I spent much of last evening in prayer asking God to give me affirmation as to what I'm doing. Is it what He wants? Am I following His will in doing what my heart believes is best for my child? I usually don't ask God for signs since I try so hard to walk by faith. But, last night. I did. I told Him that I needed to know that I was doing the right thing pertaining to Anna Grace.
This morning, Scott and I had a late breakfast and I put the kids down for an early nap. Then, I began to do something that I rarely do because a) I'm usually not interested and b) I don't have the time. But anyways, I started surfing blogging sites, not related to adoption. The 2nd site I open (that had nothing to do with adoption), this picture is the first thing I see.
THANK YOU, JESUS!!!! That was all that I needed.
This is going to be brief and unexplained but I wanted to make something crystal clear. It has come to my attention that some reader(s) feel that I am crediting myself as an authority in adoption/attachment. I think that every post I have ever written about attachment, I have clearly disclaimed that I AM NOT AN EXPERT and that in no way do I claim to be, I go on further to say that I am going by what I have learned and what I have experienced with my own children, and what has worked for our family in the past. I know that holding time therapy is a very controversial topic and I expected this to occur because many people do not believe in it. I believe that each child is different, each parenting technique is different and that each parent has to do what they feel is best for their child. But, I will say that attachment issues are very real and it is pure ignorance to believe that they do not exist.
I also want to make it even more clear that Jesus Christ IS the center of our lives, in case there was any doubt in anyone's mind. There is not a time when I have done holding time, with either Kai or Anna Grace, that I am not praying over them and asking for the Holy Spirit to come and fill our hearts with His peace and unconditional love. I love my children, again...ALL OF THEM, with every fiber of my being, and would lay down my life in a heartbeat for any of them. as I suppose any parent would. Holding time therapy (at least how I do it) in no way, shape or form, physically hurts the child and the results are astounding. Again, MY PERSONAL BELIEF. By the way, holding time is not always when the child is screaming to not be held. Many, many times is it a beautiful bonding experience in which lots of eye-contact and skin-to-skin contact is attained, much like you would do with a newborn infant.
As to my feelings that I have aired publicly. I have done so because I just felt in my heart that I cannot be the only person out there experiencing those feelings. Over 50 emails now have affirmed my thoughts. They are normal feelings in the process. WE ARE HUMAN....only God is perfect. I DO NOT expect perfection from Anna Grace, nor do I from any of my children, nor anyone around me for that matter, since I know that I, myself, am so far from perfection. I am grateful that we are blessed with a forgiving Father in heaven who sees our imperfections and still loves us unconditionally. So, how could I not do the same with my own children? There is a difference between helping Anna Grace learn to love, attach and trust and trying to make her perfect, something that I would never do. I can give you pages full of imperfections that my children all have, yet I see them thru a Mother's eyes....as if they were each a flawless diamond.
But most importantly, and I know I've said this before when I delve into private situations with our family, I want to reiterate the reason why I have not made my blog private. I can't tell you how many times I have thought about doing so, especially because I know there are readers who I would prefer not reading the private details of our lives. I have prayed much about it. God has spoken to my heart each time I have prayed, going back to the first website that I created back in 2003, Formed By Love, which was created to give glory and honor to our Lord and Savior for everything He has done in our lives. For years now, I have received emails from readers who have been in despair and somehow, someway, the Lord led them to read my site and gave them a message from HIM that they needed to hear. Let me reiterate that...from HIM, not me. I take no credit for any of His works and am humbled that He has used me as a tool. Hence, the reason why I have not gone private. If at any point in time it has appeared that it is MY pride or accomplishments, I profusely apologize, not to my readers, but to my Lord. I am but a mere servant to an awesome God, and I will continue to praise Him for the good AND the bad. I continue to live my life giving Him the glory and turning every blessing into praise. Ironically, I've had people write to me that they think I am overboard on giving God glory. Go figure.
Lastly, as I said in yesterday's entry, and the Lord said in the book of Jeremiah, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.". I know He has great plans for Anna Grace and the struggles we are going thru will indeed be used for His glory. I hope some of you are around to rejoice with our family and praise our God with us when that day comes.
In His Name....
PS. For those still encouraged, spending an entire day carrying Anna Grace yesterday, even through my sister's birthday celebration, has made a remarkable difference in her attitude today.
PSS. I apologize for it turning out not so brief.
I don't have much time, but I did want to write a bit today since I found that airing my feelings was truly cleansing to me.
So, I will give a small summary as to where we are today and the response I have received. As to me, I am hanging in there. The emails keep coming and when I read the subject line now pertaining to my blunt and honest blog entry, I sort of cringe before opening it, expecting to be berated for my feelings. I guess that goes with the shame and the guilt and even the times when I am second guessing myself....am I doing the right thing, although my heart tells me I am. Well, every email I've opened has been full of love, support and prayers for me, Anna Grace and our family as a whole. THANK YOU!!!! I have not had one negative email and that means a lot. Your words of encouragement and prayers are holding me up and are appreciated more than you could ever know.
I have to laugh sometimes because I think to myself, who in the world wants to read this stuff, but I am eternally grateful that many of you do and are there to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I feel like the cellphone commercials with the "network" of people. heh!
I especially want to say thank you to two particular readers, who brought up two points that I had not thought of. One pertained to my guilt. He (yes, can you believe a man reads my blog?!) said feelings are not a sin. He is so right. It's the action that creates the sin. By the way, he spent 7 years in the seminary as a Franciscan, as he says...he knows Catholic guilt. :) Thank you, A. You have lifted a lot of that guilt from me by your words of wisdom.
Secondly, was a wonderful person that I did get to meet while in China. She adopted a beautiful little girl who, praise God, has adjusted wonderfully. She mentioned to me that she was so happy for Anna Grace. As I was reading her words, it dawned on me...."what if?" She brought up the questions of "what if Anna Grace had gone to a family without my faith or determination?" Then I started thinking about the fact that what if she had gone to a family who does indeed wear those 'rose-colored glasses', what if she would not be receiving the attention to attachment that she so desperately needs, where would she be? Not necessarily now, but years from now? I shudder at the thought of this little girl never being able to build a bond or trust anyone because her fears and the wall that she has built were allowed to remain buried inside her. I guess, no, I know, that the Lord knows what he's doing. If there is something that I have is determination and I am a Mama Bear when it comes to my little cubs. I will move heaven and earth to help heal whatever ails them, and the Lord knew that Anna Grace would need that. I again am humbled that He chose me, as difficult as it has become for all of us here, to be the one to help her.
Now onto Anna Grace. After I posted about the 3 bad days, yesterday afternoon was really bad. One of the important things about therapeutic parenting is that you really should not allow a child to see how they are "breaking you down". You should always be loving, confident and empathetic, yet discliplined. A lot to try and keep up with when you are holding a pretty large two year old who is fighting you. It is soooooo much easier to dump her in a crib and walk away, but I never have and never will, only because she lived her life that way and that is pretty much what she wants. She wants to be assured that I am gonna walk away, that I will leave her. Her mind is set that she can push me to the break of abandoning her. Well, she's met her match. That's never gonna happen unless the Lord calls me home. Gosh, I keep digressing and I only have a few minutes since they are soon waking from their naps.
So, back to yesterday afternoon, she awoke from her nap after having a "good morning" with me, playing and being loving. When I carried her, she was smiling, but I immediately felt the tension in her body as I picked her up. She didn't want the closeness. This is the time when indeed she needs it. So, I sat on the bed with her (while AJ went thru every drawer in the room), and held her. I told her I loved her and it was ok to love Mama. She started crying and pulling back. By then, with all that I had been through in 3 days, it became too overwhelming, I held her even closer and I started bawling. I let all of my feelings out. I told her this was so hard for me but I wasn't giving up. She was my daughter and I loved her and I know that Jesus was gonna get us through this. I began to thank God for her out loud and I prayed hard....very hard. A couple of minutes later, the crying (Anna Grace's) had seized. I look down at her thru blurry eyed tears and see her eyes wide open just staring at me. Her body now relaxed. She didn't say a word. She just stared. We had wonderful eye contact for what seemed to be forever. I hugged her and she hugged me back. As I wisked the sweaty hair from her face, I whsipered, "I love you, Anna Grace" to which she responded with the sweetest, "I wub you, Mama". Then, as quickly as it began, it was over. We had a fantastic day. We colored, played hide-and-seek, had bubble bath and life was great. At night putting her to bed, I held again and reminded her it was ok to love Mama and that Mama will always be here. She smiled and went to sleep.
This morning, she awoke pretty much all smiles. I dressed her and I thought we'd spend the day out somewhere. That was, until I went to hold her. I could tell that she was pulling away, and there was no eye contact. This is what I refer to as "payback" for having loved me the day before. I asked her to sit on the couch. She stood there as a statue. Would not budge. Instead, after the 2nd time I asked, she looked at me straight in the eye, and walked in the other direction to get a book. I said to her, "No book...please sit on the couch." She once again looked at me very stoically, turned her head, walked over to the bookshelf and knocked over all of the books. Then turned and gave me the same stoic look, as if to say, "I'm in control". Well, needless to say, our day has been spent with Anna Grace on my lap as glue. And I am doing what she hates most....loving her to death and faking it till I make it! ::deep breaths:: I just know that she is pushing every button possible until I "return" her to China, and she will eventually come to terms with the fact that it's never going to happen. Like it or not, we are a family forever. Once she realizes that and those bricks, from that wall that she has built, start crumbling down, all will be well. I just know it.
Oh, I did want to comment on an email when someone asked me if I thought that she had RAD (reactive attachment disorder). No, in no way do I feel she does. Anna Grace shows compassion and remorse and did from very early on. She is just a textbook case of a child coming from an orphanage, although she did spend a few months in foster care. And it doesn't matter how good the orphanage is that a child comes from, an orphange is still just that....an orphanage. To read more about RAD you can click here. I also want the readers to understand that there are different ranges of attachment, some so mild that they may go unnoticed.
Blessings and thank you again for your emails, comments and prayers. They truly keep me going when I feel like giving up.
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.
For 24 fans:
24 Season 7 - 3 Hour Season Premiere
The 3 hour season premiere of 24 Season 7 will begin on Sunday, January 13th, 2008 with the airing of the first two hours. The third hour of the premiere will air at its regular time slot on Monday, January 14th at 9 pm on Fox.
On Tuesday, it will be 3 months since we first held Anna Grace. This little stubborn, obstinate, hard-headed baby girl with a broken heart and a smile that melts mine has truly given me a run for my money. She has challenged every thought and every emotion I could possibly fear. She has made me question my abilities to parent, to make decisions and most of all, if I could truly love her. Love was not instant for either of us. I never thought I would be saying those words since I had fallen in love with an image of what I thought she was, through pictures. I envisioned sweetness, love and kisses galore. Instead, I faced anger, rage, hatred and defiancy. She pushed my patience sometimes to the point that I had to walk away, many times in tears. I have felt like a failure as a mother and questioned "what have I done?" on more than one occasion. All symptoms of what attachment could bring into a family.
Many times I prayed hard that God would intervene, but in His infiinite wisdom, he sometimes allows us to go through that desert alone. Why? So we could continue to cry out to Him. Many times I did, and I'm sure if my little sweetie truly knew who God was, she'd be calling out to him also. But as always, I will turn every blessing into praise, and Lord...I thank you and give you all the glory and honor for this blessing and for the difficult journey, it has made it all the sweeter.
I have always been very honest with my feelings and this time is no exception. I was told and promised by many that it was part of the grieving process and that if I worked hard, she would indeed love me. I waited, worked at it, prayed and still dreaded waking up in the mornings. I was guilt ridden for what I had "done to our family". But, I persisted with holding time, sometimes 3, 4 or 5 times a day. I tried to show her unconditional love, even at times when I wanted to give up. God could see the frustration and would allow me to see hints of the real little girl. The one hiding under the tough exterior. The one that was so scared to love for fear of abandonment. The little girl who rejected me daily because she didn't want to feel the pain of being left again and who thought it was safer not to love or trust. Those glimpses that God gave me were the sips of water that allowed me to get through my time in the desert. Sometimes, I'd see an oasis on the horizon. She'd smile and love and play with me, but the next day I would pay for it dearly. She hated herself for allowing herself to show me affection and would completely revert back to the scared little girl with broken wings, who would close herself up into her world and not allow me in, but instead travel the opposite direction and rage and pretend that she hated me. I started to catch on.
Well, through God's grace, love and more patience than I ever thought I could muster, we've come so very far. There are days now that I just sit and watch her with tears welling up in my eyes. She is indeed that beautiful child I had conjured up in my mind through pictures. Actually, she is more. She has a very high pitched little voice that giggles constantly and loves yelling out "Mama, Mama". She wants no one else but me to comfort her when she is hurt. I glance at her across the room and she breaks out into that gorgeous smile showing all of her pearly-white little teeth. At times, the smile isn't enough and she will stop what she is doing and run over to me, arms wide open, to hug and kiss me. She kisses me 20 times a day without my asking, and each kiss is sweeter than the one before. Where she hated sitting on my lap and holding me, she now climbs up like a little kitten and snuggles into my arms. When she is scolded for not behaving, she waits to see my reaction; to see if I still love her. When I tell her that I love her but that I am not happy with what she did, it's ok. She smiles in knowing that there is nothing that she can do to shatter the love and bond we have been working so hard to create. We still have days that she regresses and I'm not quite sure what triggers it, but the good days now outweigh the bad, by far.
Each day I love waking up in the morning and seeing her run to me to give me good morning kisses, instead of watching her close her eyes tightly shut and just freeze at the sight of me. God is good and he does keep his promises. I love my girl more than I ever thought possible. She has captivated my heart, my soul and my very being. I am her Mama and it feels so darn good to be able to say it while feeling that fierce love that only a Mama could have. Thank you, Jesus and thank you to all that have prayed hard for this stage to finally arrive. I know prayers have been answered and many of you picked up the baton and prayed for me, when I thought that it was an impossible feat and I could no longer go on. Nothing is impossible with God.
(Once again, please remember to shut down the background music to watch the video).
I couldn't ask for a better life filled with lots of kids, an adoring husband, chaos, laughter and more love than you can imagine! That's my life....and I love it!