Real emotion

Well, the good news is that no one has thrown-up today and for the most part everyone is feeling better. To prove it, no movies have been viewed and it's now nearly two pm. The bad news? Yesterday evening G. starts pulling on her ear and writhing about, yelling, "Owie! Owie! It hurts! It hurts!" over and over. Yes, folks, we now have some ear infections. Three to be exact. G. has one ear that is infected and L. has both ears infected. I got to drag my healthy self (that would be the satirical use of healthy) along with two unhappy girls to the doctor first thing this morning. (I will save my rant about the idiocy of having to do this... I'm sure you can figure it out on your own.) With medicine, they both should be feeling better by tomorrow. I'm hoping that it will also be the end of this little household pandemic.

But I don't really want to talk (more) about our current ill health. Through all this H. continues to recover from surgery and I've been watching her carefully to be sure she isn't coming down with whatever was going around. (We did that after her surgery in November and it was not fun.) She hasn't seemed to succumb, but she still hasn't been a happy camper. I don't blame her. There was a lot that was moved around on her head and she has dozens and dozens of stitches running every which way. I would be quite unpleasant to deal with if it were me, so all things considered, she is doing quite well. But compared to past surgeries, she seems to be slower to recover. I don't think that it has anything to do with the surgery, but instead has to do with her own ability to show discomfort and emotion.

When she had her first surgery with us, she seemed to bounce back fairly quickly and even though I asked over and over, she insisted that she had no pain. I couldn't quite believe that was the case and gave her pain-reliever anyway. I'm glad I did, because I think she was probably in significant pain, but was afraid to tell us. She was actually afraid to be anything but happy... or to be perceived as being happy.

Over the past three years, H. has done a lot of learning. She has watched her noisy brothers and sisters (particularly two little sisters) vociferously voice all manner of emotions... happy, sad, angry, annoyed, scared... and seen them be loved by Mommy and Daddy through it all. About a year ago, there were a few instances where H. sobbed and then spent days processing. I was asked over and over, "Do Mommy and Daddy still love you even if you cry?" I cannot tell you how heart-rending it is to have your child need to ask this question. Once she had asked me for a couple of months, she moved onto other people. At one point, M. mentioned to me that she was receiving the same question. It was as though H. was becoming a little scientist and testing her hypothesis in multiple settings.

We had another moment earlier this fall where, for the first time, she was able to express anger. I had been pushing her a bit while we we doing schoolwork and she had an actual burst of temper. When I said that it was OK and that I still loved her, she burst into huge sobbing tears, the likes of which we had never seen before, which lasted for a long time. It was as though she was venting years of pent-up emotion. We had weeks following that where she kept asking, "Do Mommy and Daddy still love you when you angry? Do Mommy and Daddy still love you when you sad?"

This has been the emotional work that H. has been doing. She is still hesitant to show she is sad or upset, but we now can see that there is something up and ask. Before, it was happy, happy, happy all the time with no indication of what was going on underneath. When we ask, she is also more freely admitting that she is upset, and often she can tell us what is upsetting her. Sometimes she misses 'her China'. Sometimes she is sad that she can't do something the other children can do. Sometimes it turns out that she doesn't feel well, but still didn't feel safe enough to share that right away.

So back to the recovery from this surgery. I think for the first time we are actually seeing a glimpse of the pain in recovery for her. For the first time she feels secure enough to let even a little of what she is feeling show through. It is hard. It is hard to watch your child be in pain and it is hard to know that they must have been in pain before and you had no idea; guessing only works so well. It is hard to imagine what her life must have been like to create a child who is so afraid of showing pain or sadness that she has to hide it at great cost.

I will be glad when our sunshiney H. is back, but in the meantime I will be glad that she feels safer and can show that she hurts and is sad.

No Bohns About It


Mama Bear said…
Our boy does the same thing. He is getting better at showing a range of emotions, but we can still see his fear of truly expressing himself. He is at the stage now where he will show us he is upset but refuse to acknowledge it. But it is progress. Thanks for sharing your story!

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