Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home 3 Months and Some Important Truths

Our Henry has been home now 3 months. I still look at him in amazement that he's mine and he's here to stay! Instead of making this post a gush about how much we love him and bragging about all of his accomplishments, I feel called to share some truths about how our past 3 months have been. Many people outside of the realm of adoption do not understand the challenges that adopted children face. Very few of the people I am close to and interact with frequently have any idea about attachment and loss in adopted children. So here is our story:

The day we brought Henry home was the happiest day of our lives. We were thrilled beyond measure and couldn't believe that the day we had waited so long for had finally arrived. Day 2 is a little different story. We are overwhelmed and exhausted....still happy....but reality is setting in. Day 3 has me in tears right along with Henry and wondering if we've made a mistake. We trudge along this way for the first month. We slept very little and had to figure everything out. Before you think, "Oh, that's similar to how it would be with a newborn," please consider that our 25 lb. 11 month old was NO newborn! Think of his life until he got to us: He was placed in a loving foster home at 8 days old and remained with that same family for 11 months. They cared for all of his needs and provided him with the love and stability that most orphans do not get. To him, he HAD a mother--a kind Korean woman who has fostered children for the past 11 years. Her voice, her smell, her touch were all familar and comforting to him. Imagine what he's lost--his family, possessions, routine, familiar surroundings, even his language!

Needless to say, these losses have been traumatic to Henry. During the past 3 months Henry has been learning to trust us. We won him over quickly in the beginning (as he won us over!), but his sense of safety was very much shaken when he left his Korean foster family. In those early weeks we were together, he grieved at night for his other family--sobbing and screaming in his sleep. We got past that, but then he started acting out with temper tantrums. Things would get better, but changes seem to send Henry back into his stressed out state. For example, following the move from our house, he became very clingy and stopped sleeping well. Just as we get him settled and secure here in his new surroundings, he loses ground yet again when we leave him in a church nursery for an hour without us 2 weeks in a row. Even leaving him with James while I go elsewhere upsets him. This Monday evening I had to go help out my mom and James stayed here to give Henry his bottle and put him to bed like always. Henry, however, cried much of that night and was extremely clingy to me yesterday and acted out all day with temper tantrums and even hitting me. Today he was back to his usual silly, sweet self.

Honestly, looking back, I realize that I also had problems. I was overwhelmed, tired, and very stressed with my huge new responsibility. I didn't talk much about it because I felt inadequate as a mother. After all, what kind of mother sobs right along with her baby or gets so frustrated that she has to literally leave the room to protect the safety of her child? Tremendous guilt comes along with these feelings, and I didn't want anyone's help because that would amount to me admitting I needed it!

At the 3 month mark, we have all come a long way. He still has quite a long way to go before we can say he's completely happily attached to us, but I know that he will get there in his own time. I'm getting better too. Talking about it helps, especially to adoptive parents who know exactly what we've been through. This has been the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also been the most wonderful. I love Henry Eun-wu more than I can put into words, and I'm so grateful that God gave me the awesome task of being his forever mommy!


candice said...

Oh Mary,
THANK YOU for posting this.
You know how hard things have been for us and sometimes I feel very alone in this. Thank you for being transparent about the struggles as well as the joys of adopting Henry. We must take things one day at a time and find strength in the Lord. Not to mention good friends to call on when you feel like pulling your hair out or running away!

Blessings to you and your sweet family. I will be praying for you as you continue to help Henry learn to trust and bond to his new mommy and daddy.

Debi said...

You sound very normal. Like every new mom I've ever known. The very fact that you have these feelings and thoughts means that you already are a terrific mommie.

Henry is in a state of conflict, as you bond with him and he trusts you to protect him, he will resolve that conflict and attach appropriately.

Time, just time passing with you and he, that's what it will take.

And in the meantime, you're still a great mom!

Jennifer said...

Henry is so lucky to have you and James as parents. I will be praying for your family and for your job issue to be resolved quickly. You truly need to be with your sweet boy at this time. We really do need to pick a date and get Henry and Kaiden together for the day. We really want to meet Henry too!! He just looks too sweet!!

Kim said...

Great, honest post Mary and one that I can not only relate too, but respect you for sharing it. I have struggled these last five months putting my emotions into words as you so eloquently did. Henry is blessed to have you as you are to have him.

Can't wait for our big date in a couple of weeks!!

Donna said...

BEAUTIFULLY written and your truth and honesty will help many including myself!!! THANKS


Davina Jaggard said...

Mary, your feelings are very much similiar to mine. Just recently I was crying because I didn't like my kiddo being sick. Also, I was frustrated because I felt stupid because I didn't know why she was sick (it could have been 1 of 3 things) & because I felt helpless! I'm also glad to hear that another kiddo out there tries to hit their loving mommy too! Jolene usually hits or throws a fit when she can't have something she wants (& it's usually something she doesn't need like dog food), also she tries to bite me. . .yea, that's fun. Although the adopt baby has a different story, he seems to be acting like any baby, and you are thinking like a any mommy. I love your blog, & Henry is just adorable! I'm so very happy for you & James!

Jenny said...

Hey Mary!!! First of all, we miss you guys so much! I really wish I could be there to give you a ANY time you want to vent! (if you're not too tired, of course. :) )
Second, I'm guessing that just about every mom on the planet has had those feelings of frustration - I know I have - you're not alone. Anyone who says motherhood is all happy, rosy times is either lying or just nuts. :) Plus, you are dealing with a whole bunch of extra obstacles most moms don't even have to worry about. I'm praying for you, girl!!

Rebecca Wolfe said...

Your candidness, honesty and transparency are a breath of fresh air. I'm sorry you have struggled, but praise God that he chose YOU for this amazing role of being Henry's mom. You are doing a great job and I pray that he continues to attach more each day.

MaryAnn said...

Great post! Tonight I never would have guessed that Henry's only been home 3 months. You're doing a terrific job, and Henry looks so happy! I'm excited about the boys getting together. Hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can make a trip to the zoo.