3 years ago today, our lives changed profoundly. Leyla moved in.
Maddy gained a sister. Ryan and I gained a daughter.
And our friends Darin & Deanna, with their two girls, let go of the baby they had raised since birth. They were really her only family…
Until we came along.
Just weeks before we met Leyla, we had what I refer to as our failed foster placement. I’m not sure that is the right term, but I’m not sure what else to call the baby you are called for, told you would be able to adopt, and then before you can pick her up, find out the state social worker changed her mind and picked a different family. (After, of course, you have followed your case workers’ direction by picking up newborn diapers and formula, washing all the newborn clothes, packing a diaper bag, and installing the car seat — just waiting for the call to go pick her up at the hospital.)
Given that the failed placement happened within a year of losing ectopic baby Olivia, and miscarrying Caleb at 8 weeks… You could say my heart was sufficiently broken.
I will always remember the first night I rocked Leyla to sleep. She was 10 months old, and every bit as cute as 10-month-old babies are. Maybe it was God … Maybe it was my broken heart … But in holding that girl I felt this fierce protectiveness come over me.
I was her momma. She was my baby.
I just didn’t know how it was all going to go down.
Deanna knew they weren’t going to be adopting. They felt specifically called to foster, and if they adopted, they would no longer have the space in their home for another child.
And so after we provided respite twice, she let us in on the secret … We would be asked by our agency to pursue adoption.
If you guys have read Leyla’s adoption journey that Deanna and I worked on, you’ll know that Leyla coming to us was ordained. Even miraculous.
They day she moved in, we had a spaghetti dinner in our home for both our families. We took turns praying over her, and over each other. And then, it was time for us to say hello … And them to say good-bye.
And 3 years later, I can say the same for every day since.
On my blog, I have stuck mostly to the sweet … Like my acorn story. I fear that if I touch too much on the bitter, it might come back to hurt my daughter in some way.
And yet, if I may be so honest, in my head the bitter is often (too often) where I dwell.
Leyla is not an easy child for me to parent. She is incredibly charming to others, and so the majority of my friends, her teachers, church friends, day care workers don’t see the sides of her we see at home. Maybe because she feels safe with us? Maybe because attachment issues make her want to push us away?
And since I don’t blog about it, and I am not currently in therapy, my friends tend to be the ones I open up to.
Except that it seems my friends just want everything to be OK. So when they witness any sort of bad behavior, in the most empathetic voices they have, they tell me she’s normal. It’s normal.
Instead of feeling heard, I feel like either I’m crazy, and I’m making all this up … Or I’m the worst parent in the world who can’t handle a little acting up now and again.
And the truth might be that yes, the behavior you saw a minute ago might be normal. But having that behavior repeat a million times a day is not normal. The sensory issues are not normal. The impulsivity is not normal. The attachment issues and serious lack of stranger danger are not normal.
But too often, Ryan and I are the only ones witness to all this. (Grandparents have seen some issues too.)
Professionals, teachers, doctors are all trying to see what I see. But she can pull it all together for them. It lets loose on us.
Over the last 3 years, I have grown less in attachment rather than more. I question almost daily whether I really was the right mom for her. I feel things and think things that I feel like bio and adoptive parents shouldn’t think.
We even started play therapy for her.
And on top of relearning how to parent Leyla, there is the guilt of not being enough. Of losing my patience. Of wanting to not be touched by her at times. By my insensitivity. There resides in me the harshest parenting critic who onslaughts my psyche all day long. It never lets up.
And on the outside, I feel as though I need to keep up appearances. Be the happily-ever-after story everyone else wants for us.
The reality is this. Adoption was not an event that happened on April 15, 20014. Adoption is the action I take every day to mother a child when it does not always come naturally to me. Ok, it almost always does not come naturally to me.
Adoption is not a thing of my past. It’s a thing of my present. A thing of my future.
It’s the never-ending thing.
It’s the act of my will and my commitment to override my emotions. Adoption is the decision to hug more than I want, snuggle more than I feel like, embrace when I want to push away, say “I love you” when I don’t feel loving, and to do my best to have hope for the future when I feel despairing today.
There is sweet in adoption. Please don’t mistake me. The good times with Leyla are really really good. But the hard times are really really hard.
When I posted 3 years ago today that it was an “insanely bittersweet day,” I thought we were getting the bitter over with and we’re moving only toward the sweet.
I had no way of knowing it is how I would describe the next 3 years of our life with Leyla. And perhaps, more of our years to come.