Yesterday marked one month since our sweet girl came home. Whoever said that adopting a child of any age is like bringing home a newborn was right! Despite our best preparations, this past month has been so much more difficult than we could have ever expected, and even more rewarding than we could have hoped for.
The first week we felt helplessness on a whole new level. We watched a baby mourn her previous life in the only way she could, through gut wrenching wailing in sounds we had never heard before. She bucked, screamed, scratched and hit when we tried to hold her close. One night she cried in our arms for three hours straight.
The only person who could make her smile was her big brother Jackson.
Week two followed with getting up through the night every 30 minutes to soothe her, when she didn’t want to be soothed. There was less hitting, but still a lot of bucking and a great resistance to letting us love her. She didn’t want to be held, but she also didn’t want us to let go. The whole household was exhausted and feeling broken, but we got to see her laugh for the first time when mama showed off some dance moves.
Week three saw improvements on the sleep and her letting go of some of the sadness, with more of her personality peeking through. She started to allow us to hold her close, and reached out to touch our faces and become more silly and less serious. We had our visit with the International Adoption Specialist and they gave us lots of reassuring words on where she was developmentally, and some new medications to help heal her ailments, she was eating and gaining at record speed. We were feeling more optimistic and rested.
Week four, we felt like we were on the home stretch and had made it to the other side. Not so! We began to see mournful crying in the day, not just the night. Nights got easier, and we took it as a good thing that she was letting down her guard throughout the day and just letting us hold her as she cried over the faces, sights and sounds she left behind.
Week four also brought belly laughs and crawling, lots of smiles and “talking,” and the connection with her big brother really began to shine. She loves hanging out with him in their room, and if she’s sad he’s the first one to get a smile out of her. She is starting to let us cuddle with her, and we’re hoping that soon she cuddles back. For a long time it’s going to be three steps forward, two steps back and we’re at peace with that.
Not gonna lie, the transition has been hard, very hard. We are fortunate to have a great support group. Thank you to those who brought us meals, we needed it. You who called or texted throughout the day just to see if we needed to talk, that meant so much. Others who dropped off diapers and asked us what we needed until we finally stopped trying to be heros and finally accepted help. And, when we had our lowest days and felt like hiding out, made sure that we knew they were there for us by being persistent friends – thank you for not “leaving us alone.” One of my favorite days was finding out a dear friend did her own research on adoption and attachment and said just the right things when I was feeling like no one understood. That someone would care about our adjustment on that level has gotten me through some really tough days. We’ve even gotten out to happy hour a few times, and even the times we couldn’t make it we are grateful that you haven’t forgotten us, and we appreciate the invites nonetheless.
Bringing home a newborn can be terribly isolating. Bringing home am 8 month old or toddler can be as well. Some think that because the child is older it’s less difficult, that you’re not going to have stressful days, sad days or days where you feel very alone. I am here to confirm it’s the opposite. You have to learn this little person’s history through trial by fire. Figure out what her cries mean, hold on tight when she won’t let you comfort her, smile at her as she is physically fighting with all her might against your love and not let her go. And, let’s not forget our sweet boy who needs just as much love and attention, if not more, than before she came home.
I’m sharing all of this because I’ve spent many sleepless nights looking at adoption blogs for others who have been through this and no one talks about “the hard.” On the bright side, we are very fortunate to be going through this at the same time as other families who are sharing their candid experiences and for their words and the sharing of their experiences I will be forever grateful. Hopefully someone will come across this blog when looking for advice on how to help their friend who has adopted, or another adoptive parent who is going through the same thing can find some comfort in knowing that they’re not alone, and it will get better.
Until month two….