I had posted on a group of adoptive mothers last night that it had been a rotten evening and that I was at the point (again) of feeling as if we would never make progress with our son and that I had lost hope of experiencing a better existence with this child. Being in the place of feeling no hope is a miserable place to be. One of the other mothers wrote that 'these are the moments that we ask God to give us courage to get up in the morning... and He does." I love the phrase 'the courage to get up in the morning' because that is really what it is sometimes. A courageous act. And it can be tiring. This morning things are better, but I won't lie, I long for the day that I don't feel the need to hold my breath until I can discern what kind of attitude will confront me.
A friend recommended the book, Wounded Children Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families. As unbelievable as it may seem, this was a book on trauma and adoption that I had missed. I liked it, though I find it a bit unbelievable that a book written in 2009 doesn't mention homeschooling even once in the chapter on how to navigate school with a child coming from trauma. But aside from that, what I liked most were the descriptions of what life is like for families who bring these children into their homes. In my opinion, there is not nearly enough education about what to expect and it ends up catching too many parents off guard. I would say that all children who are adopted have experienced some sort of trauma just because of the magnitude of the loss of biological parents, and there is no way to predict if that child's behavior will be adversely affected. If the child's behavior is adversely affected, you can be sure the adoptive family will be adversely affected as well. Parents need to know this up front.
Too many people are unprepared for the possibility. "Many adoptive parents find themselves in an unfamiliar place. They perhaps have had parenting experience, but only parenting nontraumatized children. They have not cared for children who lack extreme impulse control and who have problems with boundaries, oppositional behavior, difficulty expressing emotions, and so on. They are at a time and place in their lives they have never been. It has stopped feeling good, and they do not like what they are becoming." (pp. 77-78) I found this true for us. We knew how to parent an emotionally healthy child, but were completely unprepared for a traumatized one.
And it is a challenging road. "...adoptive parents identified challenging effects they have experienced as they parent traumatized children. Frustration, which was the major effect named by many adoptive parents, comes because of three major deficits: (1) lack of validation as being the parent of their child, (2) lack of understanding about the difficulties they are living with, and (3) lack of support." (p. 82)
I would add to that list, frustration with knowing whether what you're doing is helping or not or is it ever going to get better or actually knowing anything. While more and more is being discovered about how the brain works and how to help people who have experienced trauma, it is still pretty much unknown territory. It's not easy.
I also think some of this frustration we inadvertently bring on ourselves a bit, mainly because there is a whole lot of shame that goes on as well. We are hesitant to share what life is really like sometimes because we fear people's reactions... that they'll think us poor parents, that they will think less of our child, that we will be shunned in some way, that it will be our fault another child without parents will stay in that condition because we scared someone away with our truth. But unless we are willing to share, even a little, there is no way that another person who has not lived it can even hope to understand. Or even understand that there is something understand.
This description really hit home with me. "One adoptive mother stated, "It is like living with a walking time bomb. I don't know who might be getting up in the morning. Will quiet, calm Jackie be getting up, or will it be angry, aggressive Jackie? Even if quiet Jackie gets up, I still feel like I am walking on eggshells all because I don't know just how long her good mood will last. As a result of this uncertainty, I don't know sometimes how to plan my day. Should I meet other adoptive mom friends in the park for a play day? Or will it collapse into what happened last time? What about going to the mall? I think that sounds like a good idea, until I remembered what happened last time we all tried to go together. It just wasn't worth the effort." (p. 83)
While I understand that many parents feel lack of support (even if they try to describe to friends what their reality is, they are brushed off as being a downer or making it up), I have to say that while this week has been not great, I have felt so supported by my friends. I even had one friend show up this morning with dinner for tonight completely unannounced. I get kind of weepy just typing that. I've had friends insist that they take me out to dinner as a treat. I've had fellow church members come up to me and say they couldn't sleep and had spent the night praying for my family. It is humbling... and wonderful.
This is probably the worst post in the world to remind you about Brandi...
This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.