Thursday, March 17, 2011

The truth

I have played with this post in my head several times. It sounded better when I 'wrote' it in my head, but I will try to get it all out. I have said I was not going to put the 'ugly truth' on here, and I won't. Some things are private and will stay that way. Some of the hard times will stay within my family, but I wanted to give a clearer picture of the transition for other's that are interested in adoption or are waiting for their child to come home. With the waits increasing, the excitment builds with each step and then reality hits when you are handed your child. It is wonderful and it is a blessing, but it is also hard.
I debated on making my blog private, but I know during our wait reading blogs are what helped me through many days. If you haven't walked through adoption then it is hard to really 'get.' It is not a cut and dry 9 months and here is your baby. It was 11 months for us and our baby was growing and changing while we waited! We missed SO much! I would sit for hours and just read and educate myself as much as possible. I did not go into this thinking it would be easy. Nothing good in life is, right?
I am going to write tonight about some of the things that have been hard over the last month. I don't want to give a false picture of adoption, though I do feel we have been blessed with a great transition! (that totally makes me nervous for #2 and #3) We had no idea she would do this well. It is somewhat frustrating when people look from the outside in and only see the happy parts when in reality, there are a lot of difficult times. I have basically spoken of the happy parts, but feel this post is necessary for those families that have come upon my blog and are looking at it in hopes of their little one coming home and imagining themselves where we are now. Yes, I did this for many months!

I am not going to say anything that I would not want my child to read or hear, but as I stated in a post while in Korea, adoption is not for wimps!

As with giving birth, adoption comes automatically with sleep loss. I had no idea what exhaustion was until now. I am not a person that handles lack of sleep well, and I knew that going in. We left Korea on Friday (US time) and arrived home Saturday (US time). So, we traveled for basically 2 days by the time you take into consideration all the time changes. That is two days of no sleep and a terrified toddler. We had a 15 hour flight, (I had an air-sick husband) a 5 1/2 hour layover, and then an hour flight. Olivia went into 'shock mode' after she woke up from us getting her. She perked up while visiting with friends that evening, but all in all, she was in total shock. She slept the whole flight. While I don't think she was truly asleep, she kept her eyes closed. I think that was her coping method at that time. Her little eyes were so blank when awake. She had no expression and didn't make any sounds. This lasted the first week and a half.
We got home and had our first night here. I did not get a month or any time of my mom coming in and taking over while we caught up on rest. It was just John and me with a terrified baby. We didn't allow anyone to come help due to attachment. To this day, we are still the only two who have held her and will probably keep it that way for a couple more months. I didn't know until a couple of weeks ago what the grieving cry versus the regular cry was. She would scream for hours on end. Not a mild scream, a scream that I was worried the neighbors would hear. She would have silent tears sometimes where they would just stream down her face. No emotion, just tears. Her heart was broken. I think we have moved passed the screaming into anger.

I have laughed when I have heard people complain of the 1 hour time change this week and how their children are 'off'. Olivia had to overcome a 15 hour time change. She was up most of the day and night leaving only a couple hours for us to all sleep--literally 2 or 3 hours a day. She had no one that she knew with her. She was alone in her mind.

John and I had to adjust to not having any time to ourselves. With a newborn, you get some time since they sleep so much. We came home with a child who is extremely curious and into everything. She is also trying the limits to see what she can do. The word 'no' is funny to her. There is no adjustment time to get use to this is here and happening NOW! This was our starting point. She didn't really want either of us, but settled with me since I was the one who took her from her foster mom. I had become the 'safe' person. I literally could not go to the bathroom without her on my lap or wrapped around me. Somedays that is still the case. I have nannied and kept my niece many times, but this hit me differently. It was if anything I had ever known I had forgotten. I somehow felt clueless on what to do with this little one. The first week we did not leave our house. We did not allow people in. It was just us. Playing on the floor, sleeping when possible--on the floor, and eating if we were lucky to get to sit that long. (Luckily, we have been beyond blessed with friends and family bringing us meals!) Now, some may say, well, you didn't have to sleep on the floor or you could have brought help in, but to me, we have done what is best for our child now and for her future development as an adopted child.
It has been hard this month when people have said to me, "isn't motherhood wonderful?" My response has been, "well, it has only been ____ days." That is the truth. I haven't necessarily felt like a mother. I have felt like a babysitter. We have been learning each other. I got to look at pictures for 11 months and then we were handed a stranger who is now called my daughter. Just within the last 2 days have I started feeling as if we have a connection. I know I will fall head over heels one day, but it takes time. It is hard to fall head over heels for someone who is constantly screaming (at the beginning), biting, hitting, kicking, and just plain wants nothing to do with you. I have had to constantly remind myself that this is all just part of the process. I have had to really conciously remind myself that it does get better. And guess what? It IS getting better day by day. I have to look at the baby steps of progress we are making. I have seen us take two steps forward and several steps back somedays, but we keep going.
It is extremely frustrating to me when people have looked me straight in the eyes and said, "well, at least you missed the hard part of having a child." Really?! You want to try this? This IS the hard part. Don't be fooled. Biological or adoptive, parenting ain't easy! In truth, it was like bringing home a mobile infant. Everything was new to her.
This hasn't just been hard for her. I have had days where I have struggled. After having the stomach virus, I think my exhaustion and the virus caught up to me and I broke down. I called my parents crying because I felt so overwhelmed. That is not to say John wasn't helping, because he hasn't missed a beat. He has been wonderful! It is that there was such a high of coming home and getting her and that has slowly faded and now we have had to settle into life. I guess the adrenalin ran out.
I don't have anytime to do anything for myself. I have only worked out 3 times since we have been home. That is a must for me! I find myself feeling extremely guilty if I am not constantly (and I mean at all times) in the floor playing, putting her down for her nap, or feeding her. I am going to have to find time for myself, and I know that will eventually come.
We are still sleeping on the floor in her room. How do we know when she is ok to stay in her room on her own? I don't want to lose the trust that we have built. I don't want her to be scared.
We are able to get out some, so that is so helpful. We are still trying to be aware of how she is reacting and if we need to go back to 'keeping her world small.' For us, that means staying home and it just being us three. It is hard to know if going to this place or that place will be too much. One thing a day is about all we are doing for now.
I am terrified of her 'mommy shopping.' That is my insecurity. She has gotten somewhat brave the last couple of days and appeared to be interested in going with someone else. However, she didn't cry when they left. It is so hard to know! I can't keep her in a bubble and be selfish, but I want John and I to be the ones she wants.
I do know this: I do not regret our decision to adopt. I am SO happy she is home. This has to really be a God thing. Just think--we went to the other side of the world and got her. Why not another child? All the agencies are at capacity and they have an abundance of boys. We were told there is little to zero possiblity of getting a girl. Well, she is in the other room! She is precious! She is the child that God ordained to be ours. None of this happened by coincidence.
I guess I am getting anxious for normalcy. I am ready for the grieving/anger to go and for life to get going.

I have read blogs of when families first got home and the honesty was helpful for me. I often think back to some of their stories on hard days. I think if I had gone into this thinking it would be easy I wouldn't have made it. Be honest with yourself. Know that it is going to be hard, but know that the smiles and laughter begin to outweigh the hard parts. I would read the 'just home' posts and then I find someone who has been home a couple years to see the massive difference. They made will we and so will you! :)

**It is currently 11:31 here which means that it is 1:30 p.m. in Seoul. Exactly one month ago in two hours, we became a forever family!**


  1. Oh, Laura...thank you for writing this. Your blog has been such a blessing to us and as you know I've been following for several months now. You guys have become our mentors even though we've never met. We are in that excited mode of finishing up paperwork and anticipating our travel call one day so I know that our hard days are to come. We are reading everything we can get our hands on, attending workshops, etc but nothing gives us a sense of reality like blogs...yours especially. My heart sinks at reading this post but then it's not unexpected either. I, too, do not deal well with lack of sleep so am glad to have someone to share with in time when our Grace comes home. :) I have prayed for you all for all these months and continue to keep you in my prayers. Again, thank you for posting this one...for all of us out there who are anticipating what's to come, this gives us excellent insight into the uknown so that perhaps we can at least prepare somewhat mentally to know that with God's stength, time and lots of love we can make it through.

  2. Wonderful post. Thanks for your honest take. It brings back to many feelings as someone who has been there and done that. The babysitting feeling will fade - I felt like that too. Thanks for sharing.

  3. So well said, Laura! As my social worker told me - you have been staring at photos of your child for months....but they will have no clue who you are. It's tough. Ellis seemed to be most upset and grieving at night. I slept with him for 18 months until he was comfortable enough to be alone. Sumner went straight to the crib the second night and slept all night! So it really depends on the child too. You and John are doing the right thing by following Olivia's lead and what she's comfortable with. Ellis has been home 5 years and Sumner almost 3 years and so much has changed, but I will NEVER forget those first few months at home. Hang in there - sounds like things are getting better day by day!!

  4. Thank you for being so honest! When Amelia came home 2 years ago it was SOOOO hard. Her adjustment was painful for all of us. I remember being honest about how I was feeling (like a babysitter, wondering what we had done, so sleep deprived I didn't think I could make it one more hour)to a few friends and family members and most looked at me like I had two heads. I firmly believe that if you haven't been there, you really don't "get it". I have to say though, that those feelings will slowly start to fade. One day you'll wake up, and realize that your family has found a new normal. It's going to be a slow and gradual change but it really does happen. Thankfully, at least in my case, I don't remember much about those days (other than there being lots of crying in the house both from Amelia and me!)as the sheer exhaustion has clouded my memory. I know we've never met, but please know you have my support. You can do it!

  5. The other truth is this: about 75% of adoptive mothers feel this way, but they do not feel comfortable enough to tell anyone, because they are scared of the backlash, the "but you wanted this child", the guilt of the truth. But to be able to express it, especially so well, will give you the freedom to grow from it, not become overwhelmed by it. I have told you that this is exactly how I felt when Sophia came home. Exactly. But you know her and you know our relationship. This is a moment (a hard, long, drawn out moment that you feel will never end), but it will end - unfortunately I can't tell you just when it will end - it's a time thing. (don't you hate that answer?) Love you. You can always cry to me, cause I know. Been there. Done that. Bought a t-shirt. ;)