1/12/09

What it feels like

(I chose this snapshot to illustrate this post, not because it's the best picture of her, but because in it I am touching her face while she is touching mine, as I snap the photo. Just one of those moments.)

I have not been writing a great deal lately, though I think I've been doing an OK job of keeping the photos coming. I haven't been writing, not because I don't have anything to say, but just because time moves so quickly when a child is this age. If you blink you're likely to miss some crucial moment that you'll never get back again. Every day, every hour, every minute brings some new step, some new revelation, something wonderful that needs to be soaked up. Right now, I'm writing after I've put her to bed...but often that time is reserved for other very necessary things that I don't have time to do during her waking hours. Or, you know, for sleep, which is also pretty essential, at least to our sanity as a family unit.

The thing is, I need to soak up every second of her these days. It's not just a duty, it's an addiction. She goes to my head. She sometimes makes me a little tipsy. I forget about all sorts of things that I would normally try or need to fit into my days, because it's such a pleasure just to be with her. It's goofy, but I could literally just sit about five inches from her nose and stare at her face for hours at a time and be perfectly happy.

...which leads me to another issue that I need to address: I have heard many an adoptive mom criticize (quite rightly) those blogs that only talk about the "rainbows and kittens" side of adoptive parenting, and fail to acknowledge the nitty-gritty, the tough parts, the depression, the problems. This is such a good point, and I specifically made a point of posting about my own PAD when we got home from China. As it happened (lucky for me) as panicky as it felt at the time, it was very brief. Very, very brief, in the scheme of things. And it has never come back.
Now, we have moved on to other, less esoteric problems...things like developmental delays, when to seek therapy, what the next surgery will be, when she will start acting out, when to worry about her speech....etc, etc, etc.

So, yes. I want to address the more difficult parts. But here's the thing...
There hardly seem to be any. We are walking on clouds. We're in love. Talk to us immediately after QQ's next surgery in March, when we're sleep-deprived and getting up to give her meds every few hours, and maybe we'll be a bit less sunny. But in all honesty, we are happy as clams around here, all three of us.
OK, if you talked to our parents, you might get a different story. They are the ones who hear alarming things about therapy and surgery, and get concerned. For us, this has been a cakewalk. And I was recently party to a scene that helped me to understand why...

We had to book our Cleft clinic, in which we were to meet with all the numerous surgeons and specialist that QQ will need throughout her early life, months ahead of time. The clinics are booked up very far out, and since her first surgery came only three months after we brought her home, we were not able to attend a clinic before diving into surgery. This being the case, I'd allowed myself that time before our cleft clinic to just "be" with her...not worry about her progress or her delays, just get to know her, enjoy the time, and let her adapt to her new family and environment. This seemed like a very sane way to proceed, and I'm glad I did it.

When we did get to the clinic, as it happened, we were the only adoptive parents in the group. All the other parents were birth parents whose children were born with cleft or jaw conditions. And it was strange, because we came into the meeting like were attending a party - delighted and happy to be taking this next step in QQ's process - while all the other parents seemed just a bit shell-shocked still. What we realized was how different our experience was from the experience that birth parents have in this country. Most people in the US have never seen a cleft firsthand, and think that it just doesn't happen here. In fact, it isn't all that uncommon. Nearly every time we take QQ out in public, we meet someone who has a relative who was born with a cleft. The fact is that it is still concealed here in the US when it happens, and that the surgery is so advanced that people are able to conceal it. So most people are unaware that children are born with clefts right here in the US, and not just in other countries.

The families we met had been blindsided by the birth of a child with a cleft condition. They were unprepared and uneducated. To them, it seemed like a shock, a misfortune, and a burden, sometimes even a shame. They spoke of their depression and their mental struggles, of "hiding out" for the first months of the child's life in preference to admitting to the world that they had given birth to a child with a condition.

As adoptive parents, we had the luxury of choosing the condition, and of educating ourselves very thoroughly ahead of time. Very little of it came as any sort of a surprise to us. So when we brought our daughter home, we felt incredibly fortunate. The eighteen-plus years of surgeries and therapy felt like a very small price to pay for the privilege of raising this wonderful child.

If this blog sounds overly lighthearted and happy, it's because that's our perspective. Yes, it has changed our lives. We have to make time for surgeries and speech therapy. We know that these things will go on for many, many years. And no, it's not easy dealing with the recovery period after a surgery. You lose sleep. You feel pain for your child's pain. You cry. You are exhausted. But as soon as that recovery is done, you forget about it, as does your child. Life goes back to "normal". You don't worry about "the next time", because, once again, it feels like such a meager price to pay for the joy that she imparts to you every minute of every day.

Is it difficult to raise a child with "special needs"? Well... I guess. Yes, there are extra financial burdens and extra time-budgeting required. But actually, I'd have to say "no".
I do not think of QQ as a "special needs" child. I just don't. I am thoroughly educated in what she will need. But I think every child needs something "extra". If it weren't the surgery, if it weren't the speech therapy, it would be something else (aggression? rebellion? depression? dyslexia? ADD? No child is perfect.)

So, if I seem a bit too happy, if our world seems too bright and shiny, it's not because I'm concealing the difficult issues. It's because she really does make us just that happy and shiny. Sure, we've got hurdles to surmount. But those hurdles pale in comparison to the vast, enormous, incredible joy that this child adds to our life every minute of every day of the year.

17 comments:

Maia said...

Hear hear! And so true about having the chance to prepare ourselves for whatever the cleft issues might bring. But I am with you, it is not a thing that you think about every day. Or even every week or month. And compared to what she brings to us? Pshaw - it's nothing.

sue williams said...

Hi Maia,

Loved the post, personally, I share your bliss with my Jia everyday and have shyed away from sharing too much "sun" in certain circles too! Some groups I belong to applaud "honesty" when people talk about their difficulties, but seem to think you are delusional if you talk about your complete ease and joy of your adoption. I know it is not easy for everyone, but our situation has been WONDERFUL. Thanks for letting me say that without worry of being called "polly-ann-ish!"...our daughters are just WONDERFUL!!! YEAH!

It is one of the great things I like about your blog, its sunny perspective,

sue

Mamacita said...

Lovely!

I think the world would be a lot better in general if people would seek the positive and forget about focusing on the negative. Soak up the joy, let the difficulties and sorrow roll off the back.

Vivian M said...

Excellent post! And yes, I guess we are more fortunate in that we prepared and educated ourselves before adopting. I think if I had been a birth mom I might have been blindsided too, or totally unprepared. But the preparation changed our perspective. And I think having a positive attitude has a lot to do with this too.

You Know Where You Are With said...

Well said.

kerri said...

Beautiful!!
You are so in love...
I have found the biggest challenges when faced with love and family are just "no biggies" as my Jen would say.:)

kris said...

that's what LOVE IS. that's what love is...

Yoli said...

I think the problem lies in the very human trait of living in the future as oppossed to the present. You are enjoying your child and worrying about what needs to be worried about when the time comes. That is the most beautiful picture of QQ to date.

Laurie said...

Maia - I have never thought your blog was all sunshine and rainbows- your bright and shiny world seems one of the most authentic I know of. Thanks for sharing your sunshine with all of us. You have no idea how much it helps those of us coming 'behind' you.

ThatGirl said...

Kudos - Loved it!

Ivy said...

HI Maia,
It's been a while since I too had some time to catch up in blog land. But I have to say, you wrote exactly how I too feel everyday. Yes, there are ups and downs, but so many more ups! I don't think you owe anyone an explanation for your happiness...my personal opinion of course. Why QQ is simply the center of your world, a beautiful child that was chosen for you and M. She's perfectly adorably, normal and aren't we lucky to have such children:))
Uhhmmm, maybe talk to me around 2 yrs of age, but even then, I love to know that I am the one she comes to when she's frustrated or awakens to when she's fearful. We are their chosen Mommies and they know it!

I'm glad to hear your post, it's uplifting and real.

Thanks for putting it all into perspective.

Hugs,

Ivy

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

I think that it is great that you were willing to bring up the 'not so pretty' side of the adoption process... I think that it is not only realistic but important that people should know that it isn't all 'roses'... I am setting myself up to know about those situations when we get Shauna that it won't always be a pretty picture...

Lost and Found said...

Great post! As you know I dealt with my own brief but not AS brief PAD upon return from China likely a combo of jet-lag, the newness of being a parent as well as a grieving, strong willed child. Like you, I can't get enough of my girl and her issues are typical of any toddler, not an adopted toddler. Her SN is so non-existent that I don't even consider it and in the big picture there are plenty of larger issues of parenting in general that I worry about in place of whether or not my child has needs beyond any other. I love to see you write and your love of QQ through your photos, etc and can't wait for the next step of your journey.

Virginia and Doug said...

Sweet picture. Great post =)

Chrissie Larkin said...

That picture brings tears to my eyes! It is beautiful! I think you do a great job of capturing things from your perspective! No reason not to!
xoxo

Jan said...

Maia,
Words that come to mind as I read your post are: Lovingly, Beautifully, Genuinley Real!!
I feel very fortunate and grateful to have had our own adoption process work out without any major complications. Life isn't always peaches and cream, however, since Jillian came into our lives, the world is definitely more colorful and bright!! I also agree with what Sue said, especially the part ...our daughters are just WONDERFULL!! YEAH!!

Kristen said...

Maia,
I loved this post...it touched so many feelings for me about our perspective on and preparation for our adoptions, actually feeling like the luckiest person in the world to be given this child to raise, and how the "perfect" situation doesn't always have to come neatly in a package on the date and in the way most commonly expected. QQ is a doll. Love following your blog. - Kristen