Love Grows...Six Months Home with Mia

 September 17, 2012

Six months ago today this little butterfly flew into her tearful mother's arms....

ahhh yes...a butterfly flying into a mother's arms, if only it were that poetically easy. If only adopting a four year old was sunshine and rainbows and butterflies.

It's not.

Six months later though we are seeing glimpses of sunshine and I can say with certainty we are though the worst of the initial transition. I can also say with certainty that this has been one of the most difficult and exhausting periods of my adult life.

Looking back I am sure most all of the problems were mine. Mia actually acted in a very appropriate way given what she was dealing with. She was confused and exhausted and overwhelmed by all of the changes that fell on her last March 17th. She didn't know us or know she could trust us. She only knew how to fight for her needs, how to protect herself, how to survive and of course she only knew how to speak Chinese.

All that meant that in those first few weeks...she beat the ever living crap out of me. Just, only, always, me.

And even though intellectually I got why she was doing it, the violent tantrums were hard to take. While in China I was punched in the face, kicked, scratched, pinched and bitten hard enough to break the skin...more than once. The worst was a vicious head butt to my face just as we were boarding our flight home from Hong Kong. The blow split open my lip and made a bloody mess that horrified our fellow passengers.

Intellectualize the trust and attachment process all you want, its hard to love a child who is actively attacking you. But that was my job...I am the mom...her mom, right?

Well here's some truth for you,

At that point I was failing miserably.  NOT HER...ME...I was a complete and utter failure.

Or at least that's how it felt.

When we got home we layered on some of the worst mama exhaustion this mother of six has ever dealt with. It was like suffering from jet lag for months. I literally never slept though the night from March 17th until I had the mother of all melt downs and FINALLY took a sleeping on July 22nd. (For those keeping count that is 127 miserable days of sleepus interuptus!)

Of course me not sleeping meant she wasn't sleeping and it all collided to make for one cranky, miserable family. And that snowballed for me. I started to feel resentful and hopeless. I felt incompetent and overwhelmed. I was failing my new daughter and I had quite possibly ruined my family in the process.

Yes I was catastrophizing...that's what you do when you are exhausted and depressed.

A zillion times I resolved to suck it up and turn things around only to fall on the couch in defeat by 8pm. A couple of things occurred to me.

One. I felt completely alone and without support. Don't get me wrong there were a few wonderful people who encouraged me but for the most part I was on my own. I won't rant (much) about it but there is no way a woman who had just given birth would have been left unsupported like I was. (I wont argue it, I've given birth 4 times, I speak from experience.)

And Two. Nothing and I mean NOTHING gets better until you SLEEP. Sleep deprivation is the most common predictor of postpartum and post adoption depression. Sleep deprivation is akin to being drunk and drugged. For goodness sake sleep deprivation is used to torture people!  And sleep deprivation is an absolute barrier to effective bonding. Until you are rested no progress can be made. In order to be the good mother my daughter deserved I needed to sleep.

And so finally I slept. And guess what? Ever so slowly things got better. At the same time my beautiful daughter began to understand more English. The combination of increased communication and a rested (SANE) mother was a not so surprisingly good thing.

And so jump forward to the present, Mia is (as she always was) a sweet, loving and basically happy little girl. She no longer rages or bites or hits. In fact it turns out she has a rather loving little heart. She is affectionate and gentle and entirely lovable.

And her mother?  Well I'm feeling back to almost normal.  I still feel the stress of another child in the house.  Kiddo #6 hasn't gotten to that point when I can't remember life without her but, (and this is the important thing) I am at the point that I don't want a life without her.

I hope that people reading this, those who don't understand the complexity of the adoption bonding process first hand, don't mistake this as a complaint or a warning against adoption or infer that I love this child any less than is humanly possible.  That is not my message.

I simply wanted to share that sometimes we fall in love with our children over time. And sometimes there are external factors that get in the way of that process and, that the love that grows over time is as deep and everlasting as the love that comes quickly and easily.  Who knows, maybe more so.

Looking back I can see that I fell in love with the idea of Mia from the moment I first saw her photograph.  That was easy.  Falling in love with the person it turns out was much harder but as we often say in adoption world, it was worth the wait.

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