If one were to go back and see a few posts like this one or this one and even this one, one may see that I have not taken a Pollyanna-everything-is-perfect attitude regarding my daughter's mental health. I shall preface that there are no serious bonding or attachment issues but I will say there were truly some transitional moments that had me concerned.
When I interviewed Scarlett Gourmet she had this to say about her changes "This is some fucked up shit. My birth-mom whips me out at home into the arms of Sylvia the facilitator who promptly drops me off at the home of Yolanda whom I would find out later was something called my foster mother. Yolanda would keep me for three months just as I was decorating my room and dating the cute boy next door, off I go to a bed and breakfast with this crazy white lady and someone she kept referring to as Daddy-O. I mean come on. Just as I was settling into this posh setting Yolando pops back in and takes me back. What the hell? What is all of this birth-mom, foster mom, and adoptive mom crap. A couple of months later in pops crazy long hair white woman again and takes me to a hotel, then to a babyhouse, then to an apartment and yet to another apartment. Months later we fly off to cold weather hell. I had had it. I was up to my diapers in confusion. What do you people want from me. Why if I could walk...."
My girl has obviously had some changes. To say the very least. I have done my best to handle the outpouring of emotions she has had. Mostly all I can do with this age of a child is to hold her, sing some of our favorite songs, rock, and give little kisses on her head. Obviously I cannot drop her off at the local psychologists office, right? I have always whispered in her ear when she seemed upset that it was OK to cry and it was OK to be upset. I was sorry that things seem so crazy to you. That was all I knew how to do.
Recently I happened on a blog that surprisingly was talking about some of the issues adoptive children acquire because I had this post floating in my brain. JenEx wrote how problems can present themselves even after one assumes life has moved on from the dramatic events of pick-up. Many of us adoptive parents are clearly aware of the problems that can occur from the small habit to the huge obvious and full blown case of attachment disorder and beyond. Most of us accept that our children will not be perfect and will, in fact, fall someplace in the middle of this spectrum. We read books, talk to experts, and then dive in knowing that our child will need extra help or comfort and alway keeping in the back of our minds that even a biological child comes with no manual or money-back guarantee. Spirit decided what our child would be and hopefully guides our intuition to know how to be the best parent for that child.
So back up a few months. I was living in Guatemala with Scarlett in the depths of PGN hell and we were having a few issues. When I picked her up this time around I think she remembered me....I am quite sure of it. She calmly, but reserved, came to me with no crying which was very unlike the first time in which she screamed for what felt like an eternity to my ever-desiring-to-be-a-mother heart. Not knowing her well at the time I assumed things were going so smoothly but little did I know that Scarlett usually does not open up her lungs for just anybody. She keeps her crying to those that she is the most comfortable rather than with strangers.
Over the next few weeks she would wake up crying as if she were having nightmares. Uncontrollable. Sobbing. But once she was in my arms and over my shoulder she would quickly calm down. Finally I felt like I was doing things right, right? I was soothing my daughter and achieve quiet. Was this not my job? Then it seemed to get worse. She would not sleep well unless she was on me and on my shoulder. But, I had to be upright to make this work.
It got to be a problem because a woman needs her sleep and I could not stand all of the time. If I knew what I was doing helped her and was the best thing I would have dealt with the lack of sleep but something nagged me that their was more to this problem. So the progress was wake up and scream and immediately I would pick her up and calm her down. Then gently try to put her down without waking her. I felt it very important that she know I was there to comfort her so I did not want her to cry for long. My gut said make sure she always sees that I respond to her when she cries. This is what I did. I would grab her quickly and do what I knew would calm her down....walking, rocking...you know typical baby stuff.
The problem was that I was being woken up at least once an hour. Sometimes more. I had to do something. I was sleepless in Guatemala. Emotionally I was under alot of stress just being there and then lack of sleep. Ahhhhhh. I talked to several people about what to do. Do I keep picking her up everytime she cries or do I lay next to her and try to soothe her and let her cry. Even if I sat up in bed she would still cry. She wanted me to stand up. This is all that would calm her. So like a Scarlett puppet I would stand up a large portion of the night. And you all wondered why I posted so little....
I decided one night to sit in my bed and hold her in my lap to cry. Soon my friend was knocking on my door at CCH and asking what she could do. I was at wits end. I did not want my baby to cry but I could not stand most of the night. She cried because she needed comfort...
Or so I thought. It was part of it. I went onto mothering.com forums and started reading. I read under the adoption part because I did not want to only hear from bio-moms. I felt this was all tied in to all of the changes in her life. Finally I found, surprisingly enough, another family who adopted from Guatemala and their baby was seven months old as well with the exact same problem! This at least assured me that things were somewhat normal.
Then I found an article that changed my whole mindset on her crying. The first part is about attachment parenting and discusses the whys and the history of this philosophy. I am not fond of labels because every parent needs to find what works best for their family but if I were to lean towards a so called "method" it would be AP. It fits me the best but still I think most AP parents would not say that is what I am doing so let us call it Alex parenting shall we. So scroll down on the article until you get to the part labeled The Recognition Of Stress-release Crying. This is what twisted my thinking.
It made sense. When I have a good cry and I mean a gut-wrenching cry I feel better....all soft inside and spent but uber-calm and then I can go on to solve my dilemma. What hit my like lightning was that I had not let Scarlett cry....really cry. She was easy to quiet down. But my job as parent is not necessarily to get my child to stop crying/being hurt/feel better. Sometimes our job as parents are to let our children feel their emotions/let out their emotions/and to just feel whatever it is they need to feel. Including letting them cry!
I do not mean that I left her to cry on her own. But the next time she started crying I held her in my lap and told her sweetly and gently that it was OK to cry. I understand baby, that you are sad. I am sorry you are hurting. I promise to never leave you. I am sorry that you have lost people in your life. She cried. And cried. I cried quietly next to her as she screamed. I held her so softly so that she could do what she needed to do. Then I started singing ever so gently as to not take her away from her emotions. As she cried I felt as if I connected to her deeply and she to me. She stared into my eyes and cried. A babies words on my ear said that she knew I was mom. She was safe. Safe to cry. Safe to mourn. Safe to be. How can I explain that connection that we had. It was a feeling ever so bittersweet and warm. How do you explain that feeling when you look into your lovers eyes or the feeling that you feel when your baby was born? How do you explain the feeling of a loved one dying? Intensity? Love? Feelings. Emotions. Connections. Grace. Depth. Soul. Amazing. But on I sang and sang and finally after about an hour she started quieting and fell asleep. She slept better that night than she ever had.
The next night I thought she would be back to her old routine. But, I was surprised she again slept very well. I think for that whole month she never had a chance to work out her stress and once she had she was better.
I noticed the same pattern pop up again when we moved to the new apartment. After about a week she had her crying breakdown and again I sang to her while she cried and rocked back and forth. She was better! Again!
So all of the worrying I did that she was transitioning badly was probably not necessary. But, there is still a chance she may suffer from all of the changes at such an early age. I have to be vigilantly aware of this. Access these issues and find the best solution when they arise. This is all I can do.
Scarlett is healthy, happy, and generally easy going. Hopefully, I have lucked out and skipped over major attachment issues. Chances are I have because she is attached to me and very much to my husband.
I remember before I got back to Guatemala I continued to worry that I was not there for prime bonding time which many experts say is between 5 to 7 months. But, what are we adoptive parents to do except to love our children when we get them. There is also something that reassured my concern which is that as long as a child has had someone to bond with before they reach two they usually will bond fine with whomever is their new caregiver.
When we returned to the States she again had a crying fit and was better.
Maybe the point of all of the concern is to just not worry. Love your child with all of your heart and do the best that you can do which might just be God-inspired. After-all it was spirit who placed that child in your lap to keep warm and loved...divine? I think so.
A mother's love (and father's of course) is strong, deep, and unyielding. Truly a special relationship is that of motherhood. How amazing is it that we are blessed with tiny souls to nurture and grow?
So much planning and thought goes into the creation of our children. How many of us have written letters to our children before we ever gave birth to them or physically held them? We did this because we did love them before we physically knew them. However brief their stay was on earth, however long it took to get to hold them, no matter how humanly challenged they are or will be, no matter what they look like and how they behave, whether or not they attach quickly, no matter if they are biological or adopted, no matter if they are alive or dead, we all love our children. Perfection in our children is a moot point. We love whatever ice cream scoop we are dished up by the hands of spirit.