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

Friday, May 7, 2010

On Grieving Day

Sissy in her newly acquired goggles

This picture makes me laugh. She is more and more like her birthmom every single day (some good ways, some not so good) but BM wears glasses. So when Sissy put these on and smiled the same crooked smile, it just made my head spin and I had to laugh because wow. If ever there was cloning, it has happened right in our home. Sissy is EXACTLY like her mother.

I've had my laughs on my blog this week but as my therapist will attest, I use my laughter to hide my pain. A good coping skill but only if used in moderation. For me, it's a reflex. Fall on my butt and get a whopping bruise that requires icing it down and wincing every time I sit for the next two weeks? I'm laughing. Laughing when I should be crying.

The truth is, despite the laughter about the insanity of a RAD mom's life, and as mama drama times two astutely proclaimed, "If it wasn't all so true it WOULD be hysterical!" (emphasis is mine.) "We have to laugh or we will cry! " said, Bren.

What they said.

As mother's day approaches, instead of getting excited, I find my glee and quick wit dissolving into gloominess. This road of mothering, for ANY mother, is much more than any of us bargained for. But when our children are suffering, we suffer too. It doesn't matter how they suffer, if they're not whole be it physically, mentally or emotionally, the mommas aren't whole either. We can try, we can fake it, we can laugh it off, we can attempt to divert our energies to our whole children, but it's always there. The pain and anguish that we have a child that needs more than we can offer, more than even doctors can give, is always weighing on our hearts. But if you will indulge me once more, I'd like to quibble that adoptive moms often have a harder road to hoe.

Adoption comes from loss. There is the loss of a child's first family. Even in open adoptions, the fact remains that the child is removed from his home and I've never heard an adoption agency counsel the adoptive parents to allow the child to grieve. There is only discussion of transition.

For me, adoption included my own loss, the loss of having a biological child. Sissy and Aspie Boy were adopted hot on the heels of the doctor concluding that natural children would be unlikely without radical interventions. I didn't have time to grieve the loss of the opportunity to have a child that was born to me. I will never look in Sissy's face and see my reflection looking back at me. Instead, I'll always be smacked with glaring reminder that she looks EXACTLY like her first mother. Aspie Boy won't grow tall like his dad, and Wonder Girl won't inherit my love of math and science. Some days, it's very hard to see enormous tummies, burgeoning with life, particularly when the mother-to-be is a child herself. Other days it's even harder to see mothers with their daughters and recognize the overwhelming resemblance. And when people tell me their child "came by it honestly" referring to some trait they have inherited from their parents, I wince. I can never say that of my children.

I am a mother, yes. But just as my children have been torn from their first families, forever altering their fate, so have I been torn from the chance to say that I bore them in my womb, birthed them in pain and joy or nurtured them from my breast. I may be a mother, but a legal document is what declares it to be so. On Sunday, there will still be a mother of my children, lamenting that she does not have them to call her own. They won't be rushing into her room to bring her hugs and kisses and shouting "Happy Mother's Day!" to her. And she deserves to hear those words too. Adoption then, is the essence of loss for every member in the triangle. You'd think that in that great loss, the suffering of all would be eased. We'd be feeling the pain together and grieving while learning to love. It doesn't work that way.

In adoption, there is often trauma. I've heard tales of adoption stories that have happy endings, whole children that grow up to love both of their mothers, stronger for it instead of weaker. But once again, that's not the case for me. Sissy is forever traumatized, and because their mother is challenged, so are both Sissy and Aspie Boy. And Wonder Girl endures it because what else could she do? When The Dad and I were naive and not yet married, we thought we'd like five children. We only have three and as much as it would be tempting to adopt again, the uncertainty, the risk and the fear that we will have more traumatized and challenged children has prevented it. So we grieve again. We grieve that our children need so much extra. We grieve that their needs are so great that it has altered our life and our plans. We grieve that we are so jaded on this road of parenthood that we aren't likely to adopt again.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the first time Sissy injured me. Last weekend I was pouring over my written journals and found an entry written on the day that she had bitten me.

The Plight of the Barren Woman
I adopted Sissy knowing I adopted her despite the possibility of Sissy becoming mentally challenged like her first mom. I did it because I'm barren and I desperately wanted a child to love. The thought has haunted me that Sissy might be unwell too. For the love of a child, I have invited this trauma into my home and my life. Fertile women told me "well, you can adopt. there are lots of children that need loving parents." Sure, that's easy to say when you can give birth to children that look like you, when you don't ever feel like a cradle robber or a baby stealer, when you can be nearly certain that your child will be "normal." So are all the barren women of the world just to lie down and surrender to loving the unlovable because we can't get anything different? What a cruel fate! Barren by chance, doomed forever to suffer grief and sorrow and unwittingly taking on traumatized children just to be called "mother". Adoption is callous, heartless and unfeeling to both the orphan and the barren. The adopted child becomes a generic, second and less desirable option and the barren woman becomes a pitiable, second-rate mother of the unlovable. THAT is the plight of the barren woman.

Lastly, as yesterday's post pointed out, when raising traumatized children, we are forced to grieve once more, because we are faced with the loss of what could have been, what friends we might have had, what careers, what financial securities, what hope for our challenged child's future, what indignities we endure as we are always subjected to defending our characters to first home study workers, then lawyers, then judges then the unending stream of therapists, doctors, teachers, and other "professionals" that claim to know what's best for a child. We grieve that despite our choice to adopt a child so that we might have someone to love, we learn that the RADish is even challenged in finding a way to love us back. We grieve that despite our constant, unyielding efforts to guide and nurture, our RADish still doesn't know how to trust us and instead, steals our trust in them.

So on this Mother's Day, I don't wish for you roses, candies and a breakfast in bed. I don't wish that you will laugh your tears away. I wish that you would have the chance to mourn that which you believe you have lost, forfeited, surrendered or forsaken all for the love of a challenged and traumatized child.


GB's Mom said...

This is the first time I have considered the idea that grieving should be part of the adoption process. It seems obvious, yet I am sure there are other people who haven't really thought about it either. I know it is not a one day activity, but I wish you the peace of being able to mourn this Mother's Day. Without grieving, you can't move forward. {{{Hugs}}}

Diana said...

Sometimes the best gifts come in the strangest packages. What a beautiful gift you're giving yourself AND your children this Mother's Day. Beautiful, yes. Hard, hard, crazy hard OH YAH!!! I've been there. I've done that. I'm so proud of you for finally allowing yourself this opportunity to recognize and grieve that loss. It is a REAL loss. It is a deep, deep loss. It is also one that people don't get unless they've done it.

I, too, got all the typical stuff. "It just wasn't meant to be." "Move on, get over it" blah, blah blah. What they didn't understsand is that my baby just died! Did you hear that, people? My very real, very precious, and very much wanted and loved baby just DIED. In our case, we had lots of babies die, too. We had years of infertility followed by miscarriages, followed by multiple failed adoptions. Every single one of those precious babies are lined up in a perfect row and buried in a very real cemetery. Each one has a grave marker. Each one was precious. And yet I had to grieve them completley alone.

That's the only difference between the death of a loved one and the death of our children through infertility, miscarriage, and failed adoptions. When a loved one passes on, the world knows about it. They can relate to it. It is still stinking hard, but the world is there to support you and help hold up your piece of the sky. When you're grieving for your dead babies that they never got to see or hold or love or kiss...that YOU never got to see or hold or love or kiss...they don't get it. Just like RAD, it is minimalized. It is rationalized away "They were never yours to begin with..." "Oh yah, tell that to my heart!"

We had the craziest, hardest, longest adoption story I have EVER heard. It took us 5 years of constant muck to finally bring our kids home. The fact...the blessing...that beautiful gift in a very strange package...that I was able to grieve my other babies and put them all to rest before finally bringing my children home has never escaped me. I wasn't so grateful when I was going through it. But I am profoundly grateful for it now.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity I had to grieve infertility, to grieve the death of my dreams, to build that cemetery full of dead babies, to place markers on each precious grave, and to finally let them go. It allowed me the opportunity to let my kids be who they are and what they are (trauma and all) without them being colored by all my stuff. Dealing with trauma and RAD is never easy and nor is it ever fun. But, I will shout from the rooftops until my dying day, the process has been more bearable because I was able to put the other stuff to rest.

Keep working at that grief, my friend. Keep giving yourself permission to do it, to feel it, and to keep moving through it. It's hard, it hurts, it completely sucks, and it is ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!! It really is the very thing that will eventually set you and your family free.


Diana said...

Believe it or not, I rarely visit my cemetery full of dead babies anymore. That cemetery will always be there. It will always be part of who I am. But it no longer weighs me down as it once did. I confess...I did visit there again this morning as I read your post and typed this response. Just as I do when I visit the real cemeteries where my dearly loved ones now rest, I stood by each of their now worn and dusty graves. I kissed them. I cried over them. I rubbed my hands over the writing. I placed flowers there as a reminder that they are still precious to my heart. I honored their memory and thanked each and every one of them for playing a part in my life and shaping me into who I am today. And then...I released them back to God and walked away.

When my real, living, not so baby babies wake up all full of life (and hyperactivity and trauma and RAD crap) here in just a bit, I will hug them and kiss them and thank God for the living, breathing miracles that they are. Even if they can't return the sentiment, I will still thank God for the opportunity He has afforded me the opportunity to be their mom.

Someday, my friend, you will be there, too.

J. said...

yep, it should be more acknowledged in the pre adoption lit. It is defintely grieving day around here too.

Bren said...

I wish I could hug you. I do have bio children, though much of what you say I understand. C looks exactly like her womb too. (I can not say "mother" when this woman never was anything but a tormentor) The same woman who killed my cat when she was 5 and abused her siblings daily. I was once the womb's nanny. I know what her mannerisms were as a child because of that and I see many of those same things in C. The way she walks and the way she works her mouth when she is focused,. among others....all her womb.
HOWEVER, I am told by my own family that she exhibits lots of the same facial expressions and verbal clues that I do. Also, my son (same womb though taken at birth) has my husbands sense of humor to a tee. I see a lot of my oldest bio son in him. He does many of the same things and in the same way as my bio son did at that age. I am certain your children have "inherited" much of you and your husband and you do not even know it. The most important thing they will get from you is not their nose, or their ears, or even their eye color. It will be your heart. I do not know you well since I am a new reader, but what I DO know is they are some blessed kids to have you to "inherit" traits from!!!!
Happy Mother's Day!!!!!

Debora said...

Thank you for this, Jennie. I have gone through many periods of grieving the possibility of having birth children and of having such a difficult child living under my roof who would really rather not be here or call me "Mommy." But God has given me a job to do, so I have had to stop thinking I will have a healthy emotional connection with said child; I'll have those relationships with my husband, other daughter, and family and friends--and with the Lord. Blessings to you--and consider yourself hugged once more from far away!

Heather said...

I completely understand your grieving.. I, too, find it hard to deal with the grief of not having had the opportunity to give birth to my children. It's hard to tell people because they see us and are so focused on, "what wonderful parents we are," or "what beautiful children we have," or "you're so lucky you got to skip diapers/late night feedings/terrible twos, etc." or the ever popular "oh, all kids do that, it's totally normal." So then how do I say, yes, I am blessed, but I would give my right arm for the chance to carry and birth and raise a child (change diapers, surrender sleep, all of it), too? How do I say there are days when I don't know how I will make it to the end of this road? So I smile, and thank them, and curl around the pain quietly in my heart and grieve again.