Jul 7, 2014

Adoption and emotional integration.

So, I haven't done any adoption posts lately. Mostly that is because, as adjustment continues, the issues are less and less salient, and less noticeably adoption-related. Meaning, everything has filtered down and melded and become "the things my kids and my family work on together," and it is not often something we think about anymore, "this is because of the adoption. These are struggles related to that."

I have been thinking about adoption lately, however. Because of some things in my personal life, and also this clip posted recently on Facebook.

Helen Doss--the story she wrote of her family and their experiences. I read it over and over again as a child. My mother did, as well. I am certain it is a major influence in my decision to adopt--I grew up thinking of adoption as not only normal, but delightful and wonderful. Her family--all happy, so big and colorful and wonderful. I wanted that.

My mother did too. And now, however many years later, I have two Ethiopian daughters and two (soon to be three) Chinese sisters. I wonder how many families have come to be because of Helen Doss.

Adoption is hard. It's interesting, looking back on all the posts I have written over the last five years, remembering various stages, struggles, frustrations and heartaches.

First we went through teaching kids not to hurt each other, health concerns that were difficult and sometimes nasty (Lice, Ringworm, Giardia which I caught from MayMay while pregnant with Hazel, aftereffects of severe malnutrition and other things).

After that, though, it was all emotional. And I'd argue, much harder than the physical. Our adoption was wonderful--we didn't have any of the issues adoptive parents worry so much about, like sexual abuse or attachment disorders. And our girls are good, good girls.

But I am an introvert. New people are hard.

I love kids. A lot. Honestly. And I don't mind babysitting other peoples' kids. Before the adoption, however, watching others' kids was always a very stressful experience. It was painful. It's like, having someone in my house who wasn't my own kid, I was on eggshells all the time. I didn't feel like I could be me, have my time, do the things i'd normally do... I felt like I had to be a "perfect mom" or "perfect babysitter" for the sake of another person's child.

that's sort of how it felt for me for the first.... oh. Two years. Like I was babysitting. It was very stressful. The introvert in me shrunk away from interaction with these girls for quite a while. I forced myself to overcompensate... so they ended up getting even more attention than my biological kids for a while. In the effort to counter my own tendencies, I ended up becoming...

well. A better mom. More attentive. Paying more attention to detail. Not just falling into the ruts of my own past experiences, parenting and being parented. (Not saying I didn't have good parents, I did. I just am glad I have a fresh canvas to paint on, if that makes sense... I can make different kinds of mistakes and have different strengths, and not just feel compelled out of habit to do it a certain way.)

But let's just say. It has taken a really, really long time... that last stage of adjustment, so that everybody feels like they belong. So that I feel nothing but gladness that all my kids are around me and nobody's missing. So that I don't automatically react, emotionally, with more harshness when it's one of my adopted kids being unkind to one of my bio kids.

I think everybody is different. There are people who immediately mesh with new people...who can become best friends right away. There are also people who are natural adopters. You know them--the people who have a satellite of those who call them "mom" or "dad" because they fill that role for a lot of people. There's this lady who was on a billboard in Utah for several years--she fostered 112 children.

I'm not like that. I'm an introvert. My relationships form slowly, solidify slowly, and because of some of my experiences, trust and security is something that comes with agonizing slowness.

I think these last two years have been the final stage for me, for Jeff, emotionally. I was so glad when school got out this year. I feel so much peace when I'm in my living room, sitting on the couch, looking at all of my kids gathered around me. We are a family. Irrevocably. Emotionally, everybody is mine and I am theirs.

I think that, looking back on the process, I am very glad to Have MayMay and Bella in my life. I'm not sure, if I'd been able to look at it from the other side, knowing how hard it would be emotionally, that I would have been brave enough to go forward. Thinking about adopting again, my insides kinda twist up into knots.

But I am so glad I have Bella and MayMay. I am so grateful I have them. The thought of not having them is incomprehensible, and heartbreaking. I love all my children.

I know that adoption is never an issue you leave behind--for the rest of their lives, I will be talking my girls through the reality of their adoption. And reassuring them of my love for them.

And there will always be times I want to run away and go camping for a week. But that's just life, as a mother of lots of small children. It's not because of adoption.

Yesterday I went on a bike ride. Bella asked to come. I thought for a minute--my bike rides are solitary. My time. But I realized, suddenly.... I don't feel threatened at the idea of her coming. My time is her time, too, because she is mine. WE rode out to the canal and sat there for a while, completely silent, throwing stuff in and watching it float. And we rode silently back home. It was just the being together--us. And it was OK. Knowing myself, it amazes me that that was even possible.


Krista Quintana said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing that. I didn't catch the earlier posts on adoption, but you've made me want to go back and read them. It's something my husband and I have thought of quite seriously over the past year or so. I love seeing your perspective on it.

billabong said...

Wow, Sarah. Not quite sure what to say.

Did adoption just happen in your life? You write as if it just fell into your lap. Yes, you had the influences from your own life experiences and role models, but adoption wouldn't have happened unless you had actively pursued it.

And sweetie, I'm not sure why you chose to adopt if you so much like to have time to yourself (seems like MOST of your time to yourself). Why make other people (who I HOPE you realize have their own struggles you've chosen to guide them through) endure YOUR needs to be alone and by yourself?

And are you trying to tell other people who are afraid of flying to pilot a plane with passengers, even if they've never taken a piloting class? I certainly hope not. That sounds reckless and dangerous.

Sarah Dunster said...

Dear Kristina,

it is awesome. And if it is what you are supposed to do, you will have a wonderful experience, too. Not easy, but still wonderful.

Dear billabong,

I am kinda laughing, sorry. Not going to engage. But good luck on whatever journey brought you to my personal blog & thoughts of adoption!