

Gosh I love Hope. I love her so much. This challenge is so stressful on both of us, and although help is on the way, this is, like everything we endure, an ongoing thing. And in time, something else will just layer on top of it.

It sucks on so many levels. It just sucks on so many levels.


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