On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The first time

When was the first time your RADish injured you? How long after you had custody of your RADish did it occur? What was your response?

I mentioned it in my therapy a few weeks back. The first time Sissy hurt me. We'd had custody of her for three weeks and it was Christmas time. We attended the biological family Christmas party as the newly inaugurated members of their family. It was a week before Sissy's first birthday and two weeks before Aspie Boy was born. Birthmom was there of course, it was her family's annual party. Everyone was excited to see Sissy after three weeks of being in our care, three weeks since she'd seen her mother. I could see from Sissy's face that she was not OK but I didn't know how to say to her family, "stop! you're scaring her. It's freaking her out!" Especially being held by her mother. Sissy was pretty mad about that. I think if I could put a name to the expression on her face when she looked at me, it was betrayal.

After the party, we took her home and I tried to soothe her to sleep, cuddling her while we laid on the bed. She resisted with kicking, screaming, slapping. Eventually she fell asleep next to me on the bed, but she was not touching me. When she awoke, seeing my smiling face right next to hers, she made a fist and punched me on the nose. Then she screamed and kicked and slapped some more.

I didn't know what to do. I certainly knew nothing of RADs at that time. And she was just a little baby. I wondered to myself, did she really PUNCH me or is that my imagination running wild because it caught me off guard? I tried to hold her closer to calm her down but that made her escalate. So I let her go. She squirmed off the bed fast as lightning and toddled away from me and to her toys. I thought she just wanted to play and I was obstructing her from play. But in my heart, I knew it was something more.

Two weeks later, when Aspie Boy was born, their mother asked us to please bring Sissy to the hospital when we came to see Aspie Boy. It was also HER birthday. (lousy, delivering an unwanted child on your birthday, huh?) There were balloons in the room celebrating both events and when we walked in the room, that was the first thing Sissy noticed. Until she saw her mother in the hospital bed. She froze. Didn't move. Birthmom asked to hold her and someone, not me, picked her up and put her on the bed with her mother. She was a stiff board. An ANGRY stiff board. I have a picture to prove it. She resisted her mother's hugs and caresses and then in her efforts to squirm away, squished her tummy, which was still sore just 12 hours post delivery. Birthmom yelped out in pain and I ran to rescue them both, grabbing Sissy quickly from her lap.

When I sat down on the chair in the room, Sissy took her fist, grabbed my bottom lip and pulled as hard as she could. I was so stunned i nearly dropped her, which is what she wanted anyway. I put her down and she toddled away happily toward the balloons and I ran to the bathroom. My lip was torn and bloody. It was already swelling. It stayed swollen for several days. Again I thought did a one year old really just do that? Hurt me on purpose? but I dismissed it because how could that even be possible? And yet, Sissy's anger ceased immediately after she'd injured me, both times. Of course, in both cases, I let her go from my embrace.

I dismissed both events because they included birthmom and I couldn't logically separate Sissy's anger about her first mom from any potential anxiety she bore for me. But then the night terrors started. 6-8 a night for four straight months. We took her to a psychologist who diagnosed her with RAD at 18 months old. I was told to "love her more and hold her like an infant." We were counseled to eliminate visits with her mother to help ease attachment to me. But Sissy's rage continued toward me even in the absence of her birthmother. In that first year I was spontaneously peed on, pooped on, and vomited on. I was slapped, kicked and punched.

The worst was when she bit me on my cheek when I was trying to tickle her. She opened her mouth as big and chomped hard and long. I had to push her off to release the bite. I was bruised for days. That was the moment I knew it was more than just toddler angst. That was when I understood that this was going to require more than holding her and loving her more. That was the moment I knew that Sissy might possibly be scarred forever, and that my life as her mother, was going to be much more than I bargained for.

She was 2.


GB's Mom said...

Poor Sissy! Poor you! I wish we could have tea together... {{{Hugs}}}

J. said...

Calvin broke P's toe soon after he moved in by stomping on it in a rage. It was the first of many injuries. Hang in there, great to here that you can be a resource to other families, I wish had something like that here. One day I might just start one.

Jules said...

Geeze. There's definitely going to be a special place for all RAD moms upstairs when they move on from this life.

marythemom said...

My kids have been with us 3.5 yrs. I don't remember the first time my daughter (then 11 yrs) hurt me. Probably in a restraint, during which she always scratched and bit. At first she was constantly threatening to kill herself and we often had to restrain her to protect her.

She attacked our biodaughter (1.5 yrs younger), and left scars from clawing her arm.

My son (13 at the time), never physically hurt me although he yelled and intimidated all the time. He did attack my husband in the first 6 weeks. He was throwing things and throwing punches. The police had to come almost every time because my son was 5'9" and 210+lbs.

Mary in TX

Jeri said...

Our son slapped me in the face and laughed about it (he was 3years old) at the orphanage about three days after we met him. Looking back, I can't believe with all the reading I'd done, that I didn't "get it", and realize he had RAD. Of course, I'd just met my new son and the emotions of that plus being in a completely different culture added to the "I will love that anger right out of him" were all impacting my brain at the time.