Saturday, May 19, 2012

To Whom it may concern,

Dear Neighbor,Aunt, Uncle or even Grandparent, well meaning friend, or church congregation member.
Dear Check out lady, School Parent,Therapist, or regular Joe or Jane off the street,

If we have met, or haven't. If you feel you know me, or knew me, or just first glimpsed me for the first time today, you do not know this burden I am carrying. You can not begin to understand or see the weight of what is my life and responsibility you can not feel that which is the weight of everything that I do, say, speak and breathe.  And that is not your fault, because silly me, I don't trust you to handle it, understand it or accept truly the reality in which we balance everything on.

You see my child has Reactive Attachment Disorder. You can google it. You can read books about it,there are even fabulous you tube video's out there that will scare the crap out of you if you have the time...however, if you don't live with it, if your everyday in not affected by the amount of energy it simply takes to get through a day, then please I ask one thing. The benefit of doubt.

Let me give you an example:
Today a family might have gardened together,  worked hard in their yard, with everyone collaborating and working together. Sure there were squabbles that were dealt with therapeutically, granted these squabbles probably to the outside world would seem "normal", had they not happened nine thousand times....but were redirected and got though the day successfully, with the reward for going out for Ice Cream.

Tonight , after Dinner, baths, pajamas's, might be loaded with the crew of children going out for small courtesy cones, through a drive through.
One very bright child might make sure they were front and center in the back seat , therefore the one that would be asked to hand out the cones. Noting that the mother would be sure to assign the cones by name as she passed them back to be handed out.
Said child might not like that, specifically now they did not get to control of whom got which cone. As they noted the cone they considered the biggest be handed to someone else (they ALL were the same size) a freak out and shut down occurred....
A well adjusted child you may say , might get weepy, or perturbed, or pout, they might even  be "difficult:", a child with a trauma background however, might unbuckle their seat belt, start wailing at the top of their lungs, lose their Ice Cream due to unsafe practices, try to bite and claw their Mother while car is in transit, have the car pulled over, and walk 8 blocks screaming , while mother follows close by, and Father and other children quietly wait in the car for the storm to calm.

As the mother calmly steers the child out of traffic, and off peoples lawns, well meaning adults will show concern for the child. Wondering what on earth that parent might have done...and they collect across the street and watch as the child hits, spits, screams, wails and is eventually gently held, to be kept from hurting the mother. This may take 45 minutes, in a random neighborhood , while you, a well meaning citizen watches.

If you were watching long enough, you would watch the mother calmly saying gentle soothing words, you would observe the mother mimicking deep breaths and possibly even tapping on the child's forehead and hands. You will see the same woman who minutes before was being kicked, bitten, and spit on embracing and calming the very child whom you thought she was abusing. 
The VERY child you thought she was abusing.

Dear Neighbor,Aunt, Uncle or even Grandparent, well meaning friend, or church congregation member.
Dear Check out lady, School Parent,Therapist, or regular Joe or Jane off the street,

This child, this very one is the one you think is so very adorable and charming.
This very child is the one that the mother is concerned for and tries to warn you, keep boundaries for that seem way to harsh. This child, is broken.  Though you don't see it, because you only get to see those very small parts of them they trust you with, I as their mother, or primary caregiver am privy to ALL of it.

When you see me, I may seem worn out, over conscious, a "helicopter parent", but understand, this is not who I want to be. This is who and what I must be, so that I can keep my child safe. Because lurking any moment, second to second could be something to trigger my child, and as much as I wish I could depend on you, or someone else for help, my child first needs to learn how to trust,depend and allow me to help them, or they never will be able to trust anyone. Or they never will be able to trust anyone.

Today may be a small example of what my days are filled with, a very fine dance between regulation and dis-regulation. It takes very little things for some children to be thrown off for days. As my children heal, it takes deeper things to set them off, the rages and tantrums may last less amounts of time. I may see days strung in a row of "good days", but, just like anything that needs to be healed, time is the most crucial of factors, time, patience and understanding of the obstacles at hand.

Please trust me, if you want to help, ask to help me, not my child, my child does not need you, they need me, me at my healthiest, me on my game, me not worn out. If you can help me with that, offering meals, driving other children to activities.If you come upon me in a parking lot holding a screaming child, offer to help buckle other children in a car-seat, or if there is anyone you could call for help. Please trust me, please don't judge me, gossip about me, or try to give me advice. I am dedicated to helping my child heal. Everyday I sacrifice something, a piece of myself to this child in hope of their healing, because I have hope, that someday I might just reach them. There is no perfect formula, no drug , no time span that will predict when and if they will ever be your definition of "O.K." or "normal". But I am not giving up, not today, and not tomorrow....I am hoping not ever, but again I am taking it day by day.

Please if anything, just by reading my letter, know I am doing the best I can. The way I am loving and parenting my child you may not understand, and that is O.K., I pray you will never know the heart ache and the necessity by which I do 99% of the things that I do.
Please have patience with me and my child. Pray for us, send us loving thoughts, most of all give me the benefit of doubt, I am doing very difficult things with so very much love.

That crazy barefoot lady you watched walk 9 blocks with the screaming Haitian child in Tinkerbell pajamas

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Mothers

I would like to talk about another, considered ‘taboo’ adoption topic.

Gasp, I know, from the girl who NEVER , breaches taboo things in adoption.

I want to talk about ‘first mothers’.
If you have adopted, there is a woman, somewhere, alive or dead that was your child's source of life. She was there first mother.
Our children did not appear. They were not born out of a file cabinet. They were carried, grown and given life, there fore have history with someone else.

This may be a source of pain for you. It may be a source of anger, sadness, loss that you were not the one to do this for your child. There may be resentment for trauma’s your child experienced, or gratitude’s for a choice that was made in selflessness that allowed your child into your arms. Whatever the case, she is part of your family.
Do you hate me for saying that? Because I am going to say it again, if you have adopted, whether she is alive or dead, known, or faceless, your child’s first mother is part of your family.

There are eight women that twice a year, on my children’s birthday’s and on Mothers Day I consider, love on, forgive, and send gratitude to. Ultimately, regardless of anything else, she chose to give my child life.

In the last month, I also have been on the opposite side of this choice. Someone I am  close to, someone that I love with all the depth of my heart, made “the other decision” to end the possibility of life. And I walked this path with her. My soul ached, my understanding of her circumstances and complete inability to parent, or even carry life, when her life was too much to handle on a daily basis was met with love and acceptance.
and tears, loads and loads of tears. What I can say, is until you are staring this decision directly in the face, when you are walking a path between terrible, and beyond hell. Your perspective changes, and unless you want to be buried in sorrow, you chose love. You choose love, when that is all that is left.

and so knowing and breathing and living all of this. I also choose to see the beauty of these eight woman, that are an intricate part of who my children are, she is carried in my children’s walks, the depth of their eyes,  the cadence of their laugh, the hiccups in their crys, the eye brow tilt when they frown, and the laugh lines when they smile.

All eight women, some I have never met. Some have passed on. Some I too have parented for a time, some I have hugged and ached with as I walked away from her holding her child.
Some I have had to forgive. Some I have tender understanding for her circumstance and a choice she made in fear, poverty, situation and even abuse. Some I have given names to for my child, whom stories remain a mystery.

Regardless, I have chosen to love her.
And it is not , I repeat NOT an easy thing to do.
But what I have learned, in all of my children’s stories is one thing. She means something to them. There is a part of them that misses her, wants her, and identifies that they were once a part of her. Loving our children’s first mothers, is accepting ALL of our children.

We don’t have to love every piece of them, nooooooooooo. BUT, what our children hear and perceive about our feelings towards their first mothers, is a direct correlation on how they think we feel about them. It’s truth, they do. They can be angry at her, they can even hate her. And that is O.K….
But when your child gets on that bandwagon. Do not jump on. Even if you really want to.
Maybe they are wondering if you believe all of those terrible things about them?
Maybe they are testing you in your acceptance; maybe they really do what you to jump on, but then will feel defensive, or worse judged themselves when you do.
Supporting them in their anger, and joining them are two separate things.


“I am so
MAD at Carla for not loving me enough to keep me, she sucks, I don’t ever want to see her again.”

“I hear that you are so angry, and maybe a little hurt, and that is great you can share that with me”

“Do you HATE her too”

“No, baby, I don’t, because I know she was doing the best she could, and maybe it isn’t my best, or even your best, but I do know, she loved you enough to give you life, and I was lucky enough to be here when she couldn’t…so you know…I kinda love her, and feel sad for her too.”

So on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do ya’ll hate me right now?
I hope even in the worst of circumstances, (and yes out of 8 adoptions I have those too)…you have maybe tweaked your thinking a little. If not, that is O.K. too, you can go ahead and tell me to shut my yapper. I will still love you.

As Mothers Day comes, a day fraught with so many big feelings, and ghosts of Mothers past. Why not give yourself a small healing gift, and let go of some of that hurt, hate, resentment or even indifference, and for a minute even half a second, send all of those first mothers some love.

Happy Mothers Day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When our children hurt us.

As relationships go, it’s a given. If you are capable of loving, and building a relationship with someone, there is vulnerability to be hurt as well.

As parents of hurt kids, we all are deeply aware of this. The fine line we walk, the dance we do, to gently help our kids take down their walls, and heal, while building a relationship.

But what about our walls?

What about when they hurt us?

Just like our children, we try to develop these thick skins so their words, and actions and pure rejection of us, do not break us….but sometimes (a lot of times) they are successful.

and then we feel like we failed.
But, did we?

The theory that really we all operate out of two feelings, FEAR and LOVE speaks true to me. When my kids hurt me, emotionally or even physically, my deepest fear is “they will NEVER get better.”

When my kids steal or break or throw away things that have value, and importance to me, my emotions kick out “They don’t love me and are trying to hurt me.”

and I do get mad/sad/hurt/rejected/pissed/livid/devastated/. I do.

I just returned from a weekend get away.
Much is happening that beyond breaks my heart with Papillion and the life choices she continues to make for herself, as I stand ready and available to love her despite all of it.
As I return I am met with a clean bathroom, and all of my jewelry messed with.
Out of each matching pair of earrings, one has gone missing, many I have had for years, heirlooms, thrift store gems, my grandmothers costume jewelry, items bought in moments for remembrance. Gone. All of my rings, including my wedding ring, have gone missing as well.

I went to find the child responsible. As I told her my feelings and sadness…she shared that I was hurting HER feelings. In that moment I was selfish, and let her know, “NO, child, in this moment these feelings are mine, in this moment, I am worthy in my anger and sadness and disappointment, I
GET TO BE MAD, I GET TO BE HURT, you get to see the result of this, and know, I will still love you, I will still keep you, but NO, right this moment is not about your feelings.”

Afterward, I questioned myself, as she raged and slammed doors, I wondered how I could have dealt with that better, more therapeutically…and then I realized.,,

Sometimes this human stuff, where we get to show our hurt, our vulnerability, the reality of the consequences of what they do, in a non violent, safe way, is O.K. too.
This too is modeling safe ways to show hurt, and disappointment. This too is good.

And as I stared at the ceiling after numbly lying on my bed and letting the tears leak out, I allowed myself to feel the loss, and sadness and hurt….