"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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A must see and a mother's heart

Tonight I did something I haven't ever done in my 44 years of life. I went to the movies by myself. Not only did I go to the movies by myself, I was the only one in the theater. I sat down as I giggled to myself that I was going to intentionally leave my cell phone on and kick the seat in front of me! Just for the record, wimpy me didn't do either.

I chose to see Juno because I knew it had to do something with a domestic adoption, although I wasn't real sure of the details. It was awesome! It was funny, sad, emotional and brought back feelings that, well...still are very much alive in me, especially these past few days as we are approaching AJs 2nd birthday. This movie is a definite must see. It allows you to peek into both sides of the equation, the struggles of a birthmother and the aching heart of an adoptive mother who so desperately wants to be Mommy.

I know I'm gonna head totally off course now and speak about AJ, when I really want to tell you about the movie, but what can I say? ::sheepish grin::

For those of you new to reading my blog, AJ is our youngest son, adopted domestically. You can read his entire story here.

March 22 my little man will be two years old. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the entire experience. It's funny because I've read many times that adoption is adoption, but it's not. I find very few comparisons in AJ's adoption to Kai and Anna Grace's, except for the fact that once we committed to them, they were our children forever. But the leading up it, the actual "gotcha" moment and their past history is like comparing apples to oranges.

We were incredibly blessed to have met AJ's birthmother and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her and pray for her. I mostly pray that her heart is 150% at peace with knowing how much AJ is treasured and adored.

I haven't really shared much about the terms of AJ's adoption publicly. I'm not sure why. I guess it's because I am so enamored by all the waiting children in China, that my main focus is geared into that direction.

Maybe in the near future I will share more about our experience but for now, I just want to share how much I have grown in the past year. We have a closed adoption, meaning no contact with the birth family, with the option of allowing AJ to seek his birth mother/family after he is 18 years old. At that point, if he chooses, we will support him completely. That said, last year around his 1st birthday, our lawyer called us to say that AJ's birthmother had sent him a birthday card and in it included a letter for us. Without getting too personal, I can tell you that my insecurities sent me tumbling into a sea of jealousy, fear and anxiety that this woman would still consider AJ her son.

It took almost a year for me to get past that. He is her son. He is also my son, our son. Do I want to throw myself into an open adoption now because I see it that way? Absolutely not. But, do I thank God and his birthmother every single day of my life for the amazing gift that they have given us? Definitely! There is no way that she could ever, ever, ever know what a treasure she has bestowed upon us.

I have read that birthmothers get pretty upset when they read things like that last sentence because they didn't set out to give us anything. Their selfless act was brought to fruition for their child, not for us. I completely understand that. But, in their doing so, we have become the blessed ones.

This little boy fills my days with so much laughter and joy that it's hard to put into words. He's happy, funny, so very sweet, mischievous, and all boy! I can go from wanting to lock him in a closet to wanting to smother him in kisses within seconds. He is into everything! His favorite room in the house is the kitchen pantry and he has been known to cover the floors with everything from dishwashing liquid (that was a nightmare!) to oatmeal to chocolate syrup, all in the blink of an eye! But how could you get mad when he comes over to you, covered in his item of choosing for the day and says, "Mama, AJ made mesh (mess)!", as the flakes of oatmeal float down from his hair. Ooooohhh....I could eat him up! I love him endlessly, totally and completely. He is my sweet and loving baby boy and he's growing up way too fast!

I have to share my favorite though. When he is just completely and totally driving me to my limits, I tell him that he's "done, cooked, finished!" He's going into the crib. He whines as I carry him and plop him in his crib. Two seconds later, I hear him singing. (Heh...you should see my face now. Just thinking about it makes me smile.) After a few minutes I go in there and each and every time he melts my heart by saying "Hi Mama!", with this huge grin from ear to ear. I pick him up and he immediately wraps his arms around me, puts his head on my shoulder and says, "AJ loves Mama. Mama happy?" The kid does it every time. And every time he wraps me tighter around his little finger.

Going back to the movie. If you have an opportunity, please go see it. You won't regret it! As I left the theater thinking about AJ, his birthmother and how amazingly blessed I am, I think about all of the birthmothers out there. It takes a huge person with an enormous heart to say yes, carry a child for nine months and then place them in the arms of another woman. That has to be the most selfless act that I could ever imagine any woman doing. I know I could never do it, and I am eternally grateful that AJ's birthmom did choose life for him, and that God chose us to be his parents. We are blessed indeed!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Going back in time

Since I have missed posting about so many events, I gathered a few pictures and put them together or the ones I missed. Hopefully there will be more to come....and dog gone it, even if it's spring time, I will eventually post about Christmas!! I really want the kids to have a record of their first Christmas together before my mind goes completely.

I hope you enjoy these few fun moments in our lives:

ADAM'S BIRTHDAY! (December 19)




(I apologize for not being able to make the picture larger when you click on it. Blogger has been not playing nice lately.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stop the world, I wanna get off....

and catch my breath! Where is time going?

That's what I was thinking as I sit here dipping my salt & vinegar chips into a jar of hot salsa cheese sauce and sipping on my coke. Oh yes, and I am also thinking about how I plan on losing the 25 lbs. I want/need to lose by July. But, I'll start working on that tomorrow, or maybe even the day after that.

Time is truly flying by. We have an event or activity scheduled for just about every weekend through the end of April. My "to do" list grows daily, and my energy level decreases along with it.

First coming up is birthday time! I cannot believe that my sweet, baby boy who was just born yesterday, or at least it seems that way to me, is going to be two years old! AJ and Anna Grace's brithday are about 2 weeks apart, so this year, I have decided to have a big bash at once for both of them.

I found a really neat place to host the event and have already reserved the date. It's a farm! The kids will have an awesome time riding ponies, and lovin' on the baby ducks, chicks, pigs, goats, rabbits, and even a llama at the petting zoo. Also included is a bounce house, feeding carrots and apples to a quarter horse (not quite sure what that is, but I know it's not a pony) and tossing yummies into the pond for the turtles and fish to eat! We just have to pray for no rain that day!

They are so excited! I know Anna Grace did have a party with her foster family last year because in her lifebook, given to us by the orphanage, was included pictures of her blowing out the candles and a room filled with balloons.

Both she and AJ, and even Kai, are so excited and ask daily now, "My birthday today?" I keep having to tell them, "not yet". But we talk about what they will do during their party and their little eyes light up as a smile covers their sweet faces.

I had mentioned in my previous posts that I would answer some questions about Anna Grace and her attachment. So, here goes.

Anna Grace has been home just over 8 months now. As I said before, she's doing great. But, the issues are definitely still there and the attachment's ugly head rears itself whenever I let my guard down for too long.

If we have holding time at all now, it's down to maybe once month and that's when she's really losing control and I can tell that she is pushing every button available just to get a reaction out of me.

Since it's been so busy around here, we've had a lot of disruption in the routine. That can throw any child for a loop, but with Anna Grace, I've noticed that she gravitates towards others when things are completely out of the ordinary. This occurred about 3 weeks ago when we had 2 consecutive days of non-stop people coming and going and us visiting others. The topper was when we visited my sister's house. Anna Grace loves my 18 yr. old nephew, Anthony, and he loves her. She sees him and immediately runs to be picked up and carried by him. Which is fine, until we leave. This particular evening, she was with him playing for probably two hours. When I went over to her to pick her up, I could immediately tell by the body language and lack of eye contact that she wanted nothing to do with me.

Now, some of you may say that maybe it's just because she was having a good time and she didn't want to leave. Yes, I agree. BUT....what makes me sure that it is not just regular toddler behavior is the fact that had Scott, my sister or anyone else said, "Come on, Anna Grace" and reached to pick her up. She may not have been thrilled, but would have gone with them and it would have been forgotten the entire thing within a few minutes. With me, she did go with me and didn't resist, but the second I held her in my arms, I could feel her legs and arms stiffen as to not want to have any close contact. Her eyes drop down and she answers me while looking downwards, if not with eyes closed.

After picking her up, I try and not make a big deal about it and we head home. The entire trip she is silent. I put on her PJs and tuck her in. I give her a kiss and get no response. So, I walk out telling her I love her and praying that the next day be a better one.

It wasn't. It was actually one of the worst we've had in a long time. When she woke up, I asked Scott to bring her into the room. She was fine with him. He walks into the room with her and she takes one glance at me and "the look" immediately forms on her face. He sits her on the bed in front of me as I prepare to dress her for church and the mixture of hate, sadness and fear begin to boil over in her until the tears start to flow. We were in a hurry so I quickly got her dressed without saying anything. I fixed her hair and told her she could go watch TV until I was done. She was frozen. Did not move. She did not look at me. So, I continued on with my things until it was time to go. At which point, I went back to the bed where her position had not changed, nor did her fixed glance. I picked her up and told her that at church she was sitting on my lap. That was enough for the tears to come out. I understand that some of you must be thinking how awful that I force her to be physically with me, instead of letting her sit by herself, but it all goes back to the fact that if I allowed that, it would strengthen the wall that we are so badly trying to keep down. Attachment has a lot to do with control and she needs to realize that she doesn't have to have control anymore. She is a child and her worries should be none! She needs to learn to trust enough to be able to feel secure. I digress.

We arrived at church. She normally really enjoys church, hums along to the hymns and even partakes in the part of the masses that she has learned (i.e. "and also with you" where she extends her little hands out towards the celebrant).

This Sunday was different. She sat lethargically on my lap with still no eye contact. Had I dropped my arm, she would have toppled over because she was putting forth no effort to actually hold herself up. I prop her up on my lap without supporting her body, which makes her mad again. She then starts with small irritating little quirks such as making smacking sounds with her lips. She gets no response from me. She then gets a bit louder. Still no response. A few minutes later, she begins to kick the pew in front of her. Finally, I firmly grasp her and tell her to sit and put her hands on her lap. She looks at me dead in the eye (a definite attachment reaction) and lowers her hands to just about maybe 4-5 inches before touching her lap, sustained in the air. I again sternly ask her to put her hands down. She drops them about 1/2 an inch more, still looking me straight in the eye and keeping the hands clasped but not dropping them into her lap. I then push her hands down to touch her lap and she slowly resists upwards. I let it go but already tell myself that she definitely needs holding time when we get home.

It had been maybe 6 weeks that we had not had any holding time. I couldn't let her win the battle, so for the rest of the mass, she sat with her hands on her lap, and my holding them down. No tears, no words. Just total wanting to be in control. At one point, maybe 20 minutes later, I did let go for something and immediately the hands and arms tightened and rose, claspsed together, about 4 inches off her lap and sustained in mid air again.

When we arrived home, I told Scott to watch the boys that Anna Grace and I were going to spend time together. I went into the bedroom, sat on the bed with her being held like a baby and then the wailing began. She screamed, cried, pushed me away, closed her eyes shut and raged for what seemed to be forever. The entire time I spent telling her in a very low voice that I loved her and that it was ok to be mad and that I knew she was afraid of loving Mama, but it was ok. That it didn't matter how mad she got and how badly she behaved Mama is never going to leave her. I repeated what must've seemed like 1000 times to me, "Anna Grace, Mama loves you so much! Mama is never going to leave you." Over and over.

Eventually about 40 minutes later, the raging began to cease and the deep sobbing filled with sadness begins to pour out of her. She then holds me tight and with her little head against my chest she lets out all of the fears she's been harboring. I hear her a softly whispered, "I love you, Mama." I continue to hold her close, whispering to her that's ok. Mama will always be here and take care of her. Her body relaxes and as she pulls herself away looking up at me, with full eye contact. I smile through my own tears and kiss her, which brings a sweet smile to her face and she kisses me in return, while patting me on the back (her sign of relief). We then both remained snuggled up for quite a bit of time, just looking into each's others eyes, giggling, laughing and sharing one of those moments that affirm to me that we are both exactly where we should be. I love her so very much and I understand why I am the source of her rejection. I am the Mama that replaced her own Mama, the one who abandoned her. It's so very hard to put her heart out there again and possibly risk being abandoned again. I completely understand wanting to guard herself.

Since then, she's consistently been her happy-go-lucky, smiling, dancing and chatting away, little self. Yes, she has her typical two-year old behavior when she's told 'no' and she gets mad and stomps off, but it's so very different. After those hard days when we have such intense holding time, she's confident and trusting.

These days, for the first time, she will come and complain to me that Daddy said "no" or that Daddy sat her in timeout for something. Before, she'd never share anything that would cause me to give her sympathy. The funny thing is that I don't, especially when she tells me that Daddy scolded her or sat her down. Scott and I always remain on the same page when it comes to the kids, even if we disagree about it. When she does this, I always respond with "Well, what did you do that Daddy got upset?" So, she gets no sympathy...but the fact that she's seeking it, is a huge plus. I do hug her afterwards and tell her that maybe she should go tell Daddy that she's sorry for not listening or not doing what he asked, etc.

I know it's not over yet and it will still be a long, long time before I can completely and safely say that Anna Grace has no attachment issues, but it's easy to see that we are well on the road to healing.

Thank you to those that continue to keep her heart and our sanity in your prayers. They are felt and although we have setbacks, every step forward brings us closer as mother and daughter.

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