June 03, 2010

Rockin' Your World

Okay- so my email box has been flooded with people wanting to know what happened to my last blog post. The truth is, is was just a little too raw and it made me feel too vulnerable and I deleted it. After I put that post up, I got phone calls from some people who just wanted to be nosey- they didn't offer to help, they just wanted to judge. And after those phone calls, I thought- "I can't deal with the judgements today, I'm taking that post down!" I got so stressed out that people get so bent out shape when you admit that motherhood is H-A-R-D. Especially when you are dealing with kids who have special challenges. But then the nice emails started coming in. Emails from moms who saw the post before I hit delete who said, "Right on. That is exactly how I feel." or "I wanted to show my husband that post so he would understand what I am going through" or "'I've totally lost my identity, too." I talked to one mom across the country yesterday who just brought a baby home who is really struggling too and we commiserated and complained that no one talks about how much of a challenge adopting a child is- that the focus is so much on the journey to get that child and not on the family building aspect that comes afterwards. (Kind of like planning a wedding instead of planning a marriage) The adjustment (in some cases- not all) will just about rock your world, flip it upside down and take a poo on your front yard just to let you know you've been sufficiently rocked. Y'all it is hard work to help these little ones overcome what they've been through in the lives they had before families- no matter what age that child is. And the toll that takes on a family and on a mom who is trying to hold it all together is TOUGH. Notice I said tough, not insurmountable. The mom I talked to yesterday and I just said that it was nice to talk to someone who "gets" it- that when you say your child screamed ALL day, we really do mean ALL day, not just the 15 minutes before nap time. There are so many emotions that go with adding a child to a family. I've done it the old fashioned way. I've done it through what I am certain was PPD. And I can say that in my experience- adoption and birth-they are not the same. Adoption is a whole other set of emotions that you deal with. Not that it isn't worth it. And not that there isn't light at the end of the tunnel. There is! There is! But I think that when you struggle to transition home an adopted child there is this element of chaos that surrounds you. Others are looking in on you and they don't understand. Because THIS child- oh, this child you prayed for and chose and longed for and waited for and how dare you do anything but rejoice. And while in this house- we do TONS of rejoicing, some days it just piles up. So for those other moms out there who "get" it, I am reposting my post from a couple of days ago in case you need to hear it and didn't get to see it. I will deal with the judgements and vulnerability if in some small way it eases your heart.  You are not alone. I will put the original post in italics and then below it I will post anonymous (because I didn't take time to get permission to share) snippets of some of the encouraging emails I got in response- because I know there are so many others of you out there who need to hear that encouragement as well. I will add this disclaimer to the following repost. *I am feeling a lot better today, I wrote the post in a fit of sleep deprivation and after hearing Miles scream for about 5 consecutive hours and watching the boys rip each others throats out for days on end. And after Miles showed me no affection for days and days except for the occasional smack to the face- so yeah, it is a little raw around the edges. No, I do not hate myself. (Quite the contrary) No, I do not hate my children. (Also, quite the contrary) In fact, I love them more than words- does not mean that we are all best friends all the time! And I did call and find a therapist for me so that I have another grown up who is not my husband to vent to and found a therapist for Sadie. So we are all squared away. So without further ado, let me invite you to my crazy from a few days ago...

I've had a hard time posting lately. I've started a million posts and they've all been so negative and so whiny that I have just disgusted myself and hit delete. I'm too young to have a mid-life crisis and too old to have a quarter-life crisis (I don't expect to live to be 126!) so I guess the only thing I can call it is just a plain old crisis.

I'm having a hard time learning who I am as a mother of three children. I was going through some old junk from high school a few weeks ago. There was this bio of me in our hometown newspaper from my senior year of high school. It said I wanted to be a corporate attorney and act on the side. (Obviously I am doing neither of those things) I was in every imaginable club. I was into sports. I was a varsity athlete in college. I have saved my planners from my college years and just looking back at them exhausts me. But the point is that I DID things. I cared about things. I was FUN. And instead of looking back on that fondly, I look back at that and wonder where in the hell that girl went. Now my resume reads "mom" and that is about it. And that is all great and stuff., but what about me, dammit! Today I don't want to be the boss. Today I don't want to steer the ship. I just want to get back to that girl that used to be fun- the one who I liked a whole lot. Today, that girl would not recognize this girl. That old girl would tell this one that she has got to find some balance before she loses everything about herself that she ever liked.

All my life, I always wanted to be a mother. I knew I wanted a house full of kids. What I didn't expect was that my children would become my sole identity. I guess I always thought I'd keep on doing cool things and being cool things and that my kids would accessorize my life instead of BE my life. I realize just how lucky I am to be a stay-at-home mom. I realize that there are people out there who would kill to live my life. So I feel bad complaining about it. But these children have become my every waking moment to the point where I don't think it's healthy. In so many ways I feel like I have been reduced to a pile of dirty clothes, dirty diapers and dirty dishes. I look at those diapers and dishes and slews of doctors appointments and I think, "Is this it? Is there something I'm missing?" I always thought that "just being a mother" would make me feel so fulfilled. So I can't figure out why I don't feel it. Why do I feel like I am just existing- just going through the motions? Don't get me wrong- my children are amazing and I cherish them and they are ENOUGH for me. I am not projecting or blaming my insecurities on them. The problem is me. I think I was just delusional enough to think that having children was going to be so fun and wonderful without all the other "crap" that goes along with it.
When my life is my children and those children are not doing well- my world falls apart. It takes the only thing I have, my only identity and smacks me in the face with it. We have really been struggling in this house lately. There have been some truly great moments and we are really trying but for the most part, my kids seem to all be suffering. The boys can absolutely not get along. They are doing way more than just the normal brother/boy rough housing. They are each seriously trying to remove the other one from the equation. They are fire and ice. I would just let them duke it out and make up, but their safety is concerned here. When I tell people this, they think I am crazy. I hear, "but those little boys are so cute!" or "but they are both so little, they couldn't possibly hurt each other!" But believe me- you have no idea. You do not live with them 24 hours a day. I have gone from being a mother, to being a referee and I don't like it. And Sadie- who has always been our most adjusted child is now pulling her eyebrows and eyelashes out again. (She has been doing this off and on at stressful times since Thanksgiving.) So when everyone is struggling, I feel like an epic failure as a mother. Mom's are supposed to be able to keep everyone safe and happy and healthy. If all of my kids are falling off the deep end what does that say about me?

I know that motherhood has its ups and downs. I know that it comes in seasons. I've been in this valley before. When Noah was born and we had no idea how to address his special needs- yep. Epic fail. He was suffering because of my inability to help him regulate. Eventually we figured it out. We learned how to manage things and how to make Noah "work", but not before a lot of therapy. (And a lot of me beating my head against the wall and beating myself up.) This is the same thing. I know that it is a season. It won't last forever. But when you are smack in the middle of it, it sure feels like it's here to stay.

The aggression that Miles has learned from being in an orphanage is not his fault. But with him being non-verbal, I have yet to figure out a good outlet for him. I can't figure out how to make Miles "work". So he continues to beat up (putting it nicely) on Noah, who just happens to be the next smallest thing. And Noah- with his severe sensory issues, can't take the aggression. If you've ever been around a child with sensory problems, you know that the touching and the noise and the constant break in routine that comes with someone always wanting to fight you, will set the child into a tailspin. So now, not only are we dealing with Miles and his transition, but we can't seem to keep Noah regulated either. My fear is that Sadie, who will take on the world's problems in a heart beat, is internalizing everything way too much. I knew the transition was going to be hard. I just never expected it to be this hard.

So with my children hurting, I am hurting. My only job is to mother these children and today I am doing a crappy job of it. I thought that if I took a night off and went out with some in real life friends, I might feel a lot better. Instead- I got a taste of freedom. A taste of what it would be like to not count down the minutes until bedtime. Of what it would be like to enjoy a carefree life with my childless friends. And I won't lie to you- I wanted to just run. But then I realized that by doing that, I'd also erase everything good in my life.
And I also started thinking of all the mothers who don't have the resources to even keep their children. And all the mothers out there who are watching their children lie in hospital beds in the oncology unit. And all the people out there who have REAL problems and all I could feel was...guilt.

Ah, guilt. I hate you. When things are going bad, you rear your ugly face. You tell me that I am not enough. When things are going well, you try suck the joy right out of it. I can wait you out. You can't stick around for ever. In the mean time, I'll just keep on fighting...fighting for my kids, fighting for some semblance of myself, fighting for something normal...

I'm hanging on, waiting for the joy- because I KNOW it is coming.

-I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much. ~Mother Teresa

And here is what you all so sweetly wrote to me. (And thank you ALL for throwing me a life line when I needed it! (I took out/changed peoples names to protect their stories)

All of that was totally valid and legitimate. Just because other people have crappier lives doesn't mean that your sh!t isn't hard. You have hard stuff too, and I'm glad that you sent up the white surrender flag, even if you took it down before many people could see it.

Bringing a kid home from a Third World orphanage will ROCK YOUR WORLD, and the world of everyone in your house.. and it sounds like that's what's going on. Miles IS a delight.. but he also is a survivor.. and those skills are not pretty, and they don't make for a cute baby or a nice playmate. Or a quiet household. I'm sure he does have poor Noah all off-kilter.. and I'm sure that sweet Sadie IS stressed.

And girl.. even if Miles was The Most Normal Child in the Universe, having 3 little kids is a little mind-numbing. I love my kids, but really.. they are much more interesting as they get older and they can DO stuff. And have conversations. And go play. Without me. Because I don't do Barbies. Or crafts. Or cars. Or any of that stuff. For Pete's sake. I need more than that.

Needing more than your kids does not make you a bad mother. It makes you a grown-up. With a functioning brain..

...AND another...

I totally get the guilt thing! Adopted Baby 2 has been easy, but Adopted Baby 1 still sleeps with us, still has night terrors, still freaks out over nothing, lashes out at Baby 2 over nothing. And then sometimes I freak out at her. But I have to stop and remember she's not just a temperamental 3 year old, she's carrying some serious baggage. And basically I am clueless how to fix it. And then I feel guilty all over again, for not catching the signals sooner. For not reading the right books. For letting her watch too much TV and eat too much junk food. For using the computer when she wants me to play with her.

(Hubby) really struggled with bonding with (Baby 2). The trip to (birth country) made it really hard for him. It was a miserable week. Baby was crapping salmonella infested poop like a seagull. Hubby had to sit for a few hours at the embassy covered in diarrhea. It makes it tough to get too warm and fuzzy about the little guy when that's what you're faced with for the first 2 weeks.

Boy parenthood can really jack up a persons psyche! Thank you for always being so honest in your blog posts. Even the ones you have to take down.

-And another...

i so resonated with your "i am dirty laundry, dirty dishes, and dirty diapers." you know what, though, megan? you are also clean little hands, and clean yummy smelling laundry, and hot dishes fresh from the washer. . .*When you talk about how it is hard to come home after a night alone* I was THRILLED you wrote that! i have told my friends that many times - when i get away - whether it be for dinner or a weekend - i have a much harder time coming home. i expect to be refreshed, i have missed my kids - but instead i have no tolerance - and the kids don't ease you back into being at their beck and call. . . it was so nice to only wipe my own butt - and be ALONE in the bathroom - GASP - that i wish i hadn't come home within about 2 minutes of hitting the door! you are not alone!!!!)

next - you had all these dreams and now you just do dishes! MEGAN TERRY - you inspire me. you inspire others. girl - you adopted a little boy from a dirt floor and 1 meal a day. you are not perfect - but you are giving him a life he couldn't have imagined. you didn't just pluck a cute black boy from africa - you brought food - and left part of your heart. . . your heart for congo inspires me!!! and it is bigger than you and bigger than your family. but i also think after seeing that kind of poverty - it is hard to live life in america - hard to "whine" about your life. the bottom line is - being a stay at home mom is HARD! it doesn't mean you are ungrateful. it doesn't mean you don't love your kids - it is hard to mentor 3 kids 24/7. especially when you pressure yourself (as you AND i do) and worry that you are screwing them up.

ok - i am a christian - i am not where i should be as far as my relationship with Christ - and i am VERY slow to blame things on satan, etc. . . but i truly believe that Satan knows the power of a good parent - and he works on stay at home moms. since your mind is operating on about a 3 year old level - your mind is always working (on bigger things) - and i just think he is good at working on our insecurities and telling us what we do is not important. . . but girl - you are mentoring / modeling to those kids 24/7. while that is stressful and pressure - it is also awesome - that we are in a position to be the one doing that - instead of paying someone else who doesn't really care about the end result to do it. . .

-And one more...

Be gentle with yourself. All of this is hard enough as it is without beating yourself up on top of it. You don't need to feel guilty for complaining when there are other people who are in some way worse off than you are; that fact doesn't negate the fact that you, right now, are having trouble. You are entitled to feel frustrated and overwhelmed and like running away! I think all moms - especially moms with multiple little ones at home - go through that. Mothering is HARD. There's no need to feel guilty about the fact that it's hard.

There were tons of others that said very similar things. When I started blogging almost a year ago, I never expected to have this amazing network of support that has blossomed out of it.  I never expect to make friends with moms from all over the world who are here to lift one another up.  No man is an island- now go forth and feel encouraged. This is hard work- but YOU are not ALONE!

P.S.  I am in the very early planning stages of hosting a mom's retreat in October. (On the cheapo)  If in some way, you want in on my community of support, I'd love for you to come.  There is something awesome that happens when mom's come together to support and learn from one another.  So if you could use some time away, some time to decompress and some time to be with other women who totally get it- I'd love to have you.    Right now, I am thinking- villa far away from the hustle and bustle with spa treatments and camaraderie and sleep and happiness.  Dump all your "baggage" at the door.  We'll all unpack it together.  Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for all the details...

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