When I’m stressed, I clean and I eat…not necessarily in that order. I think I have eaten a pound of Gummi Bears in the last 24 hours. (ahem!) I have been re-reading the book, Adopting the Hurt Child, I also read Don’t Touch My Heart (which made me cry) and I am also reading Attachment in Adoption (Deborah Gray). As an adoptive mom, I struggle at times to differentiate what problems are or might be attachment related and which ones are or might be just normal kid issues! Reading these books over the weekend has brought out a variety of emotions. Mostly I feel angry. Next I feel sad. Very. Very. Sad. The unfairness of it all just gets to me most. These poor kids! And yet my pity will do them no good. I get so stinkin mad at all of the parents who have caused such trauma to their children by abusing, neglecting and mistreating them. And yet those parents themselves are in desperate need of intervention and assistance. It’s way too easy to judge.
I read Xinran’s book last weekend, Confessions of an Unknown Chinese Mother. I felt so much heartache and frustration and anger at the situations that Chinese woman have faced and still are facing. I was livid about the intentional killings of so so many infant girls and yet once again, I realize it is so easy to judge when I have not lived in their world nor walked in their shoes. My heart hurt for my own Chinese children who were abandoned as infants. Now I get to be the one they call Mama, the one who gets to try to help them through their pains and questions about why their first mothers did not keep them. Again, the unfairness of the situation so many Chinese mothers face just bore into my soul. IT’S NOT FAIR! IT’S NOT RIGHT! What can I do? What should I do? What will I tell my children? I have felt such a burden for their Chinese mothers…and what about their fathers? Do their fathers even know about them? Do they mourn their loss? What about grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins? Even sister or brother? It’s not fair.
I feel guilty. I have a relatively easy life. Comfortable. I never wonder if we will have food to feed our family. If I haven’t planned well, we run to Subway or order pizza. We have been able to pay off debts and live moderately and adopt two children from China. Our children have more stuff than they need or really even want! We have been able to afford their homeschooling curriculums every year. We’ve never not been able to purchase books or supplies. They have more clothes than they could ever really want to wear (thanks Mom and your love of thrift stores!) We have been able to afford for the children to participate in extra curricular affairs such as sports and arts. We have immediate medical care available to us. We have money to fill up our monstrous vehicles with gas. We can afford groceries. We spend tons of money on toiletries and come to think of it, we spend tons of money on toilet PAPER! (ahem!) We live in luxury in comparison to a large majority of the world.
We have some “junk in our trunks” so to speak. We have some family discord and broken relationships and such in our external families. We didn’t both have rosy happy Leave It To Beaver upbringings. But we’ve made it….I mean we’ve been considered normal, above average parents who are worthy to adopt someone else’s child. We’ve been examined and found worthy. (Sometimes that does boggle my mind!) We have had hard times. We’ve seen adversity. Pain. Bitterness. Testing. Temptation. Discouragement. But never despair. Our faith that God is at work for our good and that His word is true, even when it doesn’t FEEL true, has gotten us through some heartbreaking seasons of life. There are things I will never ever blog about.
But all this to say that it isn’t fair. Why do I get this life and my Chinese children’s mothers get their lives? How am I any more fit to be their child’s parent than they are? (I’m not!) Why do I feel all of these feelings? Why can’t I just let them go and be happy that I have these children and that they have a family and go on about my business? Is it some kind of sickness for me to look into Shifu’s face and wonder what his mother and father look like? to wonder for the hundred-thousandth time WHY he was abandoned? Why? What if they could know that his “special need” is no big deal? Would they have gone back and undone their act of abandonment? Would he be speaking fluent Mandarin and chewing on dried seaweed instead of munching on cheese sticks and fruit roll ups?
How is it right that the government allows each family only 1 child and yet they end up taking care of hundreds of thousands of orphans, paying for orphanages, staff, clothing, food, medical supplies, etc? Wouldn’t it just be easier to allow the parents to keep their children or to offer assistance when medical care is needed? Sure, maybe I’m thinking too simply, but I just don’t get it. There are REAL LIVES at stake here. I have put myself in the imaginary shoes of my children’s mothers and I can’t imagine living…as in going on…if I had no choice but to give up Sunshine or Cinderella shortly after their births.
Now, I love Shifu and Mei Mei (even when she is being especially ornery and defiant like today!!!). It isn’t that I don’t want them, it’s just that I hurt for them, for their first Mommy and Daddy. It just isn’t fair. I think for the first time I am really beginning to understand a wee bit, the other side of adoption- the “sucky” part. I had initially thought adoption was just so wonderful and blessed. Well it is…for the adoptive family. And maybe even eventually for the child being adopted. But there is a heckuva lotta hurt on the other side. In our children’s cases, by the time we found out about them their parents had long since abandoned them, police had searched for them and of course did not find them. The children were in the care of orhpanages and I do not propose that leaving them there would have been more just than adopting them. We are truly blessed to be the parents of these children not born to us, but entrusted to us. But my heart hurts for them and their first families that are lost forever to them. Shifu has already asked me many times to tell him about his first family. I know nothing. Nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. I only know where he was found. That’s it. I don’t know what he was wearing, I don’t even have a baby photo. His orphanage did not give me any additional information about his early life. I have no baby photos of Mei Mei either, though I have a bit more information as to her early life and what it was like.
I do not think that either of my adopted children have reactive attachment disorder. I do think that they both have some attachment anxieties that manifest in various ways at random times. I have found that despite what other parents have told me, parenting children who were adopted, adopted internationally, adopted as toddlers, is NOT just like parenting a biological child. It isn’t even fair to expect that it would be the same. The love is not less. The parenting is not less. Just different.
My Mei Mei is having some issues. They are coming out in ways she can control. I am not sure why. My Shifu has also had some not so fun issues in the past and even recently. We had him tested for SPD (sensory processing disorder) but he does not seem to really have a need for any interventions. And yet he sometimes hurts himself. And he’s discovered a way to hurt himself where we cannot see. But a Dr. discovered it. And I was shocked! He figured out how to poke the back of his throat with a fork and make it bleed. The Dr. discovered puncture wounds and bruises all over the soft palate and throat. It took some time alone with him for him to confess to me that he’d done it. He doesn’t know why. My first response was to feel guilty. Surely I must be doing something wrong. Perhaps I need to do more of this or less of that or read another book? I chased my tail round and round fretting about this upsetting news. We waited for days for results of a throat culture to confirm that he didn’t have some rare disease, rather that they were just self-injury marks. The Dr. just didn’t believe from spending time with Shifu that he was emotionally disturbed. And I think it wouldn’t be even fair to suggest that he really is. I think sometimes he hurts inside and he doesn’t know how to express it, heck, maybe he doesn’t even really understand his own feelings. We have had long stretches of time where he is not hurting himself, not acting out, not withdrawing from the world, and then once in awhile, we see signs that all is not healed up. I wonder if it will be a life-long process? There was a season where he and I went to therapy together. It was a huge waste of my time. Ugh. Shifu was eating things that were not edible. Everytime my back was turned. I was at my wit’s end. I just didn’t know what else to do. Turns out, neither did the counselor. She thought he had PICA? He didn’t. She was in the process of referring us to a place about 2 hours away that specializes in child hypnotism. Yeah. No thanks. Guess what? God had the answers and tools I needed all along. Daddy was gone, working away from home for an extended time, and some severe anxieties has arisen in young Shifu and that was his way of expressing himself. He has some deep- seated issues with food, and I have reason to believe he was truly hungry as a baby and his hunger pangs often went unnoticed. We navigated through that season with the Lord’s help and have never been back to counseling. I am quick to freak out when new and upsetting behavior arises. Picking onself until bleeding is not something that is preferrable. Shifu has done that. So I’ve learned to start asking what is behind the behavior. THAT is what we need to deal with.
Shifu is a great kid. Mei Mei is a great (albeit naughty right now!) kid. They are going to do much more than just make it…they are going to thrive. God has plans for them..plans to prosper them and not to harm them, plans to give them a future and a hope. God has entrusted me for reasons I will never understand, to be their Mama. Therefore I will trust in His provision for me in order that I might be what they need when they need it along this journey of attachment and life.
There are days when I want to just give myself over to sorrow, for what they have lost, for their mothers’ losses and for myself even. It’s all about perspective. Is the glass half empty or half full? Somedays I see what’s missing and other days I see what’s there.
We all have brokenness. We all need healing in varying degrees. Today I am purposing to be thankful that God the Father made a way for ME to be part of HIS family and that He allowed ME to be the mother to these four…and counting 😉