"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Attachment, Rose-Colored Glasses....and the truth!

I dropped off the kids at school and had every intention this morning of cleaning my entire house for the 3 hours that I only have 2 little ones at home. My computer wasn't even on, which is a rarity in my life, since I often check email throughout the day so I don't get too far behind, although many times it could takes days to answer them.

Well, I thought, let me turn it on, peek at my mail and head to the dishes, toy organizing, laundry, floors and everything else that gets put off. But when I opened my mail, I was surprised to have over 15 emails, many from strangers, whom now I feel I know because of the feelings we share.

I can't thank you all enough for your encouragement and for you sharing your pain and experiences with me. I read many of your emails (and will respond to everyone, if I haven't already) and I feel like it is me speaking. You know exactly what I am going through and that has made me feel like I am not alone in this battle.

I commented to my sister the other day that unless you have adopted, especially internationally, it is hard to understand completely what one goes through. Kai was a breeze. Yes, he wanted Daddy and rejected me while in China, but we worked through it. Yes, he had and even now shows a bit of a hint of attachment, even after a year and a half of being home, but he truly has been "the perfect child", as someone stated to me that they felt their first adoption was.

During the wait for Kai, I created adoption videos. Through this forum, I got to "meet" many families. Some I have remained friends with, others we shared the experience and moved on. But, I learned so much from everyone I spoke to. The inside scoop of what it is like to bring home a child. I firmly believe that every child that is adopted, whether domestically or internationally, as a toddler has some degree of attachment issues. Now, before I start getting hate mail or being critized for my opinion, I am fully declaring that I am not an expert and going based solely on my experiences with my own children, and those that I have gotten to know through the adoption community.

That leads to the "Rose-Colored Glasses" on the title of this post. There's been quite a few parents that I have spoken to that either because of ignorance, lack of knowledge and education in regards to attachment issues, or who just plain want to believe that their child is perfect, wear these glasses. Someone emailed me today and her words could not ring more true to me. She said, speaking of her own adopted child, ".....runs around church and people say "oh, she's doing great!" because she isn't so sad looking and permantly velcro attached to me. They don't understand. They see her running to them and throwing up her arms and think it's WONDERFUL! It just makes my heart break more because I know it is not."

Oh my Lord, those words are the epitomy of what I try almost daily to share with those around me. Anna Grace IS very sweet, very loving, and can captivate your heart at the blink of an eye with her radiant smile.....BUT, especially when she is surrounded by strangers, that is all part of attachment. I dread going to parties and even to church at times when she galavants in and now expects the oooohssss and aaaahhhs she receives weekly. She feeds off of this. My family now understands when I say, I need to hold her and she can't go to anyone. They know this means that she is losing control. Strangers view it as I am mean and sometimes I am sure, although they may not tell me, that I am making much of it up. But since 2003, I have been reading about attachment and it was and continues to be my major fear. Our sovereign God knows this, and has definitely challenged me. I constantly have to keep reminding myself this is not about me, it's about Him and His child. Gosh, that's a hard lesson to learn. I digress.

At times, I wish that I hadn't read so much about attachment; that I could view those moments of seeing her raise her arms for a stranger to pick her up as "what an outgoing, happy child I have"; that I could wear those rose-colored glasses. But, I can't. I can't deny the fact that it's just not true. A child with healthy attachment is leary (not necessarily afraid) of strangers, and realize that their parent(s) is their comfort zone. That doesn't mean that there aren't friendly children who have healthy attachments, but as an adoptive parent, it is our job to be our child's advocate and to clearly look for signs of unhealthy attachment so that we can assist in breaking that cycle and allow them to make up for the lack of trust and nurturing that they have suffered.

Ironically, after I posted the entry Love Is In The Air, and included the video showing tons of smiles and hugs and kisses from Anna Grace, I experienced and have for 2 days now, probably some of the worst times we've had. I've prayed about it and thought incessantly about the big question of "Why?"

Well, the best answer I can come up with is that while I was going thru pictures and putting the video together, which took me about 2.5 days, my love was fiercely growing for Anna Grace. I think it had a lot to do with my wanting it so bad. Each picture allowed me to believe that we were almost at the end of tunnel. I would just look at her across the room and she would draw out the biggest smile on my face and on my heart. I think she, too, was falling in love with me during those 2.5 days.

So, you say, "What's wrong with that? That's how it should always be." Yes, in a perfect world, it should. But (there's always a "but"), when the video was all done, we watched it together maybe 5 times. I sat her on my lap, many times with tears and I held her and kept telling her how much Mama loved her. My cup truly was overflowing with love for her. This apparently scared the bejeezus out of her. She had given in to this love and realized it was wrong. She then decided that she couldn't take the risk. So, the deception, the raging, the anger and the defiancy began to appear. Not slowly, oh no! It hit like a bomb. I originally posted that entry on Sunday prior to going to church. By Sunday at noon, the evident love had dissipated. She did and has done for 3 days everything possible to get me to hate her. She has pulled herself into her world and completely shut me out. This leads me to my next and last thought. The truth.

The truth is that we, all of us, are human. One of the things that I learned early on about "love" and adopting a child with attachment issues is that you fake it until you make it. I can't even begin to tell you how difficult that is. And I am so very glad to hear from so many of you that have had the same feelings as I have.....the same exact feelings at times. The feeling that I most carry throughout the day is guilt. I am ridden with guilt. To the point that last night I lay in bed thinking that I HAVE to go to confession on Saturday. (Yes, the Catholic in me.)

Why do I have so much guilt? Because I am many times ashamed of the fact that I could possibly think, "I have ruined my family, What have I done?, I wouldn't be devastated if she went back to China." All those thoughts about my own daughter. It disgusts me at times. Again, before I get judged and persecuted, I am the very first person to say that I would never, ever disrupt an adoption. She is my daughter from the moment we signed those papers to petition for her, I do love her, and I know she was sent as a blessing from God. But, that doesn't make the rejection any easier. Mind you, it's not just the rejection. Think about it. It's daily. It's seeing her rejoice, smile, love and be playful with others. And if you're fortunate enough to have a turn during those joyful moments and her beautiful soul allows her to be that way with you, instead of enjoying them, my first thought is, "Oh, Lord....what will tomorrow be like?" It's day-to-day. And it's difficult. Very difficult. The guilt also includes the fact that she takes over almost my entire day and consumes just about every thought on my mind, which is not fair to the other 3 children and the wonderful husband that I have.

Every email I received, (and I'm writing this in segments because I keep going out to check the kids, etc. so I've received more since I sat down to write this) has thanked me for my honesty about the truth of what the possibilities are. I rarely read any public journals that discuss attachment issues and I so wish that people would share more. I think it is imperative for every PAP (prospective adoptive parent) to know what challenges they may be facing. The adoption community is a very tight-knit circle and I believe that for our children, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others about not just the joys of adding to our families, but the work that comes with it.

I will close with saying that I know that the Lord has great plans for Anna Grace and in the end it will glorify Him. I know that she was sent to our family for a reason (to drive me nuts...heh! Ok...I'm kidding). But most of all, I am honored and blessed that He has chosen us, specifically me, to take on this task. If asked to volunteer for this mission, I would have never done it. But, I guess He feels I am qualified to take it on, and I pray that I can continue being the mother that He expects me to be. I pray that He always remind me of His gentle and unconditional love for us and His sacrifices, so that I can look at my own life, share with her that same unconditional love and know that my own sacrifices are a breeze compared to His suffering on the cross. My darling daughter is indeed the sunshine on my cloudy days, but as we all know, some days the sun shines brighter than others.

God bless. I'm off to clean my house.


N & D said...

Oh honey,
I am so sorry Miss Anna is having such a hard time giving in to her love for you! I can not imagine the heart ache you feel, especially when everyone else thinks she is such a happy loving child. It is like she is punishing herself and you for letting her guard down.
Danny was much like Kai, very easy going. I am very happy we adopted Victoria so young now, I think girls have such a hard time trusting another woman after all their caregivers.
I would love for us to get together, but don't want to make it any harder for you and miss Anna.
I am home all the time now, so if you want to talk or get together, call or email,

Ruth said...

Ohilda, thank you so much for your open and honest heart to share what you have gone through. Today is our 6 month anniversary of having Annalynn and we are still struggling through attachment issues. It is not an easy road and sometimes we think we are crazy going back for #2 but they are worth all the heartache and tears -
Thanks again for being brave enough to share your heart and life!


Sophie's Mom said...

Thank you for your honesty. This should be required reading for potential adopters.

geminirn said...

OH O'Hilda;

Thanks again(I would love to use this as a post on my own blos...all PAP should be reading this).


Aiden's Mommy said...


My heart breaks for you and for Anna Grace. If there is anyting at all I can do, please let me know!


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