Sunday, June 13, 2010

Healer, heal thy self

As women, especially mothers, we are healers. From early on many of us gravitate towards caring for baby dolls, having tea parties and assisting with younger siblings. Its no mystery why there are so many women working as nurses or teachers—they are caring professions. It is so easy for us to give and give and give and yet we are so hesitant accept help or allow others to care for us. How many of you go without time for yourself or things that would make you feel more complete? I’m betting a number of you (of us).

The last month has been hard. It has been incredibly hard. It was so hard that I don’t really have many pictures commemorating just how hard it was. I hated being away from my baby for long days. I hated not tucking him in at night or bathing him or reading him stories. I hated missing out on tickle fests and giggle competitions. I hated it all. Most of all I hated feeling like I was an adoptive parent for the first time ever. All adoptive children come with some sort of emotional baggage—how could they not? Every child that is separated from their birth mother feels that on some emotional level. Even if they are reunited with their mother days, weeks or years later, even if there was someone in the interim to care for them and love them, they ALL feel that loss. It isn’t a memory they can speak of, it isn’t an event they can tell you about, but when they experience abandonment—in any form—there is an emotional and chemical reaction that occurs and marks that child’s memories and emotions. They are hard wired to fight abandonment, but for so many of our beautiful children they become hard wired to fight attachment once abandonment occurs. They become emotionally, if not physically, dependent on themselves for comfort.IMG_5206 copy

I write all that to say this: Duc and I never experienced this in the first 17 months together. When we met I think we were both just ready. He was ready for a mom, I was ready for a child. All those horror stories of attachment that I read about and prepared my self for, well, I just never saw it. We were always just us as if we always were. It was never a struggle. It was something that many people commented on in those first weeks and months home. I don’t write that to brag, but to remind people that abandonment how ever if occurs, is always there.

I’ve known that Duc has never done well when I leave. From our first hours together until now, he always keeps his eyes on me when I am in the room. From the day of our G&R people commented that he would look for my laugh. He knows it well. If family is visiting and someone else is holding him he always asks about mommy. He likes to know where I am and what I am doing at all times. At home he has always been underfoot. We stopped going to church once he got to the age where I could no longer contain him during the service and he had to go to the toddler room. He would cry hysterically and for prolonged periods of time. I could hear him even over the sound of the band playing. Yes, my baby has issues with abandonment.

But never did this become more apparent than in the last month or two. A year ago I went from seeing him 5 hrs/work day to 3 hrs/day to one hour or less a day 4-6 weeks ago. It was tough on me, it was tougher on him. I started seeing behaviors I had never seen before and it broke my heart. I cried every day for the 10 days I was away from my baby (seeing him 15-30 minutes a day because my mom or dad would bring him to work so we could see each other). The hardest thing for me was that this began on May 19th. His birthday, or as I know it, the day of his abandonment. It seemed horribly ironic that on the second year marking that day I was, in a sense, abandoning him as well.

My mom is a counselor and her current job has her working primarily with foster kids, adoptive kids and families, and birth moms who are trying to get children back from the foster care system or prevent them from going into the system. She has become an attachment expert as a result of her work. She told me it wasn’t my fault. I was not really abandoning him. That I was still seeing him every day and he saw my face every morning. But it still hurt. It hurt when he went to them for all his needs, when he pushed me away. When he laid in his crib at night crying for an hour or more because he was so mad at me and yet he wouldn’t let me console him. It hurt.

The first day home my parents made a point of staying away (they actually stayed away for a week so we would have time to bond again). Duc wanted held the whole time. He wouldn’t let me put him down. He dug through his closet and found the mai tai I wore in Vietnam and the first months home.


Over the last few weeks we have begun to heal. He is allowing some space between us again and he has been in time-out several times the last few days. He is also playing with his toys independently again. For weeks he wouldn’t play with his toys unless I was holding him. Seeing him naught and playful again has made life easier.IMG_5421 copy

And now that he is beginning to heal, it is my turn. I built some raised beds and planted a garden two weeks ago and things are looking very good! I have made bread, fixed a pot of green beans like my mama used to do, I crocheted some dishrags (and can I say how good it felt to crochet again? I haven’t crocheted since the week before I left to meet Duc), I bought a cook book and made some good food. I made my own detergent (yes, I did!) and am trying to live simpler. I have a few days off so I am going to see a movie—a total guilty pleasure—The A-Team. I’m going to do some wood working with my dad because it has long been a hope to learn how to make things out of wood. I like the idea of self sustainability.

And I got Bertha out again and began snapping photos. It felt good. It felt right. It was something I couldn’t do even two weeks ago because I felt so empty and burned out. I feel some of my passions returning. Some of my joy in the simple things. And the best part of all, Duc enjoys it too. IMG_5337 copy


Christine June 13, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

I was so happy to see a post from you in my reader. Glad to hear that things are turning around for you!

When we hit a rough patch, the first thing to go for me is the creativity, I just have nothing to give... and I always feel so refreshed when it starts to return.

Here's hoping the momentum keeps up for you both!

a Tonggu Momma June 13, 2010 at 8:56 PM  

We didn't experience true attachment issues until we'd been home about eleven months. I'm so glad to hear that y'all are both coming to a better place.

The Baxter Family June 13, 2010 at 9:56 PM  

I am so sorry for all you have been going through. I will keep you both in my prayers.

Kelli June 13, 2010 at 10:04 PM  

Glad you are back and feeling better! I was just thinking about you guys today and hoping we can get together soon. I need to hire someone to do Aiden's 2 year pics- know anyone :D?

Special K June 14, 2010 at 1:47 PM  

Glad to hear things are getting back on track with you two. I think ...especially as single moms... the attachment thing will always be a work in progress. Unless we all win the lottery and can become SAHM's. LOL!

Shea June 16, 2010 at 7:44 PM  

I'm a teacher, and many days the thought of summer is the only thing that keeps me sane. Seriously, I don't know what I would do without knowing that I'll have 2 glorious months to just be mom, and sit on the deck and play and enjoy the moment. Not to mention cleaning the house or organizing closets.

I knew it would be hard to be a single mom, but it's even harder than I imagined because it doesn't get easier the older my daughter gets. I miss her just as much every morning as I did when she was an infant. So I have total empathy for what you're describing and feeling.

I hope life slows down for you soon.

K August 1, 2010 at 12:19 AM  

I'm really sorry that things have been so rough. I can totally understand what you are saying though. Our kids know, even if it is on an emotional level and they don't understand it, that they experienced loss. It makes transitions such as these sooooo difficult. hugs.
Katherine (Tori's mom)


About This Blog

This started as my story, but has evolved to OUR story. This is the story of life as a single parent to a wonderful little boy while we wait for baby sister. China LID 2.12.07.

But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, be patient! For it will surely take place. It will not be late by a single day.
Habakkuk 2:3

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