Being Home: My Adjustment

How was the trip home?

What is it like being home as a family of three?

How is Elliott adjusting?

How are you adjusting?

How is attachment going?

Is there anything you need?

As time allows, I will answer these questions and just post them as they are completed (click links above for previous posts).  Thank you so much for your warm welcome home to our new life!

 

How are you adjusting?

When our adoption journey was finally about to take us on a plane to Poland, I started to mentally freak out a little bit.  We had read extensively about the adoption process, the attachment experience, and how to best begin life with a newly adopted child.  But sitting in my future son’s room surrounded by empty suitcases and the contents of the baby shower gifts piled around, it was the little details that were causing the freakouts giving me pause.

Do I take the plastic spoons or the metal spoons? Do I even need spoons?  Maybe just bottles?  Do I even have any bottles?  Is it possible he doesn’t eat food and only takes bottles?  Maybe just a bottle before bed … kids do that, right?  Oh, and speaking of bed, should I take this sleep sack situation?  Maybe just a blanket?  Wait, you’re not supposed to put blankets in a baby’s bed, right?  Or maybe he is big enough now to safely fall asleep with one?  And how do I know when he needs to sleep anyway?  And what if …

For this reason, I spent an embarrassing amount of time staring at spoons and packing nothing.

When our original adoption of Baby M took a sharp left turn into darkness and eventually became our adoption of Baby W (who became Elliott), something happened to the way I allowed myself to experience this adoption process.  In many ways, I distanced my heart from it – at least, to the extent that I could control.  Parts of it were conscious decisions.  Losing Baby M was adark, deeply painful experience, and as we tentatively dipped our toes back in the waters after learning about Elliott, we decided we had gotten too attached too quickly the first time around.  Adoption is an incredibly unpredictable experience, and still healing from our first loss, we could not imagine going through that grieving process again.

We decided that for as long as possible, we weren’t going to talk much about him or even “place” him in our future (“When Elliott’s here, we’ll do this …” and “Once we are back with Elliott …”).  For months leading up to our trip, we barely even spoke his name.  I think I already wrote on here about the time last Fall when we were finally letting ourselves out of that box, Alex said he was most excited about snuggling with his son.  When he asked what I was most excited about for the future, I said getting our travel dates.  It wasn’t until I reflected on that moment later that I realized I was still not allowing myself to “feel” about this adoption.  That part of me was so closed off, I couldn’t even bring myself to actually picture life with my son.  I couldn’t think about anything beyond the logistical details.

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I realize now that one of the ways I coped with the loss of Baby M and protected myself from getting too attached too soon to Baby W (Elliott) was by throwing myself into the logistical aspects of our adoption.  Thankfully (and I realize I am probably the only adoptive parent to ever say this), there are no ends to the logistical puzzles of the adoption process.   At this point, I was also no longer working, so I threw the full force of my nervous energy into forms, spreadsheets, and paperwork.  It was mind-numbing.  It was soul-deadening.  It was all the things I hate about the adoption process.  But …  it was also distracting.  And I needed all the distractions I could dredge up to keep my mind safely in check and far away from a little boy 4,000 miles away.

This is why, not too far down the road, I found myself sitting on the floor of Elliott’s room debating with myself over spoons.  I was out of paperwork to do, and faced with the reality of going, and there weren’t many ways left to distract myself.

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I tell you this because now I realize that even after I met my son, in many ways I continued this pattern in those early weeks.  While with the foster family, I didn’t feel free to love him in my own way, because at that point I still felt like a temporary babysitter, like a teenager hired to care for this child in the way that best resembled the way his true mother-figure cared for him.  Not only did I want to make things as comfortable and familiar as possible for Elliott, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that my parenting abilities were being tested.  This woman who loved that boy with everything in her had the power to tell the judge that I was not fit to be his new mother.  And that judge would listen.

Because of this, no matter how much time we all spent together, there was still that nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “What if?”, reminding me that at that point, I had no more legal rights to this child than my next door neighbor back in Iowa did.  It could still go wrong.

What was strangest of all was the part of me who had spent months distracting myself from feeling anything latched onto this in-between role in Elliott’s life.  It was like stepping into the shadow of someone else’s mothering relationship with my to-be son, and allowing myself to disappear into the safety of it.  That way, if it did fall apart, I wouldn’t have to pick up the pieces of my own shattered attempt at adoptive motherhood.  Again.

It is still too fresh to reflect on entirely, but I think this phase lasted almost until we came home from Poland.  From that week with the foster family, the few weeks waiting for our court date, and then the weeks of delays afterwards before it was really, really, really official … in many ways I was still living in self-defense mode.  I was acutely aware that every little bit of myself that I gave to this tiny person would be a piece I would never get back, and it still could go wrong.

And then on that glorious day, we came home.  Just the thought of it still brings tears to my eyes.  It wasn’t just the end of our adoption, the end of our tumultuous time in Poland, or the end of my separation from home or Elliott’s and my collective separation from Alex.  It was the end of the hold I had unknowingly placed on my heart.  It was what I think of as the true beginning of my role as Elliott’s mother.

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So, how am I adjusting, you ask?  Well, I am suddenly the center of that little boy’s world.  We share smiles and giggles and snuggles and tears.  We have a million tiny things between us that our uniquely ours.  I am his mother, and I will never be finished adjusting to the knowledge of the immensity of the privilege.

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