Being an adoptive parent means having to constantly fight for what our children need. It’s never easy. Putting on that brave face, that armor every day, means it can sometimes be too hard to let that more vulnerable side of us be seen. There are some things you will never hear an adopter say………………… I’ll […]
This is a REALLY late post. Things have been crazy (to say the least) here so I have little to no time to blog. Last night Joel pointed out how nice it is to have a record of the kids’ behaviors to look back on so I decided to try and make some time to update. So the first week of June the kids and I (sans Joel) decided to take our first summer vacation. There were a couple of reasons we wanted to do this. 1) Last summer it was hard to schedule any vacations as we were in the waiting phase so I hardly got to go to the cabin at al and 2) We needed to figure out a way to get S out of the last couple days of school.
Some back story may be necessary. My family (from nebraska) has a cabin in North MN (no idea why they choose this location generations ago, but glad they did since I live in south MN now!) I LOVE it there. To help you understand this I will tell you that when I was 8 years old (maybe younger) I had a plan to stay at the cabin after my family left (ride bike to job at grocery store) so I could stay there forever. My parents sadly didn’t go along with this but I wailed the way home about how someday I would live in MN, and here I am!
That’s the back story on the cabin, but there is also a back story on the S school situation. This past semester has been hard with increasingly difficult school work, school staff that believe that S is “Willfully” not completing work but has the ability, parents that disagree with her ability to complete 3rd grade level work but cannot convince the school system (new eval may help this, will talk more about this in another post) and difficult peer relationships. Knowing all this and knowing how much my girl thrives on structure AND how the last few days of school are the most unstructured ever, Joel and I decided that the added negatives did not our weigh the positives of the last few days.
So our trip was planned. It was scheduled for Wed-Sun and since Joel had to work I planned on taking the 3 kids all by myself. Now I don’t know if I am clinically insane, but while I was super excited about this trip all other adults expressed significant doubts about how the trip would go. My expectations were SUPER low (Eat ice cream, not burn down cabin, no one drown) so I figured even if the kids were little hellions it would be ok.
I was fully expecting it to be a hard couple of days. Taking the kids to a new place, no back up, lots of new things to do/experience is always hard for kids, but even more hard for my kids. We looked at pictures, talked in great detail before we went, but it was still going to be a toss up as to how we did.
I have to say how proud I am of the kids. We got there and all pitched in to unpack and get settled. We went out to dinner and the kids were excited to see the lakes. They did GREAT! Getting to sleep that first night was tough in a new place so we were all up till 1am. The next day was great too! Everyone laid down to rest in the afternoon and ALL FELL ASLEEP. Lake life will do that to you! When all 3 kids were napping and I was hanging out typing and looking at the lake was the most relaxed I have felt in MONTHS AND MONTHS! It was amazing. The next day went great too, but I could tell towards the end of the day we were reaching the limit of “newness” my kids could handle. There were not break downs of tantrums but the anxiety level was just getting up there. That day we also went fishing off the dock and S caught a great big bass and P was very excited about watching his bobber. Then his bobber floated under the dock and he leaned over to see it. Next thing I knew I saw a splash and was in the water. I have no cognitive recollection of seeing the splash and THEN thinking “Oh, that must have been P, I should help him”. Nope, I saw the splash and the next thing I knew I was in the lake helping him up. The issue with that is the kids’ anxiety level was HUGE after that AND my phone was in my pocket or my hand when I jumped in. Poor iPhone is dead now!
The rest of the night the kids talked about how I “saved” P. They all went to bed great. The next morning however it was rainy and stormy and the kids had reached their limit. They were sassy, not following basic rules, and not listening. We just decided to pack up a day early (and my We I mean I decided while they cried that they wanted to stay) and go home. It was a rainy day so not much we could have done anyway besides watch the cable the cabin has that we don’t at home. I just wanted to make sure that the trip ended on a good or okay note, not a bad one. We talked about trying over again next time we were there.
Overall I was pretty impressed with this trip. I managed to keep everyone alive and for the most part happy for 4 days all on my own. We enjoyed a bunch of cabin firsts (all of which we HAD pictures of…..on my iPhone) and get the kids excited to go back next time. We also figured out a very important limit. The vacation time limit. It seems like right now the kids can handle 3 days of newness before losing their minds, so future trips will be just that, 3 days.
We plan on going back over the 4th of July so here’s hoping that trip is as good!
As you can tell by the title of this post, today has been pretty intense. Let me be clear that everyone is ok and healthy and all accounted for. I just want to say that when adopting older children, every day is intense for a while (I’m not sure how long, but at least 13 days since that is where we are at now!) Today has been more intense then what the new “normal” has been.
This morning S got up early and played a video game until it was time to get ready for school. When she was getting ready for school there was some extra sassiness and disrespect and apparently didn’t like being called on it! (Although neither do I when I am sassy) However, I kept saying how much I loved her and how disrespect is not an option and offering alternative wording. Getting her off to school was a joy, well, that was a lie, but it was a spiritual experience as I stopped and prayed for strength and wisdom many a time!
When we got home C, P, and I relaxed and watched some PBS. I was sitting about 3 feet away from a dog sleeping on the back of the couch (I swear he thinks he is a cat sometimes) and 4 feet from two kids coloring in their coloring books on the floor. All of the sudden out of nowhere (as happens surprisingly often with children I am finding out). I hear a yelp, a growl, and a scream/cry. I quickly found out what had happened. P had seen that our dog was comfortably sleeping and thought “Hey, you know what would be the smartest idea, giving the sleeping dog a death grip hug”. Actually, I am pretty sure nothing like that entered a 3 year old’s mind.
Anyone, thought process analysis aside, here is what happened: P decided our dog needed a hug around his neck WHILE the dog was fast asleep. I think you can guess what happened next. For those with poor reasoning skills I will spell it out. The dog was not very happy and let P know. This super happy and kind dog (that was in training to be a therapy dog none-the-less) growled and nipped at P. Unfortunately for everyone involved the puppy made contact with P’s check and bite him. I quickly confined the dog the my room and comforted a very freaked out P. I realized at this point that the bite was more of a “nip”. I won’t post pictures of bites versus nips but suffice it to say that a bite has the purpose of hurting and tends to puncture deeply and/or take chunks out of skin. What happened (according to me and others involved that I will talk about later) was a nip where the dogs teeth scratched the skin but the dog did not close his jaw. The wound was more of a scratch wound with barely any blood.
Since P, and all the children placed with us, are still technically foster children I knew that we would have a lot to do today. A little explanation on that, when adopting from foster care, the kids are placed with you as a pre-adoptive foster home and are designated as foster children until the family goes to court to finalize the adoption. The finalization usually takes place 6-12 months after placement. Until court there is still a social worker, GAL, and everyone else involved just like “normal”.
So my brain totally freaked out, but after months to years of working in high stress constant emergency situations (read day treatment) I was luckily able to assess what needed to be done. I contacted Joel and we decided to take P to the ER for assessment to make sure everything was ok. P, C, and I loaded up (with colors and a coloring book for each in case we had to wait a long time) and went to the local hospital ER to get P checked on to make sure everything was ok.
At the ER we went straight to the triage room and stayed there until we were done which I thought was a little weird since they had lots of rooms open. P was scared out of his mind at the dr, but calmed down soon. C didn’t help by gasping loudly at everything that happened, freaking P out even more. Luckily I distracted C with her markers after I realized they would not be moving us to a real room. There were no shots needed, they basically cleaned the wound and put Neosporin on it. No bandage or anything. Although P insisted on getting a bandage and putting it on his shirt. They gave some antibiotics since dogs’ mouths are not good and basically said the whole thing was P’s fault and the dog didn’t seem aggressive by the description. That this would be a learning experience and that P would have probably learned his lesson.
So that is the ER part of the story, not to the Police Officer part. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that there was mandatory reporting in ER’s of dog bites. I understand that but I guess when I thought about it on the car ride to the ER I figured it was a database the dr would update or something like that. Looking back now, that is way to pulled together and efficient for the government to have any part of it! Anyway, what I found out ACTUALLY happens is that they call the local police who show up to assess the situation.
The officer that came to speak with us was very nice and sweet and basically said the same things as the dr, no safety concerns for the child and I was doing what I needed so no follow up needed. However, I had with me 2 newly adopted children, adopted from foster care. For a little background children that have had experience with the “system” have often times been told not to tell authorities things (and cops are the ultimate authorities) and may have been in a home that was raided (drug raid) by the cops or had to be taken by the cops from their bio home to foster home or from foster home to foster home.
For my kids specifically I have no idea if that ever happened, only their reaction that was one of pure fear. C asked me after if the police man was going to take out his gun and shoot us. P was just in silent fear. I know that for foster adopted kids police can be scary, so after the policeman got done asking me questions and asked P some questions I made sure to ask the police to stay. I picked up P and made sure that C was listening and explained why the cop was there. That there is a law that whenever a dog bites a kid the police have to make sure everyone is safe. I then asked (read: prompted) if the cop thought the kids were safe. He said yes. I then told the kids while look at the cop (pleading with my eyes to confirm to them that this was the case) that the cop was hear to make sure they were safe, just like the dr’s nurses and me and that we are safe. And next P, C, and I ALL get to go home together and no one is in trouble. Thankfully this amazing officer caught on and confirmed everything I was saying.
So that was traumatic! I felt like a horrible mother and even worse FOSTER care adoption mother. If the post sounds defensive that is because I feel very defensive about it. I called the placing social worker right when we got home and openly discussed if we have to get rid of the dog or not. She said that it didn’t sounds aggressive, just need to educate P. We had conversations with S, C, and P and as a family about dog safety and what will happen if this happens again (we find Sammy a new home). This was a tough conversation to have with kids who have been shuffled around and we want them to believe that we will never get rid of them. We said how their safety is our #1 concern and if the whole family can’t have appropriate behaviors around the dog that would make it so people are not safe.
We picked up meds, got drive through fast food and then it was nap/room rest time. It gave me some time to process the day. I updated Joel and got ready for the rest of the day. S came home with the same sassy disrespectful attitude from the morning and to be honest my patience was gone, I was done for. I did my best and we got her homework done but the minute I said C got to go first for something today S freaked out. Luckily Joel got home at just this minute and helped with the whole situation.
Then when Joel and S took a ride to get dinner, some teen selling something from school. I saw that it was someone that I didn’t know so I asked the kids to wait upstairs and not come to the door. I think I actually said “Stay here”. I dealt with the guy at the door and come upstairs to find P cowering under the table. I went and picked him up and he told me that he was worried that the person at the door was going to take him away from us. We chatted about that but the whole situation brought tears to my eyes.
Needless to day, some days just suck and today was one of those days. We are now trying to teach P about appropriate behaviors around animals and that no one will ever take him again. Reasserting to S that she is a child not a parent, which is where a lot of the sass and disrespect comes from. I am so tired and yet so anxious at the same time. I did not do a good job of staying patient towards the end of the day, but I can’t handle everything that is thrown at me. Today was one of those days where I called “uncle” and figuratively hid in the corner until reinforcements (Joel) arrived.
So for all the moms out there dealing with things they never saw coming these are for you. For all the moms dealing daily with the consequences of your child’s other parents’ decisions these are for you. For all you moms out there that feel like they are daily failing their children (like I feel today), know that it is not up to us. God put us where we are and he is with us always! Somedays you have to remember that and repeat it to yourself over and over, but even on the longest, hardest, more traumatic day I have had since having my kids here I sit at the end of the night, worried about how the day will effect them, and loving them with all my heart. These following quotes are for those that can relate.
This last one is really for premie babies but I think it totally applies to foster care and all forms of adoption.
So, trying to catch up on posts here… SOOOOO much has happened that it is hard to keep it straight. Today I am not going to continue with the chronological story line into hour our life with kids unfolded. I am just going to offer random thoughts from my time being a full-time mom to an 8 year old traumatized girl and a part time mom to her siblings. We are still working on the transition and have a ways to go, but I am happy to report that we had no honeymoon. I like it better this way. I have always been more of a baptism by fire kind of girl so this fits my personality.
First off let me say that being a parent is TOUGH!!!! No amount of training, prayer, preparation, or reading can make you realize what it is like to have the hardest 24/7 job every created! I feel so unbelievably blessed that I have an amazingly understanding job that is allowing my to work 2 days a week for the foreseeable future (ie forever!) and an even better husband who provides for the family and still comes home at the end of the day with energy for the kids. I am continuously in awe of the amazing man that I am married to. I am so blessed to be parenting with him.
I know that even parenting biological kids that you have had since the second they were born is also tough, in general parenting is just hard. This business of molding and shaping humans is hard work. However, there is an added layer of difficulty when parenting a child, or children, coming from a background in trauma. The trauma itself is of little importance in this particular conversation. It could be years in an institutionalized setting, such as an orphanage; sexual abuse; physical abuse; neglect; emotional abuse; or any other of the long list of ways that a child can be permanently scared during their early years. It is just a fact of adoption that the children who are available for adoption have been through trauma. Even if placed at birth, the separation from the birth mother is a trauma. Obviously the more trauma, the more the effect in most cases.
Going back to our life. Here we sit, with an 8 year old that experienced a solid 7+ years of trauma. The details of her trauma are not mine to share, but suffice it to say that it makes an adoptive mom that loves her with all my heart cry and want to go back in time and change the story. I so wish I could have saved my lovely daughter from experiencing the things that she had to. For reasons I will never know or understand, I cannot change the past and she had to go through all of those things. As our daughter becomes more comfortable with us, she is sharing more information about her past life.
I am praising the Lord on a daily basis for the many jobs where I have heard heart breaking things from children as that has prepared me, to some extent, to hear what I have heard these past 8 days. There have been days where I had to fight tears and search for the “right” answer to her questions, knowing that there was no right answer other than “You are a child and should not have to know that, unfortunately you do.” My jobs and training have really helped me since S has moved into our home to be able to deal with these revelations and her insecurities about our love for her.
With the revelations I have been trying to approach it as a bias-free listener that will not get mad and just listen and answer any questions she has. So far so good, but man does that get hard at times! The insecurities about our love for her is a bit harder as that is something I have never faced before. First let me say that I fully acknowledge, to her and to myself, that there is absolutely no reason based on her past that she would trust what we say. However, over time she will learn that we mean what we say and we do love her, specifically when it comes to loving more than 1 person (her 2 siblings come for a weekend visit this weekend and then move in next friday and she is concerned that we will forget about her).
There is constant limit test (which is expected), but I am surprised by how one-sided it is. With me she tends to be more reactive and argumentative about silly little things and wanting to set her own rules. I love her and want her to be comfortable, but I am still the parent and set the rules. If I say we are doing spelling words in random order not in the order given, the random order it is. If it takes an hour temper tantrum to do it, so be it.
I am really taken aback by how much my heart breaks on a daily basis for my little girl. This next quotation pretty much spells it out. I have looked to it throughout our adoption journey, and there were times that days would go by before my will would be rekindled. Since S moved into our home, I am frustrated more, have longer days, cry more, argue more, yet my will is rekindled more. The more we see the reactive side, the hurt, the trauma side and yet stay firm in the stance that we love her, love each other, and love her siblings and have enough love for everyone we are making progress.
Today, for example, we asked her to go ahead downstairs and start playing her game (since she finished her homework) while Joel and I talked. She get VERY upset when Joel and I spend time together without her. She started to cry and stomped downstairs, but in the end went to play her game (not eavesdrop on the stairs) and we were all find when Joel and I came downstairs to hang out with her. PROGRESS!
This little girl has been so hurt! Living with trauma is hard (I know!), I guess I just didn’t know that living with a traumatized child would be so hard. Thankfully I don’t have to do it alone! Here are some quotations that have helped me during rough days!
This last one helps me to remember what adoption is all about! Why did I have the idea that the hard part was over? The hard part is just beginning. But I have Joel and God to walk this path with me.
So this post is all about me…well I guess the entire blog is really, but what I am saying is that this post has nothing to do with foster care, adoption or the like, other than the vague tie of trauma and me wanting to write about it (and it is my blog after all). Well I guess I should catch you up. Today is my last day at my old job and I am bumming because I love to kids, LOVE the co-workers and just overall love what I do. I can see the impact I have made on the kids I work with and it warms my heart. However, I am still feeling super blessed to begin working with no commute and be more available for what I truly feel is my calling, parenting hurt and abandoned kids.
It may be a little bit before I start my new job. I was SUPPOSED to start the job this upcoming Monday, but since when has anything ever gone according to plan and this is no different. I found out Tuesday late afternoon that I need to have surgery. So instead of starting a new job next week and relaxing this weekend, I will be stressing this weekend and being cut open next week. Ok, that may be a bit over dramatic, but the title of this post does talk about trauma and who is clear-headed with regards to trauma?
I have been having intense (land me in the ER, pumped full of narcotic while they fun tests) “right upper quadrant” abdomen pain on and off since October 2012. Lately it has been more on than off. It gets worse at night, when I eat fatty food (which is the only tasty food there is!), and sitting/standing/laying doesn’t help. Through the doctors’ investigations they said it could be 1 of 3 things: the liver, gallbladder, or bowel. Well, it wasn’t the bowel (it is really hard to be excited after righting that sentence, but I was). The liver looked iffy but nothing that would cause the type of pain I was experiencing they came to find out. They kept coming back to look at the gallbladder. Not to make fun of the doctors but it felt as if they didn’t know what the heck they were doing/looking for; like when I pretend to throw the ball and really just hid it behind me and Sammy looks around and comes back to stare at me with that head cocked to the side expression. The gallbladder was the ball that was SUPPOSED to be in my hand but it wasn’t and then it was SUPPOSED to be where I threw it but it wasn’t. Ok, I am not recommended touching or throwing your own gallbladder! The doctors just kept saying it sounds like gallbladder but your gall bladder is fine. No stones, no “sludge” (whatever that is), no anatomical abnormalities, no reason for it to hurt. FINALLY after this last ER visit, where I was pretty sure I was either dying or birthing an alien (not how I planned to become a mom) they decided to look just one more time.
Still normal looking. But then the doctor spoke the fateful words, words that only people described as “medically complicated” or coming from a family with medical concerns like I do can understand: “In a small fraction of people…..” I wanted to stop the doctor right then and yell “I don’t even care what the rest of the sentence is, if it is rare, unlikely, complicated, and confusing chances are we should have STARTED there!!!” However, I
was high on narcotics and was not that quick in my response time let him finish his sentence like the polite person I am.
“In a small fraction of people, there is gallbladder disease with no stones, sludge, or other abnormalities visible yet they experience all the symptoms of gallbladder attacks. The issue is that the gallbladder itself does not function properly, something these tests haven’t been looking for.” Or something like that, as I was in the ER on a IV happy-drip meds so it’s a little fuzzy. I remember being a bit angry and thinking: “Oh, you mean EXACTLY what I have been experiencing for 8 months and spent over $1,000 out of pocket to try and diagnosis and countless hours in pain?” See above on if I said it or not.
Well, long story short that test was ordered and the results came back in record time that I was in fact, within that small fraction of people with non-functioning gallbladders and needed it removed. I meet with the surgeon (my surgeon?) tomorrow morning to get some questioned answered and figure out a time to have the surgery. I am going prepared with my list (quite a long one) of questions. Also, random fact but did you know that red-heads generally require 20% more anesthesia than people of other hair colors? When I woke up during my upper GI I found that out. Not wanting to wake up this time.
So, back to the title of the post. I tell you all that to tell you this: I HATE hospitals. Not in the man, they are annoying I’m so bored kind of way. In the anxiety attack, heart racing, avoid it at all costs kind of way. Doctors offices are ok, hospitals are not. Since this isn’t a blog about my trauma (Thank goodness) suffice it to say that I had at least one VERY traumatizing experience when a loved one needed to be in the hospital. I would love to tell you that we bonded closer as a family, the person pulled through and it was happily ever after, but this is not a fairy tell and life isn’t like that in this story. It was hard, heart-breaking, and soul-crushing in every sense of all of those words. I was a broken little girl/young lady for quite a long time after. Only recently have I truly begun to grieve this lose and recover from the effects it has had on me.
Incidents following this one were not near as traumatic but ended the same and served to reinforce the mindset that hospitals are not safe and are not for getting healthy. Logically, I am fully aware that this is not the case and I know what I believed then was not true. I have confronted this trauma response related to hospitals on many occasions throughout the years but often due to “minor” things like migraines or for other people like my mother undergoing procedures and I have come out stronger and healthier.
I am a smart, intelligent, and emotionally aware 26 year old that has gone to years of therapy and has devoted my life to helping others deal with the traumas (big and small) in their lives. Yet when I was on that phone and the nurse said I needed surgery I can honestly say I thought two things: 1. running away and 2. I would rather be in pain forever than have surgery.
Being the skilled therapist I am I recognize those thoughts for what they are, remnants of the deep scaring that trauma left behind. Through no fault of anyone that loves me, life was hard and I lost some who I loved with my whole heart and was my caretaker. I lost him in a hospital where people that were “supposed to help him” (in my little trauma kid brain) let him die. If I am experiencing such strong reactions to a trauma memory that can make me knowingly and desirably want to stay in pain for the foreseeable future I simply cannot imagine what kids without loving caretakers and the benefit of therapeutic knowledge would do when faced with trauma triggers daily. No freaking wonder they have behaviors, no wonder those behaviors are hard to change. I actually told Joel I didn’t want the surgery and was serious, until he said he wouldn’t drive me to the ER anymore (tough love!). I have every advantage possible: the trauma was 1 time, I had loving family supporting me through it, it was the only trauma for the time being, stable caretakers otherwise, knowledgeable family and therapist to guide me, and love there to catch me when I call my mom and freak out a little as the doctor says I need surgery (love you mom).
What possible chance does a child with none of these advantages have when faced with a trauma or even a trigger years after? If anyone ever asks why I want to adopt/foster…this is why. Every kid deserves these advantages. No one deserves to feel even a fraction of the trauma response that I am feeling about surgery, let along kids without anyone to lean on. That is wrong and unfair and says WAY more about the adults in the society than it does about the kids.
Rest assured I will have the surgery, I will overcome this trauma trigger and come out the other end all the better for it. God has weaved my life that everything has worked to bring him glory. Even that horrible time in my life where this hospital trauma comes from that I still cannot talk about without crying. God is using that time to work through me to help kids in need. If that is not God turning victims into victories I don’t know what is!