Showing posts with label life ain't always beautiful. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life ain't always beautiful. Show all posts

March 20, 2013

For My Babies- Lessons From Steubenville

Dear Sadie, Noah and Miles

I think that every generation says, "You couldn't pay me to go back and be a teenager again in an age where there is xyz".  Here I am, turning old and saying, "You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again with all the social media!"

Here's the thing.  I love social media.  This here blog?  Wouldn't exist without social media. Even though right now you are too you for things like Facebook and Twitter and whatever the next big thing will be, I know that it won't be long until your friends start using them and telling you that you "need" to be on there too.  Growing up is so hard.  Growing up is even harder where every move you make is being put out into the world for all to judge and watch.  I know that social media and being able to see what your friends are doing 24 hours a day will impact you deeply.

There's a story going on in the news right now about two boys who did something terrible to a girl at their school.  It's a really bad thing.  When the case went before the judge, lots of the kids involved had videos and text messages and things on Facebook about the bad thing that happened.  Those things never go away.  I'm a grown up with lots of common sense and still, sometimes I put things on the Internet that I later wished that I hadn't.  Darlings, while you are growing up, your brains are growing too.  While your brain grows, you'll realize that what you thought was a good idea one day, maybe isn't a good idea the next day. 

I want you all to know that it's okay to make mistakes.  It's okay to change your mind.  It's part of growing up.  But as you grow up in an age of social media, you have to be extra careful.  Here's the big thing- when I say be careful?  I don't mean be careful of being caught.  I mean live in such a way that your integrity convicts you and keeps you from putting yourself in situations that aren't healthy for you.

I'm not dumb.  I know that you are going to try things.  I want you to blaze your own paths.  But there are some things that just aren't good for you and I want you to recognize those things along the way.

Sadie, you may laugh about this now, but when you are a little bit older and you get your own phone, you will learn that lots and lots of girls in high school (and even middle school) take naked pictures of themselves and send them to boys.  They think that it will make boys like them.  I don't know any other way to say it, but to just flat out say, "Don't do it!"  When you are 13 or 15, that boy that you are texting your pictures to is too immature to know what to do with that picture.  He's young and his brain is not developed enough to think about this situation logically.  Despite what he tells you, he may show it to his friends.  Or lose his phone.  Or his parents may see it.  Or he may even post it on the Internet and remember, baby, that things on the Internet never die.  Love your body.  Marvel in the things that it can do.  Be proud of it.  But know that your body is a gift and does not need to be enjoyed by every person that you encounter.

You are my baby girl and while I wish that I could keep you little forever, I know that you have to grow up.  I want you to be a strong woman.  I want you to know that even when you make a bad decision that you are still in control of what happens to your body.  Even when the decisions that you make tell a boy one thing, you still have the power to change that situation and say no at ANY TIME YOU CHOOSE.  You deserve to be respected, no matter what anyone else tells you.  You may feel pressure.  You may feel conflicted.  But when you know something is not right, you have the right to speak up.  And be brave, my dear.  Sometimes when you speak up, people will call your integrity and your morals into question.  Be firm in your position and speak up for injustice when you see it- for yourself and for your friends. Never accept the notion that people will spew into you that "you got what you deserved" because of your past choices.  And by all means, do not be one of the people who spews forth that kind of venom, either.  These kinds of things can happen to anyone.

I want you to be a woman full of morals and a heart that is pure.  But I'm not naive enough to think that temptations won't challenge even the purest heart or that you won't end up in situations that are not good for you.  Keep a good head on your shoulders and treat your body like the temple it was designed to be and demand that others treat it that way, too.  Society's standard for beauty does not have to be your standard.  That is not an easy task, but I am here to support you.

Noah and Miles, you have an awesome responsibility.  Girls are so stinkin' cool.  They are smart and they are pretty and they can be so darn intoxicating.  It's in your nature to be visually stimulated.  When you see something you like, you can't help but admire it.  But hear me on this- admiration does not mean domination

I want you to know something about girls.  We change our minds.  Sometimes girls will show you through word and through deed that they want to do something.  If at any time she changes her mind about that, your job is to respect that.  Respect does not include pressure.  Respect does not include ridicule.  Respect does not include anger.  Respect means that this girl deserves to have her voice heard- even if her voice is shaking.  Do not mistake that shake for weakness.  I know that it's hard to say no.  That girl in a tube top?  Society will tell you that that makes her "easy".  That girl at the party that just drank herself into oblivion?  Society will tell you that now is the time to make your move.  But I'm telling you- respect yourself enough to know that the experiences you have now will shape you and be brave enough to resist.  Human beings make mistakes.  Be the kind of man who does not "capitalize" on people when they make mistakes.  Be the kind of man who can walk away and who encourages others to do the same. Be the kind of man who does not tolerate disgracing women from his friends.  I'm holding you to a higher standard.

Just as I told Sadie that I want her to be a woman with a pure heart and integrity, I want the same things for you.  The world will tell you that you need to be tough.  It will tell you that you need to possess things and people and show yourself as dominant.  While it may seem that those kind of guys get all the girls, as you grow, you will discover that in the end, women want someone who will respect them and treasure them.  When you treasure people, they will treasure you.  I want you to be treasured in your relationships and choose people who will see you as precious- because, my sweet boys, you are precious beyond measure.  Show people how strong and respectful you are through your willingness to not choose the easy path.  That is the mark of a true gentleman.  15 year olds will not see it.  But I see it, sweetheart.  And as you get older, you will see it in yourself.  Be the kind of man that recognizes that respect in a relationship is more powerful than dominance.

I want such big things for all three of you.  So many of the things that happen to teenagers happen because they are searching- searching for acceptance or popularity.  What I want you to know is that those things aren't always the best for you.  We all want to be loved, but realize that when you are seeking it in places that you shouldn't that you find things you wish you hadn't.  Living a life of integrity might label you as "weird".  But you know what?  In the end, it's the people who loved themselves enough to make good choices (and found forgiveness when they fell short) that find happiness in life- and happiness is what I want for each one of you.   

Just know that no matter what, I love you.

Love,
Mom        

January 25, 2013

When A Heart Breaks

A few Friday nights ago, Kamron and I were driving home in the car, alone, coming from a fancy business dinner with a new hire.  It was a lovely night.  We don't get a lot of nights out.  It seems that every child that comes into our family makes those nights fewer and father between.  As we got in the car, my phone rang.  I almost didn't answer it since we were on a date- but something told me that I should pick up.

That call changed everything. 

On the other end of the line was a friend who wanted to connect me with a family who was dissolving their international adoption.  The child needed a new family and time was of the essence.  I talked to my friend the entire way home about the ins and outs that she knew while Kamron kept looking over at me with questioning eyes as I said things like, "How old is she?" and "How long has she been in the US?" and "What concerns are their about attachment and development?"

I hung up the phone and Kamron pulled the car over.  I spilled all the details fast and furiously at him and remarkably, my man who has every moment of his life written down on his five year plan, felt so at peace with the spur of the moment turn of events.  We picked up our kids, walked around in a daze for a few hours trying to wrap our brains around everything and then decided to sleep on it.

The next morning, the mother and I got connected and spent several hours on the phone together and made a plan for us to go and pick up this precious new 6 year old bundle of joy in just six short days.  They had talked to several people and all were in agreement that it would be best for this child to be in a different home.  The details of the story are not mine to tell.  But with each new piece of information, my heart swelled and swelled.  This child's story?  It was like I was built for just for it.

You see, when we adopted Miles almost three years ago, I was naive.  I didn't expect trauma.  Nothing about trauma was on my radar.  My expectations were high and my patience levels were low.  My hopes were through the roof but my new reality left me feeling somewhere in the gutter.  My support systems didn't exist and my pride kept me from reaching out when I needed to.  Now three years removed with an amazing child who is thriving- I often look back at those character building days and wish that I had a do over.  I would have pushed less.  I would have listened more.  I would have expected nothing and rejoiced when there was connection instead of expecting everything and setting everyone up to fail.  I know that if I had it to do over again, I could have been better.

And here... here was every scenario we've already been through over the last three years knocking on my door and asking to come in.  Disruption is hard.  Adoption is hard.  Sometimes matches aren't right, dynamics aren't what's best for everyone, and a new environment may be just what a child needs to gain some new footing.  We desperately wanted to be that new environment for this child.

For the last year, we've actively been waiting for foster children.  We've been waiting for older kids who each come with their own backgrounds and hurts and personalities and triumphs.  We've submitted our home study for COUNTLESS waiting children who have needs that we've questioned whether we could meet.  I feel so strongly in not choosing a child to meet the needs of our family but matching with a child who has needs we can meet.  Every scenario we've encountered over the last year was just a little bit off- we didn't have the right kinds of therapies in our area, or the ages of our kids wouldn't have been good for the child, or we didn't have an accessible home, or we just didn't have the right kind of parenting style, or or or.  But this girl that we got the call about?  Every need, we could meet. Every strength that my children have would have been just what would help her.  Every strength that we have as parents and our unique parenting style seemed to be what she needed.  She and Miles would share a heritage, she and Sadie would share a bedroom and she and Noah would share a classroom.

We contacted an attorney and started the paperwork for temporary guardianship so we could get her enrolled in school here while we figured the rest out.  We spent a lot of time talking and emailing with her family.  We spent even more time in prayer and counsel.  Within 2 days of getting that call, there were probably well over 100 people praying for this child and her family by name.  Praying for all of them as this transition occured.  Praying for our kids and the one who felt like our child even though we'd never met her.  Praying for peace because as our arms were feeling fuller and the dream for our family was coming to fruition, we recognized that another family's dream was dying.  That's a hard balance- tempering your excitement with anther family's heartbreak. It is the hardest part of adoption to wrap my heart around.  Loss and hurt mingled with hope and love- it's a combination that baffles me and breaks me down for how much heartache is involved. 

We weren't naive this time around.  We knew how hard this would be.  And yet- I reveled in it.  I wanted it.  I willingly wanted to take it on and it felt so incredibly right.  It was a decision that we had an unbelievable peace about. 

Our excitement and love grew for this child.  We stared at her gorgeous picture constantly.  I cried in the middle of Walmart while buying her little pajamas because I just couldn't believe how amazing it was that I was the one who would get to be a mom to this incredible gift.  We made plans.  Our friends brought over clothes for her and backpacks full of school supplies and sent care packages in the mail.  They filled our freezer with meals and my phone buzzed continuously with friends and family checking on us and offering to do whatever we needed.  Our kids bounced around for days and told all of their friends that they were getting a sister and those friends all made welcome home signs for the little girl they'd never met but loved just the same simply because she existed.  Our friends and family rallied around us in a way that a girl can only dream about.  This time?  This time we had a safety net of loving arms and hearts ready to wrap around us and help us heal this child in every way imaginable.  This time we were ready.

Over the course of that week, the family decided to put off everything for another week.  There was too much to work out legally to make things happen in 6 days.  So we got moved (talk about a busy week!) and tried to make the best of it by telling ourselves that at least this child didn't have to go through a move in her first week with us.  And then another call came that changed everything...

The family changed their minds and decided to keep the little girl.

My world stopped.  I sat on the other end of the phone and didn't quite know what to say.  Again, we were walking that balance of tempering excitement while another family's dream died.  Only this time, it was our dream that was dying.  I absolutely respect their right to change their minds.  It is, after all, their child and that is NOT an easy decision.  But I also respect my right to grieve the loss of a child that felt like she had always been mine.

I'm not sure how the body or the brain does it- but in the 10 days time that we thought this little girl would be our daughter, our hearts had become so engulfed with love for her.  We know that love in adoption isn't always ooey-gooey, but fierce and fighting and that fierce and claw for scraps love was aflame in us for her in a way that we couldn't explain. 

In every way, we were devastated.  Our children were devastated.  Our extended family was devastated.  It felt so much like a death- and yet so different.  This child was very much alive, yet alive in the arms of someone else.  That's a hard thing to make peace with.  It's one of those things that has you shake your fist at God and wonder what was the point at all.

We are now 10 days out from that second call that rocked us.  We are still breathing.  We still talk about her daily.  I still stare at her picture and pray for her.  I know that what her family is doing is not easy for them and I pray fervently that their family melds together in every way imaginable because I desperately love this child and want what's best for her- even if that's not me. 

I've tried to make sense of this.  I've tried to learn from it and figure out what this whole thing is supposed to open my eyes to.  I haven't figured it out.  The only thing I know is that humans are designed to want to push back from situtations that cause them pain.  But this time?  This time I'm leaning into it.  I'm reminding myself that sometimes a person comes along in life that is worth every ounce of heartbreak and pain and gut-wrenching sadness.  She's worth it.  She's worth it.  She's worth it.  Every bit of it.  I'm leaning in.

December 28, 2012

Emma

Kamron and I got married in September of 2002.  Five months later, in February, we got "the call". 

My dad was on the other line.  "So, I got this dog.  And dammit!  I don't need a dog!  Y'all want this dog.  She's really good..." 

I don't remember consulting with Kamron on it.  I do remember picking up the puppy from my dad's house and bringing her home.  I named her Emma- because the newlywed in me had already picked out our firstborn daughter's name and Emma was my favorite baby girl name in the wide world.  Had I thought this through, I would have saved the name for a human child, but alas, I was 21 and thought that I knew everything.  Emma Terry it was.  Later on down the road she became Emma Stiltskin Terry.  Like Rumplestiltskin, but without the Rumple.

That first night, Kamron's sister brought over a crate and some toys.  I went to the store and stared at dog food.  We couldn't afford dog food.  Heck, we were practically eating dog food ourselves.  But I picked up the cheapest bag of puppy chow they had and took it home to that cute, little, yellow puppy.

Our first night with Emma (we were 21 and 24 and dumb as rocks)

We were in love.  For about 5 minutes.  It was night time and we were tired, so we put that cute, little, yellow puppy in the pen so that she wouldn't destroy the house while we slept.  The pen was wide and about 3 feet tall.  We turned our backs on the pen and started walking toward bed.  Suddenly, the dog was back under foot.  Surely this must have been a fluke.  We must not have latched the door all the way.

We put the puppy back in, patted her little head and told her to go to sleep.  We turned around again and out the puppy jumped.  It was like she was training for the Olympics.  She did that three foot jump from a sitting position like it was nothing.  Kamron went out to the garage and found a big piece of sheet rock that fit just perfectly over the top of the pen. 

"We are smarter than this puppy!"  we told ourselves!  We congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity and went to bed.  The puppy, however, did not.  She whined.  She rattled the pen.  And she jumped.  She jumped and she jumped and she jumped.  She hit that piece of sheet rock over and over and over again until she had taken the black off of her nose.  No lie- the dog's black nose, just rubbed off on the sheet rock.  Then that little puppy began to eat the sheet rock. 

We looked at each other and said, "We have this great fenced in yard!  Let's just put the dog out there for the night and come up with another plan in the morning!"  So that's what we did.

And then morning came... I woke up at the crack of dawn to answer the phone.  I was working as a substitute teacher at the time and the sub line was calling.  I took a job and then went outside to hang with my Emma and love on her before work.  I opened the door to the backyard fully expecting that little thing to bolt right in.  Didn't happen.  I walked out into the back yard and looked all over for her.  She was gone.

Yep- we were horrible dog owners who lost their dog on the very first day.  I called and cancelled my substitute job.  I ran to the store and bought some poster board and markers.  I remember going around the house and collecting change to go buy the poster board since it wasn't a regular expense in our budget.  I put signs up all over the neighborhood that announced our lost dog with our phone number.  I called my dad and told him we'd lost his dog.  "In one night?"  he said.  Yep- we were bad people.

Around mid afternoon, a mechanic in the neighborhood called and said that Emma had been hanging out at his shop watching him fix cars.  We went and picked her up and brought her back home.  We tried to come up with a better solution and didn't get anything in place by nighttime.  We had a huge rope and thought that if we tied her to the deck, it would keep her from getting out while we slept until we could come up with something better. 

We though this was a good idea, until someone knocked on the door and said, "Ma'am your dog is hanging."  Ummmm?  What?   I walked outside and sure enough- there was that dumb dog hanging.  She had jumped the fence and the rope only had enough slack for her back legs to hit the ground after her fence leap and the rest of her was hanging.

We sucked at being dog parents.  The only thing we had learned about our two days with a dog, was that it was a lot of work and that we weren't going to be ready for kids for a loooooong time.  Which means that God laughed and we got pregnant that same exact week. 

We finally found our groove.  Emma grew.  And grew and grew and grew.  And my belly grew and grew and grew.  And we figured out life together- Me and Kamron and Emma.

And then our little Sadie was born.  We brought home that baby girl and something changed in our dog.  She became a protector.  She'd jump on anybody and everybody, but around the baby, she was an angel.  Don't get me wrong- she was still such an escape artist that our neighbors all called her "Houdini" and she still ate stuff like sticks and dirt and electrical wiring, and destroyed pretty much everything we owned.  But we were a family- the four of us. 

And then there was Noah.  We moved right before Noah was born and our Emma had new places to explore.  I've never seen a dog with a wild hair to roam so badly in my life.  Once she even ended up in Cincinnati almost two hours away and we still somehow managed to get her back.

When Marley and Me came out, we were certain they made that movie about our Emma.  She pulled crazy antics, like eating rat poison and still managed to stay alive.  That dog was indestructible. She was ridiculously dumb.  Yet she was so loyal, and she was a fierce lover of our children. 

She watched them play in the backyard.  She was always there, just looking over them, protecting them.  They loved her.  And we loved her.  When times were hard and we realized that Noah had some special needs that we weren't sure how to deal with, there were many times when I would just cry and curse when I would go outside to let Emma out and she took it all in.  When Miles came home and he was terrified of her, it was almost like she turned into an old dog overnight and compensated for his fear by become extra gentle.  Our dog was a champ while Miles' psychologist worked though some fear therapy with Miles and while Miles screamed and screamed around her, she would just lay there and look at him- almost like she knew it was her job to help him transition to life in a family and by being calm and still she was helping him figure out life.

Emma loved the water.  Once we took her out on my dad's boat and she jumped right into the lake.  She had such a ball swimming- that is, until we couldn't figure out how to get that 90 pound dog back into the boat.  It was a 5 man operation getting that soaking wet creature back on the boat- but for her it was worth every minute.  She also loved the creek and would wander through the creek with her mouth open just letting the water rush in.  But she seemed most content when the sun was shining and the kids were playing around her.  Just like a proud mama- she'd watch their every move.  Sometimes she's wear a look on her face like she was as proud as she could be of them and at other times that expression said, "Why won't these kids just shut up!"  Yep- just like a mama.

For ten years, Emma blessed our lives.  She watched us grow up.  She watched us build a family.  She watched our children come home and grow and thrive.  She turned our backyard into a land mine.  She took tons of our money that we didn't always have.  She loved unconditionally.  She was the one constant in our ever changing lives.  She was gentleness personified.  There's just something about a family dog. 

Last week, we had to say goodbye to our sweet Emma.  It was her time.  She'd grown old and could no longer walk. By the end, she couldn't even lift her head.  She spent her last two week staring at our Christmas tree while the excitement of the kids grew with the impending holiday.  It was almost like she was soaking up memories.

We miss her.  We miss that giant tail wagging and thumping the floor constantly.  We miss that goofy grin.  We miss that dog stench and we miss those licks.  It's hard to let go of a pet.  She was here before our children and they don't know life without their dog.  We had a funeral for her and our kid's each said a few words over her and it broke my heart to watch them grieve her passing. 

It's a different life, getting used to her not being here.  But we'll see her again, on that rainbow bridge.  Thank you, Emma girl, for being such an amazing part of our family!


  Over the years...
 
March 2003
 
It started with towels, then furniture, then air conditioners (yes, this dog was responsible for knocking out the A/C during my 8th months of pregnancy!)...
 
 
 
 
Baby Sadie- January 2004
 

Baby Noah- April 2007 


Always standing guard! Summer 2009
 
Fall 2010
 



Fall 2011 


 
 


For me a house becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail, and that indescribable measure of love that we call a dog. ~Roger Caras

July 28, 2012

And then... (a tale of how we all went down like rocks)

In this house, we really know how to do the post vacation let down with flair!  Let's have a little run down, shall we?

While in Mexico, Kamron decided to be a wild man and jump off of this:


We should know that we are too old for these kinds of shenanigans.  Between that and the bumpy airplane ride home, he ended up with a ruptured eardrum.

And then...

It was finally time for my big colonoscopy/endoscopy.  Just in case that in itself is not torturous enough, my doctor wanted me to do the tests on a three day clear liquid fast.  Three freaking days. People.  I was not fun to be around.  At all. At multiple points over the whole ordeal, I considered pulling the heads off the children just for sport.  There were lots of biopsies taken and now I just wait for the results.  I've also got a CT scheduled next week.  I'm beginning to think I have the most photographed guts ever!  Also, MoviPrep colonoscopy prep juice tastes like pee + ocean water + one drop of lemon juice.  Just sayin'.

Me coming out of anesthesia.  I don't care how old you are- toots are funny.  
Needless to say, I laughed a lot that day.

And then...

Sadie has been having similar tummy issues.  I'm no doctor, but I'm inclined to say that we have something hereditary going on here. So she got her guts and blood all checked out at the hospital this week as well.  Just FYI- they do not give a family discount.


And then...

Noah started running a fever and getting migraines.  He tends to do this seasonally, so we think that it is somehow allergy related.  So this week, in addition to all the rest of it, Noah was stapled to couch incapacitated with a high fever and a splitting headache.


And then... (is it getting freakishly comical yet?)

Our dog, Emma, sprained her "wrist" and couldn't walk.  And we ended up in the vet's office for a looooooooong time.  We were in there so long that the boys got bored and decided to lay on the floor and pretend to be dogs.  




And then...

Well, that's all.  But I think that's enough.  It's enough that on the one day that everyone felt decent enough to go to the pool, I may have experimented to see if this would fit in my travel mug.  The lid wouldn't go on, but I tried!  

I know, I know.  You're saying, "Meg!  Take your grown up juice box out of the package and just dump it in the cup!"  I couldn't find the scissors.  I just wasn't quite that desperate.    But by today, I may be!

In all seriousness, though, I think we are finally on the mend and can hopefully return to regularly scheduled programming soon!  I hope your week has been a little better than ours!  :-)

April 26, 2012

You Are Enough


I don’t know about you, but lately I’m finding the Internet to be an increasingly hostile place.  It seems that we’ve all lost our ability to think and disagree in a civil manner and so we resort to ripping other people to shreds behind the relative safety of our computer screens.  We type things we’d never say to another human being face to face.  We spew forth cruelty and disrespect like our lives depend on it sometimes.  We tell people that they are worthless and our words reduce them to tears and anger and insecurity.  I’ve seen this going on so much lately and it is truly heartbreaking.  I’ve watched my incredible friends think that they are terrible people because one “friend” on Facebook decided that they needed taking down a peg.  I’ve seen amazing women share their personal stories and be ripped apart in the comments section.  Heck, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve even been told by some lovely random commenters here on my corner of the Internet that my sweet Congolese son would have been better off dead in an orphanage than to have me for a mother (among many, many other mean spirited and horrific things). I think that there is a major problem when we begin telling people that we don’t really know that they deserve for their children to die.  It's enough to make a person never want to open their mouth again for fear of being torn apart.

I started thinking about why we love to hate people.  I’ll admit- I do it, too.  I read an article about Victoria Beckham choosing a fruit plate over birthday cake and I thought to myself, “Geez!  Just eat the damn cake!  I can’t stand women like that!”  When really, this woman’s personal choice has nothing in the world to do with me.  I don’t know her.  She may just really like fruit.  Or maybe she can’t have gluten and the cake in front of her wasn’t gluten free.  Who knows?  Her choosing fruit does not affect me in any way, shape or fashion.  Really, it boils down to the fact that I’m disappointed that I don’t have the will power to pick fruit over cake and so I want to get mad at someone who can because something in my brain tells me it will make me feel better to lash out.

I find myself doing that with crafters.  I’ve got nothing against crafters but I can’t craft (or cook, or keep a very clean house, or stay organized, blah, blah, and blah).  So I look at women who have these beautiful scrapbooks and these cutesy crafts around their homes and who can throw together a kid’s birthday party that looks like it was all professionally done.  It’s not my gift.  So I spout off and say things like “Uggggh!  I wish I had the kind of time to do that!” or “She is such an overachiever.  Who does she think she is?”  Again, I can’t do it, so I lash out at those who can.  But does tearing down a crafter or a birthday party throwing goddess make me any more able to craft or throw a killer party?  Nope.  Not a bit.  The logic just doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t even make me feel better to vocalize it or type it or stew about it. It’s toxic- for me and for the people on the receiving end of my venom. That woman who is a crafting queen is not crafting to spite me- she’s doing it because it’s her passion and that is how she finds joy in her life.  Who am I to argue with that? 

I think it’s why we love to hate people like Tim Tebow.  Tim is doing a bang up job being the person that he thinks God wants him to be.  Yesterday I saw an article about a website that is offering a 1 million dollar bounty to the woman who can take Tim’s virginity and show the documentation to prove it.  Tearing people down and derailing the path they’ve created for their lives is becoming a lucrative sport.  Does Tim’s virginity affect our daily lives?  Not one iota.  But we for some reason feel like it is our mission to take someone who is living the life they want to live and drag them through the mud.  

It’s why people hate Michele Duggar.  I’ve written about that before, HERE.  The joy that she finds in her children makes us feel inadequate about the joy that we sometimes don’t find in our own children.

It’s why we take someone else’s pain and we mock it because it doesn’t seem to be as great as our pain and so we discount their very real feelings.  We judge each other on a hierarchy over who has the right to be the most miserable.  We think that pain is on a continuum and that we can put people on a sliding scale while we forget that no matter where someone is on our “scale” their pain is very real to them.

It’s why a New York City school system will no longer allow it’s seniors to tell their friends when they get accepted into an IvyLeague school because it makes the other students feel bad.    

We’ve lost our ability to celebrate with others while failing to realize that another person’s success does not mean that we are failures!  I don’t think that I had a friendship until I was about 27 years old where a friend would come to me with good news where I didn’t feel some twinge of jealousy.  Jealousy makes us do crazy things.  Feelings of inadequacy make us do crazy things.  I found myself when we were in the throes of a rough adoption transition with our son, actually being angry at families whose children were settling into a family easily.  It made me pull away from them.  How ugly is it that I was actually mad that some people’s kids were thriving?  It was icky!  It took me a really long time to realize that because someone else’s children were doing well, it didn’t mean that I was a failure.  It didn’t mean that my child was bad.  It didn’t mean that I was less deserving of an ideal family- it just meant that things were going to happen in their own time and that wasn’t in juxtaposition of someone else’s happy, joyful, easy transition.  For us to be happy it doesn’t mean that someone else needed to be miserable.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of hearing Jon Acuff speak at a conference.  He said something that had a profound impact on me.  He said that the reason that we get so down on ourselves is because we often compare our middle to someone else’s ending and our low to someone else’s high.  Last week I asked my friends on Facebook what made them feel inadequate (as a mother and as a person) and every single one of the thirty or so responses was some variation of how we compare ourselves to others.  With Facebook and Twitter and blogs and chat rooms and yada, yada, yada, it is SO EASY to fall into the comparison trap.  We look at an opportunity that someone else got and it makes us feel crappy.  We tell ourselves that we are awful people but the truth is- you are just as deserving of the same opportunity and it just isn’t your time yet.  We look at someone else’s “My kids just ate a plateful of zucchini and they hate sugar” status and it makes us feel terrible about what we feed our kids.  The truth is that it is awesome that today that kid ate zucchini and tomorrow he may hate it and that person will probably never make their status say, “My kid hates zucchini and only wants to eat sugar.” 

With this online world- we compare our mundane day to day with everyone else’s highlight reel.  We are all guilty of it.  After all, nobody likes to broadcast their shortcoming to the world.  We never say “I have 45 piles of dirty laundry and haven’t worked out in 6 months”.  Nope- instead we wait until that one day that we are really on fire and we say, “The house is spotless, the laundry is done, I packed homemade, organic lunches for the kids, had mind blowing sex with my husband and burned 6 billion calories at the gym!  And it’s not even 7 am!”  And then everyone that reads that status who is sitting in their dirty home with the kids eating school lunch who hasn’t even looked their husband in the eye for a week suddenly feels bad about themselves.  We don’t throw a kudos to that woman who is just killing it at that specific moment in time because we see her success as a measure of our failure.  It’s so much easier (and a good defense mechanism) to loath her for having a really good day.

What we fail to recognize is that each person has those times where life just sucks and times when it’s just all falling into place.  It’s just a part of living in a fallen world.  It’s part of being human.  We seem to forget that it’s human nature to tell of our victories and gloss over the ugly parts.  We forget that in being vulnerable there is camaraderie so we want to keep our baggage at bay and only show the pretty side.  Yes- there will always be people who want to tear you down.  Yes, if you are blogger, there will be people who will take your words and skew them and knock you down and attack you. Yes, if you are on any kind of social media site, people will create drama to bring others down.  Yes, if you’ve got a mother, brother, aunt, dad, friend- there will always be someone that seems to be doing it better than you.  But really aren’t we all just doing the best that we can with what we know?

It goes back to the crafter, and the fruit plate eater, and the Tim Tebows.  If I let those people find unadulterated joy in what they love and find comfort in what they believe, I am helping them create their highlight reel.  If I project my inadequacies on them, I’ve done nothing but ruin their joy without adding any joy to my own life.  I have to remind myself of that all the time. I have to remind myself that I am only an expert in my own life, my own story, my own family and my own experience.  Sometimes this means I’m on fire.  Sometimes this means that I need to step away and realize that what is best for my family and my children is not what is right for someone else’s family.  Sometimes this means that even when I’m bitter and critical, it does not give me the right to steal someone else’s joy or to discount their feelings.  We tell our children to keep their hands to themselves.  As adults, sometimes we need to be reminded to keep our venom to ourselves.  We've all been on both sides of the venom and neither side is pretty.

How awesome would it be if we gave an ‘atta girl to our friends when they deserved it instead of letting her successes and joys fuel our own feelings of inadequacy? How awesome would it be if we spent even a fraction of the time we spend gossiping and ripping each other to shreds with our backhanded comments on building each other up and affirming one another instead?  Even when we don't agree with someone's beliefs or decisions, we can still affirm them as people.  How about we let other people be the experts on their own stories without telling them how to feel and minimizing their feelings?  How about I let you be the awesome you that you are- and you let me be me?

How about we each realize that we are worthy?  How about we each looked at the job we are doing with our lives/ our children/ our significant other/ our circumstances and say, “I might not do it perfectly, but I am still the perfect person for this job.”  What if we could find as much joy in watching each other’s highlight reels as we do in putting together our own highlight reels? What if we stopped feeling like our own negative experience with something should dictate the happiness that someone else feels about that same experience. What if we all honestly believed that we were absolutely enough and that our being enough didn’t depend on anything else but finding our own bliss.  What would happen if we realize that we can’t make our own candle burn brighter by blowing out someone else’s.  How about we all make the commitment to fan someone else’s flame today and make them burn brighter.  I wonder how much brighter our own candles can burn when we catch the after affects of fanning someone else’s flame.  I’ll bet it would be amazing.  Let’s do it.  You are enough.  You are enough.  You are enough.

Don't listen to those who say, "It's not done that way." Maybe it's not, but maybe you will. Don't listen to those who say, "You're taking too big a chance." Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most importantly, don't listen when the little voice of fear inside of you rears its ugly head and says, "They're all smarter than you out there. They're more talented, they're taller, blonder, prettier, luckier and have connections…" I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts, and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live, the chances are you'll be a person worthy of your own respect.--Neil Simon

May 04, 2011

Feeling Funky

I'm just gonna say it.  I am in a serious funk.  About 2 weeks ago I said that my thirties were going to rock- but I totally take it all back.


So far, thirty has been crappy.  In fact, I feel like I've spent pretty much all of my thirties up in stirrups (boys, you can stop reading).  Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad pain for weeks and weeks on end landed me in the office of my GYN who promptly told me that all of my symptoms and the results of my manual exam pointed to *gulp* ovarian or uterine cancer.  Then I had to wait 5 days with that hanging over my head to get an ultrasound.  And not the good kind of ultrasound where they scream out, it's a girl!  The one where they pull out "the wand".  Oh girls- you know the one I'm talking about.  The awkward wand up the hoo-ha ultrasound that makes you stare up at the ceiling tiles and feel like you are "getting got" by an alien. Gotta love those.  *sigh*

Then it was 2 and a half more days of waiting to hear that (praise God!) there are no tumors or signs of cancer- just a zillion cysts all over the place and that perhaps I should begin to think about exploratory surgery to look for endometriosis.  Y'all- I am totally ready to say goodbye to this uterus. I'm done with it anyways so it would be a great time for us to part ways.  I would probably give it the "it's not you, it's me speech" and then walk away from her with no regrets. 

So- my days have pretty much consisted of laying on the couch with a heating pad, neglecting all the things that I should be doing because, as I said,  I am in a FUNK.

I'm tired and my mind is going a million places.  I've got friends that are hurting.  I've got a son who is riding the up and down attachment disorder wave like a professional and that is just a wee bit exhausting.  There are derby float projects to be done and well- I'm not that crafty and my hot glue gun is not my friend. It has rained in Kentucky every day for the last eleventeen days.  My kiddo tested in the 5th percentile on some developemental tests and while I'm glad that will hopefully qualify him for preschool services, dude- 5th percentile is not really something to make a bumper sticker about. Yep, I'm a first class Debbie Downer.  Anyone want me to be a guest at their dinner party?  Didn't think so!

Life goes in cycles and right now I am in a "spin my wheels and rip my uterus out cycle".  Hopefully the next cycle will be the "drop 40 pounds and mysteriously end up in the Carribean" cycle.  Hey, a girl can dream right!?          

December 15, 2010

Let's Talk About Post Adoption Depression


I'm really nervous about writing this one.  I love blogging, but I find that the more you put yourself out there the more you open yourself up to some really harsh criticism.  I've said before that after Miles had been home for four months, I, along with my doctor, made the decision to go on antidepressants.  I could have used them much sooner.  I went straight from probably needing a xanax to help me chill out during the adoption process to needing antidepressants in a heartbeat.  I'm not ashamed of that.  It was completely necessary for me. 

When you give birth to a baby, all the baby books tell you about getting the baby blues.  You get that flood of hormones leaving the body, you're sleep deprived and you have a tiny baby that probably does a lot of crying.  Of course you are going to get the baby blues!  It's pretty much just a matter of to what degree.  After giving birth to our first, I was a little hormonal for about 2 weeks.  Mostly I just cried a lot for no reason, but got over it rather quickly.  After giving birth to our second child, I felt off for nearly a year.  I went straight from the baby blues to full on depression. Unfortunately, I didn't fully recognize just how bad it was and I was so ashamed that I wasn't insanely joyful about a new baby that I suffered in silence. 

It was a really strange feeling to me.  I always considered myself to be a pretty happy and upbeat kind of gal.  A close family member of mine had struggled with depression for years, even to the point of having a nervous breakdown and I just didn't get it.  I couldn't figure out why this person just couldn't make up their mind to be happy.  I fed right into all those quotes about how you could just choose to be happy.  And to some extent, one can, but depression is a whole other ballgame.  So when I found myself unable to just will myself out of my post baby funk, I got really down on myself.  I mean, here I was, blessed beyond all measure and I just wanted to sit in a room and cry all day.  I would listen to my sweet baby crying and instead of wanting to jump up and go comfort him, I would just feel angry.  I feel certain that if I had just gone to talk to someone or told my doctor about how I was feeling, that I wouldn't have suffered so long with postpartum depression.  Ahhh, hindsight.

So imagine my surprise when we adopted kiddo number three and my body and mind still got all wonky.   I was thinking that eliminating the prospect of postpartum depression was going to be one of the best perks in choosing to adopt.  I had heard of post adoption depression, but honestly, I thought that it was just something that people made up to explain a hard transition home.  In the process I never once gave any thought to it, our social worker never said a word about it, and none of the people that I knew who had adopted ever said a word about it.

But not long after stepping off the plane with our new son, BAM!  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Those first few days with Miles felt like love at first sight.  But a few weeks after getting him home and we began to learn more about him, he became a stranger to me.  I tried hard to bring back those lovey dovey feelings I had when I first laid eyes on him, but for a long time it felt like I was pouring love into someone else's child.  He was someone else's child.  All through the process, I kept looking at his picture and calling him my child.    While he was "my child" he was also someone else's child.  Here I was, looking at this toddler, and wondering what in the hell I was supposed to feel.  In reality, I felt more bonded to his referral picture than the actual child.  I loved him.  I truly did.  But I'm not sure that I liked him.  When we began to see crazy behaviors coming from this stranger, I lost it.  It was like an outsider came into my house and disrupted the whole balance.  My other children, my marriage, my sense of self- it all suffered.  I tried to just pull myself and my emotions together, but I couldn't do it.  I felt angry, disappointed, overwhelmed, alone, ashamed, inadequate, unprepared and desperate.  I was supposed to be this great champion of orphans- yet in my own home I couldn't muster up the understanding that was needed to parent my own former orphan.  What did that make me?  I felt like a monster.  Everything I thought I knew about the person that I was was ripped to shreds.

I so wanted to feel towards our adopted child the way that I did about the children I gave birth to.  I told God, my social worker, our family and friends, that we would love this child just like our homegrown children and I felt like I was failing.  I read all the books, googled the heck out of post adoption depression and reached out to a few friends.  When my biological children would do something really bad, I had years and years of happy memories with them to pull from to balance out their indiscretions.  But when our adopted son would pull the exact same stunts, I had nothing to draw from.  There were no happy memories of him cooing as a baby and taking his first steps to tip the balance.  I felt so angry all the time.  I felt jipped.  I felt jealous of all the babies coming home that just seemed to fit so perfectly into their new homes.  Their moms didn't feel on edge and panicky all the time- so why was I?

I grieved for my adopted son.  He came with his own history and his own personality that I in no way helped to mold and that felt weird.  He came home very sick and all the time at doctor's offices and hospitals took me away from my other children and I was angry about that.  I was trying to come to terms with all that I saw in Africa and I was beyond devastated and unable to process how I felt about the poverty there.  I needed help, but found that all the people who want to cook meals and coo over a tiny baby don't beat down your door when you adopt a toddler.  I wanted to reach out to my husband but felt like I couldn't.  After all- I pushed for us to adopt and felt like I'd get a big "I told you so" even though my sweet husband would never ever say or even think that.  I suppose I was really telling myself a big ol' "I told you so."  I thought about calling our social worker, but I was seriously afraid that they would take my new son away and I would have a big red X on my file should we decide that we ever wanted to adopt again.

I kept trying to muster up the happiness, and it was there in glimpses, but I just couldn't pull myself out of the depths.  I could tell myself that I had a reason for feeling how I was feeling, and could tell my brain some steps to take to work through it, but it was like my head was rebelling against logic.  The only logic I could understand was that I was being completely illogical.  I could tell myself, that if I just gave it time, that this child would begin to feel like my child and we'd make happy memories, and we'd find our groove as a family but my head would not stop screaming, "NOPE!  YOU ARE GOING TO FEEL MISERABLE FOREVER!" 

After about four months of feeling so out of sorts, I finally went and talked to my doctor.  I sat in her office bawling.  She said, "Megan, you do realize that everything you are feeling is completely situational, right?  You thought you were getting a baby and you end up with a toddler.  You now have two boys with their own sets of special needs.  You jumped from two children to three.  You are overwhelmed and tired.  Of course, you feel crazy!  But you're not crazy.  You are normal.  You are dealing with a lot and it would stress out anybody who was trying to do what you are doing."  I wanted to walk across the room and kiss her.   Finally, someone said, "Hey, it's okay to feel what you feel.  You don't have to feel love at first sight for this child to be your son.  You can grow to love him and that is alright.  You can give yourself time to adjust and life will still go on.  It doesn't mean you are a bad person."

She and I decided together, that even though everything I was going through was purely situational (meaning that I wasn't chemically or hormonally imbalanced or anything) that the best thing for me to do was to start some antidepressants.  She explained to me that it would help me feel like I could reason better and respond more appropriately to the tasks I needed to do to get through each day.   I don't think that that is the answer for everyone, but for me it was absolutely the right decision.  After about four weeks, I began to finally feel like myself again.  I could reason.  I could function. I could set more realistic expectations for what this journey would look like. I could see light at the end of the tunnel.  I could tell myself that I would figure this thing out and I actually believed myself.

No one likes to broadcast their shortcomings in public (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if in telling our story we are disqualified from adopting again in the future), but I felt really strongly about sharing.  Last week I got this email from another mom.  It said:
...From another adoptive mom that is STRUGGLING through PAD, PLEASE tell me that the meds truly did help. I just started meds yesterday. I know it takes a while for it to take effect, but I need the HOPE! Because it is SO dark right now. Right now I only have the strength to cry out to you in desperation because I'm pretty sure you took meds for PAD too, and I need to hear that it helps!!
This morning I felt like I was having a panic attack just from being in the same room with my adopted kids. It's scary to feel that way. And my adopted kiddos are doing really well, but of course it's still hard. I'm just constantly feeling overwhelmed and like I don't even want to be with them. And that feeling is even beginning to rub off on my bio kid, which really disturbs me. It's all so icky...
I feel for her.   You can hear the desperation.  I've been where she's been. You can tell that she is fighting with herself to not feel how she's feeling.  But that's the tricky thing with depression.  It defies all logic.  It's like your own brain is pulling a great trick on itself.  The weird thing is that you know it is happening yet you feel so powerless to do anything about it. 

After opening up over the summer about having to go on medication, I got a lot of these kinds of emails.  It happens more than you think, even if no one talks about it.

The good news is that it does get better.  For me, it required medication and time- lots of time. Waaaay more time than I wanted it to take.  Our son has been home for almost a year (holy cow!) and he doesn't feel like a stranger anymore.  We do have happy memories to draw from.  He IS one of us.  I cut myself some slack and realized that becoming a family doesn't have to happen overnight.  It will eventually happen.  There is no time table.  For some, it is instant, for others- it takes a while.  Either way, there is NO reason to feel guilty over how quickly it happens. We don't expect our children to adjust overnight.  You can't expect that for yourself, either.  You do the best you can.  You wake up and do it again the next day, and the day after that and the day after that.  And eventually, one day you wake up and realize that you don't have to try with all your might to make your family feel like a family because by golly- you're THERE!  Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are families.  Amen.

August 30, 2010

I See The Light- 6 Month Update

Last week we celebrated Miles being home for six whole months.  In so many ways that 1/2 year just flew by.  And in other ways it just creeped by as the most agonizing time in my whole life. 

For the last six months, I felt like I didn't know my head from my behind.  All of that chaos resulted in me having to be medicated.  Yep- I'm not afraid to admit it.  My reaction to child number three (note I said my reaction, not my child) threw my life into such a tailspin I called and begged for antidepressants.  And now that they've kicked in (I think I'm a kinder, gentler version of me!) and I've had some space to reflect, I think I'm ready to give a better assessment as to how our lives are going. (Oh,God- did you hear that... It's the fallout I'll probably now experience after just admitting to the world that I had to go on meds! Be nice and keep those mean comments to yourself, please!)

I'm going to be brutally honest and say that at the three, four, and five months marks, I wasn't sure if we were going to make it.  Being rejected by my own son 92.4% of the time had eaten away at any shred of self esteem I had left.  I felt like such a failure as a mother.  I knew it was bad when I was trying to comb Miles' hair out and he was screaming and kicking like usual and Noah (age 3) walked by and said, "Mommy, I'm sorry that Miles doesn't like you."  I was sorry too.   I was sorry that I was taking out my constant rejection by Miles on my husband.  I was sorry that Miles was so time consuming that I had very little left for my other children.  I found that I just counted the hours down until I got to put Miles down for a nap and then counted down the hours again until I could put him to bed.  I was feeling sorry for myself- but more than anything, I was MAD at myself.  I am a mother.  In my mind being a mother means loving your children unconditionally.  I hated myself that my attitude about Miles was so dependent on him reciprocating that love.   But folks, it is hard to keep up a relationship when the love only flows one way.  I could reason with myself that the child has been through A LOT.  I knew that he had every right to be distrustful of me.  I knew that teaching a child how to be a part of a family would be hard work.  But I never for one second thought about how that would make me feel.  Just FYI- it felt like being hit in the heart by a bus- 20 times every day.  Every time my son wanted a perfect stranger to hold him instead of me- BAM.  Every time he would get hurt and would refuse to let me love and cuddle him- BAM.  Every time he would act super sweet and cute in front of our family and make me look insane- BAM. For me, all the hurt in my heart just turned into bitter resentment.  I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth.

And then New York happened.  My trip to New York was so last minute.  It was one last effort to get myself together.  I got on that plane and for the first time in months, I just felt free.  Maybe at just that moment, my antidepressants finally kicked in or something, but whatever it was- just having a little space felt sooooo good!  I got in bed at night and actually made it through my prayers for the first time in a long time without falling asleep or losing focus.  I prayed for my son.  I prayed for myself.  I prayed that something would happen to make my family feel whole again.  I prayed that I would lose the anger I felt at Miles for the things that he could in no way control.  I prayed that I would lose my expectations and just learn to live in the moment and learn to find the joy in raising my three bambinos again.

My plane landed back down in Kentucky and I braced myself.  I thought that the fallout from Miles for my being gone for four days would be astronomical.  But by some miracle- just the opposite happened.  He hugged me.  He loved on me.  He said "mommy" in his cute Swahili accent a hundred times.  He was nicer to his brothers and sisters.  The violent behaviors just stopped.  He was downright just likeable and lovable to the nth degree.  He has relied on me.  He has depended on me. He wants to hold my hand while we walk down the street.  Leaving Miles for those four days turned out to be the most amazing lifesaver for our relationship.  I think the boy actually missed me.  And maybe when he had some space to breath he maybe just realized that being here and being loved and having a family is not so bad after all.  I am not saying that the clouds parted and the angels started singing or anything, because he still has his moments.  I also know that true healing is two steps forward and one step back.  I am not naive enough to think that he is all fixed!  But overall, there is light back in his eyes.  And that has put light back in my eyes.  And that put light back in my husband's eyes.  And our little family seems to be back and running on all cylinders.  Amazing. (Now maybe we can stop spending our life's savings on therapists!!!)

After going round and round with the state for months about Miles' age, he will finally get to start early intervention therapy next week.  We've lost a lot of time trying to cut through the red tape, but we kept fighting for it and I can't wait to see how he blossoms with the private therapy for five hours a week.  He will even be getting his own psychologist.  This mama is pumped about that! 

He is doing so much better in the last several weeks with trying to communicate.  We stopped letting him communicate with grunts and screaming.  He knows the words and signs for eat and drink.  So we knew that if he was hungry he had the ability to communicate that to us effectively- no excuses.  I finally had to get hard core.  When he would start standing at the counter and screaming and pointing and going nuts- despite the fact that I knew what he wanted- I refused to give him a snack until he would effectively communicate with words or signs what he wanted. I would completely ignore the undesirable behavior.  At first it seemed cruel to me, but I realized that Miles was thriving on keeping me in a state of chaos.  When I got firm and made it clear that he could not rule by terror, it was amazing how quickly the child learned to say "eat" when he hungry instead of yelling.

We did the same thing with discipline.  For most adopted children, "time outs" make them feel ostracised and like they are being excluded from the family.  That is not at all what we wanted to convey to Miles, but at the same time, the boy needed to know that he could not try to beat up his siblings.  For months, whenever Miles got violent, I would get down on his level, hold his arms down and calmly explain about how we don't hurt other people.  That was stupid, stupid, stupid!  All that Miles got from that was- "if I get a pan out of the cabinet and I beat my brother over the head with it, my mom will pay attention to me!  She will look at me and she will touch me and I will get all kinds of attention!  I'm going to keep doing this!"  I am not sure why that didn't click sooner!  We set up the playpen in the middle of the living room and when Miles would get violent, I picked him up backwards so that we weren't even looking at each other.  I didn't say a word to him.  He got no attention from me. I just placed him in the playpen and walked away. He was in the same room as everyone (so that he was still a part of our family) but he got no positive reinforcement for the behavior.  Amazingly- this tactic only took 3 days of doing until 95% of the violence stopped in our home. 

We are still dealing with the trauma triggers, but the attachment aspect of this crazy journey is getting better every single day. Miles is truly beginning thrive and we are starting to find our groove as a family of five.  Miles is becoming quite the jokester.  He's still the entertainer in every crowd.  He is still the flirt in a room full of women- teenage girls are his specialty. 

That boy is going to do amazing things.  I just know it.  I see his huge smile full of those gleaming white teeth and I am just so grateful for him- just as he is; trauma, hurt, and all.  On his six month's home anniversary, I wrote as my facebook status, "Happy 6 months home, Miles Dieudonne.  We are so glad you are part of our family."  It felt so good to be able to write that and mean it.  It feels so good that for the last month Miles wants me around.  It feels so good that he wants to hug me and that he needs me.  From the first moment I saw him, I knew that he was meant to be my child.  But it feels SO good to finally feel like he is my child.  And you know what? I think he finally feels like he is my child.

Thank you, Jesus, that even though many people, including me, have failed my child- they have not extinguished the desires in his heart to love and be loved.  Thank you for the reminder that even though I fail you miserably over and over again, that you do not give up on me.  Thank you for showing me again what unconditional love is all about.  Amen.

August 15, 2010

Trauma is scary stuff

A couple of weeks ago I put up a teaser that I would tell you about our crazy PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) experience when we went for Miles' MRI of his eyes. (He needed the MRI to check for suspected tumors and degenerative nerve disorders that could be causing his eyelids to be so droopy) But the experience traumatized me so much, that I really wasn't ready to talk about it until now.   I now completely understand how sometimes parents who parent trauma end up experiencing PTSD themselves.  Watching our children have these types of experiences is both horrifying and haunting.

I guess that before I start, I should give a little bit of background about Miles and his PTSD.  I know that lots of you  may not even know what PTSD is.  PTSD is a disabling anxiety disorder in which a person relives a traumatic event (abuse, combat, abandonment, natural disasters) as though it is currently happening.  Kind of like a flashback.  The most common way you may have heard of this is with soldiers coming home from war- like the sound of a helicopter making a Vietnam vet think that he is right back in the jungle fighting for his life.

We are learning what kinds of things trigger Miles. Normally, we try at all costs to avoid those triggers like the plague, but sometimes they just can't be helped.  The day that we went to have the MRI, several triggers collided to create the perfect storm.  It was if Miles slipped into this alternate universe and we could not "unstick" him from that flight or fright mode that put him right back in Africa just trying to survive. It was the worst day we've had since Miles has been home.  Here's a little sample about what a day in the life of parenting trauma looks like... 

For the MRI, Miles was not allowed to eat after midnight the night before.  Hunger is Miles' top PTSD trigger.  He can not even remotely begin to get hungry or he dissolves into a violent little puddle that is ready to do mortal combat just to get a bite to eat.  His MRI appointment was not until 1pm, so that was an extremely long time for the little guy to be hungry.  He stood in front of the kitchen cabinet and screamed bloody murder.  He punched, kicked, tried to off his brother and sister, and beat his head against the cabinet.  There was no reasoning with him.  He looked at me like I was the enemy for witholding food from him.  He came at me like a lion several times.  He begged, he pleaded... and then he shut down.  He just gave up.  He became overwhelmed with how an empty belly felt and he became so gripped with fear that he just became unfuntional.

The second thing that happened is that we took him to the hospital.  Because Miles has been so sickly (malaria, TB, exteme malnutrition, crazy blood levels etc.) he's had to have a lot of medical testing.  He knows that a lot of times this is painful and takes a long time.  He recognizes the front of a doctor's office or hospital and immediately loses it.  He threw himself down on the blacktop of the parking lot and refused to move.  Despite the fact that the child at 2 1/2 years old only weighs 20 pounds, he can make himself feel like a 50 pound sack of potatoes.  Couple that with the hunger, and I had to drag him by his arms into the hospital because if I tried to pick him up, he went into complete kung-fu mode.  Unfortunately, you can't reason with a child that young that he needs to have the testing and that it is actually for his own good.

After dragging him in by his arms, the woman who took Miles back to his room was African American. Miles is scared to death African American women. The darker a woman is, the more terrified he is. When he first came home and we were around black women, he would shake and throw fits. He’s gotten a little better about it recently. He now just closes his eyes when he’s around black women. He doesn’t do any of this with African American men or other black children- just women. So we are led to believe that there is some underlying trauma or abuse that he is not able to verbalize and that causes him to panic around black women.


So not only was Miles hungry and at the doctor, but he was being looked after by a gorgeous black woman. It all just proved to be too much and Miles went on a rampage more severe than anything I’ve ever seen. He started beating his head on the concrete wall over and over again. He climbed up on a chair and threw himself off. He was shrieking and screaming. He was clawing at his skin. He had no regard for the pain he was inflicting on himself. All he knew to do to deal with how overwhelming the situation was was to hurt himself. By this point, several nurses came in to try to help us. I tried several times to pick him up and help him get control of himself. He wouldn’t even let me get within a few feet of him. I thought that maybe it was just because we have had kind of a tumultuous relationship that he just didn’t want me. He never wants me when he’s hurting. So I explained our attatchment issues briefly to the nurses (who were very understanding) and asked them if they could try to hold Miles and calm him down so that he would quit hurting himself. One of the nurses walked over to him. He let her get a lot closer than I’d been able to. She bent down while talking to him very calmly and for a split second, I thought that he was going to let her pick him up. Instead, that tiny little boy reared his arm back and punch her right in the nose with a crazy amount of force for a child his size. I think that it caught her off guard and she stepped back holding her nose. Miles took the fury to another level.

Finally, the nurses had to come into the room with strips of blankets and they cornered him and wrapped him up tight with the blankets with his arms confined down to his sides- like a straight jacket. Then they gave him a tranquilizer and an amnesiac. It didn’t take him long at that point to be knocked out, so they took him back for the MRI.

When they came in to wrap him up- I just had to walk out of the room. I couldn’t take watching my son like that. The only words I can think to describe him in that state is to say that it was like watching a caged animal. His reactions were so primal. It was so heartbreaking because I know that in his former life ( most likely in the 16 months before he got to the orphanage) he probably had to act like that or watch other people act like that just to survive. I saw those nurses walk in with those blankets and tranqualizers and I couldn’t help but flash forward 20 years. I could see my Miles as a grown up being sedated and institutionalized- and it strengthened my resolve to do everything I can to help my child heal. It still blows my mind how much damage can happen to a child psychologically when they are abandoned at such a young age. That loss and the fear that it invokes manifests itself in some strange ways.

Miraculously, they found that anatomically everything is okay with his eyes- no tumors and no nerve disorders. There is still some vision testing that needs to be done, but we are holding off on it for the time being. Blessedly, the amnesiac they gave Miles did its job and he came out of the MRI not remembering a thing. I can’t help but wish there was something that he could be given to help him forget those first two years of life…

Thankfully, most days are not like this and most manifestations of his trauma are not this severe.   Luckily, the days like this are coming less and less.  And when Miles gets in a rut, he doesn't stay there as long as he used to.  There are miles to go, but I see so much progress.  There is hope.

June 23, 2010

Hospitalized

Hi all.  If we are Facebook friends, then you know that Sadie is in the hospital.  This will be her second night there.  After ruling out appendicitis and pancreatitis, she is being treated for severe dehydration from a terrible vomiting bug.  12 hours on IV fluids didn't touch how dehydrated she was.  Her poor tongue was completely white by the time we got to the ER because she just didn't have any extra water in her body.  So we are going for night number two of IV fluids to see if we can get her back to functional.  She is really homesick and wornout.  On the fun side, we got to take a super cool ambulance ride in the middle of the night!  Yippee! (NOT!)  If she can keep these fluids in, she should be able to come home tomorrow.  Be back when my little girl is all better. She is such a trooper! (And she looks so stinkin' cute in her little hospital gown)  I'll post a pic when we're home and settled.

In the mean time- make your reservations for the 2010 Mom's retreat.  We already have 5 very super cool women joining us!  Hope you can make it!

June 20, 2010

The Nature of the Beast

We've known since about 6 weeks after Miles was home that the adjustment was not only not what we expected but also that it was just not normal.  At that 6 weeks home point, it was almost as if something in the poor kid just snapped.  I think that he finally realized that he was here to stay and he panicked.  Then it started to snowball, faster and faster until... we all reached the breaking point. 

Our lives began to revolve around the tantrums.  I began to feel weird about having people over because I wasn't sure how Miles would act toward other kids.  I got nervous taking him to the church nursery.  I felt like I couldn't leave our kids in the same room unsupervised ever and that just wore me all the way out.  People told me he was just trying to test his boundaries.  But my gut was telling me that there was so much more going on than that.  I could feel my sweet, tiny Miles shutting down when we were at home.  He still totally put on a show for strangers and latched on to anyone at the grocery store who would show him an ounce of attention,  but at home, he just turned into someone different.  At home, I found myself saying in my head (and out loud to a few people), "This kid hates me."  Miles seemed to have no problem loving all over my husband. It was just me (and Noah) that he just couldn't handle. (We're the people that he is around all day every day)  And as a mother, that is defeating.  Kids are supposed to love their mothers.  And mothers are supposed to love their children.  That is supposed to just be a given- not something you have to work at every minute of the day.   If you've never had to live with them before, let me tell you- survival behaviors are hard to love and even harder to like.

I wondered where that little boy who just melted into me in Africa had gone.  He had been replaced by a child who genuinely seemed tormented most of the time.  I could still find glimpses of that earlier child, so I knew that we still had hope.  We started researching and going to doctors and adoption experts and finally found out last week that Miles has extreme post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  And he is on the attachment disorder spectrum.  No one is calling it RAD, because he does recognize that we are here to keep him safe and he does seek us out to meet his needs for food- but that is about it.  The PTSD just takes him from a normal kid one minute to a child that needs a straight jacket the next.  We're working on figuring out the triggers for him.  Hunger is a huge one.  Before meals, right when he starts to get hungry, he goes off the deep end.  The hunger takes him right back to a state of fear and chaos.  It is just heartbreaking to watch.

We're still trying to push papers through the state to qualify him for services- which seems to just be taking forever.  The state just can not understand why we don't know our own son's birthday or exact age.  Doctors from 2 different clinics have submitted statements on our behalf about his estimated age, but the state just can't figure out what to do with that.  When we finally get that pushed through, the last clinic we saw suggested that he be therapatized like crazy.  He is a really smart kid, but at 2 1/2- he only has the social/emotional capability of a child less than half his age.  So he's got a lot of catching up and a lot of brain reprogramming to do.

And to add to it, we also found out that Miles has latent tuberculosis.  If you know us in real life, do not panic, it is not contagious.  He will just need to be medicated for 9 months to keep himself from developing active TB.  His first TB tests after coming home were negative.  Malnutrition affects all kinds of blood tests.  When we brought Miles home 4 months ago, he was older than 2 and only weighed 12.5 pounds.  If you are the praying kind of person, please pray that this TB test was the only false negative test that he will have in the coming months when we do more rounds of testing. 

We are also hoping to have some clear discernment about Miles' eyes.  The doctors are suggesting that we have Miles' eyelids tacked up since their droopiness is affecting his vision.  He walks around most of the time with his head tilted back so he can see out the bottom of his eyelids.  I love those sleepy eyes, but I also want my son to be able to see properly.  The surgery is very easy, but is also very painful.  At this point, while he is having so much trouble attaching, I am not sure that putting him through something painful is the right thing to do.  When he had his 2 stitches in his head taken out he wouldn't look at me for days and only let me hold him if a dog was around for a whole week.  I can only imagine how much more intensified that would be with a really painful surgery.  I'm thinking it may be a better idea to just hold off on it for a while.

I do apologize for being such a downer for the last several weeks.  That is not the intention, because I am actually feeling pretty good right now.   But, this blog is an open book about my life and that means taking the good with the bad.  However, now that you know what we are up against in our home, I'll try to keep it positive!

Last week was my first day of having my summer babysitter- which was Amazing with a capital "A".  I laid by the pool all day with my best friend and talked about everything under the sun.  I got burned to a crisp in the hot sun and finally stopped looking like a vampire.  (Next to Miles, though, most everyone looks like a vampire).  The kids did great with the sitter (who is just about the prettiest teenager I've ever seen.  Seriously- she looks like Beyonce before Beyonce started making her hair that crazy shade of blonde.)  So all in all- that whole situation is going to just be glorious.  I felt totally energized by my time away and can't wait to do it again this week.

I also started trying to take better care of myself.  Eating better, coupled with insane amounts of stress have so far resulted in a 15 pound weight loss.  Go me!  My mii on the Wii now only says I'm overweight instead of obese.    Woop Woop!

So see... it's not all bad!  In all things there is HOPE!

**I'm announcing the Mom's retreat for 2010 this week.  Holy cow- I'd love to get away.  Wouldn't you?  Stay tuned for details!**
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