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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.

Forgiving and Forgetting

Grammy is here.

Hope is falling in love with her.

The last couple of days have been an interesting mini-trip on this adoption journey.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had some anxiety about what life would be like in my house with Grammy staying.  We’ve just had a rough go of it.

The truth is she’s been wonderful.  She’s in love with her granddaughter.  She wants to be helpful, even offering to do laundry and cook.  She’s told me I need support, especially for respite.  She’s observed all the things I need to take care of in a day to help Hope and to manage this huge transitional phase in our lives.  She realizes how different my experience is from her own parenting experience and is gaining a better understanding of why I need to do things differently.

I realized during the last few days that it wasn’t just that I was terrified of being judged, but that my overall confidence about being a new parent was in the crapper.  Having Grammy say she gets it, as she watched me try to navigate various systems and engage with Hope during the last few days, has greatly improved my confidence.  It is hard, but I got it under control.  I do need help, but let me be the one that decides what help I need; I’m best positioned to do that.

I got this.

For all of the rosiness, Grammy still feels some kind of way about how I’ve handled the last couple of months with Hope—mainly my need to cloister us a bit so that we have time to just attach and be mom and daughter.  She still disagrees with that choice, and she’s made mention of it repeatedly during her stay.

Sigh.  #cantwealljustmoveon

I finally just told her that I needed to not have this conversation again; I made a choice, I made the right choice for my family—MY FAMILY—and I would do it again.  And it’s done, why are we still talking about it?  I get that you would do it differently, but you aren’t me and you’re not dealing with what I’m dealing with, and it’s easy to pontificate about how you would handle someone else’s life without any skin  in the game.  Can you just drop it?

Grammy just looked at me, kind of stunned.

Then she simply said, “Ok.”

I found my voice, and I had to use it.  Funny, Grammy gave me the confidence to defend my parenting decisions and to defend them to her.  #nowcanwemoveon?

I’m glad she’s here.  I love Grammy. I laid my head in her lap for 5 minutes yesterday.  I hugged her.  I do need her; I always knew I did.  But I need her on my terms.  We’re forgiving each other.  I just want to move forward.  You can’t really change the past, and forgetting it can be challenging too, but you can choose to change your future.   I’m learning to let some things go with Hope; I think I’ve got to learn to let some things go with Grammy too.

I love her, and I’m hopeful about us navigating all these new roles, emotions and ideas in meaningful ways moving forward

Grammy’s here.

Thoughts on Mamas, Drama and Adoption

So Grammy and I were at it again yesterday.  Sadly we reduced our would-be apologetic conversation to a battle of who hurt who worse.  Anyone should know that this is not a way to resolve conflict.  It’s an exercise in hurt, bad attitude and a heaping side of ego.  It’s ridiculous and futile.

And yet there we were spinning our wheels on some ish that happened last week, the week before, a few months ago and more than a decade ago, which I now realize we have completely different takes on and has affected us more than we ever could’ve dreamed.

In an absurd nutshell, I want/need my mother’s approval and validation, but some tongue in cheek crap she said forever ago put me in a “my mom thinks I’m stupid, so now I need to see if I can make her think I’m smart” space that still exists.  Grammy already thinks I’m smart; in fact, she thinks I’m really smart.  But you know, irrational thinking and all…

Twenty years of therapy and thousands of dollars spent, and I’ve still got mommy issues.  Merry Christmas, ABM!  And, I’m pretty emotionally healthy.  God help the folks who’ve really got some drama.

So what does this have to do with adoption?

No sense in letting all this expensive therapy go to waste, right?!?

I figure if some messy mess that Grammy said to me a lifetime ago could mess up this reasonably well adjusted, never abused or neglected, educated grown arse woman, to the point that I’m alteratively begging for approval and kicking her to the curb,well then what should I expect from Hope and kids like her who have sometimes been to hell and lived to tell the story?

There’s the grief of feeling rejected and not having the kind of relationship you know you want and deserve.  There’s the lack of trust tied to the rejection, because well you can’t get too close to let that happen again.  There’s the lashing out because you’ve got to get them before they get you, so they don’t even have a chance to get you at all.  There’s the desperate need to still, inspite of this cray behavior, to have a connection, some kind of relationship with the person who hurt you and who you are scared might hurt you again in some way.

In some way, it’s not irrational at all.  It makes perfect sense, right?

Now squeeze all of that into a little kid who is not developmentally prepared to wrestle with any of it, and who had it so much worse than we might imagine. Wow.

It seriously increases my compassion for Hope, and puts her behavior in context for me.   I makes my own drama seem overblown; not that I’m trying to dismiss it, but certainly there are other things I could and should lose sleep over.  It also makes me know I need to stretch with Grammy a bit, and she’s going to need to stretch with me too.  We’re all going to have to stretch.

Whew, emotions are messy.

The good news is I went to see Grammy today.  She’s retiring this week and there was an office party for her.  She was delighted I came; I was delighted that she was delighted.  People told me how much she bragged, and I felt small for fretting that she didn’t believe in me.  I felt warmed by the things they said she said about me and my sisters.  Grammy loves me, and I don’t have anything to prove.  Maybe now I can get back to focusing on getting used to my own new role as Mom and stop fretting about how Grammy sees me as Mom.  It’s going to be ok, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Grammy for the Win

Amazing how a week and a half makes a difference in this life.  Honestly, it is a testament to how much emotional upheaval is involved in this life change; the emotional swings are ridiculous.  I may not be hormonal from pregnancy, but I figure I’m just as emotional as any pregnant lady.

So, as I wait for the ICPC, prep for Hope’s upcoming 16 day visit, and plan for my adoption shower, new information is emerging about my daughter.  It is tough reading about what she’s been through.  During our visit a few weeks ago, Hope shared things that I hadn’t been told at that point.  I kept my negative reactions to a minimum because I didn’t want to do or say anything that would be perceived as rejection by Hope.  But I’ve stewed inside.

I’ve been angry that someone could treat a child the way Hope was treated.  I have vigilante fantasies about slowly hurting the people who have hurt her. Hey, just being honest, here.   I’m heartbroken that she’s struggled so much to cope and learn skills to deal with her trauma, loss and grief.  I feel guilty because I’m peeved that some of these details weren’t shared with me before hand or were just characterized quite differently; I hate that somewhere in the emotional swirl that I feel like I was duped.  It wouldn’t have made any difference in knowing that Hope and I were a match; I’ve known she was the one nearly from the first time I saw her picture.  I just wish that agency folks could be more transparent sometimes.

I have a lot of self-doubt about whether I can be the type of parent that I aspire to be.  I have confidence that I can draw on being a little older, a little wiser and a decent skill-tool box to be a good parent.  I’m relieved that even though much of this path seems so lonely—like echo in the darkness at Luray Caverns lonely—that I do have a loving family and friends who are eager to support me.  Even and especially the same Grammy last week that I wanted to banish to a remote island somewhere.

About a month ago I wrote a little bit about practicing grace during this transition.  It’s hard; it’s really hard because everything feels so important, so dramatic, so difficult, so deeply personal and so very emotional, and this is true for the very high, happy times and the heartbreaking, low times.  It takes a lot of deep reaching to consistently practice grace, and some days I simply fall short because I’ve just run out of capacity.

And this is where Grammy swoops in with her super cape this morning.  We’ve been trading emails for the last day or so about Hope, her visit, the registry and just stuff.  We’ve been pretty tender with each other since our fallout last week—we know that new, much needed barriers were created, but it’s almost like we still aren’t sure where those barriers are yet.  That’s probably because they are still in flux and the lines will move again over time.  This is the way of mothers and daughters sometimes, and the irony that Hope and I will likely soon be like this is not lost on me.  Anyhoo, I told her that I was just so angry and hurt reading about Hope’s history in these new documents and trying to think of strategies that will help Hope and me get through the transition.

Grammy writes back:

Hope will be a journey of the heart for all of us… I’m already praying mightily for the breaking of the familial curses in her family.  My uncle always prayed for a blessing over our family for the generations to come, not just those in his time, but those to come and that applies even to the adopted.  And how do I know that?  I’m adopted into God’s family.

I’m a believer, though sometimes the tenor of conversations about faith in the adoption community feel odd to me, maybe because they are often wrapped in a conservatism that I reject.  You can best believe I’ve spent a lot of knee time with God this year, and I know that my favorite associate pastor at my church probably thinks I should book an appointment at altar call on Sundays, given how many times I’ve sought her out to pray me through this dissertation and adoption.  But it was something about Grammy’s relating Hope’s adoption to our adoption into the kingdom that resonated with me and brought me great comfort today.

Hope and I will be ok; we’ll muddle through.  My family is blessed, and my own little family will be blessed. I imagine that the blessing will come with all the skills I need (I’ll still need to learn to use them) with a heaping side of grace.  God adopted me; I’ll be just fine.

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