Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Continuum

Before we welcomed our adoptive kids into our family (I was tempted, for the sake of ease, to say brought them home, but then I stopped myself as I am conflicted about using that terminology. As if they did not already have a home. They did. Both of our children have living fathers who {painfully} chose to relinquish their little ones to the care of another family because of their inability to amply provide for their children's needs. Personally, I see the movement as largely lateral, from one family to another family, from one home to another home. I actually have no idea what phraseology is pc in the adoption community or what adoptive parents would say about the topic, it's just my perspective.) ((Whew, that was a looooong parenthesis!)) Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, prior to Meadow and Flint making their debut in our lives I would read the blogs of folks who had adopted and wonder to myself as they spoke in general terms about their struggles, "what exactly is it that makes adoption in this way (older children, that the adoptive parents have never met, from a foreign country) challenging?" Truthfully, I wanted the nitty gritty details!

It was only after we brought them here that I began to understand why lots of people were probably less than specific as they addressed the issues facing their children. There is a sense of  protection for these young lives who have been through so much - not to mention the feeling of vulnerability involved in relaying our own struggles for the "whole world" to see. Adoption can rock a parents life, as well as a marriage, siblings, and a family unit. As we try to discuss the subject, it becomes quickly clear that there is a very fine line - wanting to be honest and transparent enough for those who are facing the same challenges themselves to find comfort and consolation in the reality that they are not alone - and endeavoring to protect our kids' privacy. It is my sincere hope that I am able to do both, to some extent, coupling as much graciousness and openness as I can muster. 

"They" say that your children have to be with you as long as they were away from you for full attachment and bonding. For us, who met our children at the ages of 4 and 6, that can be discouraging news! If this is true, we still have a long haul toward proper attachment. And yet, to get to the nitty gritty, I will say that the #1 issue I encounter as an adoptive mother is varying degrees of unattachment. It makes me wonder if they are right.

A deep emotional bond makes everything you do for someone, with someone, easier. Everything. Everything. Love requires great service. Caring for adoptive children with the immense needs they often present is bound to be a task heavily laden with sacrificial servitude. No doubt, it would likely be harder to do all that I do to for my biological children if it were not for the time I spent caring for my babies when they were small and helpless. Had I not fallen in love with them from the instant I saw 2 lines on the pregnancy tests - had I not experienced the miracle of their births, deeply breathed in their sweet fragrance, felt their warm skin on mine, cared for their every need, witnessed their first smile, coo, giggle, laugh, step, I would surely not be as utterly, hopelessly bonded to them as I am now. I can still see the image of their faces as babies in my mind's eye when I look at them. It takes my breath away. They, my babies, big as they are, take my breath away. We have an ooey gooey kind of love.

Meeting Meadow and Flint was an entirely different experience. They were already big kids. With lice and ringworm and a host of emotional issues, none of which were their fault. From day one, we were in for some intense labor. Only it wasn't in the form of the tender moments involved in caring for infants. It came through trying to help kids with opinions of their own and no constructive means to express themselves due to a language barrier, who were reeling from a sense of change and loss and grief and feeling completely out of place, while I myself was reeling from a sense of change and loss and grief and feeling completely out of place. The bonding that was required to form a cohesive parent child relationship had to be formed through some pretty severe circumstances. It is not easy to develop ooey gooey love when you are wading through a constant level of turmoil.

There is no way the feelings of love I knew as a mother were going to effortlessly appear with my adopted children the way they did with my biological babies. Love is a great motivator - it fuels the fire of service. It makes all that we do less of a chore, more of a joy. It has taken time to build with the beautiful Ethiopian treasures entrusted to my care. Hence, there have been times where the necessary work has felt quite a chore. I was "mommy" to all 7 of my kids. But in my heart, I could feel a definite distinction between the children I gave birth to and those I adopted, which brought me such shame. And that, my friends, has been my most significant challenge. 

Today, as we approach the two and a half year mark, I am able to beat myself up less because I don't carry an equal level of emotional attachment and deep bond for my biological and adopted kids. Do I feel for Meadow and Flint precisely the same way I do for Jayla, Onyx, Tyden, Stryder and Clover? No, I do not. Our journey together has been nothing alike. And, through much careful consideration, after swimming in a sea of self imposed condemnation, I've allowed myself to stop expecting that, to stop comparing. Instead, I am choosing to find joy and hope in the truth that I do feel for them. Very much. Little by little, as I watch them learn and grow and develop before my eyes, my mother's heart for these precious people grows too. More and more, these big kids are becoming my babies. Sometimes, they even take my breath away.

Maybe it will take 4 and 6 years to "arrive." But, I really try not to worry anymore about that. Because the way I see it, love is less of a destination, and more of a beautiful, blessed, fluid continuum, apt to evolve gently, with time.


Anonymous said...

Tisha, your honesty is always refreshing as we walk this road in sync. It is still a struggle for me and after 2 1/2 years here as well; I wish more people had been open and honest with me about the struggles they too were in as I would not have felt so alone and condemning myself as well. It was only after seeking out those willing to share that I realized there were many others feeling the same way. I also had to realize that maybe my expectation of loving my adopted child exactly the same as my biological was unrealistic (I set myself up for failure thinking it could be exactly the same)and needed a "new" expectation...loving her in a different way (still working on figuring out what that looks like as we do the "attachment dance" while stepping all over each others toes).

K. Barber said...

Thank you for your honesty. As a mom on this side of the adoption process, I've often wondered and longed for this type of honesty from that side of adoption. Thank you for your frankness. Chrissy Plunkett pointed me to this post and I'm glad she did. Praying for you as you continue the attachment process, for however many years it takes.

Barry said...

Your email got sent back to me so sorry this probably isn't the best place to send this so feel free to erase it when you're done reading...
I didn't know if this would interest you and Bob or not but I know it is something you guys care about. Sunday I'm going to be talking about a year long focus starting in August on reading/studying through the Bible, Gen-Rev., with a focus on family interaction and seeing the "big story" in context. The idea is to help those who are intimidated by the Bible (both Christians and non-Christians, churched and unchurched) approach the Bible in a way that's very accessible. We are also putting a push on studying and reading it together as a family. Didn't know if it'd be something that would be of interest to you guys or not but thought I'd give you a heads up!

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