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Post-adoption depression: you are not alone

January 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Earlier this month, Erin shared her experience with post-adoption depression. Today, as January and our spotlight on PADS come to a close, Erin is back with a follow-up post she so generously offered to share.

I remember the first day when I woke up not in a complete fog from PADS. It was like I could see again. My world was clear. The medication and therapy were working. I started to think about how I ended up in such a place. Why was it so hard to come to terms with the difficulties I was facing and why did it take me so long to find others who were in the same situation? I then started to wonder how many other people are on this journey but are struggling alone. Behind closed doors. We, as a community, need to be real. We need to be honest.

Coming to peace with my own journey has been such a huge part of my road to healing. Sharing my story, reaching out to others, offering support and encouragement. That has glorified my struggle. It has given me a passion, a drive that perhaps was lacking before. But, what I do know, is that had I never embraced this journey, I would have never found healing.

Raw is beautiful, right? The grit is what we need. To normalize the hard. We do nothing to help others struggling post adoption when we allow ourselves to hide behind our own troubles. But even more so, we do not help ourselves. With honesty comes freedom, the freedom of knowing that even though your story isn’t perfect, it is beautiful. It’s those imperfections and shortcomings that make us real.

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We live in a world where perfection is considered the norm, where we ignore the hard realities and only focus on the outcome of glory and redemption and joy. I think this is so true in the adoption world. We have gotten to a point where honesty is too hard. We are afraid we will be judged harshly or fall short. But, honesty is beautiful. Both the ups and downs of adoption come together to form a masterpiece. The picture where trauma combines with love, where grief combines with family. Because, although the glory deserves its own recognition, so does the struggle. We need to speak of the hardships, to see the real. To open our eyes to the beauty that comes from the pain. To see that a journey can be both good and hard.

I feel as though so many struggle during post adoption but are afraid to speak out. Fear of failure or being judged. Fear of being inadequate. Fear of the unknown. But I’m here to tell you, first hand, that the struggles do not mean failure or inadequacy. And, it is up to us as a community to embrace those whose stories aren’t perfect.

I think of those who are struggling to make beauty from the ashes. Picking up pieces from their lives on a daily basis and praying that those pieces will, years from now, form some beautiful story of healing and hope. Of joy and love. But, today is not the day. Today is the day that they wake up hoping to survive the trials and tribulations. Hoping that they can muster enough strength to handle the screams and ugliness with the kindness and love that their child so deserves.

But embracing the difficulties doesn’t mean we let the hardness overcome the glory or the struggles overcome the joy. Because when we do that, we lose sight of what really matters.

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So often I fail. And I remind myself that I am not alone. I text my accountability friends and I speak truth to them. Because these mommas understand. They understand the darkness of PAD and the difficulties of raising children from hard places. They listen, relate, offer advice and keep me accountable for bettering myself. There is glory in that. There is freedom in being real with other people. If I pray for one thing, I pray that everyone has those friends, those friends who know you because you share your struggles. Not best friends, but reliable ones. They, too, are walking in the path of the unknown; the realm of trauma and the palpable realness of grief. They know all too well because they are there, too. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our own imperfections, we also find a redeeming healing. A drive to be better.

So often, the struggle of post adoption depression and your child’s trauma intertwine. They form this unique wall that is so hard to break. But in order for our story to be made whole, we must separate the two because our child needs us, the real us. Not the us that is masked by the hard reality of post adoption depression. The us whose mind is clear so that we can focus on them.

While my PADS is under control, everyday I must make a genuine effort to not let my scars interfere. So, I try to find laughter among the difficulties. To bring joy to the moment. To giggle more and cry less. To replace screams with love. To bring beauty out of the ashes. But, again, it’s not easy, is it? My attachment and trauma therapist told me that I need to consider those months when I was knee deep in PAD as lost time. I can’t make up for it and I need to accept that. I have to move forward and let go of the guilt. I urge those of you suffering to do the same.

So, now, I work on healing wounds. The deep wounds of trauma that come from being adopted and leaving your birth country, culture and language. The wounds that come from grief and fear. The focus has shifted. And while my problems are still real, my son’s are at the forefront of my mind.

While I know and fully understand that attachment and working through your child’s issues are so very important, you can’t do them justice if you aren’t fully present for the journey. And, for months, I wasn’t fully present. So, we start anew. Working day by day to find healing and hope.

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In the end, the days are hard, oh so hard! But, I have support. People to keep me up and alive and moving forward. People that tell me it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to slip back into my moments of imperfection, the moments where I need Jesus the most. But, pull yourself up. Lift your head up high and push onward. Because our children need us.

– Guest post by Erin, moderator on the PADS FB Support group

Will You Love Me Forever?

January 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Excitement, curiosity and fear of the unknown filled the eight year old boy’s mind as he entered the cold, stale room. His eyes landed on some smiling faces that looked vaguely familiar. Yes, these were the same faces that had smiled at him from the pages of the photo album he carried in his backpack, the faces of his new family. Who were these people that looked so different from him? Would they be kind, or heartless, as he was told? Would they send him back the moment he did something to upset them? Would they like him, maybe even love him? Wait, what were they saying? If he couldn’t understand them, how would they understand him? In that moment, as reality set in, uncertainty and excitement gripped him. When he looked in their eyes, he knew all would be ok. What could he do but follow them and leave all he had ever known and loved behind for a new life, a new family, a new world. In that moment of anxiety and anticipation, he simply had to believe that they would love him.

It’s been two years since that cold January day in Shanghai, and my sweet boy has finally begun to truly understand our love. We are not going to send him back when he is disobedient. No one is going to take him away from us. He will be ours FOREVER.

The process of attachment is a rugged journey. My son was with his foster family in China from about the age of 2 until we adopted him at age 8. I can only imagine how it must have felt to be ripped from the only family he has ever known and how confusing that must have been. Why did they let him go? Why didn’t they keep him? Is it normal to be passed from one family to another? Can it happen again? Could the government take him away? He has asked us all these questions and more as he has been processing his journey to us, his forever family. He is no longer afraid to share his experiences and feelings or divulge what he felt that very first day. Sometimes, even at the age of 10, he wants to be held like a baby and rocked while asking over and over, will you love me forever?

While these questions make my heart ache for him, they are questions he needs to ask and are a part of the attachment process. He didn’t ask them in beginning. It was all too new, and there was so much he didn’t understand. Fear coupled with excitement, but as time passed he began to trust us and our love. He realized that the decisions we make concerning him stem from our unconditional love for him and our desire for the best. As his understanding and love grows, so does his courage, and as the questions come I welcome them. As I hug him for the 15th time today, reassuring and physically demonstrating love, my thoughts turn to the One who has wrapped me up in His arms more times than I can count.

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“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17, NIV)

Reflecting on my sweet boy’s journey of understanding and attachment, my thoughts naturally draw the connection between his adoption and my own spiritual adoption. What can I take from my experience and apply it to the journey of earthly adoption, especially as we prepare for our third adoption?

Once we believe and trust in God, we become adopted as sons and daughters. We are co-heirs with Christ! We are children of God! Do we really understand what that means? We believe that God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die in our place, but do we really BELIEVE God, His promises and forever love?

Did my son truly grasp that cold winter day in China what it meant to have a forever family? He didn’t know much about us, but he trusted us enough to follow us, strangers from an unknown land, out of that room because he believed we were his new family. In that moment, he knew we would not hurt him, but did He really BELIEVE in and understand our love? Of course not! There was a long journey ahead.

Similarly, as we begin our walk with our heavenly Father, we believe in Him and hear words like “God loves you”, but do we really BELIEVE that? We begin a journey of discovery and understanding just as our precious older children do. Over time, our eyes are opened to His truth, and we finally come to a place where we truly BELIEVE that He is who He says He is and that He will keep His promises. Do we still sometimes question Him and struggle to understand? Of course! How many times have we doubted even when we knew that God is faithful and trustworthy? Too many times to count. But as we witness example after example of His love and provision for us, our faith and understanding of His unconditional love grows exponentially. We begin to see that even though we won’t always understand all that He does, His love is unwavering and unfathomable.

Our adopted children experience life up to a point and then are suddenly ripped away from all they have ever known. Can we walk unwearied with them as our Father walks with us through our doubts and fears? Are we ready to traverse the confusing waters of abandonment? Can we be as patient with our children as our heavenly Father is with us? Will we hold them when they just need to held?

God made a way for each and every one of us to be adopted, and then He gave us this amazing picture and reminder through the example of earthly adoption. As I look at my son on those days when I am frustrated and tired of answering the same questions again and again, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind me again of the beauty of my adoption and the gentle, patient, never-giving up love of our awesome God.

~Guest post by Suzanne

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Older Waiting Children

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To learn more about any of these children who wait contact the Advocacy Team.

My Oxygen Mask

January 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Excited to share the first post from Mandy, our newest contributor on No Hands But Ours. Mandy shared her family’s story about a month ago and has joined NHBO as a monthly contributor for 2015. She and her husband Bryson have one daughter, Lydia Grace, and are now in the process to bring home another child from China. Welcome, Mandy.

I could hear the flight attendant making the usual announcements as I was trying to get my two-year old daughter settled for a long flight to Portland.  As a seasoned traveler, I tuned out the flight attendant.  We documented our flight with a selfie.  

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“Ma’am,” I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up.  My face flushed red with heat as I realized it was the same flight attendant who moments earlier was making the announcements — the announcements that I just ignored.   
“Yes, um…is everything okay?” I asked with an embarrassed look on my face.  

“Ma’am, I just wanted to remind you that in case of an emergency, please put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing one on your daughter,” she firmly, but kindly reminded me.  

“Oh, yeah, I know!” I said.  I looked around and noticed I was the only parent who got the admonition.  However, I think something about me must have screamed that I needed the extra reminder.  It is so counter to what I would be inclined to do as Lydia’s mommy, that I whispered it to myself once more, “Mandy, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”  What caught me off guard even more than the tap on my shoulder, was the tears that began pouring down my face.  Eyes swollen, the tears reminded me that in life, I was not putting the oxygen mask on myself first…or second…or even third.  I was so tired.  

Fast forward two weeks later, I rushed to teach a night class at the university looking less “put together” than typical (meaning I went to work with wet hair).  That night, my students were presenting key lessons they learned during their mentoring experiences.  I love how the Lord often uses my college students to teach me profound lessons.  A student of mine stood in front of the class and told us about this conversation she had with a student she was mentoring.  The student talked to the mentor about how self care should never be in the optional lane.  I wrote that down.  Mandy, self care should never be put in the optional lane.  It sunk in.  Self care wasn’t even in my optional lane, I had self care in the ditch.  

Honestly, I think there are a lot of us who put self care in the ditch.  We say, “Oh, yeah, I know I need to put the oxygen mask on myself first” but then our actions show otherwise.  We are tuning out the flight attendant.  Taking care of ourselves can feel selfish, but in order to serve, in order to disciple and shepherd our children with patience, nurture, and care, in order to make stressful decisions about medical care, in order to show that we are safe, trustworthy, and predictable, we must make self care a habit.  

My family cocooned strictly for at least six months because our unique family situation needed it, and in fact, we still keep our life simple and our world small.  Our adoption agency did a great job at teaching us all about attachment and bonding.  But, there was one topic missing from the excellent training we received: the importance of self care and what that looks like when newly home and later.  I think most parents (especially moms) need help with self-care, but, I think special needs adoption adds unique dynamics that make self care that much harder and important.  Deborah Gray (2012), in her book Attaching in Adoption states, “If the parents get too tired to provide nurture, children cannot do well…Parents often implement a program of self-care when they are already too burned out” (p. 307).

When I get too tired, when I fail to take time to practice self care, I forget many of the important techniques I have learned from Dr. Purvis and other attachment experts, and revert to my stressed mommy mode.  When people are under stress and tired, we often neglect to rely on important lessons we have learned.  My stress mode magnifies aspects of my personality that I do not like.  My voice gets strained.  I sigh deep sighs that are absolutely unnecessary and quite annoying.  I am not as patient as I know I need to be.  I am not as patient as I want to be.  When I am on “empty,” I cannot help my family move forward.  I have learned that I do better, and my entire family does better when I say yes to taking care of myself on a weekly basis.  It took time for me to realize that my need for sleep and time away was not a weakness, but part of me being human.  

Recently I talked with my husband about making self care a priority, and he reminded me that even though I have one of the most rewarding roles in society, it is also really demanding.  There are aspects of motherhood that are simply hard work and draining.  In my professional work, when I need a break, I do not go to the office to rejuvenate.  No, that’s more work.  Because of this, I have carved out a little time each week where I go and do something that nourishes me.  This appointment on my calendar is just as important as a doctor’s appointment or a client meeting.  I often found myself canceling my “self care” time to do something for my family.  Now, I ask myself, “If this same situation happened, would I cancel the appointment with one of Lydia’s specialists?”  If the answer is “no,” then I keep my appointment for taking better care of Mandy.  It is about my wellness and my family’s wellness too.  

During the first few months home, we were all simply surviving.  So I imagine that some of you who are just home are wondering how in the world you can implement ideas from this post when you are still in the trenches.  For us, I could not take time away when my daughter was awake because of bonding and attachment.  Talk to your social worker and see what he or she recommends.  Below are some of the ideas I implemented:

    • Took my daughter for long walks outside in the fresh air
    • Went to late night movies with my dear friend after Lydia was in bed
    • Dinner with my adoptive momma friends – no matter what I was processing, they were encouraging and receptive
    • Napped when my daughter napped to catch up on sleep
    • Asked trusted friends to help me by going grocery shopping for me – one even cleaned out my refrigerator
    • Precious friends brought us nourishing meals for six weeks
    • We brainstormed nighttime sleeping solutions with our international adoption doctor – these solutions helped all of us get more sleep
    • Hired someone to clean my home each week
    • Doing yoga with my two-year old daughter – we still do this several times a week and it adds so much laughter to my day and calms both of us.

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In her book, Attaching in Adoption, Deborah Gray shares helpful ideas for self care that can be implemented at any time.  One of the best ideas is called “fifty pleasures.”  She encourages parents to create a list of fifty activities or things that bring pleasure.  For example, my list included taking a hot bath with lavender, watching my favorite TV show, exercising, drinking iced soy lattes, eating Thai food, kissing my husband, walking on the trails in my small town, going to the farmers market,  swimming in the pool, yoga, listening to the crickets chirp, drinking a glass of wine while sitting on the back porch with my husband, eating healthy, listening to classical music, drinking a cup of hot tea, reading a book, swinging with my daughter at the park, laying in my hammock, etc.  Gray encourages the reader to place a check mark next to the item each time you do it every week (you can repeat items multiple times), and by the end of the week, you should have fifty checkmarks.  This has been a really helpful exercise for me.

Now that we have been home almost a year, I take time each week to do something a bit indulgent for myself. Gray states that “indulging” yourself is “part of good self-care” (p. 309), and it is not narcissistic or selfish.  We moms aren’t the best at indulging ourselves.  So, I’ve given myself permission to enjoy activities I never would have without the guilt.  I went to a Katy Perry concert with my sister (and we both wore pink wigs and danced like silly teenagers).  I go see movies by myself or with a friend.  I get acupuncture or a massage.  I go to a coffee shop and read a book for pleasure.  Next month, I am going to Created for Care, an adoptive and foster mom retreat. And each week, my husband and I get away for a date night.  

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When my daughter asks why she has to go to sleep, I often tell her it is because we make better choices when we are rested and it is easier to be gentle, kind, and patient.  The same goes for parents.  By taking time to practice self-care, we can model for our children healthy self-care and boundaries.  

So imagine a flight attendant has tapped you on the shoulder. Are you putting the oxygen mask on yourself first? Have you put self-care in the optional lane or in the required lane? What are simple pleasures that you could incorporate each week? Are you treating time for self-care as important as a doctor’s appointment? When we are on empty, our families cannot move forward.



waiting child highlight: AWAA

January 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Meet Jessa, a bubbly and cheerful little one looking for her forever family! She is fun and friendly and sure to bring so much joy to the family she joins! She is 3 years old, soon to be 4. An AWAA ACT mission team visited this orphanage in November 2014. The team noted that Jessa …Read More

it was a good year: a look back at 2014

January 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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2014 was quite a year for No Hands But Ours. The Mentoring Mom program launched in June to an amazing response from over 100 mamas. The No Hands But Ours site was masterfully overhauled by Northstar Marketing over the course of a year, and the beautiful, super-functional site went live in September. Each of the Special Needs …Read More

not disabled. differently abled.

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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When I was fourteen I taught Sunday School for a year. One of the kids in my class of four year olds had a short left arm. The first day of class I found myself thinking “that poor little guy was born with only one arm.” It took next to no time at all for …Read More

find my family: Lacy

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Lacy is a beautiful 9 year old girl, who has recently had surgery to correct her club feet. She is new the agency list at Hawaii International Child! Lacy was born with a meningocele, and club feet. She was found when she was an infant, and stayed with that family until 2013, at which time …Read More

find my family: Kyle

January 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Wonderful Kyle! Please read about this precious boy who participated in Lifeline’s Hosting program and very much wants a forever family. Precious Kyle is 10 years old and is designated to Lifeline’s special focus list. This sweet child is stated to have an eye condition called cryptophthalmus (missing eyelid) and caligo cornea (speck on the …Read More

Chronic: The Race Set Before Us

January 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

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I am coming to terms with it.  This is not passing.  It’s not over after a surgery, or two.  Or after a therapy session, or three.  The first year is behind us, but there are more miles in this marathon.  I’m discovering what chronic means.  I’m learning that adopting a child labeled medically complex truly …Read More

HIV: Stigma and Disclosure

January 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Two of the biggest topics in the HIV adoption world are disclosure and stigma. They are very closely related. So let’s talk about them. Stigma can be defined as a stain on one’s reputation, or a mark of disgrace. HIV sure does have a blemish on its reputation. So much fear of how it is …Read More