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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Living with attachment issues long term

I tell people all the time, especially when we're knee deep in discussions about adoption or attachment issues.  Ya know, some kiddos just don't handle institutionalization well.  Some come out of it just fine.  Some go straight to their new family and never look back with smiles and enthusiasm.  And others, like our sweet thing, will likely always carry the scars of growing up in an institution with too few care givers, or not enough food, or not enough clothing, or a lack of stimulation, or insert any basic need here.  And most fall somewhere in between  
And the thing is you have no idea if your child will be the one that comes through it all with flying colors or carries the scars until it's a done deal.
You just don't know.

Of our 3 adopted children, 2 transitioned pretty much according to the text books.  Both Jude and Mimi were best case scenarios when it came to how they transitioned to our family and attachment.  They grieved.  They fought it hard.  But the difficult process of loss and coming into the fold of a new family, showed all the evidence that they would come through the difficult process of adoption healthy in the end.  But we also have one of those children that just didn't handle it well and shows the evidence that she will likely carry the scars regardless of what we do.

For this reason, I was incredibly hesitant to leave on my me-vacation.  I had left her once before, on our trip to China to get Mimi.  But of course there was something that just didn't sit right with me about leaving Tess for this very self indulgent 8-day me-time trip.  I'd be the first to encourage mama's to get away and rejuvenate themselves.  But I certainly hadn't been encouraging myself to do that.  It had been 5 1/2 years since Tess came home and over 1 since Mimi came home.  I knew it was time.  But still... how do you walk away from a child that really isn't sure if you're actually going to come back.  I mean way down deep in her soul, she's honestly not sure if I'm gong to permanently leave her or not.  And no amount of talking and assuring can change that.  I was leaving her with Papa.  So of course wasn't like I was leaving her completely without a parent.
But still...  how would I get on that plane and say goodbye.

But I did leave for 8 days.
And I cried when I left.  And so did she.
And I seemed to text constantly to my loves at home.
And the next day I assured her I'd be home in 7 days.
And I sent pictures.
And Tess sent me pictures. 
And soon I told her I was coming home in 4 days.
And I sent her a video of the beach and the waves.
And when she asked, I reminded her I'd soon be home in only 2 more days.
And we talked about how school went the next day.
And daily she tore off the paper rings on the chain that marked the days till I'd come home.
And she cried at night and made one last phone call across the country.
And she asked when I'd be home, and I finally said that the very next day I would be the there to tuck her in and say prayers the very next night.

Over a week later, when the plane landed, according to plan I was extremely rejuvenated and refreshed.  As I trotted down the airport concourse, I felt a bit like a child when I was walking far more quickly than necessary to greet my family.
And there they were, all 8 of them waiting for me.  7 voices squealing Mommy! so excited to see me.  16 legs running my way.  16 arms that reaching out to squeeze my legs and my neck and my shoulders.  8 I missed you soooo much!  I was once again encircled by the shoulders of the man I had missed so dearly.  But in that moment there was 1 that needed more.  She needed more than a hug and embrace.  In that moment when all were so excited and happy, Tess looked so scared and seemed to need reassurance that I really was back.  I crouched down and looked into her big brown eyes.  I told you I was coming back.  And I will always come back.  We're family.  And we're stuck with each other.  Forever.  I could almost see her exhale in that moment.  Exhale all the doubt that she had held in her those 8 long days.  And as she did, I don't think I've ever seen such eye contact as she stared into my eyes.  Her tears instantly welled up, and she started a quiet cry.  Tess, I'm right here now.  And I scooped her up and held her.
In the car on the way home, she fought falling asleep.  I knew she was afraid I'd disappear if she close her eyes.  Only when I told her that I was the only one that would carry her from the car to her bed that night, did she finally suck on her two fingers and allow her eyes to close.

So where does this leave us?
Well, we're still on the path of attachment.  Don't get me wrong.  It's wonderful that we've come so far that she was feeling such relief when I returned.  Her missing me is a huge deal.  But the fact that she has these seeds of doubt that she is safe and loved, and worry that she will be abandoned yet again, and stress, (really, should any 5-year-old carry this type of stress?) is a sure sign that 5 1/2 years later, we're still on the road to secure attachment.  Once again, we're assured that we're definitely moving in the right direction... in a direction of love, peace and acceptance.  But we're not out of the woods yet.

And as the years pass, the destination seems to matter less than the journey itself.



22 comments:

  1. I cried like a baby while reading this.

    And how beautiful she is, my oh my. ♥

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  2. I cried like a baby while reading this.

    And how beautiful she is, my oh my. ♥

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    1. She is pretty stinkin' gorgeous! What I'd give for that skin, those eyes, those lips...
      nancy

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  3. Wow. This really got me this morning. I have two that although they are attached still carry a few scars down deep. They pop up from time to time. They lost their grandpa last summer and it hit my youngest one right in her most tender weakness. We are so lucky to have been given these gifts :)

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  4. Hugs to you and Tess. As hard as it was, it sounds like a good experience for both of you. You came back, she needed that (and it is wonderful that she missed you!). Enjoy your journey!

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  5. Thank you for the encouragement this morning! I really needed this!

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  6. This post REALLY brought me to tears. I pray for ALL the TESS's that are struggling with their past and pray that not only they find their FOREVER FAMILIES but that each one know they are so loved and so wanted...and no..they will NEVER be abandoned again. Tess you are so loved, so wanted.

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  7. Beautifully written, and as a momma to one who transitioned fairly easily and another who did not and still struggles with attachment at times, I thank you. We are not alone on this journey as families. I often say attachment is a lifelong task for our children.

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  8. I had to fight back tears on this one. Missing your kids is one thing, but add attachment issues? I can't imagine.

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  9. She is so beautiful. May God continue to bless her with continual comfort that she is loved and safe.

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  10. Love this. So true. Sometimes we know what we REALLY DO have once it is leaves and comes back. Hard lessons for us all! Hugs to you all!

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  11. Ok...now you got me crying! She is breathtakingly beautiful! Such soulful eyes. I think we may have a little of this going on at our house too. One that I worry about leaving more than the others. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. This is an amazing post. I think it spoke to me in a way that is hard to admit. When you started talking about how you had to reassure her and how she still has issues. I get that. I get that deep in my heart. I can so relate to Tess. I still seek that out in my mother, even though my mother, try as she may, can never give me that. I get it, Tess. I do.

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  13. Wonderful post -- thank you so much for (as usual) sharing such thoughtful insights. I think you can take solace not only in the strong link Tess shows she's built with you, but also the fact that you showed her -- in the most loving, concrete way possible -- that she really is "stuck" with you. There may be a lot more road left on the journey, but I'm thinking (and hoping!) you just shortened it by several miles. :-)

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    1. I agree, we are moving down the road, and there were times I wasn't really sure that that would ever happen. She is showing us more and being more vulnerable. But if you would have told me that all these later we'd still be working on it... I might have run to the hills! Glad I didn't know then what I know now.
      The journey is such a blessing to me in its own right!
      nancy

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  14. Our 7 year old has attachment issues. Reading this was a reminder that we are not alone. Soooooo many families do not talk about this. THANK YOU for sharing!!!!!

    His,
    Shari

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    1. I think you're right, not many do talk about it. It is one of the dirty little adoption secretes that not all are willing to admit happen. It can feel very very lonely. You are not alone. I am not either.
      nancy

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  15. Morning Nancy - welcome home! Out of all the posts this one is most comment worthy - but likely not because of what you think....it's just one line that carries the message - it's not about the destination - it's all about the journey...that journey....that's adoption and what it's all about!

    thanks for "getting it" - hugs - aus and co.

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  16. Praise God for that eye contact. Oh, Tess, may the Lord be your safety, your strong fortress and your high tower. May you know security and love from Him, and grow in trust. Happy Mother's Day, Nancy.
    Maria

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  17. The difficult parts of adoption always remind me of the line in Lenoard Cohen's song: "Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”

    Thanks for sharing your hallelujah with us. It may be a hard hallelujah, but I'm glad it's not a lonely one for you or for anyone you've now encouraged.

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  18. Somehow I missed this post...and found it at the perfect time! :) Thanks for sharing, Nancy...and to Tess, you too are not alone! Great post.

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