A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one post in a series of posts that will share the story of how I came to know and grew to love my daughters who were adopted at fourteen years old, mere days before they aged out of the adoption system. It does not reflect my feelings now. If you are joining me in the midst of the series, you can access the whole story by clicking on The Silent Months on the top menu bar of my blog. I choose to share my story to address a topic that is taboo in the adoption community. I share it to normalize the feelings that so many feel and yet are too ashamed to share. I share it to provide support to those who feel alone because there’s a big white elephant in the room, and no one can talk about it. I share it in support of adoption, in support of every single precious child waiting for a family, every one of which deserves to be loved and is lovable, every single one. Why can’t we talk about it? The feelings are real. The process of attachment can be easy and it can be painful, and the more we support parents who experience the painful side of adoption, the more we help the children. There are far too many disruptions, especially of older children, and if we as a community can come to see the feelings and the process as normal, perhaps we can provide support to those families and in doing so, help the children. Adoption is rooted in pain and loss, and often the process is painful. AND it’s okay. Before you offer your criticism, please read, Eliza Today, A Preface, and God’s Heart and Workers for His Harvest Field .
Within a couple of months, Eliza had grown to love me. She loved me with a fervor that exhausted me and repelled me at the same time. She was precious and lovely and desired to please me. She longed to be loved and flourished in our love for her. Yet in the beginning that love was a choice to love her. I know now that I did love her, but I couldn’t feel that love the way I wanted to. Eliza was attaching just fine. It was I who had trouble attaching to Eliza.
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 john 3:18
I loved her in deed and in truth. Yet I found it so difficult to get to know her. And one cannot have the feelings that we all long for when we don’t know someone. The truth was in the beginning it took a very long time to get to know Eliza, to understand her. In so many ways she was a puzzle to us, a closed book, a child locked behind a wall that could not be breached.
I have always loved the book, The Little Prince. I think of this quote when I think of the early days with Eliza.
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?” (Said the little Prince)
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
As we began to build a history together, the feelings did begin to come. I did grow to know her, but I couldn’t see the progress we were making amidst the guilt and exhaustion I tortured myself with because this precious child I rocked and held and loved with my actions, also pushed me away from her with her endless demands of me.
Our teenagers needed help being launched. The little ones longed for me. Eliza wanted constant physical touch and attention. Evangeline had an uncanny ability to divert everyone’s attention to her, and our biological children were beginning to feel the loss of me.
The weight of all the needs, and the guilt that I just couldn’t feel the feelings I expected myself to feel for Eliza just kept eating away at me, and eventually, it was just too heavy a load to carry.
I remember the day I broke. Evangeline had had a bone spur removed from her spine and had lost the function of her legs in the process. She was healing, but she’d already been in the hospital six weeks straight, and she’d had three other hospital stays before that. I was standing in one of the halls of Children’s Hospital. It was April 12, 2013. I had spent many long days and weeks in that same hospital years before because I, too, had been a sick child.
The children were tumbling over themselves in the halls, in those same halls I had once been wheeled down in wheelchairs and on stretchers. Eliza was bored and fussing that she wanted to go home, and as much as I tried to be at the hospital daily, it seemed Evangeline was bonding more with the nurses than she was with me. I couldn’t offer her the constant attention they could. I couldn’t provide the art supplies, and the wealth of activities they provided her with every moment of the day.
So I stood there, amidst the littles, and Eliza and Evangeline, trembling. Pictures from some far away place in my childhood, flashed across my mind in strobe like fashion, like a movie I didn’t want to watch, yet couldn’t be paused.
My hands shook. My knees felt weak beneath me. The hall spun in circles, and I lost my balance.
The nurses helped me to a chair. “Here, sit down. Are you okay?” The growing crowd around me asked in unison.
“Yes. Yes I am. I’m okay.” I said forcing myself back into the present.
“You need a rest. You’ve been here so long. Here. Come and lie down a while.” The nurses pleaded.
But I told them that I was okay, that I had just lost my balance, and that we were on our way to the cafeteria. I’d be fine.
That was the day I stopped eating.
To be continued…