Monday, March 12, 2018

Day 30

Day 30. Wish I knew

In the early hours of the morning, my daughter woke up in her cozy, warm bed, in the room she shares with her brothers who love her deeply (even if they pester each other most of the day). She awoke with a yelp, and immediately began to kick the walls and the edges of her bed. She yelled out in anger as she continued to pummel the walls. As her daddy and I hurried to get her settled down before the whole house was up at an ungodly hour, I remembered that today is exactly two years from when she was woken early in the morning, driven hours in a car, and carried into a government office in the big city. She was sniffling with a cold and from the cold and abruptly placed into my arms- all 20 lbs of her three year old self. She wrenched her eyes shut and pushed her body as far away from be as she could- angry and terrified. The next few weeks, she scowled, cried, screamed, and glared at me- the one who took her away from everything she had ever known.Hearts have changed in these two years, she is not the same angry child that we met two years ago. As I am flooded with facebook memories and reminders of those early days, I wish I knew a lot of things that I know now. And I’m thankful I didn’t know some of the things I know now too. I wish I knew that her hatred of me was truly temporary. I’m thankful for the middle of the night, tear-soaked pillow case prayers where I came to understand the gravity of saying yes to adoption. That even if *she* never accepted me as mom, that’s what God had chosen for me and I would continue to offer my heart to her irregardless. I needed that chance to face the worse case scenario and choose one way or another, but it would have been nice to know that somehow things would turn out ok. I wish I had the confidence in those dark, early days that the life we had given our daughter was truly better despite the seemingly insurmountable grief she experienced. I wish I knew that the rages, anger, and grief were not directed at me. I wish I knew to invest in noise cancelling headphones much sooner. I wish I knew just how awesome our kids at home would handle everything. How they have turned into truly amazing little souls who care about others and emphasize with kids who are different than themselves. I wish I listened to experienced adoptive moms who warned me that adding a child through adoption would refine me-but that it would be painful. I wish I knew that God would break me, piece me back together, but that He wouldn’t necessarily smooth out all the rough edges or fill all the cracks. I wish I discovered and accepted much sooner how beautiful cracks and rough edges can be. And I wish I could have seen just a glimpse during those truly hard moments of beautiful our family would turn out to be. Family photos may never catch all of us smiling at the same time but they show the love we have for each other and the awe we still possess that God used our one small yes to create something so amazing.

Day 29

Day 29. Best Resource

I am a HUGE advocate for being trauma informed and specifically being trained in Trust Based Relational Intervention as an adoptive parent. If you’ve never heard of these things, go now! Look up Karen Purvis, read The Connected Child, thank me later.

But when thinking of the best resource, I keep coming back to each other. We are each other’s best resource. The adoptive parents who have answered my questions, listened to my rants, given encouragement at the exact right time in the exact right way- you just can’t get that from a book or even a therapist. It is crowd sourcing at its best-especially if you join the online adoption community. And I’d like to expand that to include other parents- those who have experience in the world of special needs but may not have adopted. There aren’t classes or books out there on how to go to an IEP meeting or how to handle your child’s unique strain of developmental trauma. But there are other parents who are walking the same line and I’ve found the best resources to come from these fellow travelers. I can’t imagine going into adoption or special needs parenting without a community. I do imagine those who choose solitude don’t fare very well. We need each other. The help I’ve received has spurred on a desire to give back and pay it forward in any way I can. It’s a big motivator for my participation in this month long writing challenge. If through one of my posts, one person is encouraged that they are not alone in this journey, then I will count that as a great success.

I love receiving Facebook messages and emails from parents just starting their adoption journey or newly home. I love meeting these souls face to face even more at conferences and meet ups. And I have a cherished tribe of moms with whom I text/message/cry/laugh/etc with that just *get it.* I am so much more richer for the friends I’ve made since bringing our daughter home and I am forever grateful for this treasure of a resource we have in each other. Need a friend? Send me a message!

#knittogetherbyadoption #wecouldhavemissedthis#NationalAdoptionMonth

Day 27

Day 27-Myth

"Love is all you need"

If only that were true... While we could slice and dice words to define love here to make that statement true, let me just speak from my experience that what I thought was love, was not enough. Not enough to heal, not enough to connect, not enough to make everything OK. There were big, blaringly obvious things like feeding therapy and doctor appointments, speech pathologists, and an IEP team... And many of them do their job in love and I suppose as Mila's parent advocating for her, you could say that was love. But planning extra cuddles and never forgetting good night kisses couldn't replace my daughter needing an OT to help her overcome feeding challenges. Or weekly speech therapy appointments.

Even without the obvious things, I quickly came to the realization that my love alone would not connect her to our family or heal her hurts. And even if it could, there were many times where my love simply ran out. One can only take being hit with a shoe while driving so many times before a little resentment creeps in.

The mantra that gets repeated is 'fake it til you make it.' I love/hate this. I love it because it recognizes that having loving feelings toward your new child is not always instant and unconditional. If you're an adoptive parent reading this and struggling with So. Much. Guilt - you are not alone. It will get better. But the 'it' might be different than you think. Through my 'faking it til I make it' journey I've realized that I suddenly didn't wake up with lovey dovey feelings for my new daughter but that my perspective on love had changed significantly. I do love her. Deeply and fiercely. And I struggle with her behaviors and personality a lot. My struggle has highlighted my need for God's grace and forgiveness in my own life-which makes it more natural to extend that to my daughter... And love her in that way. So my adoption myth is that My love is not all she needs... My love falls short every time and pales in comparison to the grandiose love of our good Father who heals and redeems. That's what she needs and really, that's what we all need.

Day 25

Day 25. Breathing

Breathe in.
The noise, the hurt, the hard.
Breathe out.
You're safe, I'm here, I want to help. Breathe in.
The fear, the confusion, can she trust us? Breathe out.
We’re here together, let me help you. Breathe in.
Listen to those breaths, feel the weight of your body down through your feet, can you count to ten?
Breathe out.
That's right, come back to me, we can be calm together.

We breathe in and out, I'll trade my calm for your chaos and one day, we will both be the better for it. But for now, one breathe at a time.

Day 24

Day 24 Failures

Mom Fail! Letting your tiny daughter ride her balance bike down a hill at full speed, knowing full well she is the baby version of Evel Knievel without the high success landing rate. I've had a lot of mom fails and failures in general…but I guess we all have. We practice Connected Parenting with our kids-for the hope it offers to kids with a trauma background and the outcomes we've experienced first hand. And while we are intentional and try really hard to be attuned to our kids needs, especially when they are experiencing big feelings, we still fail some times. They say securely attached children have parents who are attuned to their needs 33% of the time. That apparently is ‘good enough.’ And while the overachiever in me never wants to settle for being a good enough parent, this number gives me a lot of comfort. I fail. A lot. Maybe even 2/3rds of the time. The key component to surviving this failure rate is what they call rupture and repair. We, the parents, are triggered, lose control, and don't respond how we should in the moment. But we have a second chance to repair what has been broken and reconnect with our child. More actual benefit comes to the relationship from rupture and repair than from never rupturing in the first place. Connected Parenting has the science to back all this up but I also have a track record with the King of second chances. Isn't that the hope of redemption? Countless second chances we've been given at the cross. My relationship with the God of creation is filled with my failures blocking the way. But through the redemption of the cross I am restored and reconnected. What a reminder we are given as we strive to connect with our children and experience failure - theirs or our own-that amazing grace is offered- how sweet the sound!

Day 23

Day 23-Holidays

We are quickly approaching the anniversary of our adoption day. My husband and I boarded a plane early on Thanksgiving morning two years ago and returned home a few weeks before Christmas with a new child. The holidays that year were different than years past but precious. And I'm sure partly remembered through a rose-colored, jet-lagged haze. I will always remember picking out our Christmas tree as the first time my little girl reached for my hand. And the photos of our kiddos unwrapping their presents that year - though there was nothing extravagant in the gifts themselves, scream abundance and grace-our whole family under one roof finally.

And this year as we've gotten a taste of the dreaded ‘traumaversary’-the increase in trauma-driven behaviors around a certain date or holiday (or in our case, both)-we are faced with a choice. We can muscle our way through, leaving a destructive path of anger, hurt feelings, and possibly more trauma as we attempt to make it on our own. Or we can remember that abundance and grace of our first holiday together as a family. And in the remembering, cultivate hearts of gratitude for the fact that we get to do this together. God has woven our family together, purposefully and with intention. He has equipped us especially for this work and yet He has called us to places of deeper dependency on Him to do it. I am forever in awe of the good things our God has done and is doing in our lived - so many of them because of adoption. This Thanksgiving I am pausing to be grateful for this 'grace' work - and the little people He uses to change me into who He intended.

Day 17

Day 17. Needs

I was sure this post was going to be about special needs, IEPs, and how to survive unreasonable expectations of your kid. And then I attended ‘Indian Day’ with my daughter’s TK class and watched her hold her friend’s hand as they moved between centers, learning about buffalos and grinding corn. She stayed with her class, participated in all the activities, sampled the cranberry sauce- all without an aid and with minimal redirection. I was very proud. And then we got home and the morning caught up to us. She worked so hard following directions, staying in control of her body and brain, and being a good student that as soon as she came HOME, she fell apart. I won’t go into the specifics of what that looks like for her privacy, but this is one of her- and I dare say many kids with trauma- greatest needs. The ability to cope with stressful situations (even good situations that are different or exciting can still be stressful) and self regulate when her brain or body seems to be going out of control.

I am no expert on this. But I am becoming an expert on what helps my daughter. If you’ve been following along, you might recall that we are going through a tricky ‘traumaversary’ right now and dealing with defiant behaviors and ramped up emotions surrounding the anniversary of my daughter’s adoption. Today, as she fell apart after a very fun and over stimulating morning I knew I had to put away my frustration and exasperation to help her through this. But my presence lately is triggering even more escalation in her. So we had a talk- “I want to help you. When you can, please tell me what you need right now.” This conversation looked completely one-sided and maybe she couldn’t hear me, but I said it for me, as a reminder that it was MY job right now to help her ‘co regulate’ and meet her needs. And I knew what she needed- I just wasn’t sure she was in a place to accept it from me. After a few minutes and a little space, she sat in our hallway-not yelling. That was my cue. I brought her a water bottle, a small peanut butter sandwich, and some sensory toys. And I backed away slowly. And a few minutes later, she carried her treasures over to me and began to play quietly.

Her needs may look differently than other kids. Today it looked like hydration, protein, and a heavy bag of colored rocks to sort out. Her need was physical- hunger and thirst- but also emotional. The weight of the rocks provided heavy sensory input, sorting them allowed her rational brain to engage and start working again.

Our kids are like puzzles. Especially our kids without a great start to life. It’s our job as the parent to piece these puzzles together as best we can. Need meeting builds trust. Trust builds attachment. Attachment is fundamental to health- physical, mental, and spiritual. Meet the need, find a way.#knittogetherbyadoption #wecouldhavemissedthis#NationalAdoptionMonth