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 .
It was like something snapped inside of me that day. My stomach tied up in a knot, and my throat felt like I was being choked to death slowly. The irony of it all was that I was so loved, loved by my precious husband, loved by each one of our dear children, even our newly adopted ones. Yet the needs weighed so heavily that I felt like I was suffocating and that no amount of love I could give would ever be enough.
I woke up every morning and felt a mounting anxiety about seeing Eliza. She was hyper vigilant, and i could not open my bedroom door without her standing there waiting for me outside of it. Or if by some grace of God, she was still asleep when I woke, as soon as my foot hit the top of the stairs, she would bound out of her room and almost knock me over with her hugs. My heart would sink, and I’d force myself to hug this dear soul who loved me with an intensity that was beautiful and lovely and yet so very painful for me. I bristled when she touched me.
A big problem to have, eh? I thought to myself, a child who adored her mother, her mother that she had longed for all of her life and now had, yet a mother who recoiled from her love and need for her.
And the guilt would rise in my throat.
One thing I had come to notice about Eliza was that she would awake with a pain and need she couldn’t express. Every morning, she’d bury her head in my chest and fuss. Often I’d say, “Do you need to go back to sleep for a while?” Or I’d ask her if she’d had a bad dream. She’d always answer no. But she had lived the nightmare, and every single morning she woke up with a glaring need for her mother to hold her, to comfort her, to remind her that she was safe and loved.
We’d walk down the steps together. I’d make my coffee and get my Bible. I’d offer to help her with a drink or get her something to eat, and always she’d shake her head no. I’d tell her I was going to read my Bible and write a little, that she could sit beside me, but that we couldn’t talk. I needed it to be quiet. She’d say okay, and press herself against me so closely that she’d spill my coffee and my arms weren’t free to type. I eventually had to put a pillow between us, and tell her she could lay her head on the pillow and be close to me, but that I needed this quiet time each morning before the family awakened.
Always we worked it out, and she knew she was loved, but the intensity of her need for me was constant. She was by my side every moment until I would retreat into my room in the afternoon and lock out my family for a couple hours each day.
In March, I wrote about the laying down of my life for Eliza and how it broke me, and in the brokenness God’s love shined through. I share it here, Redemption At The Cross.
The Spring days continued on like this, with me choosing to love with my words and my actions, feeling compassion, yet with the feeling that I was being strangled and the knot in my stomach never leaving.
Then the Spring days turned into summer days, and nothing changed, except for the amount of time I was spending in my room. The pain and anxiety kept growing until I felt I couldn’t leave my room without Mark.
Evangeline came home from the hospital in May, and most days I’d take the kids to pool, come home and feed them, put the littles to bed, and close my door to my precious family. In the mornings, I no longer left my room to read my Bible. I read it in my bedroom, and I’d wait until Mark was ready for work. Then I’d come downstairs with him.
I felt as though my home was no longer my haven, but some foreign place that I feared and was compelled to withdraw from. Our children began to notice the change in me.
One day our son, Steven, said, “Mommy, I know you’re always here, but it feels like you’re never here anymore because you’re always in your room.”
And again, the guilt consumed me.
Then one day our son, Evan, came up to my room, and asked me if I was trying to starve myself to death. I had lost fifty pounds.
That was when I knew something was really wrong. Yet I couldn’t do anything about my feelings, and I was so very ashamed that I couldn’t feel the feelings of love for my precious daughter that I felt I should have. I felt so bereft, and so terribly guilty, and so totally alone.
And then one day in August, I got a message on Facebook from a friend who’d also adopted an aging out child, sharing her feelings of how hard it was, and asking me how I was doing.
I wrote her back.
I’ll share parts of that message with you tomorrow.