Thursday, September 5, 2013

3 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 3 Years Ago- Part 2

Yesterday, in reflecting on our adoption experience, I shared with you how I wish I had erred more on the side of grace. I wish that I would have known that I could have indulged negative behavior patterns for a season without having to put up with them for a lifetime. Grace for Sammy. Grace for me. It would have made the journey more pleasant.

Another thing I wish I would have known is:

2- You should never judge how your adoption is going within the first 6 months of having your kids home. 

The first 6 months (at least for us) were pure survival mode. Hand to the plow, head to the ground, get-it-done-mode.

Most adoptive kids come home with some sort of medical issues (even just minor things) that need to be sorted through. This requires extra rounds of doctor appointments, blood work, stool samples, therapy appointments, and administering appropriate medication. Sammy was very healthy overall, but he came home with some type of fungus on his scalp, giardia in his intestines, and what I refer to as "the orphanage cough" that every child there seemed to have complete with runny nose, drippy eyes, and deep congestion. It took us about 4 months to get him healthy and off medication.

In addition to these physical symptoms, many children come home with major food issues. Refusing to eat, gorging themselves, hoarding food, stealing food, hiding food in their bedroom, hating all the new food and missing all the food they're familiar with. I was under the impression that young children always stop eating when they are an automatic cut-off valve. But when Sammy got home he packed on pounds like a linebacker that first month because I just kept feeding him! Every time he saw food, he wanted to eat it and reached for it with pure desperation in his eyes. His pediatrician said, "Yeah, I think you're gonna have to start regulating his portion size for him."

Sleep issues, which I shared about yesterday, were the thing that about sank our ship. It is amazing how sleep deprivation affects every single area of your life. I was an emotional basket case and did not have the physical energy to cope with all the struggles we were facing. I walked around in a fog with a half-functioning brain. I was grumpy (read "angry"), resentful, and trying my best just to keep my head above water. It's hard to be tender and loving with a child in the daytime that has kept you awake all night (and you know will keep you awake all night again tonight).

Behavior problems and emotional outbursts are at their peak during these first 6 months. If there was ever a moment I wasn't able to hold Sammy,  he would follow me around crying (screaming) with his arms in the air. Finding a time to shower was tricky. If I left him in the same room with Caedmon, Sammy would throw things (with amazing accuracy, I might add) at Caedmon's head. If I brought him in my room for pack-n-play time while I showered (with the door open so I could talk to him), he inevitably needed a new diaper, change of clothes, and a complete wipe down because of all the tears, mucous, and other bodily fluids released in the 8 minutes that I disappeared.

He wanted to be held but he'd fight to get out of my arms. He refused help with anything but needed help with everything. He was utterly exhausted but would resist sleep with every ounce of strength he could find.

We understood logically what was happening. Sammy was grieving the loss of everything familiar in his life. New family, new home, new language, new mode of transportation, new food, new smells, and on and on... For him, it was like a horrible movie when you wake up in someone else's body living someone else's life. He had no way of knowing that we would never leave him, that he was safe, and that we would love him forever.

Understanding all of that logically helps keep things in perspective, but regardless, the season is incredibly hard. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I'd like to remember. I questioned our decision and wondered if life would ever feel normal again.

But, as I read recently, these 6 months are not the time for Feelings. You can think about your Feelings later, once they've regained a little composure. For now, you do the work. You love with your actions, not your Feelings. You feed, bathe, hold, soothe, and clothe because you are his parent whether you Feel like it or not.

You will get through those treacherous 6 months. It may take longer or you may breeze through it. But a day will come that you'll realize, "I felt like a normal human for 3 hours straight," and you will know you're making progress.

Check back tomorrow for the 3rd thing I wish I would have known...

1 comment:

Erica said...

I will have to stash this away for the future so I don't feel like I am doing something wrong.