Monday, February 22, 2010

Faking It

How I would love to be able to post a glowing report of our first few days home. I really would. I would love to be able to match the joy our friends have shown, their love and enthusiasm.

But I'm struggling. Erik is having a hard time. The girls want to love this brother they have waited for, but he's not making it easy. He's a tantruming, unpredictable mess. And rightly so. But just because he's earned the feelings doesn't mean they are easy to be around. He has major, MAJOR issues regarding food. Every time food is around he loses his shit. This is what happens when a child has experienced a lot of hunger. Or equates food with love. Or isn't fed when hungry, but on a schedule instead. When a child never sees food being prepared and so never has to wait a bit for it to come their way.

In Ethiopia he tantrumed for 45 minutes because we moved his hand out of the way to close a cabinet door.

He will not nap now, it is too terrifying for him.

In short, he's kind of an asshole. An insanely cute, terrified asshole.

In Ethiopia I cried. I cried for many, many reasons that I will begin to detail in the coming weeks. But in part I cried because I couldn't imagine what fresh hell we'd willingly created for ourselves. I cried to Erik. I said things like, "We only have 16 years left. Maybe he'll run away from home when he's 15. We'll start selling San Francisco. That could cut our time to 13 years." I said it through sobbing laughter and I was only partly kidding.

I am better right now, now while he sleeps. But today I had moments of such deep sorrow I couldn't imagine a time where I could ever think of him as any thing less than the biggest mistake of our lives. Did we seriously trade our sweet, well-oiled lives for this new shitty version?

Let me be perfectly clear that it is only because my adoption community assures me we will all be fine in time and that statistics tell me that 65% of adoptive parents experience some form of Post-Adoption Depression (PAD) that I can write this awfulness here. It does not feel good to write this out. It doesn't feel good to know I will probably have to seek professional help. But maybe it will help someone else be prepared. Because if you know me, you know I am nothing if not honest about my emotional life, especially if I think it might help someone else. And because I have to believe that this is our path and it isn't meant to be our undoing.

In adoption circles here's what they say: "Fake it 'til you make it." So today I carried my mess of a boy around all day when all I wanted to do was leave him on the front porch. I pretended to be happy to see him. I smiled giant fake smiles through my panicked crying and raspberried his belly through my tears.

In the middle of the night, when he cries in his sleep, I will wrap my arms around him and tell I'm here. That he's safe. That he's not going anywhere. That I love him. And I will pray like hell that someday soon it will be true.

44 comments:

rebekah said...

Oh hell. I'm crying for you.

M and M said...

you're good...just plain good...and it's enough

morgenj12 said...

I came to your blog tonight specifically to see if you were writing. The very fact that you can be yourself and write this down tells me you will make it through this. It's going to be ok.

hotflawedmama said...

Oh, thank you for saying this, for pouring this out so other adoptive families can know.

Because I think it happens to all of us on some level, I am just so, so sad it's happening this intensely for you.

Just tears for you.

Bridget said...

We love you! And we know....that this too shall pass. Keep faking it. You'll link back to this post someday in the future, when you feel so, so, differently and be thankful that you wrote it.

habeshachild said...

It is so so so true. For some of us, it is horrifying how hard it is at first. And few of us are brave enough to admit to the feelings you have so beautifully and accurately described here. I was in deep - so deep - but I thought I was the only one.

All I can say is have faith that it WILL change. And don't bother trying to make any decisions or evaluations of how it's going for a while... just live through it. It will get better. I promise.

But for now, keep being honest. Ask for help. Take care of yourself. Sleep. Take walks. Be kind to yourself.

Hang in there. It's truly shitty now - but perhaps just a bit less so because you can at least say that it is in fact shitty. And know that there are plenty of us out here who can listen to you and not judge. Even a little bit.

Claudia said...

posts like this were THE ONLY THING that got me through my first few weeks of hating what I had done to my life. So thank you, on behalf of those behind you, for being honest. This time utterly STINKS, but knowing it was normal-ish was the ONLY thing that stopped me completely and utterly melting down.

Sending you a big ol' hug through the internets!
(btw - sent here by habeshachild. Glad to have found you!)

Mark and Heidi said...

Also sent here by habeshachild and I thank you for your candor. We are waiting for our court date...adopting 2 1/2 year old twin boys...and I wonder a lot about how hard the beginning is going to be. I hope things get easier for you soon. XO!

Julia said...

For the first few weeks my dad kept asking me (jubilantly) how much joy my new son was bringing to my life. He absolutely did not understand why I kept saying through gritted teeth 'not so very much.' My son (age 9) was a closet tantrummer and usually didn't act out in the presence of other people. At one point, when it took three people to get him in the car kicking and screaming (child locks on - check; window locks on - check), my dad suddenly saw why I wasn't getting a lot of joy out of him.

At six weeks home we turned a corner and now, 8 months later, I can honestly say that yes, he brings big pots of joy where he goes. Hang in there.

june said...

Hello m'dear - here from Habesha Child to say this: The first six weeks are all about survival. You just have to survive it. Do not try to judge how you are doing, do not try to judge how your boy is doing, do not worry you have made a horrible mistake (you haven't.) Get over the jetlag, get as much sleep as you can, and eat as much chocolate as possible. (I'm kidding about the last one, but only a little.)

We had the food issues too... my son was older, but what worked for us was to have food in sight at all times - like a fruit bowl & granola bars - and allowing him to help himself. There were a few days of constant eating and then it started to settle down. Not sure if your little guy is old enough for that to work.

As everyone will say... hang in there. You'll get through it.

Liz said...

Also here from HabeshaChild. I've been home since the day after Christmas with a two-and-a-half year old from Ethiopia, the first two weeks were some of the hardest days I have spent in my life. Tantrums, grief, communication problems, second thoughts about what I had done to my life...things are still sometimes hard now, but they are a million times better. You'll get there too.

KateM said...

You can count on your life having 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys...it just seems that right now a large chunk of sorrows are on the horizon. The good news is the joys will follow, eventually.
(I found anti-depressants to be of great help after my first son came home...) Good luck. (also sent by habeshachild)

Amy said...

Thank you for posting this and helping to prepare those of us waiting. Call in reinforcements for cleaning and cooking if at all possible.

Bonnie said...

all you can do right now is press foward and believe those of us who have been there/done that when we say it will get better - because it will

konjochild said...

Inch by inch. Hour by hour. If need be, shot glass by shot glass. It will happen. You will come through this – together. Hugs.

Christine said...

I'm so sorry it is this way for you. I can relate, not that I have my little one home yet. However, in the dictionary next to the word "adjustment disorder" there is a picture of me. I have difficulty with change. I mourn for my old life when there is a change. I love your honesty.

2become4 said...

You have mirrored everything i thought and felt with my two girls that I brought home( 4 days later daddy deployed. Lucky him.) We got home in September and i'm only now getting out of my funk a bit, but not completely yet.

Thank you for writing this so openly and honestly. I wish that I would have read stuff like this before I picked up my girls and maybe I wouldn't have felt so alone and like complete shit for pretty much "hating" my kids.

rebekah said...

Still out here and still thinking of you guys.

Math Rocks! said...

Here from Habesha Child. I'm still enduring 6 months. It's hard. In fact, if during the first few months someone had come to my house and said 'we are taking her away' I would have said 'okay, cool..let me pack her bag' and would have felt relieved. After three months it got a little bit easier. At four months, I finally got her to sit down in the bathtub. At 5 months, she was able to sleep most of the night.. although she still can't sleep through the night. The guilt is horrendous but the silence of not sharing is what kills me most. So, thank you.

Eastiopians said...

You are not alone. I remember the feeling of utter resentment for this stranger who came in and messed it all up...the happy home gone away. It does get better, much better...but the road is not easy. Hang in there and yes, fake it. Be his caretaker and not his mommy...it will make you feel a little better. For now you don't have to love him like you do your other children...that isn't natural. But you can take care of him just like you do your other children. Meditate and take breaks, remind yourself that it is not his fault...that he is strongly defending himself and he is guarding his heart as best he can. I know you know this, so I am preaching to the choir. It's hard not to take it personally and I weakened and took it personally sometimes. But it helped to just repeat it to myself...that it's not me...it's not him...it's what he has been through. It will get better. Hugs!!!!

Eastiopians said...

Oh, and I was sent here via Christine (Mother Paradox). :)

artfulstarfish said...

Have faith and hang in there. It WILL be worth it eventually. And he will be healed by your love.

kristine said...

I found you through Mother Paradox - I'm so happy she linked to you.

Your honesty is so very rare. Your words are healing. I imagine they do not feel that way to you right now, I imagine nothing feels that way.

Our son had colic for months and months. we were so ready to have this baby we waited 10 years for and then all he did was cry for hours and hours. I remember feeling overwhelmed, and lost and guilty and so many things that no one ever mentioned when they talked about motherhood.

take care of yourself every day. Ask friends nearby to help you in any little way that might help.

you will be that beautiful family of six you dreamed of. you will.

Hollie said...

Ashley, Sam and I are laughing and crying so hard it is not funny. I love that you tell the truth. Doesn't it suck. I seriously cried myself to sleep for two weeks after we got home, thinking, "what in the heck did I just do to my wonderful life!?" Our three year old still has eating issues. In fact, every morning he wakes up at the butt crack of early, and comes down into my room smacking his little lips and doing this sign for eat, and says, "hom" which must mean eat, and it bugs me so bad my skin feels like there must be a million bugs crawling all over it, because I know it doesn't matter how many things I get him to eat or try he will not like any of them. They tell me it gets better though, and I must say, 2 months later either I've resigned to my new normal, or it has gotten better. Love that you posted this though. Thanks for the laugh. You (we) can do this.

Aimee said...

I have felt similiar feelings...twice.

Live in survival mode for as long as you need to. One day, you will be able to shift gears.

Christina said...

I remember looking at my husband after we had been home six weeks with our daughter (our second child and second adoption) and saying, "I don't want to do this anymore." And I meant it, in every sense. I didn't want to parent my daughter. I didn't want to parent my son (home almost 2 years at the time). I didn't want to be a wife. I just wanted out. I felt like my life had become this prison from which I had no escape. I think I actually walked out the door that night, but have no recollection of where I went. I probably sat on the front steps and gulped in air.

That was four months ago. Seems like forever. Don't get me wrong; we are still a work in progress. When things started to change for the better, I can't really say. But they did, and they do. I know many people say to wait six months to take stock of where you are and how far you've come. In many ways, I think that's good advice. I think it will be a while yet before I feel we're back to "normal," but after six months home, by God, it's a lot easier.

Sending peaceful thoughts your way.

kgessert said...

Hate to admit it... but Baileys in my morning coffee got me through the first month. (and my noon coffee, and my afternoon...) You can do this- you are doing this. Fresh hell it is... and then it's not. And then it's really not. So many of us understand and have been there and have come through it and are even adopting again despite those insane first months. You are not alone. You are living through the worst of it.

Jennifer said...

Christine at Mother Paradox sent me here. When I adopted my boys 14 yrs ago, I remember thinking, "Someone PLEASE come and get them, PLEASE!" With my twin girls, age 4, from Ethiopia, I knew no one was coming. A very common thought went through my head, "What did I DO???" "WHY did I do it?" My boys were old enough to be very independent. Why mess up MY independence? I still think that occasionally. I remember the first day when neither one had a tantrum, a good 6 weeks in.There will be a turning point when you think, "gee, today actually was a good day!". I hope that day comes soon for you.

Chatter said...

So, so, so much truth here! It's hard. That's all there is too it (no matter how old the child). And you are not alone and I appreciate how honest you are with your struggles (and I had to laugh at some of the humor). Thank YOU!

Rachel said...

Thanks so much for telling the truth. These are the words I need to hear. I need to know what to expect. In your case, especially, you had soooo many months of anticipation - how could the reality ever match up with what you'd envisioned over the course of nearly a year of waiting? It's so hard but it sounds like your eyes are open and you know what your little one needs. You'll get through this and it'll be wonderful in the end. I promise.

mandestory said...

Linking here from Habesha Child . . . hang in there. The work to support a child through this transition is hard hard hard. It feels relentless. The tantrums, food issues, defiance (in my case), clingy-ness, controlling behavior over just about everything.

It gets better, but there are days and weeks when I still wonder (at 8 months home) what I am doing and think that I can't do it.

Things get better as language comes. There are little markers of "better" at one month, at three months, around 6 months. It is about survival. Being in caretaker, not mom, mode helped me. Thinking of a six year old as three year old helped. Do what works. Try to get some breaks for you and your other children.

Ali said...

Thank you for writing with such bravery and honesty. You wrote exactly what I was feeling two years ago when we brought our daughter home from Ethiopia. I was scared, angry, guilty, tired...etc. It seemed like I couldn't stop crying. But thankfully I had some great women in the adoption community tell me the following: these feelings are ok to have, you do not have to feel guilty (easier said than done, I know), and it WILL get better. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but it will get better. And most important of all: you are not alone. That was one of the phrases I most clung to when I was in the darkest part of my PAD.

And it did get better. One day I realized I wasn't faking it at all. Until then, lean on all of us who have been there and come out on the other side. You'll make it, and you won't have to do it alone.

Life in the Bend said...

You're doing exactly what you need to be doing right now and someday soon it will get better. I would have abandoned my husband and two new children at O'Hare Airport on our way home from Ethiopia if I'd had the slightest idea of where to go and it hadn't been -30 degrees outside.

JoMama said...

Breath, sleep and exhale.Time will heal things.

You may want to read and share:
http://keirajoy07.blogspot.com/2010/02/beginning.html

Johanna

JoMama said...

Breath, sleep and exhale.Time will heal things.

You may want to read and share:
http://keirajoy07.blogspot.com/2010/02/beginning.html

Johanna

Michelle Smiles said...

I'm sorry you are struggling.

I had a very easy time of it compared to most adopting parents. But the day I took custody of my daughter and watched my husband leave while we stayed behind to live in Guatemala for some undetermined period of time until the adoption was finished was a terrifying day. I felt too guilty to say anything. I cried in the shower every day. But on my blog I only touched on my misery. I was in Guatemala, fostering my child until the adoption was finished - I was lucky! Everyone envied me! (And I was a therapist in my previous life so I was supposed to be equipped to handle all of this better than others. Snort.)

Time passed. Things got better. And then much better. And then wonderful. But even with an "easy" child it was a process for all of us.

Fake it til you make it - it is exhausting but good advice - as long as you can be real with someone in your life (or on your blog). Good luck. Hang in there. It will get better. It will get easier.

BTW this is a fabulous post and everyone who is adopting should read it. Thanks for sharing your experience.

D said...

http://ethiopianadoptiontravelogue.wordpress.com/2006/11/17/the-screamer/

This was my summary.

I did the Fake It thing. I felt like an underpaid babysitter for a couple months before stuff started to click (no Insta-bond or love thing). And, I was quite jealous of the people with the Rosey Stories. THere are lots of us out here and pulling for you. It's a marathon, not a sprint. (And people in marathons get terribly awful blisters, heat cramps, shin splints, etc!!)

Almost 4 years later and it took that old blog entry to remind me about how awful it was. Hopefully, you'll look back at this in 4 years and think the same way.

stephanie said...

Found you from Habesha Child. So thankful I did. Thank you for your honesty. We are adopting our second son (3ish) and brave people like you will help make our transition (if difficult - which we are planning it will be) so much easier knowing that we are not alone.

I'm sending you and your family positive vibes and a big ol' cheesy cyber hug.

Raylene said...

Thanks so much for posting this. We have been home almost a month with our almost 5 y/o son and his 3.5 y/o sister. I am living your hell too and I want to quit, but that is not an option. Thanks for helping me not to feel so alone in this process - it helps to know that others really "get it."

Jen said...

Wow, kudos on your bravery to post what most of us have felt but were afraid to utter. Nothing anyone says at those terrifying moments actually help. It's the hindsight. Looking back at a day, a week or a month and saying, "wow, that was a good one. I can do this." And, then the love comes and, well you know, that changes it. But expecting that love to happen in the first days or even months is ridiculous. All our journeys are different. The only thing that helped me when I came home with my first daughter (from Ethiopia) was 1) being caregiver not mama and 2) most importantly, constantly trying to see why she was doing what she was doing...the grief, the loss, the malnourishment. It helped to objectify it all a bit, somehow. Anyway, you've got lots of great feedback here. THanks again for your honesty and I look forward to following your journey. BTW, we're waiting for court for daughter #2. That says something. Oy, now I'm scared again.

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Wolfe said...

Never been to your site before but a dear friend forwarded your post to me b/c she knew I needed to read this....We are dealing with the 'China version' of this right now in our home. Sometimes I mutter, 'I can't do this, I can't do this.' But I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue in the motions. I'm holding on to hope and even in this yuck, I know it'll get better, somehow, someday, for us both. Hang in there!

Alice said...

I too lived this. I thought this child (from China) would be a "thorn in my side" for the rest of my life. There were many days I looked out the window thinking someone would come and pick her up because I felt like I was just a glorified babysitter. So many days I would cry and know we made a huge mistake. I was going crazy. I needed help. Now two years later...that "messed up" little baby is an awesome, amazing, normal, love-able, very bonded perfect part of our family. I can't imagine life without her. It is still hard to look at pictures of her babyhood because I am so ashamed of those actions, thoughts, and feelings I had against her. We are both changed people--for the better. God used it to change ashes into beauty. He covered us!

Elizabeth said...

I am sharing this post with my adoption clients. Thank you for creating a safe space for adoptive parents to talk about the dark emotions as well as the bright ones.

Elizabeth
http://www.blog.vaughanfirm.com
http://www.vaughanfirm.com