Monday, June 4, 2012

on being home

on the plane ride to ethiopia, i was suddenly hit with a pit in my stomach. a panic washed over me and with it came a load of guilt. we'd been waiting for this time to come for years, and all i could think about was how drastically my life was going to change. there were moments during that plane ride when i wished we could just keep on perpetually waiting. i wanted to keep the idea of having children without having to jump into the real life of parenting them because i knew before we even had them in our custody that it was going to be hard.

we've been home for over 2 weeks now. while it has been hard, i'm thankful that we've also had many wonderful moments with our children that have been joy-filled. we have 2 really funny kids who love to talk, sing, dance, and play. our daughter loves bubbles. at every meal, she asks to hear "baby" by justin bieber (and we normally oblige). our son loves peek-a-boo, and his laughs sound like what i imagine an old man chipmunk would sound like. but i would be lying if i let people believe that we haven't had our fair share of trials. some who have visited us since our children came home have remarked at how well they seem to be doing as if they've adjusted with no problems. and it's true, considering all the transitions they have been through in the last several months, they probably are doing "well." however, appearances are deceiving, especially when you are dealing with a child who has come out of trauma. my daughter plays with a smile on her face a lot of the time, but it takes one moment of laying my hand across her chest and feeling her heart beating as if it's going to come out of her chest to know that she probably spends most her days in fight or flight mode. it takes one moment of listening to her cry over something she wanted that she couldn't have to realize that she was only crying for about 30 seconds over that thing and the rest of the time she's been crying over something else entirely -- unknown to me but deep down in her soul. it takes one moment of thoughtlessly shutting myself in the bathroom to clean off a dirty cloth diaper with my son outside the door (because there are poopy wipes in the trash can, and my son will somehow manage to pull them all out and make a huge, gross mess when i'm not looking) to know that my son still struggles with fears of being without a mommy.

one day last week, we'd just come in from playing outside, and i carried my protesting daughter to the mattress she's been sleeping on in our room (as an aside, i will say that bringing home 2 kids at once has had its challenges. on this particular day, my daughter was refusing a nap, so i had to carry her upstairs, which meant leaving my son at the bottom of the stairs with the baby gate closed. as soon as i had gotten my daughter somewhat calmed down and on her bed, i heard my son crying, which meant leaving my daughter alone to go comfort him. and while it seems logical to bring them to the same place so they can both have mommy present, that just seems to add to more stress for both of them. so unfortunately, at least in our 2-kid situation, we have to compromise on some things that adoption literature says are important so that both our kids get what they need). a few minutes later, i heard her yelling for me, so i went back up there (thankfully, my son was calm at this point). what struck me was that she was laying quietly on her bed, and she spoke with a nervous whisper -- quite a turn-around from the child she'd been just minutes earlier. as i stroked her little face, and gave her kisses on the cheek, it hit me that part of my job as her parent is to help her heal from having to be this split child. the vulnerable child who let me lay beside her is my real child -- wounds and all -- while the protesting child is an imposter who shows up when the hurts and the stresses are too overwhelming to bear. my hope for both of my kids is that one day they will be able to come to terms with their losses and will trust us enough to tell us when they are hurting.

i know other parents may be reading this and thinking, "are you sure you just aren't making a bigger deal out of behaviors that even biological children struggle with?" and it's true, bio kids can be crazy at naptime and cry when mommy is out of sight. but when your children have a history of abandonment, loss, and institutionalization, those typical behaviors are often magnified by that history. unfortunately, as a parent who is also a sinner, my tendency is to forget that my children have such tragic pasts. i have had to apologize to my daughter countless times already (even though she can't understand much of what i'm saying because of the language barrier) for being harsh with her when i should have been more gracious. sometimes giving grace is just better for attachment and making your child feel secure. but the christian tendency in parenting is to feel like you have to correct, correct, correct because you feel like you're creating a heathen if you don't (and also, if you're like me, you like to be in control all the time, so it feels like an assault on your control and on justice as you know it if you let your child get away with something).

so yeah, that's how we are doing. i don't really want to overshare about my children on the internet for lots of reasons (primarily, because they might read this blog one day), but i do think candor is good sometimes. i want people to know about adoption -- both how miraculously beautiful and awesome it is and also how hard it is. i want people to know that my children are just like your biological children and also not like them at all. i want people to know that i've yelled at my kids and have given them wrath instead of grace a million times already since they've been home and struggle everyday to be the kind of parent i know God has called me to be (and that i literally plead with the holy spirit to help me because i can't parent these kids on my own). and i also want people to know that there are still orphans out there who need a family, and there are still kids at risk for becoming orphans whose parents need assistance and empowerment so they can keep their families intact.

since my son only naps for about 30 minutes a day right now, this is probably the only substantial writing i can do for awhile, so i tried to get in all my current thoughts :)


  1. This is perfect Lauren. It's such a realistic glimpse into the transition, beautiful moments and hard moments all combined into mere minutes. It's hard to express that well but I think you did an amazing job. Praying for you and those sweet babies daily. Healing takes time but you are watching that miracle unfold tiny step by tiny step.

  2. "the vulnerable child who let me lay beside her is my real child -- wounds and all -- while the protesting child is an imposter who shows up when the hurts and the stresses are too overwhelming to bear. my hope for both of my kids is that one day they will be able to come to terms with their losses and will trust us enough to tell us when they are hurting."

    Wow. This is not just about your adoption. This is about all of us and our heavenly Father. Thanks, Lauren, for the glimpse into your time so far. Praying for you & Jamie and your kiddos. This parenthood thing is not easy.

  3. YAY- so happy you're home! You're thoughts are my thoughts! The thoughts of many adoptive parents I'm sure. We're still walking the "healing" road only 9 months ahead of you. It is always a struggle to know whether they need more grace or more discipline, because love and trust are built with a good dose of both but I'm always crying out to the Lord for the discernment in each moment. Praying for you!- Amanda McAlpine from MN

  4. So much of what you've experienced is stuff that has happened in our own home. We didn't have the same language barrier as you do, but we had one all the same (since Large Fry has a rather significant expressive speech delay). It was a challenge to balance the needs of three different kids when there was only one of me. (I had friends from church who frequently drove by our house--located on a very busy corner--in that first summer, and asked me why on earth, with our huge yard, was I never outside with the kids? It was simple--there were three of them, one of me, and they'd already figured out the principle of divide and conquer. And it was a busy corner. We had ambulances/fire trucks/rescue vehicles come tearing around there at least once a week.

    What I can tell you is that, while it took months, our consistent love overwhelmed our mistakes (my kids also have the same kind of split in their beings, just from the way their biological parents didn't parent). We've had them four years now. We still have issues, and I still have great failings as a mom. But my children are happy, secure, and well-loved, and that is so obvious, even to total strangers. There are days I still feel like I'm making this up as I go along, but then, nearly every parent has those (and those who say they don't are lying).

    It's survivable, I promise. The Bible says "perfect love casts out all fear," and while we are not perfect, the love we show our children will overcome those fears. Eventually.

    Medium Fry still asks me on occasion if I'll always love her. Sometimes it's a game; she knows the responses and the exchange is filled with giggles. Sometimes it's not, and it's a little girl who is desperately afraid that the subconscious fears she has will work out into reality. At those times, I try to let my love shine as fiercely as I can, and I hold her tight.

    And I promise that, no matter what, she will always be my child.

    And she hugs me back, and bounces off to play or to get a hug from Daddy, content that all is right with her world. That's when I know that we've at least gotten that much right.

  5. You did a beautiful job sharing but not over-sharing! Bringing home 2 at once is more than doubly hard in the early days but it will get easier!!! You are doing a great job mothering, Lauren.