Sign of the times

I like seeing this sticker that's on my bathroom mirror for the week, because it's a sign that we're about to set out on an adventure.

This is a good time for me, and I think for Mike, too...he is always coming into my studio to tell me that he can't think about anything but Flynn these days. This morning, he lay in bed for ten extra minutes, imagining taking her on her first walk around the neighborhood.

For me, this is a sweet time, a honeyed time, a time of drifting and dreaming. As I've mentioned, January, February and March were a bit rough for me. That stage was the worst of the wait, when the unknowns and the unknowables really started to wear on my nerves. But, as tends to be true in life, there was a payoff, and this is it.
Our referral was the beginning of a phase of peace for me, and these weeks before leaving are the best of times. In spite of that rather stressful (if amusing) dream I had the other night, I am at my most relaxed these days. I sleep soundly and wake feeling happy and light. My head is clear, and I'm able to work with clarity and ease. My soul is happy.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the trauma of adoption, both as it affects children and parents. I think it's a good thing that this subject should come to light. I think that post-traumatic stress in adoptive children is a subject in which all prospective adoptive parents should educate themselves thoroughly. I also think that all adoption agencies should provide resources, reading lists, classes, post-adoptive intervention for those who need it. Like it or not, it is a reality. I think the effects of trauma on adoptive parents are less well-publicized than its effects on children, and less understood. I hope that more people will write about it as time goes on, and that the resources will grow.

We were lucky in that our state requires numerous class-hours of study on adoption issues prior to the adoption itself, and our agency here in Denver provides some excellent classes on subjects like attachment, trauma, grief and loss. While not comprehensive, the classes were an excellent foundation, and we were able to use them as a springboard for our self-education. We went on to read some wonderful books like Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents (Deborah D. Gray) and Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft (Mary Hopkins-Best), which do a terrific job of explaining the effects of loss, institutionalization, and adoption, and the best ways of repairing the damage that is done. I was most fascinated to learn about the physiological effects of institutionalization on the brain of a child, which shows in very concrete terms why children react the way they do post-adoption, and how the atrophied pathways in their brains can, in fact, be repaired.

While it helps to know these things on an intellectual level, I doubt that any amount of book-learning can prepare a parent entirely for the reality of those first weeks with their terrified, traumatized or numb child. I am additionally very grateful for the shared experience of many fellow adoptive parents who have offered me their personal experiences and their emotional journey, and helped fill in some of the gaps. I know that we really will know nothing until we meet our child in person, and I know that we will struggle along with her, learn along with her, and find our way together.

I think that we are as prepared as we can be, intellectually. And, at this point, I'm not feeling afraid. What bigger adventure, what greater learning experience could there be in life than what we are about to experience? I don't feel that I have a preconception of who QiuQiu will be. She is, at the moment, a great mystery to me. I have no doubt that she will surprise me. I am honored to have the chance to get to know her, to learn from her, and to let her tell me who she is. I feel lucky to have this opportunity. I'm ready to close my eyes and go off the high-dive, cold as the water may be. I can't wait to begin this incredible learning experience, even if it is a trial by fire.


Yoli said...

I think you have prepared yourself, you hold no illusions and have an open mind as to what you might encounter. So many parents don't and worse, they think they can punish or pray away any behavior they encounter.

Can't wait to follow your journey.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

I too like to read about the not so happy moments of adoption... let's me know that it isn't going to be all rosy... that when we get home...there is more to it... I am glad to hear that you are both are feeling so peaceful and cannot wait until you have Flynn finally... take care

C&A said...

I know that I thought I was prepared . it will be different with an infant verses older child. But it hit me like a ton of bricks when MJ didn't really like me at first. I knew it would most likely happen but it did and I was on a emotional roller coaster. But I pulled myself up after three days (from the boot straps) and said to myself -hey I am going to make this child like me if it is the last thing I do in China. Well as you know Mj loves me now. It did take time and I think with a younger one less time. it was meant to be the two of us being together. Thanks for sharing your heart!

kris said...

How I echo your sentiments in my own heart- I have been lax in reading a ton (Adoption Parenting has been my fave book yet- biased toward China adoption) but feel what I've learned from the BTDT parents is absolutely invaluable.

How is the oral typhoid going? Have you had side effects? I had to get the vaccines as a kid and HOLY MOTHER OF GAH. Pain pain pain. For like A WEEK.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

Sorry to do this to you Maia but you have been tagged and awarded... awarded for the sweet person that you are... if I have to do the tagging thing... so do you... take care

MotherMotherOcean said...

It is important to process this. I think you are going to be just fine, darlin!

Maia said...

I'm glad you put this out there. And I hope that you'll continue to write with such clarity once your child is in your arms. Education is so important - and we cannot depend upon our agencies- even the best ones - to give us the tools we need to deal with the situations we might encounter. A-parents MUST take this into their own hands- self educate - read, read, read, talk, talk, talk and do the best they can to prepare themselves for being parents to their children.

Thank you for writing this and reminding people how important gaining these tools will be.

Vivian M said...

I was one of those parents that read everything under the sun and thought I was prepared. We were handed a sick but amazingly perfectly behaved child, and the warning bells went off while I counted my blessings.
The next year was the hardest of our lives. But we don't regret a thing and are very blessed to have this amazing child as our daughter, despite all the trauma related issues that came along with her.
No child comes with an instruction manual, and the books are great guides. But follow your gut instincts and you will be just fine. And if you see any warning signs, don't wait to get help.
I am not going to lie and say it was a piece of cake. It was heart breaking, hard work, sleep deprived, and I cried every night. But this innocent baby needed us, and we needed professional help to deal with her attachment, RAD, PTSD, and sensory issues. And we still deal with them every day. But we now have a happy, adjusting little girl who knows she is loved. And seeing Kerri smile is worth anything we went through.
May your adjustment period be brief, your attachment issues be small, and may your path be a learning experience full of joy and wonder as you become a parent for the first time!

Heather said...

I have two bits of advice: (1) Be Prepared For Anything (and it sounds like you will be); and (2) In those first few days and weeks, try to see things through your child's eyes.

Sydney screamed like a banshee and then latched onto me like velcro. I don't think I peeled her off me for a couple months (and that was just fine!). Claire screamed, cried, and kicked at me. She wouldn't hold onto me and preferred not to look at me at first. Now the most common thing I hear from her is "Mommy, pick me up." Both of them adjusted (and are still adjusting) in their own way and their own time. I use a lot of Attachment parenting with both of them and you will find all those books very helpful. You may also want to look at www.a4everfamily.org for some fun attachment games and activities.

Beth said...

Sounds like you are prepared as you can be.

lisa said...

Yep-Colorado made me read all of the same books-one suggestion, that I told my sw she needs to include in future trainings-read at least one child development book, so you have some sort of reference point for "normal" (whatever that means). I read Brazelton and Sears years ago, but I use _What to Expect_ most of the time now just because of the easy format (chapters divided by age in months). I can't tell you how many times I was sure I was dealing with attachment trauma, only to learn that a new tooth came in or something happened at daycare that triggered extra stress.
We had a lot of conversations at book club last night-all moms with similar aged kids-realizing that something or other we were struggling with was the same as someone else's experience.
The adoption community is fabulous, but don't forget to bond with some bio mothers too-they're pretty nice ; )-and a great reality check. ~lmc

lisa said...

Oh-and I don't blog much about it-but the first few months were NOT easy. So don't think you're alone if it's hard. I'm-what-.25 miles away?
Also, I just agreed to moderate our little adoption group, so I am going to try to find some strategies to strengthen our ability to support each other. ~lmc