Thursday, June 22, 2006

Learning how to love and be loved

American family's most recent post breaks my heart. Because we have been there, and right now we are where she will be. We are parenting a child old enough to remember her losses (and they are many) and not old enough to be able to express them. And I can't really help her much.

Shortly before our referral but after we had expressed openness to an older infant/toddler, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I couldn't help her at all. I was obsessed with the fact that our daughter - as yet unnamed but certainly already born - was starving, suffering through the drought afflicting the south of Ethiopia. And it was a fact. Every day I had to find a way to reject, refuse, ignore my powerlessness to do anything about her pain. And I wondered, every day, if this was the day she would lose her family, everything and everyone she was only learning to love.

Now we are expecting Miss I., who lost her first family and just last week lost her nannies at the care center (wonderfully kind and loving, if overwhelmed by the number and needs of their charges) to know what to do with us. This is an impossible demand to make on a little person, and I am so sorry for it.

Incredibly, so far she seems to be working it out. At first she ate everything we offered as if there might not be enough, just as she soaked up our love as if there would soon be an end to it, cried as if her heart were breaking every time someone left the room and laughed heartily when that someone returned to her view.

Just four days later, she's already shaking her head and saying "no" to things and foods taking as many as ten steps away from me before running to squeeze my knees or demanding "up-ah," for reassurance that her exploration is safe, healthy, good. Sometimes she even turns the corner from one room to another and then just peeks back at me, to make sure I am there and watching her. These are milestones in our development.

She awoke in the middle of the night last night, and she rolled back and forth and laughed when I placed her in between me and dh (instead of replacing her in the cosleeper), as if laughter was the only way to express surprise and joy that she didn't have to choose one of us for comfort, that she had an abundance.

She tantrums when I put her down, and I whisper how I wish I could explain that this is it, that our family is the end of the road, that it is forever, that I will take care of her, but no words can communicate that to her. For now we will have to understand her surprise when we are still here, until we've been here so long that it isn't surprising. We'll worry about forever later.

This morning ds was feeling a little jealous. He later said, calmly, "I'm feeling sad and angry that you don't have as much time for me." But at the time, he was not so calm. "She doesn't love you," he said angrily.

"You're right," I answered. "She doesn't even know how --- yet." But she will.

----

Today my kids fought in the car. Dh seemed bothered by ds poking Miss I, and her "Nah!" and pointing to the spot he had poked her (the nonverbal form of the familiar "HE'S TOUCHING ME!"). I said "This is what you wanted!" and smiled.
"Yeah," he replied. "The American freaking dream."
And then he smiled slowly.
I have to say, two kids having normal kid fights in the back seat of the car really is a dream come true.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

I am very impressed with the wisdom of your son. What a good job he did getting all of his mixed up little emotions into words!

AMH said...

I was just going back and reviewing some of your older posts. One from Feb. 24 about the pain and loss that occurs on all ends of adoption. I was struck by that, because I often struggle with the weight of it all. I sometimes find myself so lost in the grief a birth mother must feel that I question our decision to adopt, to take the child "from" her. And you touched on that a bit in the post, how you wondered if you could overcome the pain you know your daughter has experienced to be able to parent her to the degree that you want.

And clearly, from your most recent post, you guys are all doing just fine, which is great.

I love your thoughtful perspective on things, there is a gentility and depth that is hard to find.

Overwhelmed! said...

I agree, American Family's post is heartbreaking.

I love hearing how Miss I. is adjusting to life with her new and forever family! I also think your son is doing a fantastic job with all of this and I'm impressed that he's willing and able to express his natural feelings of jealousy and anger, as well as the love he already has for Miss I.

Thank you for sharing your journey. It warms my hear to read of your experiences.