Becoming a mother

Today I read a blog written by an Adoptive Mother, who claims it took six months to write a piece about mothering a newly adopted child from Ethiopia.

We got out of the hospital on Mother's Day and I realized I felt totally disconnected from my other kids from not having spent much time with them at all in the last month, and also from this baby whom I had been spending all my time with, but who I really didn't know b/c all that time was spent with doctors and medicines and hospitals. Well, NOW I was ready for that joyous family of 6 thing. But again, it didn't happen. Instead, I began to get to know our newest little lady and guess what? She was NOT fun at all!! She screamed all. the. time. LOUDLY. And a LOT. As in ALWAYS. The only thing that would even come close to getting her to stop was to hold her, all the time, and no, not in a carrier. It was exhausting. And I wanted her to stop, a LOT. Not to mention that her screaming would then set my 2 year old into a wailing, inconsolable crying fit of her own and we spent many a day with 2 very loudly wailing children next to me on the floor while I silently wept, amongst great Mt. Everest's of laundry and heaps of dirty dishes and tumbleweeds of dog fur on unvacuumed floors, and asked God why He had called us to THIS? Was this what we had prayed for, hoped for, wanted, anticipated so eagerly for the last year? Is this what all of our friends and family had been so excited about? Had we misunderstood what God asked us to do and this was the consequences? I felt like I couldn't function normally in any way and it felt like my family was all coming unglued. And the biggest panic I had was that I COULD NOT GET OUT OF IT. I debated giving AGCI (our agency) a call and asking "What is your return policy?"

[From:  Talk is Sheep:  International Adoption:  Behind the Blogs ]

I'm an adult adoptee mother to four... my last two were "surprise" twins -- a  biologic "gift" (reminder?) given to me from the birth mother I was never allowed to know. My first-born was perfect, although she never liked to sleep or ride in the car; she liked to cry, so she could be near me. On me, at my breast.  My second-born had colic and grew to become a modern-living-version of Bamm-Bamm, (from the cartoon, The Flintstones), complete with swinging bat, and voracious appetite for anything physical.  No child has bruised, or exhausted, me more. My twins were born very healthy... 6.7 lbs and 7.2 lbs.  [Yes, I was H-U-G-E].  However, the pregnancy was very difficult, and after birth, one had developed GERD, and another developed symptoms making it necessary to test for Cystic Fibrosis, and both (quickly) developed asthma. [Not knowing what sort of family (medical) history you have can be very upsetting, especially when you are watching your infant turn gray then blue, from not being able to breathe.  Correction, it is terrifying. Thinking your baby is not going to live changes many things.]  When my twins were four months old, and thriving, I finally thought everything would be OK.  Chaotic, but OK.  Sept 11, a GORGEOUS September day, I sent my two older ones to school. I sat, on my usual spot in the family room, and started to nurse my twin babies, as I watched two planes plow into the twin towers.  Hub-man was immediately called to work ground-zero -- he works for the NJ State Police.  For those who care, feel free to read more about me and my mothering experience that first year with unexpected hardship, and how that taught me I had to learn how to cope with stress, or else it will be the cause of death.  [See:  Length of stay ]

Why do I mention all of this?

Because this... stress, crisis, unwanted crap happening... is PARENTING, and it's nothing like the movies, sit-coms, or commercials make it, no matter how <ahem> realistic media tries to spoon feed it to Prozac-ed people.

Parenting sucks like no one can prepare you... and it's a secret parents keep from those wishing to become parents, just like married people don't tell newly engaged couples marriage sucks.

This is the beauty behind Group Secrets.  And this is why skits like what's featured here, Lucky Louie - problems raising your child?,  make so many people with children laugh.

We don't tell these things to unsuspecting victims of a traditional system because as much as misery loves company, nothing is funnier than the expression on the face of the love-lost optimist who gets a healthy dose of God-Given reality.  [I don't make the rules, I just follow them like the rest of parenting cattle fooled into thinking marriage and parenting leads to instant youth-restoring Nirvana.  "Hey, come watch the'll get a good laugh. "]

I'm bloody sick of AP's thinking parenting an adopted child is going to be bliss... and expecting all sorts of sympathy when parenting for them is just like parenting a biologic off-spring.  It's hard and frustrating... and incredibly difficult when you have no support, isn't it?!  The only difference is, when a parent chooses "a favorite", (and we all do to a degree), having an adopted child in the family means the parent has to be more aware of serious adoption issues each adopted child does have, eventually.

Here's the news flash for all wanting to raise the perfect child within the perfect parent and no child is perfect and parenting is a job, one that's very difficult, even under the most pleasant circumstances. Truth is, even the very strong and brave find after a few days, weeks, months or years parenting ain't as the brochures depict it.  Parenting stinks and it's definitely for the birds... especially if you have blood clots the size of softballs coming out of your nether-regions and infected breasts.   [At least mother-birds can leave the nest, and be ALONE for a little while.  And after only a few months, the screaming demands of those wanting more, will end because they too got big enough to provide their own home and food.  Let's see a bird do the crap human mothers have to do, year after year, after year.  It gets old, FAST.]

But here's the beauty... you can love the children, but still hate the job.  Hating the crap that comes with parenting doesn't make you a bad person... it makes a new-parent human and honest and.... private-chat-worthy.  [I write as one who, for the first 5 years tried to do everything perfectly... and discovered I was hated by many, including myself. "Perfection" almost killed me, which is why I now really prefer being my flawed and imprerfect self; it's easier and healthier for me and my family.]

The way I see it,  the only problem arises when the unprepared parent actually sends a child away for good, because having the child was "a mistake" or because that child was damaged goods.  In my mind, situations and events happen for a reason; we (our strength, character, and moral fiber) get tested, to see how far, how long we can last.  While there may be no reward at the end of each test, sometimes just surviving is it's own sweet/miserable reward.

Based on all that I have been through -- and it's been a lot -- I honestly believe there is no worse thing ANY parent can do to his/her own gifted child, than send that child away, permananty.  What is worse for the child, knowing you were sent-away, for good, and your own parents couldn't bother to come back, and explain WHY.  Death is one thing, but to be alive, and have no contact with your child?   A child may grow to accept the condition or the circumstance, but the child will never forget who left, and why.

That's the funny thing about kids... they don't understand WHY a parent has to go to work, or has to go to school, or has to do anything out in the real world.  All a child knows is, when a parent leaves, the parent is supposed to come back...and fulfil his/her duty and responsibility.  The child may not know much, but the child knows if bad things happen when the parent goes away, there may be good reason to be scared or afraid each time mommy and/or daddy are no where to be found.  It's scary to know, first-hand, how little attention is given to the child left behind... the one who is expected to behave and play nice with the chosen care-taker who turns out to be a deranged psycho when the doors are shut, and no one is home.

Average: 7 (1 vote)

Really poor preparation

When I read that adoptive mother's quote, all I could think was "this woman has had really poor preparation for adoption".  This baby is reacting in a very predictable and normal way, considering what the baby has experienced. The baby is distressed and is seeking comfort from his/her adoptive mother.  The baby wants to be in her arms 24/7? Then that's he/she should be.

I am a presenter at the compulsory education seminars put on for PAPs.  I speak about the grief and loss experiences of children placed for adoption, and the huge challenges they face when adjusting to a totally new life and family.  My adopted sons and daughters have given me permission to share their stories, which I do - including one son who is now a dad himself. He was a highly NEEDY child when we first brought him home from his Indian orphanage. He refused to walk (we was said to be nearly 6 years old) and wanted to be in my arms ALL the time. He couldn't bear to be out of sight of me for even a moment. So .... he was in my arms all the time. He stayed with me every moment for the first 18 months or so, until he felt safe to wander away from me for a short while. He slept in our room, came to the bathroom with me, came absolutely everywhere with me. That's what he needed, just as this child is making it clear that is what he/she needs. So, suck it up and do what the kid needs.

Here, adoptive families are required to organise for one parent to spend at least the first 12 months at home with the child, no matter the child's age. If they are single parent families, that single parent has to be able to take 12 months off work. This is to ensure someone is there all the time to focus on the child's needs through that initial adjustment period.

Focusing on the need

It's interesting how you mention the needs of a scared and needy child, and the preparation an AP has, thanks to parenting classes a PAP receives through their adoption agency.  A while ago, I posted a piece how trauma affects the behavior of a child, and you are right, there are certain behaviors every parent should expect, especially after a traumatic experience like a hospital visit or a sudden change, like moving from one country to another one, complete with different faces, climate, food, and language.  [See:  Infant/Child Response to Grief ]

If an AP does not know any of this, it simply suggests some parenting classes are far better than others.

I remember my Amother telling all sorts of stories about my early days and how clingy and needy I was... as I recall, those were her favorite days with me because all I seemed to want was her, and no one else.  According to her,  I wouldn't eat, I had a terrible rash, and my muscles were that of a newborn, even though I was almost 1 year old.  As she liked to tell the story, she brought me to life and saved me from the ills done by an orphanage.  When I was in nursing school, and learning all about pediatric growth and development, in my mind, I kept hearing her "look at me" stories, and I had to laugh.  While she thought she thought she was undoing damage done by an orphanage, my body was simply reacting to the stress this sudden shift in care caused me.

The irony for me is, I was liked best when I was needy and clingy, wanting and needing only her.  I fulfilled her need to be needed, and I rewarded her with favoritism... and she did the same. 

Once I grew out of that mommy-only stage, and wanted to go from person to person, I became "less special" and a handful.  I became demanding and more difficult.

Think about that for a moment:  Needy woman gets needy baby who is happiest when needy woman is around.  If I was happy, she was happy because my content silence told her she was a good mother. When my needs were simple, she could handle me and she could love me.  When my needs became more complex, she froze and shut-down... and walked away.   Her walking away when I needed her most are the wounds time made worse.  [Thankfully, I have mourned that loss and grieved that grief, but it took decades to do so.]

When I became a parent, I was terrified.  My mothering example was not that great -- it was inconsistent, at best.  I realized immediately after birth, motherhood is NOT a natural instinct as so many without children think.  I was fortunate because I had the nursing education under my belt, always subconsciously whispering, "infant and children need this because ______. " But the truth is, all that formal text-book information did very little for me during those long and lonely mid-night feedings and fevers and trips to the hospital.  What I really needed was the supportive help and guidance that can only come from someone who has been there, done that, and knows how a child can scare the living daylights out of an adult.

It's sad to me how people from difficult childhoods are not prepared for parenting, and it's even sadder to me those who get the parenting lessons are the ones who are paying for them, through adoption.  Something about that paying-for-a-better-parenting-experience just doesn't sit right with me, especially since the loss of mommy is a stress and sadness that never really goes all away.

One thing that I notice

These agencies are not preparing prospective adoptive parents at all.  This is where the adoption industry wants to push the happy dappy crap to a point where it hurts children.  They don't care that they are hurting children.   I know adoptive parents are now speaking out on this issue more and more.  I commend them for doing so.  Its one of those things that puzzles me when adoptive parents are having issues but yet we continue to push the issue that adoption is so wonderful. 

Pushing perception

 Its one of those things that puzzles me when adoptive parents are having issues but yet we continue to push the issue that adoption is so wonderful. 

That's the point behind my original post -- there is this pushed perception that marriage/parenthood is the best of all life-choice possibilities, when in fact, it's hard as hell to walk the straight and narrow and NOT want to blow your brains out.  [You know what sort of mothers scare me the most?  The ones who act as if life is perfect.  <shudder>]

Perpetuating this "wonderful-life" motif is not healthy... it's not good... because those of us who are human, those of us who fall short of the text-book ideal, and fear criticism, we find ourselves sitting in a dazed stupor as the insidious core-belief starts creeping in, whispering, "There's something wrong with you... you're no good... if you can't do this, there is something seriously wrong with you".

Add insecure adoption issues on-top of a general fear of constant failure, (not being good enough; having something wrong with you)....  I can't help but think you end-up creating a full-course recipe for fall-out disaster.... disaster that affects so many unsuspecting people.

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