Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Adoptive Parents who Haven't Heard it Yet

Dear Parents,

You know who you are.  You're the one who had a dream, a hope, a vision of a family in love and intact.  You traveled to a foreign country, you pored through websites and adoption listings, you went through the nail-biting hassles of  a homestudy and finally your family was formed!  It was bliss, a match made in Heaven, prayers answered and battles fought and won.  The early days, weeks were a little different than you expected but, you said, my love will be enough.  We will get through this.  It's an adjustment for all of us.  It's going to be ok.

And then every day got more difficult than the day before.  Parenting turned from a joy to a chore to a chain.  Somewhere along the way something went awry, the dream became sleepless nights, the battles moved from fighting for your children to fighting against them. 

Nobody told you it was going to be this hard.  Nobody told you what it feels like when your child reacts every time you try to attach your love to her.  Nobody warned you about day after day after day the same problems that never get solved, the same lessons that go unlearned.  Nobody explained how to talk to a child who doesn't seem to understand right from wrong. And nobody sees the thousands of little things that add up to a cavernous longing in your heart and ache in your head.

And now you feel so alone.  Your child looks so normal, so happy.  He's a little what.  She has moods, don't we all?  He's so well-behaved and you think If you only knew....  As you parry "Is he your real son?" with "Of course he's mine" you play in your mind the tape of his voice saying You're not my mother, I don't belong here, I should just go back....As you smile and say what a blessing adoption is, you inwardly groan at your own words.

You know who you are.  You're the one crying in your pillow every night, racked with guilt for even beginning to think that maybe this is the wrong child for you.  You're the one either too afraid to talk to God or silently shaking your fist at Him.  You're the one who has learned patience beyond endurance.  You're the one who is afraid to go to one more doctor, one more therapist and yet longing to hear someone put a label, an explanation, to the confusion.  You're the one who is terrified to admit to yourself that you get it when a mom leaves her son abandoned on a hospital ward or puts him on a plane back to Russia.  You're the one who's said words you thought you'd never say prompted by words you thought you'd never hear which touch the deepest part of your soul and pierce right through.

It's ok to say it.

It's ok to say you're in over your head.

It's ok to say you don't like your child.

It's ok to say you're tired, worn out, weary, you can't do this for one.more.minute.

It's ok to say your love is not enough to make sense of the mess you've found yourself in.

It's ok to say What happened to my dream?

This parenting adopted children is hard - you have to be hard core, a professional.  Gone are the healthy babies born to innocent girls who slipped up once.  Now the babies aren't babies anymore.  They've been born and raised into a generational cycle of mental illness, substance abuse, neglect and violence and then they are turned loose in our households after the damage is done.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Welcome to the club.

Come in, rest awhile, feel believed, accepted, heard.  Cry.  Yell.  Question God.  Laugh. Run away for an hour or a weekend.  Make jokes that nobody else will understand until they've walked in your shoes.  Go ahead.  You deserve it.  You deserve to allow yourself to hurt.  To admit that you have scars and wounds and have inflicted as much on your children as you've battled to understand.  Tend to those wounds.  Go ahead.  It's hard.  And you've made it this far.  And you're still breathing and God is still in control and His love is enough even if yours isn't.  Rest, Breathe, let it all out.

And now start again. 

It's still crazy.  It still baffles the mind.  That child of once-promise is still a child of conundrum.  But now you know.  Now you know that we are out there.  We've walked in your shoes.  We've made the same wrong moves, uttered the same foul words from our lips, kicked the same proverbial wall a thousand times over.  Some of us would do it all over again and some of us would never have done it in the first place if we had only known. 

But now you know we are here for you.  We've read books and had countless sessions with therapists.  We've pored through websites with titles like All about FASD and How to Parent the Child with RAD.  We know more about alphabet soup than even the hundreds of doctors we've hounded over the years.  And we've seen it all - fires started, siblings molest siblings, kids who stare, drool, poop their pants through adolescence, touch themselves and everyone else, make stuff up, tantrum for hours and threaten suicide or even murder.  We've learned parenting techniques you'll never hear Dr. Dobson mention. 

We are strong, we are resourceful, we are just as battle-weary as you are.  But we have each other and we have God's love and God's forgiveness and every day is a new day.

It's easier now.  It's easier to laugh together.  It's easier to receive advice from somebody who gets it.  It's a bit quicker to get over the frustration when we can vent and yell and say Can you believe this one?! for the 800th time.  Because chances are, yes, we can believe it.  We have walked in your shoes.  We have let go of children into group homes and psychiatric hospitals and alternative placements.  We don't judge.  We don't doubt you and we don't give up on ourselves even when we have to give our children over to uncertain futures.

Welcome to the club.

The Adoptive Parents who have Heard It and Believe it

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How That Doesn't Happen or My Totally Geeked Out Cycle

 Seemingly clever people, upon hearing how many children we have, will often exclaim with a perverse grin on (usually) his face,  "Don't you know how that happens?!"  My stock response is "Yes, we do.  We like it very much and we are apparently much better at it than you.  Would you like some instruction?"  So just to set the record straight, we do, indeed, know how that happens.  Our current struggle is in figuring out how to make it not happen.

Long ago when we had only a handful of children Tad and I threw around some numbers that sounded like a nice robust number of children to raise.  All along I thought 16 was nice and Tad's standing answer was that he would get to 12 and see how he feels.  I was ok with 12 as a working number but that 16 has always been lurking in the back of my mind.  Anyway, 12 seemed like such a big number and it seemed so far away that I wouldn't have to think anymore about it for a long time to come.  Well, wouldn't you know it, this summer we placed number 11 with us in July.  Then in August number 12 was born.  Shortly afterwards, Tad and I looked at each other and said....huh....

Tad decided he wanted to stick to his guns.  He loves our twelve but they are a lot of work, he is the provider and he's, well, tired.  Pregnancy is an especially tiring time for him as he is the one who picks up all my slack when I simply can't do what I can usually do.  I understand that, I respect that.  I'm tired too.  A rest would be nice.  But this is where it gets complicated.  We are committed to living this all-natural life-style, to leaving room for God to work where He will, to not try to "fix" what isn't broken and yet my cycle doesn't cooperate with the various sympto-thermal methods out there.  I've explained that dilemma in detail here.

So what's a tired couple to do?  In true engineer form, Tad researched technology that would help us solve this problem.  In the end, he purchased two different electronic monitors to follow my cycle and help us determine the days when that can happen and the days when that isn't likely to happen.  We've started this month tracking things on the OvaCue

  which monitors the electrolyte levels in the saliva.  Next month we add in the ClearBlue monitor

which tracks LH in the urine.  In the meantime we're also adding in the extra precaution of old fashioned mucus observation.  I am beginning to feel as if no other woman has a cycle so completely geeked out as my own.  Only my husband could accomplish that.  I believe he has my cycle covered on every front - not much chance of that happening any time soon - especially since my only responsibility is to report to the monitors each day while reading and "interpreting" the data rests in his capable hands.

So the real kicker here is that if and/or when we ever do conceive again (yes, it's still open for discussion) number 13 will be our first planned pregnancy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have this pipe dream (insert therapist's voice here - "Glad to know you recognize it as a pipe dream, Mary") that someday I am going to have a meaningful conversation with Philip.  I just want it to happen so badly that I do everything in my power to set it up only to have it fail again and again.  Phililp is just simply not capable of meaningful conversation.  His idea of conversation is spouting off ad nauseum about his favorite computer game or movie lines.  That's about it.  He spouts, I listen (or within about 3 seconds cease to listen because he really doesn't care if I'm listening or not he just cares about his right to spout).  At 12 he's still shouting out "Look!  A dump truck!" every time we drive by one on the highway.  Cute retention of his childlike naivete and wonder with the world but not so much on the fodder for meaningful conversation.

Ever since The Finger incident (broken pinky from going down a slide head-first just two days before his appointment with the ped to discuss meds for impulse control) I've had plenty of time to spend with just Philip working on said meaningful conversation skills.  We've had lots of appointments to doctors and xrays. 

He likes to sit in the front seat of the van but he doesn't *do* anything there.  He just sits.  Our conversation might go like this

So, whatcha thinkin' about?

Blank stare

You're looking out the window, I bet you have something on your mind.

Blank stare

A movie?  Something you see outside?

Look! A dumptruck!

Yep, there's a dumptruck.

Walking from the car to the doctor's office is also an exercise in socialization.  He always walks precisely three steps behind me.  I've tried in vain every time to explain to him that if he keeps step with me and we walk side by side we can chit chat as we walk and this is something people like to do.  He walks exactly two steps behind me...for about three steps...and then he's right back where he started from.  I gave up on that one.  I'm sure anyone watching us is convinced that I'm a selfish mom who doesn't bother to grab those precious moments alone with my son...or they just think he's being a moody preteen...neither could be further from the truth.

So there we are in the waiting room.  Magazines have interesting pictures and articles.  I try to use an issue of Sports Illustrated as a spring board for some serious mother-son bonding.  I find an article about a football player he enjoys watching on tv and then get called to the receptionist. 

You read that article, I'll be right back and why don't you tell me about it.

I return, skim over the article, and realize it's a description of the man's prison term he served and how he's walking in his father's footsteps.  Now suddenly I'm hoping Philip *didn't* pick up on that...

So what did you read?

I read about him, points to picture of football player.

And what did you read about him?

He plays football.

Yes, he does.  Did you read that?

Yes.  (ok, now he gets an F in reading comprehension for which I am strangely grateful)

Did you find out anything else interesting about him?

He tackles people?

Wide receiver - probably not - but at least he's riffing on something besides movie lines and computer games.

We get called in for the xray and  I now have the pleasure of watching someone *else* struggle to communicate with my son. 

Philip, can you put your hand on this table like this?

He turns it to and fro but cannot figure out how to make it look like the technician's positioning.

So how did you injure your finger?

He looks at me.

I wait for him to answer his own durn question.

On the slide.

Oh, did you fall on it?

He looks at me.

I wait for him to answer his durn question.

Yeah, I went *waves hands around and makes slippery slide sound effects*

At this point the tech looks at me and says "Can you get him to put his hand like this?"

Sure, lady, got a picture of a dump truck?

Our last trip to the imaging center I decided to try to chat with him about his upcoming musical rehearsal.  Last year they did Music Man and he loved it - it was awesome.  Surely he'd like to hear about this year's plans.

You have Staccatos practice tonight!

Blank stare.

Staccatos - you remember last year when you did Music Man?  You loved it!

Blank stare.

Do you want to know what you'll be singing this year?

Confused look.

This year is all songs from early rock and roll.  Like you might be singing....maybe...Elvis...or songs by the Beatles.



What's an elvis beatle?  (No lie, this is what the boy said to me.  I was so taken aback I went home and grilled Ben about whether or not I had ever educated them about The King.  He immediately began to rattle off a long string of lines from songs, two parodies he'd seen about Elvis and a whole rash of other Elvis trivia which assuaged my guilt about never having exposed my children to such a pop icon.)

So the next day we are off to see the orthopedist.  I've about given up at this point.  At any rate, I'm not going to try for another awkward and disappointing car conversation so we just drive in silence until Philip, on his own steam, looks at me and says

Mom, why is Govorner O'Malley going to give us all jobs?

Uh huh.  Why indeed.  Well, son, ever since the economy tanked lots of people are out of jobs and so he wants us to believe that he's helping.

Oh.  Is that why he's spending so much money?

No, he's spending money because he's a Democrat.

Apparently, he *was* reading those billboards and road signs all along and I just didn't think to engage him in socio-political analysis.  Silly me.  Next time he breaks a limb I'll know.