Monday, February 28, 2011

Attachment. Our Path, thus far...

Claudia has asked us all to write this. I've been procrastinating writing it for months now. I'm still not ready. Not just because it's likely to be unpolished, prepositional phrase laden, bullet-ed ramblings of a tired momma, but also because, ... because.... because, it's been long enough now, that I know we are still just getting started. My perspective has changed since that theoretic brass ring of "Six Months Home". Honestly. Six months... was just the beginning.

My thoughts on attachment. Rough. Sharp. Unpolished. Here goes...

  • -I embraced attachment parenting books. It all made sense. It would be hard, as a single mom- but my kid needed it. - I didn't know attachment parenting theory was developed for parenting biokids. Not Adoptive Parenting. Not for traumatized kids.
  • -My child is not "Attachment Disordered". But I wish I had known, that RAD like behaviors can still be exhibited in a child that is still learning to attach. It only makes sense, he had disordered attachment in his life.. pretty much all of it!
  • -I happened across a few RAD mom blogs early in my paper chase. I was shocked such a thing existed. I had sympathy. "Those poor people. That's rough.", I thought- then quickly erased it from my mind. "My child was Ethiopian, and they are happy children and my agency is top notch and these kids are VERY well cared for. These are not Eastern European orphanages!!", I pompously & naively dismissed.  -Even after realizing not all of that was true, I somehow, still glazed over the idea of my Ethiopian child being Institutionalized with hard Trauma (capital I capital T). I, literally, was blind to what was before me in my referral photo among many other things. 
  • - I wish I had been schooled in how to address the manifested behaviors from the beginning.  - Because, by freaking out- which I'm quite skilled & schooled in- only made it worse for him. 

  • -It was six months, before I started seeing signs (hints, really) of secure attachment from him. Until then, everything was based in anxiety.  -Only then did I begin to wonder if some of his anxiety was from 'feeding' off of me. Was he just mirroring me? I don't know the answer. But I know I should have questioned it sooner.
  • -It wasn't until these hints, of secure-ness, began seeping into his heart -and our lives- did all H-E Double hockey sticks begin to show up now and again.  What is worse than Anxiety?   Answer: FEAR.
  • -I wish I'd known that seeing him work through the FEAR of loving, being loved and being lovable- would be as painful as it is.   -Scratch that. I'm glad I didn't know.
  • -I wish I'd known that attacking the 'behaviors' that drove me bonkers was not the way to my childs heart. I wish I'd been able to see that these are simply coping & survival mechanisms.
  • -I wish I'd known that some of the "red flags" we are warned to look for- sometimes don't show up until far far far after being together as a family.
  • -I wish I'd known that big charming smiles for cameras and coyly giggling for new people (yes adoptive parents you are new people) are actually a coping mechanism for institutional living. 
  • -I wish I'd realized what 'control issues' really meant. It isn't just who shuts the light off, who sits where, who chooses the book to read, what food they eat... - it is also how the child, attempts controls the parents behavior- by pushing all the buttons you never knew you had. (And seeing the look of satisfying relief on their face when it works... is painful)
  • -I'm glad I read this post from Stacey. We were in the midst of our first pass through Hell when I read it. It wasn't until then, that I realized a big part of the problem. As easy as he had initially transitioned into school, as much as he was enjoying it- I had no idea that it was actually a BIG part of our problem. 
  • -I'm really grateful that his school is accommodating and assisting with our attachment processes. Knowing what I know now, I'd leave and find another if they weren't.
  • -I'm glad that I found professional help. Because as a single mother- no one else really has your back. No one else can literally SAVE your child when they are drowning (figurative). There are professionals that do this for a living. Find one if you need it. 
  • -I'm glad I finally realized that I can not 'fix' my kid. He doesn't and didn't need fixing. But in the anxiety of trying to respond to each action - trying to figure out 'Where'd it come from' and 'What am I supposed to do to fix that' place...  that was the trap I fell into. Healing comes from only one source.
  • -I'm frustrated and saddened that even though I blog openly so that others will NOT need to make the same mistakes I made- there are people reading this that will, in the back of their head, hear "my baby's an infant/so young, we won't have any attachment issues" or "My child is healthy and so happy. Look at that smile.", "I'm married, so our child will have twice the chance for attachment."

I'm happy to report that my son and I are doing well. Great actually. We are in "secure" mode right now.  I'm sure that looks different, for everyone. With every slight transition, schedule change there is a chance of backslide. We make progress every day. But I've learned what I need to do in order for him to feel safe and not alone.  I'm happy to report that he is beginning to show further signs of feeling secure and permanency in our family. He is a joyous blessing. He truly is. I love love love him. LOVE being given the opportunity to be his mom. It is a love so indescribable. It makes my heart hurt and arms ache to hold him.

I've come to believe that secure attachment between a parent and child is hindered by one major thing- FEAR.  I may be wrong- but in the here and now of our journey, that is what I believe.

If there were advise to be given it'd be: learn what it looks like when your child doesn't feel 'regulated' or 'safe'. Learn what their triggers are/can be. Learn what you can do to avoid triggers or get them to feel safe again.  (this sounds callous, shallow, insensitive and simplistic when viewed through the lens of those parenting children who suffer with RAD- and it is, honestly. I'm not attempting to address that at all!  There is NO comparing between parenting RADish kiddo's and parenting a child that is rapidly healing.  My heart and prayers go to them daily and I continue to learn from them) (Jillian, Christine, Corey, Courtney & Rockstar, Cate, Diana)

Love is hard stuff!! It literally breaks your heart. So for him to be trusting me enough to love him- that is BIG BIG stuff. Big. Heartwarming. Heartmelting fall in love head over heals happy happy joy joy wonderful stuff.

So there you are Claudia. It isn't pretty writing. It likely isn't likely to keep anyone reading to the end. But it's what I have- right now. Tomorrow is another day.

ETA: After re-reading this and reading your comments, I'll need to post a follow up post to this. I'll link it when I do. Thanks everyone!! 

For you long time readers... I've got many posts started that will get us all caught up and posted soon. Hope to provide you with some context for this post.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

He's forgetting and I'm praising...

He's forgetting things. Seriously. Minor things. Names of people he met 2 weeks ago. The way to a cousins house he's been to once. These were once details he'd never let slip away. He'd grasp onto EVERY detail of EVERY THING like.... like... well, like his life may depend on it one day.

I started noticing it a couple weeks ago. (As we were walking out of our small backward slide of January) Suddenly, he pointed to the wrong street to go to Morgan's house. Then, he forgot his speech therapists name.

You may say- oh- kids always tease and ask you to repeat things they know the answer to!


He only met her once, how is he expected to remember her name?


Why would a three year old remember the way to drive to his cousins house?


Yes. He does the ridiculous 3 year old thing of asking the same question he knows the answer to 400 times a day--- this is NOT THAT.

He's been able to point the way to the YMCA since his 2nd ride in the car 2 weeks after he got home. This kid has never let anything escape him. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. He's never forgotten a face a name a place a door or what is behind that door. NEVER! until recently...

He's letting things go. THIS IS TIME TO REJOICE PEOPLE!!  

Fear is subsiding. (knock on wood)

Comfort in his mother for safety may be taking hold. (knock again, cross your fingers and say a prayer)

See how much fun it can be to just let go baby!

There are a few things I've done that may have helped this along- but- he's done all the work. He's struggled and had far more patience than I can muster. He's fought for me, and I've needed to put on my big girl pants and live up to the Momma he's needed. I fail miserably... often. But He is a loving God. And He is a healer. My son is healing. Yippity Skippity Doo Rah Dance!


ETA- Let's not get too carried away. Today was a PT appointment and the lady who first did his eval A YEAR AGO walked into the waiting room and he jumped up, said "HI Peg", took her hand and led her into the room we had been evaluated in 2 weeks after he was home. She was NOT his therapist today, but he still remembered her, her name, the room, and what was in the locked cabinet inside that room- a YEAR LATER!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Slow Loading?

I'm hearing some people are having difficulty with the loading of the blog. I'm going to spend the next couple days changing one bit at a time. Please! I BEG OF YOU! let me know if it helped or didn't. Comment or Email me at my public address gon_hikn93 at yahoo.

Today I changed the photo in the header. It may have been a larger file than usual. Let me know if it helped.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Flashback-

Although I'm still morning the loss of almost a full years growth of his hair (sniffle)- I find myself simultaneously thrilled to see his progress and despondent each time I have to remove more articles of clothing from his wardrobe as he quickly outgrows them. My baby, just isn't a baby anymore. It's time to write his post placement reports and the sadness is compounded by the heaviness I feel in my heart for our Ethiopia family. How do you write, when there are no words?

February- One year Ago...

This year...

One year ago--

This month....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mud, Chaos, Peace and Control - Part 2....

Part one was here.

"Ive done it!"

I imagined him playing calmly for hours (he did) and calmly laying in bed drifting quickly to sleep. Not fighting it, as his disregulated-ness requires of him. "This is going to be it." How simple. NEAT!  It's soap- and It will be so easy to clean up. Ah ha! I thought- I'VE DONE IT! He's going to snap out of this and be fine!

So here I was... all very proud of myself. Thinking we are on our way back to the good foot. This really worked! All this hard work is paying off. We can do this!

As child is in the tub- I think I'll take advice from Miss Stacy and dump the bin of 'mud' out back off the porch. As I attempt to do so- I'm feeling so good, I start singing a song, humming actually. I walk down the hall, as i attempt to open the back door- the 'clean mud' (which now has paint incorporated in it as we added some colors to mix up toward the end) starts to fall. As I panic, I end up dumping it half inside and half outside of my house. So now there is wet toilet paper all over ever crevice of the door jam, door, carpet and entry rug (ok- its a carpet square... whatever!). And - it instantly FROZE.

I start thinking to myself- "Yup. Shannon. In the midst of the tiniest bit of peace, you are going to stir in chaos, every, single, time." Rolling my eyes at myself, I start to clean it up. Still humming, this tune, mindlessly. I scrape and dig and throw each handful out the door. Does it hit the snow. No. Does it hit the  deck covered in snow. No. Each and every handful I throw splatters against the railing, splashing more back wards onto the door and outside of the house where it instantly freezes. I start laughing at myself. "What a MESS you are. Get under control will you?!?!"

And then I start singing the song. And I realize, the song I've been singing, or actually the 2 verses I've been humming over and over again goes something like this "God is in control. His children will not be foresaken."

This is the song I'm singing and it takes a few times for me to realize. Ah ha. I've been working so hard at trying to help him regulate- I don't know if I even prayed about it. if I did, I don't remember, which tells me I'm certainly not leaning on Him, waiting on Him, faithfully moving forward knowing this is all for Him.

Learning Mom- still learning.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mud, Chaos, Peace and Control- Part 1....

Its winter here in Maine. Its dark. Alot. Most of the time. In fact on days when the high is nice a warm, making it to 30, it only stays that way for about 1-2 hours before the sun is close to setting. At that point the wee boy wakes up from nap and - well- its dark out.

He's also- a bit disregulated right now. I've been searching and searching and trying and trying to find a 'reset' button for him. But I can tell by his sleep patterns- it isn't sticking.  So I pulled out the big guns....

I tried what other moms do. I tried to give him some new sensory input tasks. This one sounded good and easy.  It was a perfect day to try it. We had docs appointments so no nap time and I know how things would work at home with no nap and not a lot of sensory input from the day already. So we did it.

Although we never really reached the true MUD consistency because someone likes adding more and more and more water "Pweeze".

Things like this are always a bit of a control lesson for me. I go into them with some sort of expected outcome. 1- we will make mud. 2- he will enjoy it  3- he will play with it for hours and be relaxed.  Of course in my frame of mind #'s 2 & 3 are dependent on 1. My instinct to requests for more water was "no. that is enough for now." But- the Learning Mommy is in fact "learning" and fought it enough to be- whatever- give it to him. So "mud" can come in many consistencies.

He played with it for a few hours. He was quiet. His body was quiet. His voice even and soft. He was hypnotized. WOW! I thought.

As you can see. Clean Mud. Is a bit of a misnomer. It isn't just soap and water- there is a good chunk of paper pulp in there too. So here are a few disclaimers if you try this at home.

  • Cover the table with a dollar store vinyl or wipe-of-able table covering.
  • Having carpeted floors is not a great idea unless they are also covered by above.
  • You may likely need to hose down or throw your child in the tub after this activity.
  • This tub is not a good time to wash or otherwise get your childs head wet- especially if they have the type of hair that likes to grab things and hold onto it for a while.
  • Make sure you remove as much as humanly possible of all the 'clean mud' before washing any clothing it clings to (think- left 100 tissues in your pocket when washing your favorite fleece- not fun)
  • Don't drop the tub of mud on the carpeted floor.

to be continued....