Monday, May 23, 2011

One Year Later: Reflections

One year.  To sum it up in one sentence: One life changing awesome year. 

I could just end it there, yet I do feel the need to write more, recall more and explain more about year one.  Maybe it's for me so I don't forget, maybe it's for the people that actually read this blog, maybe it's for my boys down the road and maybe it's a combination of that and other things I cannot quite put my finger on. 

Following other people on their personal journeys via blogs helped me in a tremendous way when I needed to see something tangible, that the light at the end of the tunnel did in fact exist. It is why I ultimately made the decision to log our experiences in such a public forum.

More than one person has told me that our transition with the boys seemed easy and seamless.  Rainbows and sunshine.  In many ways it has been and in others, well-I just chose not to share them. That's the advantage of being the author.  There is a line, there are things that I don't write about, things that I don't discuss and things that will remain private.   That being said, there are moments that were glossed over and I hope this recollection will resonate with some and perhaps shed some candor to my usual rosy thoughts.


The first few weeks were hard.  I remember being exhausted.  Not only did we travel for 24 + hours, we really never adjusted to being 13 hours ahead in Ethiopia. So on top of trying to to parent two children who we had known for less than a week, we were going on at least seven days of no sleep.   Lack of sleep and any other additional undertaking is never a good combination.

The day after we arrived home was a disaster.  Despite all my meticulous planning and meal freezing there were still some things that had to be done.  The clothes we had bought Boy O were way to big, so big that it was absolutely necessary to go to the store and find him pants that didn't fall off his small frame.  There was no getting around this, we needed clothes, we needed fresh fruit and veggies, we had doctor appointments, neighbors stopping by...completely overwhelming.  So there was no routine, no schedule, even I didn't know what was going to happen next.  I remember we had been up half the night with Baby O (who would still need about three weeks to adjust to the time difference), I was completely distraught that Boy O had very strong opinions on shoes and wardrobe matters and the fact that he refused to hold my hand in a busy store. My thoughts were jumbled, but I remember just being very distraught.  The what ifs took over my head...What if I have to carry him out of here kicking and screaming...what if he hates me...what if these people think I'm nuts...what if my husband thinks I'm nuts and leaves me...what if Baby O wakes up and starts screaming...what if I'm not cut out for Motherhood? It spiralled on from there.

Here's the other end of the spectrum that few take the time to consider: Imagine yourself at any age, being placed with a family and in a country that is so totally foreign to anything you can think of. Then imagine yourself listening to sounds and seeing sights that are unrecognizable. Even the background is different-the lighting is strange, the colors are overwhelming. So many things to process. Then try to communicate by speaking any word of the language you have known your entire life only to be greeted with a helpless look and some charades. You try to search for another word, and another, but it doesn't work. The only people you have to cling to are people you have just met.  At what age can one possibly process the gravity of what has happened in the course of only a few days? And if you do, even just grasp a tiny fraction of how your life has forever changed, how would you go about expressing it? Words aren't going to work. I don't even know if I could articulate it now at my age, much less as a 4 year old or a 7 month old. How much time would you need? When I ask myself this question, I am in awe of my children and their ability to be loved and return love.

We did make it through the day, but that is what I would call it.  All of us just trying to make it through the day.  After the kids were in bed, I shut the bathroom door and cried.  I called my Mom to talk, but I didn't have much to say, except that I was tired.  I didn't really feel like I could talk to anyone-after spending several years trying to make this moment happen, hearing the worries and skepticism from so many, I felt that there was no one that would understand or want to listen to my fear and frustration-I asked for this, I signed up for this, I prepared for this...but deep down I just felt very scared and alone. 

That was a low point and fortunately, things got better as time went on.  It helped that I could talk to my spouse about my thoughts.  It helped that I wrote out a routine and I made it as close to their previous schedules as possible.  Having an expectation of what was going to happen next made everything easier.  Having Daddy O take off two more weeks of work was a godsend.  By the time he went back to work, I felt fairly confident that I could hold down the fort.  I should also mention that he single handedly kept my what ifs at bay with his ever logical perspective: We have been home for less than seven days, remember what I said before we traveled? Give it a year. Then and only then, can you tell me how it's going. This was repeated to me over and over when I said at one month, three months, six months....I think we are doing ______________, what do you think? And he was right. It takes time. 


I have said this before and I will say it again: no amount of preparation could have prepared me for this. Those parenting classes we took? Silly. Toting around a rubber baby for eight hours in a sling and changing its diaper is no substitution for a real infant. If you don't know how to feed, clothe or take care of a baby-you will will learn and you will learn quick. Most parents will laugh at this, but the thing that shocked my system the most was that every second of my day and night was busy and full, sometimes it felt like there was not one moment in which to take a breath and when there was, it was spent sleeping.

I had and have read loads on adoption, bonding, and attachment.  I spent a lot of time worrying about it and both Daddy O and I did whatever we could do within our power to spend time bonding with our boys and creating sound attachments.  I discovered that both my boys are different-they are different ages, they had different experiences, different personalities and thus responded differently in our relationship with one another.  They were not a chapter in one of my parenting books, nor did I expect them to be.  But I will say that while I may not have been surprised at their responses, I was at times surprised at my own.  It is easy to say you don't have expectations, it is easy to say you will understand given past life circumstance, it is easy to say it is not personal.  Whether you approach it spiritually and/or scientifically, experiencing rejection at the hands of your child will cut you off at the knees.  No matter how logical and understandable the behavior may be-it is hard to watch your child take someone else's hand or reach for someone other than you.  I did not expect myself to react jealously or shed the tears that I did.  I did not expect myself to ask my husband what I was doing wrong.  But at the end of the day, it isn't personal, it is a reminder that there is still work to be done but it has taken a year to be able to look back on it with this perspective.  Again, it takes time.


We have come a long, long way from the family we were twelve months ago.  Issues surrounding adoption dominated our conversations and how we dealt with most things involving our sons. It is significant to me that we have reached a point where adoption does not rule our lives anymore.  I am not in any way suggesting or denying that our family wasn't created or made richer by adoption, but the past and the fact that my sons are adopted and how it affects present behavior does not override my thoughts anymore.  We have emerged from our cocoon one year later not just as an adoptive family, but a family.  And it's a great place to be.


  1. What a lovely and moving post! You and Daddy O are an inspiration to ALL parents and I am so happy for all of you. I look forward to more adventures of the caped superhero and his adorable little brother. Hopefully we will be able to get together sometime when you are closer to the rest of the family. Love, Laura

  2. Thanks Laura! Definitely will have to get together, I'm looking forward to being closer to everyone. Lookout for more on the caped crusaders-I have broken down, dusted off my sewing machine and some 'real'capes are in the works....

  3. Thanks for being so honest. I can so totally relate to you. Just because we don't write about the bad stuff all the time, people think it was easy and it was not. I am so so glad that now things are going so much smoother. The one thing that I keep forgetting about you and Ken is that you are truly parenting for the first time. I am not talking about having to raise kids for the first time but your life having completely changed because suddenly you don't have the same life anymore. That takes all the grace in itself.

    Your sentence in the last paragraph I loved about not being consumed anymore about adoption. I feel the same way. Its such a relief isn't it...

    BTW, I had this saved in my directory from when I was trying to post a comment:)
    Andrea H.

  4. Thanks for saying that about the last sentence, Andrea! I thought I might offend people by saying that and maybe hadn't articulated myself as well as I would like. But it really is such a relief...the adoption process literally took us several years-picking an agency, switching agencies, picking another agency, preparing dossiers, parenting classes, reading book after book on adoption (the books were just my neurosis, but still...), the referral, the court mishaps, the waiting and seemed like it would never end.

    We had been doing this for so long, I didn't realize how stressful it really is. Now I feel like I can actually breath and think clearly and just concentrate on my family.