A video about our family

Pierce Family Adoption Registry

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reality of adoption

Today was a reminder of the reality of adoption. I can spend lots of time telling you all of the GOOD and WONDERFUL things about international adoption. If you've been reading this blog then you will know how much I love children and how I've been blessed by the miracle that is international adoption. But it's only fair that you know the downsides, too. One word: baggage. Every adopted child has baggage. They could be termed "healthy" or "special needs" and they will still have baggage. If you grew up with your mama loving on you and rocking you and feeding you and comforting you, then you are so very blessed! These poor orphans cry and no one comforts them, they rock themselves to sleep, they rely upon whatever food is given them, and affection is extremely lacking. I have watched Silas rock himself to sleep everyday for his nap and then again at bedtime. It breaks my heart. He is also very scared at times, such as when I change his diaper - YES, we decided that he is definitely not potty trained so we picked up some diapers from the store - he gets scared and starts sucking his thumb to calm himself - another self soothing action. I really don't know why he is scared to have his diaper changed. Everything seems to be in order down there...He is also afraid of cars, which is ironic because the one thing he says 90% of the time is "Beep Beep" - which is his word for "Car." (it's SO adorable, too, with his little voice). When he rode in the car from the orphanage to the hotel, he freaked out, sucked on his thumb, and promptly went to sleep.

This is a good segway into today's main event: riding in a taxi from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow. The whole thing took about 8 hours, due to 3 car accidents that we saw and road construction, not to mention 3 toilet stops. And then add in that Silas cried for 4+ hours of the drive. He did really well for the first two hours and then was tired of the carseat. I think he also wanted to sleep but couldn't do it sitting up. After 2 hours of crying, I took him out of the carseat and rocked him. The whole time I was praying that we would be safe and that we wouldn't get pulled over by the police, sent to jail, and deported, etc, you know how your mind jumps to conclusions...anyhow, it was just what Silas needed. He went right to sleep and then the rest of the 4 hours of the drive consisted of him going to sleep, being put back in the carseat, he sleeps for a bit, begins to cry, continues to cry, then I take him out and the pattern repeats itself. I was a basketcase by the time we arrived (finally!) to our rented apartment in Moscow. There's just something about sitting by a screaming baby that has an overwhelmed effect on you...And to top it all off, Calvin threw up in the van. I have no idea why, perhaps motion sickness? His health has been fine, so it was a surprise to all of us. At least it happened right as we arrived, so we didn't have to smell it the whole way. I felt bad for the taxi driver, who was very nice to us.

It was a bit chaotic when we arrived. The taxi driver pulled up in between two apartment buildings and said we were here. Where, exactly?! So we had to unload 4 suitcases + 4 bags of groceries/snacks + two boys + coats/hats/scarves and take them into the apartment. Thankfully, the cleaning lady was in the apartment waiting for us so she could watch the boys while we brought it all up.

By the time we got to the apartment, paid the rent and sent the cleaning lady on her way, I was exhausted. I had nothing left to give. I didn't want to do anything and I cried a few times. I know that part of it was due to listening to my sweet boy cry for 4 hours and not being able to comfort him and for the stress of Calvin throwing up and the stress of everything costing money and and and...I just wanted some downtime. Tyler went out to get some groceries - I was eager to make something more REAL for dinner instead of pringles and cookies and water - our taxi drive fare. It was in this state that I prayed for help. I said that I didn't think I could show affection right now, that I was spent. I facebooked a status which stated my hard day and prayed for support to come from my friends there. And then, I started seeing some of Calvin's baggage.

For the most part, Calvin does beautifully with Silas. They play and laugh together. But, Calvin is already in that tattling role. If Silas steps out of line at all, Calvin is right there telling me about it. It also seems that Calvin is trying to make up for the past 5 years of not having a doting mama. This is completely natural, I know. I am happy to fill the role of his mama and am excited about having him as my son, but I cannot give him ALL of my attention ALL of the time. He is frequently looking for me to pay attention to every little thing that he does. He colors one little star on the page and has me look at it. Then he colors the second star and has me look at it. Then the third. Then the fourth. You get the idea.

Tyler has noticed that Calvin goes to the restroom an insane amount of times per day. I thought it was because he had an overactive bladder or something. But Tyler remembered that the first time Calvin went to the restroom, we praised him. So now he goes all the time - to be praised. At least he isn't doing negative things for attention (yet!) but this has to stop. I cannot give him all the attention that he craves and when we get home there will be 5 children who ALL want mama.

Anyhow, I noticed these issues with Calvin and I was somehow able to pull it together and be there for him. We had some snuggle time, which he initially didn't want, but after time he was able to calm down and make eye contact with me - this is key in establishing attachment. The idea is that adopted children do not think that they are worthwhile - because no one has validated them - so they avoid making eye contact, almost in a shameful way. As you spend time with them, making eye contact when possible and smiling at them while doing so, they begin to trust you and realize that they are important. I also sing to them and rock them, which is good for healing. This is what we did with the twins and it was hugely successful. Our family therapist, Melody, saved us during our Ukrainian adoption and what we learned from her will help with our current one.

We have SO many positive things going on with these two boys. We couldn't have imagined a more smooth transition for Calvin and Silas. They get along so well. And healing is already taking place with them. Today for the first time, Calvin cried. I think the whole leaving the orphanage and joining our family finally hit him. He has been so excited for so long and now I think he's dealing with the pain of change and perhaps trauma from past experiences. I feel like for the first time I have an adopted child that I can learn the pain from his past. Both Iryna and Keith don't remember the orphanage and Silas is so young - but Calvin is 5 and I hope that when he can speak English that we can discuss what he remembers.

Silas is really coming out of his shell. He is saying lots of words - I assume they are Russian - and is coming up to us a lot for affection. That is one area that I feel confident as a mama - I can give plenty of hugs and kisses and snuggles and tickles. I am good at it and I know that affection heals hearts.

Okay, I think I'm rambling now, as it's 11:06pm and it's been quite an emotional day. Let's see what pictures I have to post:

Saying goodbye to Sveta. This was tough. I got emotional when she left and I am sad that I don't know when/if I'll ever see her again. I invited her to visit us in the states and hope she'll take me up on the offer. :)

Getting ready to pack up our things at the hotel. The boys loved playing with our empty water bottles.

Poor Silas cried a LOT today in the taxi.

Calvin took a 2 hour nap! :)

Some snuggle time. I so love this man.

We noticed this Mercedes van today and realized that they don't sell Mercedes vans in the US - at least, we haven't seen them. Tyler thinks that the reason is because Mercedes is viewed as a luxury car and a van might ruin that image. Thoughts?


Carina said...

Oh, Jill...my heart just aches to read about all the ups and downs you and your family have gone through during this process. Of course you know it wasn't going to be easy, but that doesn't mean it's smooth sailing or that you're emotional prepared for it. Know that your Heavenly Father loves you and He loves your children, and He is watching over them and you and is so excited for you to be a forever family. Keep loving on those children and seek to know how best to help them--He will help you. You are amazing. You really do have a talent for showing affection, and I'm sure all five of your children are greatly blessed because of it. Love to you from halfway around the world!!!

Victoria said...

Dear Jill,

The boys simply couldn't have wished for a better Mama! I know it's going to be tough sharing your time and attention between all five of them, but hopefully Calvin will realize sooner rather than later you are no longer going anywhere and would be more open to sharing you with his siblings :)

Diana said...

Hopefully by the time you read this, you'll have had a good night's sleep. This sounds SOOO much like my little guys when we first got them. It will be hard for a bit, and then it will be awesome. Very likely Silas rarely ever went beyond the confines of his orphanage and he's completely overwhelmed being out in the big bad world where EVERYTHING is new to him.

Re: diapers. Tread lightly and carefully with changes. Always tell him in a very soothing way exactly what you are doing and why(I'm just cleaning you up, sweetie. Mama doesn't want you to have a messy diaper. I need to wipe right here. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not going to let anyone else hurt you. It's ok for you to wear diapers and be a baby for a little longer...) Oh, the things I wish I would have known back then!! Oh, they would have made such a difference!! Oh, the things I would do differently!! Do this every time you change him. He'll pick up English fast and be able to understand you faster than you think. In the meantime, his spirit will understand.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader who has never commented. I just want to encourage you to not be too hard on yourself. You will find a balance at home to share your love with all 5 of your children.

Mercedes vans are very popular in the US - they are called Sprinters. They are typically used as shuttles due to their high roof profile or as cargo/utility vehicles. You don't see many people driving them for family vehicles.

Hopefully you were able to get a good nights sleep and today is a better day.

Anonymous said...

You are definitely right that affection can heal. It can happen at any age. Of course the affection we give to adults we are not married or related to is different, sometimes just a smile or laugh or a quick hug or pat on the back. I'm learning this as I try to heal. And as positive as it is to heal, it's still not easy and does take time. I agree with a previous poster: try not to beat yourself up. One day these children will not the full significance of what you and Tyler have done, including all the wait, and the emotional weight, and they will be more grateful than you can imagine. Take heart. Find peace. When all else fails, aim for calm. This is what I am learning.


Sarah C said...

I am so sorry Jill. You are a wonderful mom. They are so blessed to be in your family. As they continue to feel your love and comfort, they will get more comfortable with the changes. I know it is hard. We are praying for you and your family. I wish I could come give you a big hug and help you with Calvin and Silas. For now I will just pray for the Lord to comfort and help you. Love you.