I find myself consistently caught in the deceptive trap of a compare and contrast representation of the last 345 days. Through the lens of retrospection, milestones can be simple to compartmentalize. I quickly disregard the messy tentacles that stretch from each “attained” behavior and stamp it “victorious”. I am learning that adoption carries an oceanic rhythm. Behaviors that seemed lost at sea can suddenly crash over you with a new force and with unexpected triggers.
Deklan’s adoption day was far from picturesque; this sweet four year old did not want to leave his home and he blamed me for yet another loss in his little life.
For months he blamed me.
Deklan couldn’t say that he hated me, he is deaf and initially had no language, but his eyes and his actions spoke strongly of his disdain. As I would rock him at night I would whisper to him, “Someday you’ll love me.”
I recited this chant as a comfort more to myself than a call to action for him; he was not required to love me.
Those months were hard and ugly from an inside view.
A child’s denial of a mother is excruciatingly painful no matter how equipped one may be for a potential rejection. I became the queen of intentional behaviors, tending to each of Deklan’s needs; forcing him to see me as his comforter and I was exhausted. Eventually the strategy proved successful and I could move his behavior of doubt from one column to the next.
Or so I naively hoped.
But life is rarely so simple, especially when webs of distrust and rejection wrap tightly around a young heart.
In the Autumn, Deklan entered kindergarten strapped with an IEP and pages of modifications. Through months of evaluations, specialists, and advocacy, a fantastic team had developed a plan perfect for Deklan’s first year of school.
Despite good intentions, strategic procedures rarely translate to a fragile heart. Each day as I would say “goodbye” and leave Deklan with strangers those months of trust-building slowly began to sneak away and meltdowns ensued.
As a team, the school and I worked to bring Deklan the security he was lacking. My picture was hung on the school schedule so Deklan could see when mom was returning, not wonder if I was returning. His tiny classmates learned to sign “Mama Later” as a means to encourage Deklan during moments of heartache. Patterns and old routines became reinstated at home; bottles and formula at night along with various other infantile practices reinsured Deklan and helped ground him. The wave of mistrust continued to crash upon us each day at drop off and would recede in the afternoon at pick up.
For months this cycle drained our souls while secretly rebuilding faith in Deklan’s heart.
Now, as we edge into winter, Deklan scurries onto the school campus with giggles. From the outside this behavior seems conquered.
Cross distrust off of the list.
This time, however, I am not so naïve. Doors are never fully closed in the world of adoption, there is always a lingering, a scent of the “before” that permeates the soul so deeply that it cannot be completely washed away.
Despite this knowledge I am enticed to tally up the column of changes, to quantify the last 345 days with marks of success: three inches taller, five pounds heavier, fully potty trained, writing letters, signing, speaking a handful of words, two successful surgeries, and so on. I find comfort in the notches, reflecting on the visible leaps of progress, knowing that indeed we are moving forward.
However, I am now tethered to the sand expecting a wave to return and crash over us, but knowing that it will eventually recede and we will not be taken off to sea.
– guest post by Natalie