The Darkness

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 .

Mark and I left the girls with the family who was to keep them for a couple weeks and give our family time to heal.

The ride home felt strange and lonely, and we were riddled with guilt. We’d worked so hard to bond with the girls, to cocoon them, to keep them with us and to care for them, to love them, and now we were leaving them in the hands of another.

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We rode home in silence. Even then though, we were looking at only a couple of weeks and some healing time for me. During those first couple of weeks home, I did feel a lightness to my days. I felt that I had my home back again, that I could leave my room and feel comfortable again. I even began to feel that I could eat a little.

I liked the way it felt. Sophia began to come in and lie down with me, to join me in the kitchen. She suddenly began to talk to me again. She seemed more like the little girl I knew. She sat in my lap and snuggled, and I noticed how she’d grown up so quickly while the girls were here. Evangeline had big medical needs, and Sophia had accepted it all so well, even jumped in to help her. Victoria began joining me in the kitchen again, cooking and visiting where before she had stayed more in her room.

Yet Steven missed Eliza and grieved for her. Andrew felt it was wrong that we had let the girls go at all.

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We were able to talk about our feelings. Some of the kids had bonded with one of the girls, and others had bonded with the other, as would happen in any big family of biological children too.

The biggest difference in the first couple of weeks was an overwhelming sense of relief from the responsibility for me. And perhaps more importantly, I was beginning to be able to eat again.

I began to miss Evangeline. She had doctors appointments she needed to come home for, and she had begun to act out at the respite family. She was throwing things and causing fights between the children there.

And I got it. She was scared.

I did not miss Eliza. I did not miss her. The weight that was lifted off of me and not having her in the house was huge. It feels cruel to say it, and it felt terrible to feel it, but that’s how I felt. For ten months, I had given all I had, and felt no closer to having peace in my home than I did when I came home, except that I was now exhausted.

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It was an awful way to feel. I felt the painful inequity of it all. My friends were telling me how good Eliza was doing, and while I was relieved to hear it, I also began to feel more and more that I didn’t have what Eliza needed, that I couldn’t be her mother. And even as all these thoughts jumbled together in my mind, I felt a guilt and a pain so deep that it really incapacitated me.

Toward the end of the second week, it became clear that Evangeline needed to come home. She had doctors appointments and was misbehaving. Yet I was neither physically nor emotionally ready to bring Eliza home. Everyone felt we needed to leave Eliza for a while longer and go and get Evangeline.

All of this was unthinkable to me, yet, again, I was in such a terrible place I did not feel able to be her mother.

The family who was taking care of the girls was growing attached to Eliza and felt that we needed to come and get Evangeline and leave Eliza, and let her go. She was doing well in their homeschool, and the general consensus among the people involved was to make a decision to let her go sooner than later so that she could begin to heal and move on.

That all made sense to me, and somehow felt all wrong at the same time. And then their was the blatant fact that I had begun eating again, and felt no desire to bring her back. Could I sacrifice my health for one child when ten others needed me? And every report I got from my friends was that Eliza was doing well, and was happy, which further reinforced my feelings that I must have been doing something wrong, and that I just could not be her mother.

“Please-tame me!’ he said.

‘I want to, very much,’ the little prince replied. ‘But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.’

‘One only understands the things that one tames,’ said the fox. ‘Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me.’

‘What must I do, to tame you?’ asked the little prince.

‘You must be very patient,’ replied the fox. ‘First you will sit down at a little distance from me-like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

We had to get Evangeline home for an appointment, and we had two days to make the decision about what to tell Eliza. Did we tell her I still needed time to heal, and further drag her along when we all knew I wasn’t feeling it and it hadn’t been going well? Or did we make the decision to look for a new family for Eliza, to let her go, and allow her to begin to heal from the new hurt that now we ourselves would cause?

I just couldn’t figure out how to let her go and allow another family, perhaps one more equipped to meet her needs, to care for her without first having to break her heart and abandon her again. And how could I do that? If she had been unhappy in our home, if she had desired another family, then all of this would have been so much more clear. But it wasn’t clear.

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Neither Mark nor I felt a desire to bring Eliza home. We were beginning to think that perhaps God was showing us that someone else could be better parents to her than we could. We had begun to consider what we had before thought was unthinkable.

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Looking back I think we walk such a narrow line between God’s best for our lives and mediocrity. I think we were in a very vulnerable place, and had lost sight of the conviction of what God had called us to do. Tomorrow I will share the painful decision we made.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. ~ Philippians 2:13

The good news is, God is faithful when we can’t be. He is strong in our weakness, and He works all things together for our good if we let Him. He picks up the broken pieces of our lives, and weaves them into something beautiful. And we can rest in His unfailing love for us.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

May God bless you as you seek God’s perfect will for your life.

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4 comments

  1. chrisd says:

    Thank you for your transparency. This is the dirty secret that no one talks about. I’m so sorry that your family and Eliza had to go through this.

  2. Vertical Mom says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart. We are walking this same road with our newest little guy. He MAKES me lean on God because I’ve got nothing left. Your vulnerability will help lift the shame for so many. Can’t wait to read tomorrow’s post!
    Vertical Mom recently posted..That BreezeMy Profile

  3. Penny says:

    Diane, so much of what you write hits close to home. I don’t mean for a minute to suggest that my situation was as serious as yours, and ultimately the stakes are not nearly as high, but the emotional experience of my mother coming to live with us, even though not adoption, has been eerily similar to what you describe.

    The unanticipated neurological issues that you didn’t realize you were signing up for, the intense emotional need and following you everywhere the second you stepped out of your room, the overwhelming emotional attachment and craving for validation that deserves and needs to be treated kindly but begins to suffocate, the guilt at feeling that way, the relief at getting a break…..I get it all.

    Of course, in my case, people nod their heads and say kind words, but I wonder how many adoptive moms are reading you and nodding their heads in agreement, thanking G-d that you put down what they are feeling. I suspect that those who are brave enough to comment may be only a small portion of these.

  4. quinn says:

    I’m curious as to whether you considered getting post adoption counseling? It sounds like you not only struggled with bonding but also with post adoption depression, a condition that is receiving more attention now. And I should add that counseling wouldn’t just address your experience and needs but also the girls who had no idea how to function in a family and could use a roadmap. I know that you tried to provide all that they needed- and that turned out to be an impossible situation.

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