Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Six Months Home

Last week marked 6 months since we landed at Charlotte International Airport, bringing our newest daughter home.  I remember strapping her into the car seat for the car ride home thinking, "Wow.  She's actually here.  God, you have outdone yourself.  She's amazing."  And she is.  Penny is seriously amazing.

But I wouldn't be honest if I said it was all sunshine and rainbows from that first trip home until now - I mean, the girl is two now ;)  I had read up on attachment parenting, parenting a child from "hard places", post-adoption depression (yes, it is a reality for many mamas), sibling relationships - my list of kindle books is quite a library now!  Needless to say, I felt prepared for the "worst of the worst" when it came to the bonding process with our baby girl.  I had even pictured myself cleaning every meal off the walls when my new daughter would decide to throw her food to establish control (that hasn't happened yet!)  But even with the bonding that has happened in our home and with the joy that a little sister adds to our lives, there are challenges.  And I want to be sensitive to Penny's story and to her asserting her two year old independent will while at the same time recognizing that this parenting thing is sometimes pretty messy.  So here are a few things that have been difficult for me:

1.  Those first four weeks I seriously grieved the loss of our old family unit.  I didn't expect it because I had begged God for our sweet girl and so I felt extremely guilty for feeling grief over the loss of what used to be.  The grief has passed now, six months later, and I can now fully embrace our family and remember fondly what it used to look like (much quieter!)  I also grieved seeing my older daughter go through the same stages of grief that I was in but we are so much better off now.

2.  Extreme weeping from Penny - Now, I'm not talking about the kind of tears you would see from a typical toddler who doesn't get her way (she has plenty of those also).  This weeping comes from deep within her stomach and is accompanied by HUgE crocodile tears.  They can be turned on by a simple "no" when I am asking her to stay away from dangerous objects or when I tell her it is not ok to hit her brother so that he will give her the toy he is holding.

3.  Those tears don't always lead me to a place of extreme empathy.  In fact, sometimes I am surprised at how frustrated or even mad I am that she is being "so sensitive".  We have employed a no spanking, no time out policy with Penny because of her past history and it is at these moments of fits and tears that I have to slow down my breathing and force myself to talk in a whispering voice to keep myself measured and self-controlled (and in case you were wondering, this is NOT the case with my older two... their discipline looks very different than this).

4.  I have been gathering all of Penny's orphanage monthly medical records and notes, along with all the pictures I can gather of her early days at the orphanage to create a baby book for her.  I have the semblance of a baby book on her dresser in her room and she asks to look at it every morning.  Yesterday as we looked through it, we came to a picture of a woman caregiver at the orphanage who was holding Penny and smiling.  Penny asked me, "Mommy, that Penny.  Mommy, who that?" as she pointed to the lady.  I had no idea who it was.  I have sent the picture on to our adoption agency, hoping that they may be able to figure out who it is, but it just was a reminder that there are 19 months of our little girl's life that are lost to us.  I won't be able to tell her when she sat up for the first time.  I won't be able to tell her what her first word was.  I won't be able to tell her when she first smiled and why.  And that just stinks.  There's just no good answer for that.  And the questions she will have will often not have an answer.  And that stinks too.

A lot of people in the adoption world talk about the "honeymoon/ airport welcoming party" phase as a cautionary tale to recognize that adoption only begins there.  It was a leap for me to go from "preparation" to parenting in a matter of minutes.  The preparation is monumental but my biggest piece of advice to future adoptive families is do your homework.  I was so glad I had read up on intentional regression strategies, adjustment techniques, time-ins, potential medical concerns, social emotional public behaviors, etc.  And it is not an easy road.  But it is the BEST road we could ever have taken.

No comments:

Post a Comment