PAD; post adoption depression and the struggle

I have been silent on this old blog. Truth be told, I have been silent in general. This silence on my part is not like me. Although an introvert, I regularly enjoy the company of friends and family. These days though, I just hunker down. I hunker down because life is difficult and it’s so much easier to remain a hermit than try to explain everything.

It’s not bad, it’s just overwhelming. Like waking up feeling like I can’t breathe. Or going to sleep with my blood boiling. Anger and rage and anxiety and just feeling…off. I have not confided in any of my real life friends about this but the truth is that I am suffering from post adoption depression. It hits much like postpartum depression but it’s just so much lesser known. So much so that it took me finding an online adoption forum to figure out what it was. And, you know what, I’m not alone. But, it sure did feel like I was.

Now, before I get really going, I would like to clarify and make this crystal clear that this isn’t about love. I love my family. I cherish them. I enjoy their presence. I love them. This is about a true internal struggle, something that no amount of love can overcome. A night of good sleep or a date night will do nothing for this. Much like postpartum depression, it’s not something that will be “cured” by drinking some magical water.

I write about this because in my initial search, I couldn’t find anything about it. Not a mere blog post or mention, nothing. And that, my friends, is isolating. I thought I was alone in my struggles. I just wanted to be by myself. To curl up and watch gilmore girls for hours on end. I thought these were merely normal struggles associated with adoption. But, then, at the perfect moment I discovered that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t a bad parent. What I have is real. It is really a “thing”. An actual diagnosis. Something that validated everything that I knew in my heart. And that is freeing.

So, I know that one day, I will be back to my normal self. Through time, medication, dedication and lots of love, I will return. But, this road isn’t easy. I am worn and weary. I am sad because this is hard. I have never, ever struggled with depression and that is why I was so blindsided by all of this. Just completely and utterly in shock that this could actually happen to me. But it did.

And maybe it will happen to you. Maybe to a friend. The road to adoption is stressful, long and incredibly isolating. Few experience what you experience. Few know the heartache of looking in your childs eyes and wondering who gave them those perfectly brown eyes. Few know the truly hard, rigorous work that it takes to bring a child from a hard place into your family. Few know the number of sleepless nights not because your baby is hungry or sick but because they are traumatized, grieving and sad. Few experience the heartache of leaving part of your heart in their birth country, a piece of your soul forever living somewhere else. That empty feeling of knowing you have a connection to the other side of the world but not knowing who it is with. Few know what it feels like to have a child so terrified that they literally follow you all day long, room to room, every second of the day their little eyes tracking your every movement.

And, all these things are so incredibly amazing but hard. With that hardness comes real struggles. The struggle to know that every tiny success should be joyfully celebrated but knowing that there is still a whole mountain to climb.

And, I say this not to discourage adoption. I say this not to scare you. I say this to normalize post adoption depression. To let you know that you aren’t alone. That there is a community out there, people who know exactly how you feel. People who feel your pain and sorrow, your sadness and anxiety. You aren’t crazy and you sure aren’t alone. To know that these feelings won’t just disappear at the wave of a magic wand because, trust me, I tried that. To know that it is okay to seek help and it’s okay to admit that you aren’t okay.

So, I write this in the hopes that you will share. Share with friends and family. Share with people affected by adoption. Just share.

Perhaps you are suffering from post adoption depression but you just didn’t know it. Maybe you know someone on the long road to adoption and you can reach out to them. Maybe you have a friend who has been home for a while but you haven’t seen them.  You could drop some coffee off at their door, or send them a note to let them know that you are thinking about them.

Because, my friends, we aren’t alone. And it is that community that we need. People who understand the struggle. People who see that this is more than just the normal post adoption issues.

So, today, if you are struggling, I want to reach out my hand to you. I want to offer you a warm embrace. I want to validate your feelings and let you know that you aren’t headed for the looney bin. I want to walk alongside you. To travel this path together. I encourage you to seek help. To admit that you can’t do it alone. But, most of all, I want you to know that that is okay. Then I will wrap my arms around you and we can cry together. Feel together. And together we will hop back on this crazy ride and face it head on.

weaving.

Today, for the first time, I put Ming with his brother in the childcare at the gym. In my defense, it’s a very small gym and there are only 4 kids in there now with 2 amazing workers. But, still, my heart felt guilty. Why? Why would my heart feel guilty for having a few minutes to myself?

DSC_8028Adoption is much like weaving. Strands from each individual come together to form an amazing masterpiece. Some strands are woven more tightly than others. Some strands will fall out over time. Some need to be re-woven to make sure they stay in place forever. Attachment is like reweaving a strand over and over and over again because when you weave it once, it just falls out. You have to constantly tighten that strand to make sure that it stays. To make sure that it forever fits right into the weave. Sometimes though, it gets snagged or pulled and the whole thing crumbles. That crumble has to be tediously pulled and pushed so that it can straighten back out and once again become a beautiful work. This weaving and reweaving is labor intensive. Working until your fingers feel like they are going to fall off. Sometimes those threads experience trauma and then they just break. That brokenness must be mended to and worked with to be made whole again. But, the truth is, once that trauma is experienced, it can’t just be made whole again. It will never be the same strand as it was before.

Ming came to us with tremendous loss and trauma. When we brought him home(to our home) he experienced the loss of a culture, language and people. His strands have to be carefully and intricately woven into ours. For his strands are brittle and broken, they are different than ours. They require care so meticulous that I had no idea the depth of love that they would need. So, everyday we work on building those strands. We work on pulling that weave tighter and tighter and hopefully one day, it will hold itself together when we let go. Right now though, we can’t let go for when we do, those strands quickly crumble.

This art of weaving, this building of attachment, this work of dealing with and grieving through loss and trauma, it is a masterpiece. A life so worthy of the care that it takes. A piece that when finished will be filled with beauty and loss with love and trauma. A life so hard and so wonderful. A life that Ming has made. A life that is just his. No other piece will be the same as his. I pray that when he grows old, he will look back at his weave and it will be wonderfully secure in ours. That every single strand, whether broken or strong, will mean something to him. It will be a road map of his life that is so intricately woven into ours that he has no doubt our love for him. That he sees his strands and his life in China and that he values those too, that he realizes without them, his masterpiece wouldn’t be complete.

This weaving, this process of attachment is a constant ebb and flow. Evaluating and changing. But, it is constant work. Work so hard that when I climb into bed each night, my mind wanders to what I did wrong and I question whether todays work made a difference. These changes in his attachment they are so small that sometimes there is no gratification for the hard work.

Sure Ming comes to us, loves us and hugs on us. But, that’s not the attachment we are working on. Attachment is him being so secure in his place in our family that he will leave my side and know that I will come back. That he can play in a different room than me and know that I am right there and I will not leave him. This attachment we are working on is so much deeper, so much harder than I could ever have thought. The work is exhausting for him and I and everyone in our family.

We went to a new church the other day to try it out. The process of just going to a new church was so exhausting for Ming that he fell asleep on our laps during service. There was no way we would ever drop him off in Sunday school like we did our other kids but he didn’t know that. The thought of us dropping him off was so completely exhausting for him. Imagine that? The fear constantly running in your head. A deep seeded grief from early trauma that you can’t even logically rationalize something. Imagine how hard his little brain works?

But, I have reached the point where I need a break. A moment to complete my thoughts, to enjoy some quiet without having a boy crying at my legs or following me from room to room. I just need to breathe. And, you know what, that’s okay. I have come to realize that the work we have put in for the last 4 months has to be tested in little phases. And, here we are in phase one.

So, if you see a mom sitting outside the childcare at the gym crying. Give her a hug. Tell her that you know what she is going through is difficult. That even though she is weary and worn that these strands she is weaving will hold together. DSC_7906 DSC_7925 DSC_7935 DSC_8006 DSC_8026

first day of school, Gavin addition.

My sweet Gavin, he has been my sidekick for almost 4 years. And, when I say sidekick, I mean sidekick. He has been by my side or in my lap all day, everyday. He and I would have snuggle fests on the couch to watch his favorite movie, Ponyo, over and over again or special dates to target where he would get a coffee cake and I a coffee. There we would sit and chat like two old people. Talking about life and super heros and I would listen to the amazing stories that he would make up. My little sidekick. I have loved every.single.minute of the past years with him. Gav and I, we just get each other. He looks like his dad but his spirit is much mine.

So, this year rolled around and I knew it was time. Time for him to step outside of the confines of his brothers and sister and to walk on his own outside of my arms. My little boy was ready but my heart, not so much. I changed him preschools last minute because I felt this nudge from God. I couldn’t be happier. His preschool is less showy, less fancy, smaller and just quant and that is what Gavin needs.

God knew I needed him to love it and that he does. I am so excited to see him in his element. To learn his own way. To find his own voice. And, even though it’s only 2 days a week this is just the start. The start of the road ahead for my little sidekick. The journey from toddlerhood to becoming a child. This is just the start and that makes my heart ache because I have been here twice before and I know what’s coming in the few years ahead.

Gavin happily complied for a quick picture and I had exactly 1.5 seconds to get it done. Oh sweet Gav, I’m not quite sure this world is ready for you. DSC_8209DSC_8208DSC_8207DSC_8206

first day of school, pk2 edition

I have two babies in school this year. While I enjoy the break, I miss them dearly during the day. The house is a little quieter, a little calmer and just…different when they are at school.DSC_8172DSC_8168DSC_8164

My sweet girl is in kinder. She is just so joyous and such a sweet soul. I fear sending her off into the world and somehow it changing the beautiful person she is. I have faith that her love of Jesus, her curiosity with the world and her empathy with those around her will take her far. For 5 years, I’ve been the primary one molding her. The one who answers her questions, sways her judgment and nudges her towards doing good. That’s not the case anymore and that change is hard on my mommy soul. Teagen has been going through some health issues and with that, made the first day send off just a little harder on my heart. I didn’t cry but I did mourn her giggles and love running through the house all day. But, she is thriving. Her teacher loves her and is constantly praising us with how amazing she is. She is a wonderful leader and has a kind heart and I could not be any prouder.DSC_8137 DSC_8138

When we did back to school shopping, I had dreams of her wearing these cute loafers with knee high socks and her uniform. I took her shoe shopping with that thought in my mind, I couldn’t see any other combination because this picture was embedded in my head. Teagen has other plans and insisted that she really wanted the grey converse with turquoise and heart laces. Who was I to try and persuade her otherwise? So, I let her be and I’m so glad as they suit her so well.

My first born, my oldest son is in 2nd grade now. Second grade is just a big leap towards the world of being big. Eli was so excited to start school and continues to be happy about it. He just has this love of learning deeply embedded in him and this innate ability to quickly pick up on things. The world is a scary place for Eli. Although he quickly adapts, it is difficult for him to enter into a new environment or a place where he has to meet new people and make new friends.  He held his hand up high and walked his little introvert self into that class and conquered it all. I’m so proud of him. I look forward to this year with him. I hope his kind heart and gentle soul will help influence others this year. I really pray that his love of learning continues and that he isn’t thwarted by those who don’t love learning as much as he does.DSC_8146These pictures were actually taken at meet the teacher night. In a tragic train of events, my lens hit the floor the day before back to school pictures and they are all blurry. 🙁

 

FuMing Walker; 16 months.

My sweet baby. 16 months old. I am continually amazed by you while at the same time discovering who you are.

16 months. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start with the list.

*walking

*running

*amazing eater. you will eat anything and everything. you love spicy and mild. hot and cold. you just love…everything.

*stacking blocks

*pouring liquids between containers

*opening any and every cabinet that you shouldn’t be

*king of dumping things out and then scattering pieces throughout the house

*a few words…mama, adam(as opposed to daddy, whatever we’ll take it), teagen, gavin, eli(you say all their names when you feel like it), yummy and uh-oh

*signing more, food, drink, milk, all done, get down, cracker – putting two signs together like drink milk, more food, drink milk, etc

Son, I look into your big brown eyes and I can’t help but burst with pride, a motherly pride.

Your fascination with the world is exhilirating and exhausting in the same breath.

You are constantly moving. I work with you on just being still, on accepting love and comfort. It’s hard work but you do it and when you put your mind to something, you can do anything.

You are smart, so incredibly smart. You learn so quickly and constantly watch the world around you; your eyes always looking.

I wonder what you are thinking. Sometimes, I just want to wrap you in my arms and snuggle you but sometimes you just aren’t quite ready for that yet and that’s okay.

At 16 months old, you are letting me hold your bottle. What a wonderful milestone.

At 16 months, I want you to know that I love you. That you are my son but you are also someone elses son. With each passing month, I think about your birth family but mostly about your birth mom. I talk to you about her all the time and mostly you look at me like I’m crazy but one day, I hope those conversation soak into your soul. Know that at 16 months old, I love your birth mom and the beautiful gift that she blessed this world with.

At 16 months old, you have an incredible zest for life. A smile that lights up the room and 2 dimples that melt my heart. You  laugh from your belly, a deep laugh that is so full of joy that it’s impossible not to laugh right along with you. DSC_7727 DSC_7736 DSC_7762 DSC_7813 DSC_7831 DSC_7844 DSC_7850 DSC_7860 DSC_7862 DSC_7864 DSC_7865 DSC_7874 DSC_7875 DSC_7922 DSC_7925 DSC_7935

At 16 months, you are perfect. A beautiful little boy who constantly inspires us.

Run.

My father was always a runner. Growing up I remember cheering him on through marathons running from one point to the other so that we could see him go by.

I was an avid runner through college but I never loved running, it was just something I did because that’s what I have always done. My dad had a rule growing up, nothing with a ball and no team sports. He didn’t like dealing with the bureaucracy or the crazy parents that come with team sports so we did individual things. I’m pretty sure I competed in my first triathlon at 5. We ran and swam and did horseback riding and everything in between. It was awesome.

I digress, back to running. Up until about 7 years ago, I always ran just because. Then, I stopped because it wasn’t my thing. I never understood or appreciated how my dad could run for so long. I’m talking 50+ mile races, crazytown.

Since bringing home our fourth child, all of a sudden, I get it. Me and the open rode. Headphones in. Quiet. Mind clearing. Music blasting. I just go. And go. And go. Sweat dripping. Legs aching. But I just can’t stop. On and on I go.

Parenting all of my children is hard work. Amazing work but hard. The days long. But parenting my sweet baby who comes from  a hard place is a different kind of hard. When I spend 2 hours getting him to look me in the eye, my mind starts to get foggy. I become weary. My tone changes. My voice raises. But, that’s not what he needs. He needs a mom who can remain calm and sharp. A mom who knows that eye contact is one of the greatest gifts from God. That when you look someone in the eye, you establish connection with them. A mom who knows that it’s worth the screaming. A mom who has the energy to drive through the storm. A mom who knows that one day he will look me in the eye because it’s actually easier and more fun than looking away.

And, so I run. I run to clear my mind. I run to have the energy to concur 3 hours of screaming the next day knowing that one day, it’ll be second nature to him. I run because it’s what I need. I need something where I can cry and nobody will look. Something where I can push myself because I want to and not because I have to. Something that is mind numbing and mind clearing at the same time.  And, for me, that’s running. IMG_7382-2 photo-18

Two Months.

I think back to two months ago and I am overtaken with a flood of emotion. Joy, grief, sadness, happiness, guilt, fear, stress, strength. That day is just so incredibly difficult to put into words. How do you explain going to the other side of the world to find your son? That moment he is in your arms; overwhelming.

I have had many, many people say how lucky he is. I won’t get into a semantics debate but I will say we are lucky. We grew our family. We were blessed with an amazing son who makes us laugh and keeps us on our toes all day long. However, I can’t go without saying that he is not lucky. He didn’t ask for this. He didn’t want this. I hope and pray that he will love us as his family because the choice we made for him is not something that I take lightly.

The transformation that has taken place over the last two months is nothing shy of amazing. This little boy, this warrior,  I never would have imagined that today, he’d be running barefoot in the grass chasing after the dog so that she will lick his fingers. I never imagined that that same child would be covered in dirt and loving every minute of it. I never imagined that my sweet boy would challange me so much.

Two months ago, I never thought we would reach the point where he would let me hold his bottle for him. I never thought he would sleep longer than 15 minutes at a time and here he is sleeping soundly through the night. Two months ago, I could have never imagined that he would willingly let me rock him every night and sing him the goodnight song that we have sang our other 3 children.

These past two months have been hard and treacherous. We have been defeated but rise again to battle another day. We love our sweet boy more today than we did two months ago and I’m not sure how that is even possible.DSC_7673 DSC_7661 DSC_7653 DSC_7648 DSC_7645 DSC_7639 DSC_7628 DSC_7619 DSC_7611

 

 

My oldest.

It’s so hard to believe that I have a second grader. I say it every year but second grade seems so much older. In reality, I think it is. Second grade is no longer just learning through having fun with a little bit of actual work mixed in. Second grade is work. In his school supplies, he needed 7 spiral notebooks. 7. That is hardcore.

My sweet baby has grown into such an amazing little man. He is honest. Calm. Gentle. He giggles all the time. He loves reading Captain Underpants which I do not. He still loves nothing more than snuggling up with me. He is the first to volunteer to run errands with me or go on a road trip. He just soaks up the time with you. He is all things lego. He still sleeps with stuffed animals, lots of them. He is so incredibly tender hearted. He is just amazing.

Yesterday after sunday school, he came to me with tears in his eyes. I asked him what was wrong and he told me, “i don’t know”. I knew he knew he just didn’t want to tell me. We sat down and I asked him if he made a bad choice. He said yes but still wouldn’t tell me what it was. I gave him a hug and told him no matter what I will always love him. He is forgiven. If it will make his heart feel better to get it off his chest then I am all ears. A minute later he looks at me and tells me he was playing with the rug. He said he knew he shouldn’t have but he still did. I asked him if he continued to do it after he was told to stop and he said no. Oh.my.sweet.boy.  I hope you are always honest with me. That no matter what your problems are, you know that I am always here to listen. And, I think that if your biggest form of disobedience is playing with the rug then we are doing just fine. 😉

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I feel obligated to say that that really is the color of our grass right now. This Texas summer has just been…weird. But, we have had lots of rain and I’m ever so grateful for our beautiful, lush grass!

High chair chronicles.

Ming has made such strides in his eating. Textures. Fruits. Touching his food. It’s been so fun to watch. I decided to bust out the good camera one day and use my wide angle which I never do. These might be some of my favorite pictures ever. DSC_7439 DSC_7423 DSC_7422 DSC_7411 DSC_7406 DSC_7404 DSC_7403 DSC_7401 DSC_7397 DSC_7395 DSC_7393 DSC_7390 DSC_7381 DSC_7379 DSC_7377 DSC_7405

This next one is blurry but I still love it. The first is him signing drink for his water and the next is him after he gets it. He was smiling SO big while drinking. So proud of himself. Communicating your wants and needs, it’s a wonderful and joyous thing!

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Friend.

I don’t really use this blog to post anything besides what’s happening in our little casa but every once in a while, I’ve got to expand my horizons a little bit.

Long ago, I had a photography business. I love photography. I hate owning my own business. I’m more of a jack of all trades, master of none. But, photography is my baby.  A hobby now but something that I still love. That love has now turned into photographing my babies and documenting their lives. And, I love that.

Sometimes though, it’s nice to photograph children who aren’t my own, but I still love nonetheless. Children who I can tell fart and poop jokes with to get the genuine smiles and then send them home and not have to worry about the reprecussions from that. It’s wonderful.

This is our dear friend’s daughter. She just turned 6. She is sweet and kind. She has a loving, giving heart just like her momma. She has the cutest dimples ever. She is a girly girl. A lover of all things Frozen.

My favorite thing is how she sometimes squints her eyes when she really, truly smiles-a deep infectious smile. Because, you know what? I squint my eyes too. Growing up I always remember my mom telling me “open your eyes when you smile”. But, truth be told, only super-awesome people squint their eyes. It’s like a secret club of awesomeness. DSC_7546 DSC_7534 DSC_7513 DSC_7508 DSC_7500 DSC_7490 DSC_7482 DSC_7481 DSC_7472bw DSC_7467 DSC_7460 DSC_7560