Tuesday, January 27, 2009

building attachment

This is the account (from the book "Becoming a Family" by Lark Eshleman) of an adoptive mom and her 2 year old daughter who she adopted at age 11 months. It is an excellent description about the kinds of thoughts and emotions that plague children who have been abandoned or experienced abuse, even after they are in stable, loving environments. I really appreciated this mom's perspective and her honesty in this account.

"The pressure has been building and, in a moment, the rupture happens. My daughter breaks a rule, makes a mistake, and thinks both her mother and the world are unfair. She feels the shame, she fears the reaction, and to cover the pain she screams at me in rage. And I am angry. I feel the sting.
What do I do now? Should I send her to her room, shun her briefly, make her feel the pain of isolation so she will know that this behavior is unacceptable? Will this motivate her to obedience? If I am an audience for this attack of rage, will I reinforce the behavior? I have been taught this parenting tool, this so-called "time out". Indeed, I am supposed to be an expert.
I need only look into my daughter's eyes to know that the pain she is experiencing right now is already excruciating. I can feel no desire to rub salt into her wounds with additional punishment. This seemingly small event has sent her into a downward spiral of shame. She is afraid she is unacceptable to me. She slides back to the infantile core memory of the loss of her birth mother and of her foster mother. She thought she would die then; it was a realistic fear. She carries that fear forward to this moment. She feels herself start to disintegrate, like she will cease to exist. The panic, the grieving, the rage so powerful to her that she fears the feelings will sweep her away and tear her apart, never to return to this world.
What do I want my child to learn in this moment? If I send her to her room, she will not die. She will get over it. But at what expense? She will believe that I have sent her away because she is unacceptable to me. Or because her feelings are to big for me and I, too, am afraid of them. She will stuff all those feelings into some dark crevice of her soul. She will try to convince herself that she doesn't really need me. She will add one more concrete barrier around her heart, another lace of barbed wire. This is not what I want for my child.
I tell her that she has made a mistake, and to try to not make this mistake again. Then I sweep her up in my arms and hold her tight and close. I tell her that I love her and need to hold her until we both feel better. She rages against my embrace. I am restraining her, holding her against her will. It takes all my strength to contain her. We are both drenched with sweat. But I am calm and my determination is unwavering. The rage is eventually followed by grieving, and then finally by calm. We snuggle and whisper and giggle, and all is well in the world again. We are connected, our souls touching. And this is what my daughter learns: "I will hold you for as long as it takes. Though you would cut me with the razor shards of your shattered soul, I will sweep up the pieces and be the glue that holds you together. I will be your lifeboat and we will ride the waves of your rage and panic and pain together. Your feelings do not scare me. I will help you with them. I will not abandon you. I am your mother. I am powerful, unwavering, permanent and safe. My love is unconditional."
Afterwards, my daughter is calm, centered and obedient. She follows the rules because she wants to. She knows she is safe and loved. We Quakers have an expression about holding. When someone is hurting or in need, we "hold them in the Light." This is how I hold my daughter in the Light. This is my direct experience with God."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

how it all started

i started this blog in order to have a place for friends and family to check in and get info on our adoption process all in one place. but i've ended up using it like a journal and neglected to write about the actual process! so, here it goes....

i met the boys when i went on a short term mission trip with a group of women through forward edge international. my friend katie, who is the wife of one of ian's co-workers, was the leader of this women's bible study group. though i was not a part of the group she decided to call and invite me to come along anyway. i was surprised and didn't know what to think, it was so out of the blue. ian immediately thought i should go and normally i would jump at the chance to go on a mission trip but we were aggressively trying to pay down our debt and the thought of putting a big chunk of moola into something freaked me out. through prayer and time, God made it obvious to me that His plan at that point was for me to go on this trip and for just a small amount of time put paying off the debt on hold. so, i agreed to go.

it was an AMAZING trip in so many ways. i fell in love with the country, the people, the language, the food, (ok, i was already in love with those two) and the women i was on the trip with. only 3 of which i knew before i went. one of the places we went to serve at was an orphanage called vida nueva-new life. there i met steven. i walked in the front door, smiled at him in his pack 'n' play and said 'hola'. he responded by throwing himself down and crying. not one who takes to strangers readily! it wasn't until a little later once i had had the chance to try to get through his anxiety and fear by talking and playing with him and then saw him holding hands with another little girl, smiling so wide and walking around the play area, that the falling started.
we had some really sweet moments together and i saw his mischievousness, his beautiful smile and laugh and his love of cuddles and tickles. i found out he had two older brothers and went in search of them before we left. i met carlos in the backyard playing on swings. i was struck by his politeness and empathy. i was pushing another boy on a swing and then started to push carlos too. he said: 'i can do it myself' but not in that way-you know the way. :) and then he said-'but thank you for pushing me!' i was shocked! i've been around enough young'uns to know how that scenario usually plays out. so, the middle brother had my heart too.

that night i couldn't stop thinking about them. i was so confused and surprised-this was not what i came down here for and i never before understood what it would be like to be in a house full of needy children and be able to know, without a doubt, which ones were meant to be yours. it was all so crazy so i prayed and prayed. the next time we saw them we went to a mall to play and eat. i was in charge of steven and got to sit next to carlos and giovanni on the bus. steven was scared and gio rubbed his back saying 'shhhh, shhhh' to calm him. it was so incredibly sweet and the oldest had my heart then too.

it is such a difficult thing to try to explain. people have asked: 'how did you know?' and i can't answer it in a way that really makes sense. i guess it can be compared to when you 'just know' the one you are to marry.

as soon as we were back in america i called ian and said: 'we are adopting three brothers and moving to nicaragua' he said 'ok'. simple and as trusting as that. good man. :)

the rest is history i guess. much has changed. we've grown closer together, gained more knowledge about adoption, attachment and abuse, Nicaragua and the spanish language, visited the boys 2 more times, and started down the long road of international adoption. its crazy to think back to what little we knew and how overwhelming the whole process was when we first started. our love for them grows daily, it seems. God has provided so much to us in this time and it is only through hope in Him that we have been able to survive the separation, the waiting, the grieving for their past and have a hope for the future of our family, even if it may be the hardest thing we have ever done. because of Him i know it will also be the most miraculous thing as well. that's usually how He works.