There is a constant editing process that goes on when your adoption isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It is a dance between saying enough and not saying too much. Between protecting his privacy and helping others by sharing our experiences.
We’ve just celebrated Abe’s three year Family Day this week and it’s triggered stuff in him. This event going hand in hand with medical tests probably was fuel for the fodder, but that’s how it worked out and so we marched through it.
And there was a particularly bad day last week when I was biting my tongue to keep hard words in and clenching my fists and thinking I’d rather be anywhere than where I was, with this set of struggles. So I did what any healthy mom would do and sat down with some chocolate and my journal.
You have a journal, right? If you don’t, march yourself to Target tomorrow and get you one. It’s cheaper than therapy and nearly as effective. I use it to write to God. Sometimes pleas, sometimes worship, usually a verbose mix of the two, always a brutal and honest account of what is in my heart and on my mind.
So I sat, that one hard day, with my chocolate covered raisins in one hand and my pen in the other and poured myself out, cried out to the One who created this boy and ordained he be a Vos. And he impressed upon me certain memories of Abe’s Family Day. Like how he lived in the same orphanage for four years and yet on May 4, 2015, a worker from the only home he’s ever known walked him into the lobby of the Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Sheraton and dropped him with complete strangers and walked away.
The whole thing took less than 10 minutes.
Four years of the only semblance of family he’s known is severed in less time than it takes to fill my car with gas. I remembered this and was reminded of the nearly two years he cried for me at night, certain that he’d wake up in the morning and find me gone. Of the months and months when I could not walk out of the room without him falling to pieces, sure I was leaving. Of course he thought that.
And I remembered that afternoon and how every time he showed fear or sadness, the worker would bend down and stuff a piece of candy into his mouth. I remembered this and was reminded of how he spent months hoarding food and how to this day he freaks out if you take a bite of his stuff and how miserable, how completely shattered he is whenever I have to deny him food because of anesthesia, how he can wake up a cranky cuss until he gets breakfast and then he can be sweet as the bee’s knees once his tummy is full. I was reminded that to him food is love and that his default coping mechanism is eating. Of course it is.
I remembered that afternoon and how it all must have seemed chaotic to him; us speaking gibberish and the lights and everything new. And then I thought about how to this very day, busy places trigger fear in him and I’m sure he goes back there in his head without even knowing it. Goes back there and feels terrified and unsure and unsafe. Of course he does.
And so I wrote these things down. Wrote them down next to a picture of me and Dan and a clearly traumatized little boy who walked in an orphan and walked out a son and knew no difference between the two for months and years.
I wrote it all down so that the next time I find myself wanting to flee to my closet and breathe in the scent of anything but trauma, I would remember and have grace upon grace upon grace. Because he is nothing if he is not a product of his experiences, as we all are. And his experiences break me with their hurt and uncertainty and I need to be broken for this boy so that I never forget that loving him is worth the hard days.
And that his life has been a parade of people who came and left and that I am staying.
So that journal is my doormat to a relationship I knock on every minute and hope he opens the door. And when he does, only to try to slam it again with his anger or his fear or his driving me right up the wall, I stick my foot in so it can never fully close again. This hurts sometimes, but is the best work I’ve ever stuck my foot in. For a girl who spends a lot of time with her foot in her mouth, that is saying something.
And now I have that journal bearing witness to how far we’ve come. When the Evil One whispers that we are stuck in the same mire we’ve been in since day one, I can crack that sucker open and call it the lie it is.
The hard work of making an orphan a son goes on and will go on and there are parts of him I will probably never understand, no matter how deeply I mine him for answers. But there is always hope – and even if there weren’t, there is the certainty that he is ours forever and we are his forever. And that is truth I don’t need to write down to remember.
Bless you, mamas and babas.