TM has been home for 1 1/2 years as of yesterday. (We don't count from the day of the Giving and Receiving Ceremony, but from the day we arrived home. The day of the G&R was for TM probably one of the most traumatic of his short life and we don't need to commemorate it.) I've been thinking a lot about the past 18 months and I am astounded at where we are and how far we've come. To think that 18 months ago we brought home a little boy who had an amount of anger that I have never seen and now have a loving, funny son who is definitely an integral part of our family. Eighteen months ago, we spent way too long on an airplane where we took turns trying to keep TM in his seatbelt while at the same time tried to avoid his teeth and nails. We were all bruised and battered and the plane ride didn't help. How would this child fit into our family? What had we done? How would he react to his new brothers and sisters? Had we ruined our family? Would he ever love us...would we ever love him? These were all questions which consumed us on the trip home and for which we had no answers. We could only forge ahead on faith. We had chosen this path because it was the path we felt God called us to, but, boy, it didn't look as we expected it to.
Arriving home and seeing our other children was wonderful beyond words. They immediately welcomed TM and accepted him, quirks and all. To them, he was just another playmate, albeit a somewhat unpredictable one in those early days. TM was much more comfortable with his new siblings. This type of relationship didn't have the same emotional hazards for him and he was able to relax with each of them much sooner than his new parents. J and I were a different story. We were his third set of parents and his fourth placement in less than four years. TM had loved several mothers and fathers already, and the bottom line, in his experience, was that the people you love go away. He did his best in those early days not to love us. I can't blame him, but it is very difficult to try to love and be a mother to a child who refuses to love you. I know I've said it before, but the single most important thing I've learned from this is that love is not an emotion. Love is how you treat someone regardless of how that person treats you. It is a conscious, deliberate act. Those first months, and not just one or two, but more like 7,8, or 9, were hard. It continued to get easier as we went along, but, really, it was just hard.
So where are we today? I can honestly say I love my son and that he loves me. To look back at where we were and to see where we are today, nothing short of a miracle has occured. I no longer feel as though I'm walking on eggshells in all my interactions with him. I am so much more relaxed. We can enjoy each other. But the biggest accomplishment is that I believe TM feels safe with me now. When he first came home and for many months after, when he would get upset in the night he would lie in bed and cry softly to himself. Now, he either calls or just comes and climbs into our bed. It was so wonderful to wake up in the middle of the night not long ago, and realize I had no room because TM was sprawled all over me. That is something I would have never dared dream would happen 18 months ago.
We still have some hurdles to go. Now that I have become safe to TM, we are seeing some attachment issues between him and J. But now, unlike earlier, I have every confidence that it will right itself in time. TM still deals with some anxiety over certain things...suitcases and trips remain at the top of the list...but we know what to look for and have developed ways to help him cope a bit better. The real test will be when we (finally) travel to Vietnam. The long wait to travel has certainly been a very positive thing for TM. He has done an extraordinary amount of healing in the past months.
As to our current adoption...we still have no news, but I am at a much better place than when I last posted. Thanks to everyone for their prayers and encouragment.