being refined

January 21, 2015 guest post, January 2015 Feature, January 2015 Feature - Post-Adoption Depression, post-adoption depression 13 Comments

i’ve been mulling over this post for a month. it’s not for lack of content, but an inability to process and actually edit and write it down. so forgive me if this is wordy. i hope you can hear my heart.

we are nearly 4 years home with my daughter. she is our 3rd of 4 kids. she came home from china when she was 14 months old (she is almost 5 now).

and there are times that i feel…hopeless.
lately it’s been more than sometimes. it’s been often.
i teeter between compassion and extreme frustration.
i thought things were supposed to get better, not worse.
i withdrawal from people because it feels too raw to let the pain our family is experiencing show.
they’ll know how imperfect we are.
they’ll think badly of adoption.
they won’t know how to respond when I tell them she hits and kicks and punches me.
they won’t understand what it’s like to be screamed at for hours on end.
i’ll sound like a bad parent who can’t control my kid.
they wouldn’t understand that this child i so desperately wanted, pursued and love oh-so-deeply is, at times, tearing our family apart at the seams.

we brought home a tiny, frail, malnourished little girl. she was the shell of a child with enormous potential. we went to countless therapy sessions, were followed by 9 specialist and underwent 2 major surgeries. our first year home was a blur of meetings, exhaustion and survival. i came out of it depressed and blindsided. it took me hiding away from everything, pulling out of all activities, and focusing only on our family for almost a year to come out of it.

fast forward nearly 4 years…that child we brought home has disappeared. my daughter is strong and courageous, incredibly talented and creative. she can cut and color and glue like a 5th grader. she makes jewelry and intricate lego creations. she wears high heels and tap shoes and prances and dances and sings. she wrestles with her big brothers and is my ever present helper. dishwasher duty is her favorite chore and she randomly sweeps the floor just for the fun of being helpful. she carefully draws pictures of her and i holding hands. of me holding her as a baby. of hearts and kisses and love. she is funny and happy and loving and truly a gorgeous soul, inside and out.

but there is also different side to her. one that no one else sees but us. what started as night terrors for the first 3 years and frustration over being non-verbal has become horrific raging tantrums lasting one to two hours every day over the past year. her skyrocketing verbal abilities have been an amazing triumph, and yet they allow her to tell me just how much she dislikes me. they also give her the freedom to harass and verbally abuse her brothers in ways that have caused tremendous strife and pain.

we often have no idea what will set off her rage. sometimes its predictable and caused by something she wants but can’t have (like wanting to go to preschool on her day off). other times it’s caused by something she usually loves (like brushing her teeth or reading a book).

during her rage, she hits and pinches and claws at me over and over and over again (while screaming at a velocity that can only be described as a veloceraptor stuck in a paper shredder). i’ve tried many techniques to help her stop and regulate. some work and some don’t. usually doing something makes it worse so i’ve decided my new technique is to hug her until she stops raging. she punches my back and digs her heels into my feet and flails like i’m chopping off her limbs. and all i really want to do is go hide. hugging her at that moment is the very last thing i want to do. i want to lock myself in another room, put on headphones and watch a few episodes of a mindless show and forget about dinner burning and my child screaming.

and just when i think i can’t hug this flailing wild child any longer….
she lets go of her rage, and sinks deeply into my arms. and she cries…no sobs. uncontrollably. in an instant the anger is gone and she’s my tiny girl again. my sweet girl and her sweet little heart. her entire demeanor softens and tears come hot and fast down her cheeks. her tenderness wells up and she hugs me with all her might. it’s as if the past hour never happened. in fact, usually she doesn’t even remember the things she said or did.

i teeter between walking on eggshells, terrified of upsetting her vs. dealing with it, thus causing treacherous days for all involved.

and this happens over and over and over. day after day, month after month. the past year has been the worst her rage has ever been, most likely brought on by the birth of her baby sister.
it’s depressing to think of all the love she was deprived of. the millions of times she needed someone to tickle her baby toes and make her giggle. snuggle cheek to cheek and speak softly into her ear. call her name just to see her smile. sit for hours nursing and snuggling and holding her as close as humanly possible. she needed that oh so desperately. every child does. those thousands of unmet needs have changed her. altered her brain’s ability to cope and it’s devastating to think about. it’s significant and gives reason to her unreasonable actions. her loss isn’t lost on me. the deep places of hurt in her young life have changed her and changed her ability to process stress.

but i’m being honest. the day to day of life is difficult. my child who needs intense amounts of love and attention works the hardest to sabatogue nearly every moment of affection i give to her.

and then i remember, the connection she so desperately seeks? it’s what i’m seeking too. she so strongly fears she will be rejected at her most unlovely moment that she finds ways to test my limits to see if i really love her like i say i do.
isn’t that what we all want? to know we are loved even when someone else sees how very unlovely we are? isn’t that exactly what Christ died for – our unlovliness?

just when i start wondering how we will make it though…how will anyone understand, i remember…

there is the One who sees. the One who is refining me. the One who will not fail to bring glory to Himself through our mess. He is the One who allows the pain to bring purpose. the pain isn’t lost on me. i need it. it hurts and it’s awful but it’s really the only way to get at who i really am. what i really stand for and rely on. and sometimes it shows my priorities and coping mechanisms are very misguided. on hard days do i hide on instagram? do i eat junk food to feel better? or do i sink into the Word and give myself the peace of knowing God is fully able to bring peace and calm to my spirit in a way nothing else can.

there is value in walking a road that isn’t pretty. the long and crazy road is actually the one that brings the most out of life. it’s the one that weaves in and out of places no one else sees because we aren’t anyone else. we aren’t meant to be the same. my child doesn’t have a perfect formula that adds up because she is unique and requires my uniqueness in order for God to orchestrate our healing together.

i’m learning that parenting in the hard places is real life. it gives me plenty of opportunities to apologize to my children for my attitude. for my quippy reply. for my shortness. they see my failures first hand, and witness my sin. i hope they remember my apologies and requests for forgiveness from them more than they remember my failures. but without failures i would fail to see my own imperfection. my pride would fool me into thinking i’ve got this parenting gig in the bag. God’s role would be minor and I would be the star.

praise God, it isn’t so. be, being refined. that is my status. my unfinished, failure ridden status. weaving in and out of the places no one else sees, but weaving a story i pray will read healing and a new generation of our family who love and serve the Lord.


** i finally confided in a few close friends this past fall and shared our messiness. it made our struggle real and somehow more bearable to be known. i feel the strength of Godly friends praying for us and asking about her….for real asking, not just phony question. we are also pressing family counseling which i am praying will be able to start soon. if you are in a similar place of hopelessness and haven’t been honest with your close friends around you, do so as soon as you can. it made a huge difference for me.

this article was powerful for me…maybe it will be for you too.

— guest post by an anonymous mama; photo by Tish Goff

13 responses to “being refined”

  1. Monique says:

    yes- powerful! Beautiful and true and helpful. Many of us deal with this unseen side of adoption. It is wonderful to know we are not alone. We are not bad parents and be reminded of truths like you mention. God redeems and makes beauty from ashes!!!

  2. I’m sitting in a school car line with tears pouring down! We have 2 boys we adopted from China at 2 1/2yrs old. Our youngest is 5 & he throws these horrible tantrums that are exactly like you described! Nothing consoles him, we have to wait it out & try to keep him from breaking things or hurting himself. Once he is done, he just quiets down & then comes to apologize & receive hugs. It is like a knife in my heart every time. A few times it has happened in public. I’m praying with you that our children heal & we survive without too much destruction.

  3. Maria says:

    I have a bio child who rages. I think sensory processing disorder plays a huge role in triggering the rage. I didn’t know anything about it until we started the adoption process and read about SPD.

  4. Peggy says:

    It is so hard. As a foster parent, I have found that having my child, have some time-in with me(once calmed) to write down or draw about the issue that upset them, then write down or draw a picture regarding, how they could have used different behavior to achieve either understanding from me, and or negotiate what they originally wanted.

  5. Peggy says:

    The above has helped me in instances where behavior modification was important, especially for the child that has deep rooted pain, they can not speak of.

  6. amy says:

    Clonidine helped my son. And Holding Time.

  7. Angie says:

    This really struck me: “my child doesn’t have a perfect formula that adds up because she is unique and requires my uniqueness in order for God to orchestrate our healing together.”
    Sometimes, it still surprises me to think that God actually meant for my daughter to be mine! Some days, I feel very ill-suited to mother her. What a concept to think that we need each other, uniquely, in order to heal! Thank you for sharing your story. Know that there are people that know what you’re going through. You are not alone. I pray grace and healing for your family.

  8. Amy says:

    Sent this article by another China Momma who knows our mess. I see why. We are living parallel lives. My daughters rages have gone on for 4 years straight, only recently made hellishly worse by us bringing home her baby sister from China. We are exhausted, weary, and battle worn. Under the care of many therapists, hoping against hope for some answers soon. Thank you for your honesty, I literally could’ve written every word myself to describe the life, the feelings, the failings, the exhaustion, all of it. But I’m just glad you DID write it. It needs to be done more often.

  9. Amber says:

    Like Maria above, I was going to suggest sensory processing issues, which would also make sense in a post institionalized child. I see very similar rages in my bio son who has high functioning autism. We lived the same for years. Walking on eggshells in fear of triggering a meltdown. Those were hard years.

  10. Jenny Mehosky says:

    I’m an adoptive parent too and currently in process to adopt again. I have several friends who have been through very similar issues/behaviors. Just wanted to give you all a couple links. Not sure if you’ve heard of Neuro-Reorganization, but one of my friends has tried this and it, along with home-schooling has been incredibly helpful. I’ll be praying for you all as you try and right the wrongs done to your children in institutions. May God continue to pour out His blessings on you!! I pray the links below will be a blessing to you.

  11. margy says:

    bravery defined. thank you for sharing.

  12. Jodie says:

    Thank you for sharing your painful story with words of hope and trust that God is doing something bigger. I thought the link you included was an excellent post on the difficulties of adoption that I could really relate to as well.. This was another good post related to “sabotage” that you mentioned in your story, and might like to read: Blessings on your family as you continue on in the journey.

  13. codysmom says:

    Ladies, the stories you have shared brough me to tears. Comparing your stories to ours. Your stories are our stories too. We found help from this counselor and I believe that she can help you too. Seek out someone in your area trained in the methods of Dr. Karyn Purvis. The material is combined under the name Empowered To Connect. It’s hard work but it’s not harder than what you are doing right now. Dr Purvis works families and children in foster care and adoption. She works with kids from ‘hard places’. Our kids can’t be parented in a traditional way but Dr Purvis has found ways to reach our kids. There is help out there for us and our kids.

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