March 27, 2008


Last night I had a vivid dream that felt so real - even though while I slept, I knew in the recesses of my mind it wasn't real.

It was Quint - he was just united with us. And he was three. Years. And he could talk to me in English. And I can tell you, from minute number one - he was not having it. He was not keen on having us for parents, and worse, he was very verbal about it. Kicking, hitting, screaming, spitting. I actually remember very clearly trying to buckle him into a stroller and he was arcing his whole body and vehemently trying to escape me. I told him I loved him...he told me "well, I don't love you".

Next, and very rapidly - I told Anton "this kid is not three...he's much older and they've lied to us". At which point Quint transitioned to a teenager - 17 years old - only still small ironically - and said "yes, I am and I was told not to tell you for fear you wouldn't want me - and I'm engaged to her". Where he now points to a young woman who picks him up and carries him away. At this point, my mind wandered elsewhere and my dreams took some other shape.

After you're done snortling and chuckling (as I just did while I re-read this just now) I have to tell you - my dream, while silly and irrational on many fronts, speaks very clearly to my fear that my babies will be older than we're told. To the fear that they will never love me as much as I love them. To my fears about how fast time goes by and how quickly they will be gone to live their own lives as they grow up. To the fears I have that with all my planning and trying to prepare - things still may fall apart and take very different shape from what I have in my mind's eye.

But more importantly, the first part of my dream speaks to my increasingly nagging fear that one or both of my children will suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It's not something you hear a lot of adoptive parents talk about. It's kind of "hush hush" and we don't like to hear it - let's face it. We're not a good audience for those struggling with post adoption issues. We're hanging on by a thread just to get through the process of waiting - so hearing that there is an underbelly to this process is daunting if not downright rejected. Especially amidst all our piles of C@rters outfits and darling shoes and hair bows.

Even through both of our homestudy processes with the social worker - she spoke very candidly about the difficulties we might face through international adoption and attachment disorders. Of course, we took avid notes - but quickly brushed it aside - feeling as though that possibility was remote and that we would just deal with it when the time came. Right alongside the mistake we often make that even in our fragile humanness, somehow we are invincible and that tragedy only strikes other families. Some of you are walking testimonies to the unfortunate reality of this mistake we too often miscalculate.

But more and more, I am opening myself up to the possibility (let's face it, after almost three years in the process - the new has definitely faded) that Reactive Attachment Disorder might be a very real possibility. I know that not every baby has it. I know that many children come home and adjust fine and dandy. I have friends who are living proof. But I also think it's fair to say that with the drastic increase in Chinese, even international adoption as a whole - we have to think that perhaps the results are not quite "in" just yet on the impact this has on these kids. The long-term impact of being adopted internationally - or adopted at all and the loss that entails at the forefront.

I'm certainly not trying to start up a debate. I'm simply voicing some very real fears to my process. In the back of my mind, I do think about the many families that have unfortunately walked a very harrowing road of post-adoption with children who suffer terribly from RAD. Some have only minor setbacks and bounce back quickly with guidance. Others struggle for months, while some for years.

If you're unfamiliar with the term - RAD is a very serious disorder affecting some adopted children (and even bio children but that's beside the point for this post) and you can read more about it here. I would never intend to scare anyone - but this is a serious problem and the child does not "grow out of it". It requires tremendous amounts of work with professionals who understand the disorder thoroughly.

Meanwhile, as I was browsing my favorite blogs, Stephanie made a reference to a blog she had found that is a type of protected forum - more or less - for families to share their stories, good and bad about their adoption experiences. It's not too often you find a site this candid - but I do believe it opens the door for people who have experienced post-adoption trauma to express themselves and feel heard and not alone. You can visit it here, but do so as a forewarned visitor that you will not enjoy reading any of those posts. They are written from a perspective of pain and suffering - and are meant to be therapeutic in some cases and a resource and support in others.

On the off chance any of my adoptive mom readers might have experienced post adoption difficulty, you might be encouraged to know you are not alone. In addition, for my fellow "still in line" adoptive moms - you might be scared to death to know these possibilities exist - but likewise, you might feel empowered in advance to know and be able to recognize the warning signs of RAD in your child. After all, we can do nothing about it now - only wait and see what happens when we are united with our little ones.

I'm on the fence. I do feel horrible to read firsthand accounts of post adoption trauma when I am still in the stage of just trying to get one child home. It's slightly hard for me to choke down that one or both of my children could possibly not attach to us. On the other hand, I feel like knowledge is power - and on the off chance I am dealt that load to bear, I feel knowing there are others who have been there and also knowing that I am not alone and there is help is a tremendous resource to have at my disposal.

As for my crazy dreams - I can only say that as my seven weeks until we get Quint home have already dwindled down to six, I feel the strain not of a completed nursery or of space in the pantry for baby bottles and chunky spoons - but much more to the issue of the work involved in loving a child abandoned by their birth family. It cuts right to the heart of me - as I am so close to my family.

At my very core I long desperately to fill every little hole left in my children's hearts by their early life traumas. But all I can do is wait and see - hope and pray - and persevere. My children were ordained before time to walk the road they must, just as I was ordained before time to be their Mom and to love them through that very road, with all it's pitfalls and pain.

Additionally, I was given the gift of them through adoption to show not only my children, but myself as well that not all life equals loss and pain - but instead love, and joy, and warmth - smiles and laughter, and hope for tomorrow. Christmas' and birthdays, cinnamon hearts in warm oatmeal on Valentines and fireworks, barbecues, and swimming in the summer.

We'll learn together, I suppose - how to attach to one another. We will be strangers after all - both of us - all three of us, and then four. It will take time - and God willing, we won't struggle too much to learn to be a family and to love each other willingly. God willing we'll be healing through the past and moving swiftly towards the future...together...

...and towards Easter eggs hidden in the garden and tiny little teeth nestled under pillows for the tooth fairy...and all those days that fall in between...


Young Creations said...

You are such an eloquant writer. I know you have put into words so well what many parents are thinking. I will say many many prayers for you and your children. I will pray for a smooth transition. But with parents like you and Anton, I am sure all will be well.

Anonymous said...

My dear, sweet, beautiful daughter, I, as your mother, wish I could brush these fears out of your life, but since I can't, I can tell you that I, as many parents can attest to, have most of the same fears that you are having, when we give birth to our children....will they love me as much as I love them, will they be a good or fussy baby, will they grow up to be a "good" kid or will I always have trouble with them and if they are trouble, did "I" do that to them and could I have done something different. When we have children, no matter how they come into our lives, none of us Moms know how they will react, how they will love us, or how they will turn out. Each child is an individual and has different needs and wants, and we learn them together. Sometimes it will not work and you adjust, other times you hit it right on the head and get it right! What ever comes your way, just love those babies with all your heart, with lots of love, kisses, hugs, lullabies, stories, always laughter and whatever your heart tells you to give, and then let God do the rest. That's all you can do sweetie. Just love them, as I have loved you and your sibblings, and I know you have tons of love to give. I'm not worried, you'll do fine........
I love you, Mom

Christy said...

I cant blevei you are gettin ghim so soon!! AMAZING!!!! I am soooooo happy for you!!!! My Mia was 6 months when we got her and her adjustment and attachment has been PERFECT!! I too know that there can be complications with attachemnt but getting Mia as young as we did really minimized the attachment issues. I woudl also encourage you to exclusivly hold him for 4 to 6 weeks after getting him. I know it is hard and we did not stick to it 100% but we were pretty good. I will tell you that getting him at 6 months is a HUGE gift-- literally you will have such an easier time simply becuase of his age. I am so happy for you guys!!! You are going to be an awesome mom!

Christy :)

4D said...

It is a reality that we can not hide from. We do a disservice to our children if we do. Hard as it is, I try to read and learn so that I am armed with the tools to catch on early and try to resolve it before it worsens. Thx for bringing this topic again into the light. It is one that is kept quiet as we are supposed to be happy and grateful. Life after is not all ladybugs and butterfly kisses. It can be a hardship. But knowledge will help us to be better parents for our children.

Keep smilin!

Dena said...

Wonderful, great post - you certainly have a way of talking about even the most difficult of topics.
I worried/thought/dreamed of RAD as well. I came to the place that I knew God had brought us to this place and would walk us down whatever road He willed.
But, yes, it's an unknown - a scary unknown. I too felt knowledge was power. Do you have a copy of Karyn Purvis' "The Connected Child"? She works with the most difficult of cases and gives great hope.
I am praying for no RAD for little Quint, and for a smooth attachment for all of you.
Attachment is a process, not an event. Going through the adoption process has made me more aware of attachment w/my bio kids, and being intentional about those connections as well.
Attachment for us was a wonderful surprise. It was easy and natural, and beautiful. But, I don't see it as over. I know there are bound to be hard times ahead, and our job is to connect with her in those places and walk with her.
Praying for God to sow those seeds of love for you in his little heart, RIGHT NOW!

Elise said...

thanks for sharing this post...we all need to know the up and downs of this adoption process but I know God has his hands all over your adoptions and He will be with you every step of the way! 6, I can't wait!!!!

Dena said...

Oh, forgot to say how very sweet those words from your mom are. What a loving, supportive mom you have. Can I adopt her???
Just kidding, I already have a loving, supportive mom, but there are times I could use two!