Adam and I woke up exhausted this morning. I was up with Ella most of the night (just when I would get her to sleep, she would jolt awake as if she were never asleep to begin with), our house was a wreck due to unpacking, loads of laundry, and piles of Christmas presents. Our dishwasher was broken. We just didn't even know where to start... and well, add four kids to that, and it's pretty overwhelming. I accidentally left Casey's bagel in the toaster, forgot Gavin asked me an hour before to help him find something, and was trying to pick up legos the older boys were dropping so Ella didn't put them in her mouth (we forgot what it's like to have a one year-old)... Thankfully, with help from friends, we picked ourselves up and got it together. I was reading some books tonight and realizing that I have a lot to be thankful for. The fact that Ella is crying when I put her down or leave the room is actually a good thing. It means she is attaching to me, which is the most important thing right now. I read her some books tonight too and she was absolutely enthralled with them... I can't help but wonder if she has ever seen a book before. I fed her a bottle and she fell asleep in my lap. These are the moments I am seeking out and holding onto.
As the book I read tonight put it, "Parents who have had to work so hard to become parents may expect bliss. And while I wish for you nothing less, at best it will be fleeting emotion and at worst it will elude you like a recalcitrant toddler. You are jet-lagged and adjusting to a significant change in your life. Your child is jet-lagged and adjusting to an even larger change in her life. Throw in unpaid bills, unanswered calls, and visitors at the door and you've got the makings of something, but it's probably not bliss."
"Change is stressful, even positive change, and from your child's point of view, adoption is the total change of everything she knows. She faces new caregivers, new environment, new smells, new sounds, new foods, a new bed, a new schedule, new expectations, and the list goes on and on. When you think about it, it's a miracle the poor kid is even functioning. And this explains the times when she isn't. How she behaves in the first couple of months is no indication of how she'll be in the future. None of us is at our best (or even at our normal) when we are frightened and stressed. I would certainly hate to be judged at that time. Regardless of how your child behaves, remember that she is not being bad, she is not trying to ruin your life or your home or your family. She is coping the only way she knows how. However hard it is on you, it is harder on her. Tell her how brave and capable she is to handle all that has been thrown at her. Even if she doesn't understand you, she'll pick up on the tone and it will remind you as well."
Reading this made me feel better, like everything I'm going through is normal and expected. So I want to thank you for your prayers and support. Thank you for the welcome home signs, brownies, and muffins. Thank you for the dinners so I can focus on bonding with Ella, but still make time for our boys. Thank you for letting me cry on your shoulder. Thank you for your phone calls and texts just to let me know you're thinking of me. Thank you for your excitement for us in bringing her home. Thank you for understanding that it's a hard adjustment at first. Thank you for showing me what being a friend means through it all.
Another blog I read writes:
"We are parenting damaged, traumatized children; don't let the pictures fool you. We're in the weeds. Every minute is on; there is no off. We've arrived late, cancelled altogether, hunkered down in therapy mode, missed appointments, failed to answer hundreds of emails in a timely manner, left voicemails unlistened to, texts unread, we've restructured, regrouped, replanned, reorganized, we've punted and called audibles, we've left the bigs on their own, hoping they are functioning well on auto-pilot after a lifetime of healthy stability, and sometimes, we put "Tangled" on for the eleventh time and cry in the bathroom.
We are exhausted beyond measure.
I know what you're thinking: You asked for this. Yes we did. And we'd ask for it again, with full disclosure and foreknowledge. We would. We would say yes to adoption. We would do it all over again. We might do it all over again in the future.
That does not mean we are not exhausted."
Many of you have asked about the boys and they are doing really well. I have always thought Jacob would be the most excited... due to the fact he thinks this adoption was all his idea and has always always wanted a baby sister. Gavin has been giving him a run for his money though. Since he is our chill, laid-back one, I thought he would be indifferent for the most part. He has been everything but indifferent though. It is the absolute sweetest, most endearing thing to watch. He constantly waves at her and says, "Hi baby sister!!" When she cries, he tries to comfort her. He brings her toys, but not dolls and all the girly stuff that he would never play with... he brings her his absolute favorite toys. Last night, it was time for bed and he even offered Ella one of the stuffed animals he has slept with every night since he was two! Ella brought all of the boys matryoshka dolls from Russia for Christmas and last night when Adam was holding her on the couch, Gavin whispered, "Thanks for the Christmas present, Ella. I really liked it." Heart. melted. Casey has been doing a lot better than I gave him credit for as well. Although he hasn't been overly affection with her, he hasn't been jealous or clinging to me either. If anything, he seems to be taking on the big brother role of being independent and dependable. Almost as if he sees her crying and knows that he has to be. I am definitely taking every opportunity to love on him though so hopefully that has helped too. They have all been amazing... when we needed them the most.
As I type, I can hear Adam talking to Ella like she is his whole world and she is cooing and giggling in response. It gives me hope... that the only reason she has been so upset is because she is going through so many simultaneous changes. Our sweet little girl crossed twelve time zones (I remember feeling like it was a challenge just for the boys to get used to the one hour time change of Daylight Savings!) into a whole different world, different language, different people... and we are doing our best to love her through it.
Bringing her home on Christmas Eve was amazing though. Watching the expressions of siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins as they met Ella for the first time... priceless moments I will hold in my heart forever. Pictures coming soon.