April 30, 2010

9 weeks post adoption

I read a lot of blogs. Probably an unhealthy amount of blogs. It is part of my post adoption research routine. But here's what I find. There are some blogs about the children who are reeling with the aftermath of severe trauma. There are blogs about the journey to get their little ones. There are blogs about the homecomings. But in all the blogs I read, not very many talk about the day to day issues with a "run of the mill" (if ever such a thing exists!) adoption. No one talks about the day to day of the adopted child who is attaching semi-normally and what kinds of issues arise. I am fearful to even publicly acknowledge that there are any issues. Because with Plan A adopters, I feel like there are so many people waiting in the wings to tell me a great big I told you so. All the people who didn't understand why in the world we wanted to adopt in the first place who gave us the warning that we were tempting fate or rocking the boat. So understand that I am not complaining about my child. We love him. We are blessed beyond belief that he is here. He fits in here perfectly. But there are not a lot of first person accounts of things that pop up in toddler adoptions and I wish that I had had some when we were trying to prepare for Miles' homecoming. I read all the books, but there is just something so valuable about hearing whats going on from other moms in the trench. (That's why I LOVE reading all your blogs so much!) So here's my attempt.

We are 2 months out from the time that we brought Miles home. We are not having any major issues, but I will say that some of the information that is floating around out there in adoption la-la land is pretty much false. It all leads adoptive parents to believe that if you adopt a child under age 2 that you are home free and that life is all roses and clovers and these children will just love on you from minute one and you will never have any issues at all! While we never for a minute believed that, I also didn't expect to see so many instances of grieving behaviors in our son. Our story, obviously, doesn't represent every adoption. It is just simply our experience.

We consider ourselves very lucky that Miles shows genuine affection for us. He prefers us. He gets upset when someone he doesn't know wants to hold him and he immediately reaches out to us. I do think that he realized that we are his providers (even if he maybe doesn't know just yet that we are his parents). He loves his brother and sister. If they are hurting, he tries to console them. He pats on them and hugs them before they walk out the door for school. He gets that we are all a unit. And that is HUGE and I am very grateful for that. But there are still issues.

First of all, I can tell that he has a strong sense of loss. Even though he can't verbalize it, it is real to him. There are many times where he cries days on end and I feel certain that it is rooted in grief. There are days when he feels like he needs to held and cuddled and reassured all day long. There are times when he will pick up my hand and make me rub the insides of his arms. He has done this since he came home. I can only assume that someone in the orphanage showed him love this way. He knows that it comforts him and so we will sometimes just sit and I'll rub his arm and I can tell that he just needs a little reminder of his life before me.

So many times people will come up to me and talk about how hopefully Miles will just forget about everything that has happened to him in his life before he came to us. This drives me crazy. While we don't dwell on it, that will always be a part of him and to just gloss over that diminishes who he is. I don't think at his age, that he will have memories, but subconsciously, that feeling of loss stays with you. So for us to hear that, and for people to suggest that we just 'leave the Congo behind' and let that part of his life be forgotten, tells him that his feelings of loss are not validated. It says that the way he is feeling is unsubstantiated and wrong. And I will not do that to my son. I will help him work through it however he needs. Even if for now that just means extra attention and extra cuddling. I am not naive enough to think that this won't continue to manifest in some ways throughout his entire life. But I will not pretend that he didn't have a life and another mother before me. I will not pretend that he didn't have a culture before me. I will not pretend that his hurts aren't real just because he can't say what they are.

Some more minor issues we've seen are with food. The boy loves to eat. He will eat any and everything we put in front of him. But he is a food hoarder. The day that we brought him home we stopped at a restaurant for lunch before coming home. After we ate, we got back in the car to head home. After being in the car about 10 minutes, Miles pulled a piece of bread out of his shirt that he'd swiped at the restaurant. Now that he's been home a while, he doesn't hide and steal food, but he pretty much has to walk around with food in his hands just in case. When we are eating, he will stuff his mouth so full that he can't even chew and also have food in each hand waiting in the wings. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is heartbreaking. He just hasn't fully learned that here there is an endless supply- and until he does, we'll just keep on letting him walk around with a cracker in each hand if that's what he needs to feel safe.

He is also very territorial. Part of that is just regular toddler stuff, but some is probably stemming from his history. He is very possessive of his toys and his mom. He doesn't want the other kids to love on me. He gets very jealous if I hold Sadie or Noah. He especially flips out when Kamron gives me any affection. If Miles sees us hug, he will stop whatever he is doing and try to take Kamron down by force. I am HIS mom and he doesn't want anyone else to have me, even if that means he has to pile drive his father to wrangle him away from me. We try to combat that by picking him up and putting him in between us and all hugging. We are hoping to try to teach him that we are all on the same team and there is plenty of love for everyone. But when you've never had that, I can't imagine how hard of a concept that is to learn.

Miles also has a lot of aggression. He has had to always fight for everything he has had. And while his mellowed out look may fool you, he can spit venom. He hits. And he doesn't just take a swipe, he aims to hurt. Living in an orphanage teaches kids survival of the fittest and I imagine it will be a long while until we can make Miles realize that we have his best interests at heart and will supply all his needs without him needing to fight for resources. There is a long teaching road ahead.

We feel so good about the care that Miles got in the orphanage. He was being held in just about every picture we have of him from the orphanage. We have heard that the older girls in the orphanage just adored Miles and catered to his every whim. But living in an orphanage doesn't prepare you for living in a family. And if he is as old as we think he is, there is almost a whole year of his life that is unaccounted for before he came to the orphanage. I can't help but think that that year is probably responsible for a lot of the issues we've seen.

I don't want you to get the impression that it is all doom and gloom. It is not! The things that we are facing are all minor and I think they can be worked through in time. I am sure the whole community of RAD moms I blog stalk are probably reading this and thinking- "I wish these things were all my child was facing!" (You RAD moms are my flipping heroes!) I am just putting our issues out there in case there is another mom that may benefit from our "semi-normal" experience. So now for the good stuff!

Miles is just a super fun little kid. He entertains and loves to be the center of attention. His sense of humor is so oddly developed and subtle. But he is flat out funny and the boy can work a room like a casanova. Miles is always the life of the party. We haven't run into any developmental problems that are common in international adoption. He is a really smart little kid. He is the only one of our kids who shows any athletic promise at all. You give the kid a ball and he can work magic with it. And he gives great kisses. He is a little bit obsessed with giving kisses. Sometimes I feel like he stays in a permanent pucker. One of my favorite things about Miles: the boy sleeps like a champ. After a rough start to the sleeping thing, the boy has it down pat and snoozes a full 12 hours at night without waking up. (I know. Don't hate.) But my very favorite thing about Miles is that he gives love and receives love freely. And while I know the road is sometimes bumpy, I know that he is just the right little boy to complete our family. He is worth every single little bit of extra effort it takes to make him feel loved and safe. We wouldn't trade this whole experience (the good and the bad) for anything in the world.

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