Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Week Six~Weak Six

It is 3:20 AM and I cannot sleep. As I lay in bed willing myself to enter into blissful rest I find that I am instead blogging in my head. After a long time of this I give up and decide maybe, just maybe, if I really do blog I can go back to sleep. So please bare with me if my thoughts pour out pretty jumbled.

I'm going to be very honest about what these first weeks of change have been like for us in the hopes of helping others that will be bringing their children home and also just to be very honest in my update to family and friends. The first week our children were home felt nearly unbearable. At the end of the first week I was on the phone with a friend and crying to her about my fears and feelings of "What have we done?!". This friend has brought home children from Haiti 3 times and is working on her 4th time. She has been a priceless support to me through this time. She sweetly reminded me to hang in there and remember that the first six weeks are the hardest. That first week felt like it was easily a month so I remember crying out "Five more weeks of this???!!!". So here we are nearly at the six week mark and I've gotta give it up to my friend... she was so right. Things are getting much better.

The first 3-4 weeks were so very difficult! It really is a time I would not want to have to go through again. Everyone is trying to find their place and new role in this new family and it has not been easy. Throw in language barriers, different cultures, different backgrounds, wild emotions and OH BOY! There were many times I questioned whether or not we had made a huge mistake. Then I would beat myself up for even having that thought when I'm supposed to be so loving and understanding in my role as the mother. The reality that I am human and not capable of being perfect has never been so clear to me as it was in those first few weeks. I made mistakes many many times.

Weeks 4-6 have been much better. Boundaries have been more established. Some wounds are just starting to heal. Bonds are beginning to take shape and there is just an overall peace in our home that was sadly lacking before. It is getting better and better every week. At times I think back to the first few weeks and am amazed that we have come this far so quickly. We still have a long ways to grow but I can see the change happening.

If you are bringing home an adopted child or children please put your support system of family and friends on alert that you may need their help more then ever for the first six weeks or for the weak six weeks. ;) Decide now that you will forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness when you cannot live up to being perfect for everyone.

Here is an update on how our six children are doing:

Stephanie~ She AMAZES me! We have our moments of not understanding each other or frustration but what a sweetheart she can be. She is also a talented cook. Jim and I are convinced she will one day open up a 5 star restaurant. She would spend nearly all day cooking if she could. It has been a great help to have her cheerfully serve us all her tasty dishes. She is such a care taker that we do have to remind her at times that we need her to let us parent her siblings but she takes these reminders really well.

Kyle~ I have been so proud of Kyle for his efforts to befriend his new brother and sisters. He has even been picking up quite a bit of Creole and trying to communicate with them that way. He has had some really fun and great times with his siblings but he is also the one I think may be having the hardest time with all of this change. I know that he has been on the receiving end of teasing and unkindness that is just not okay and we are trying to put an end to it. Meanwhile, I see what was once our very positive and chipper son seeming quite depressed most of the time. I worry about him and just pray for peace and friendship between him and his siblings. Praying God will give me the wisdom and strength to better help him through this time. I don't want our child bullied in our own home. Because I have a pretty serious zero tolerance of this kind of behavior it is not often done in front of me so it is difficult to catch and put an end to. I'm thinking we are headed towards a big pow wow about this issue. I have had a chance too to talk with Kyle about how his behavior of complaining and moping could be effecting his siblings too. It was received at first with a few tears but then he seemed to understand that he has responsibility in the situation too. I totally understand what he is going through and my heart goes out to him but rarely are these situations one sided.

Jude~ I'll admit the first few weeks our relationship with Jude was surprisingly our biggest challenge. You could see in his eyes that he was just hurting from all the change his life had thrown him. He had a hard time saying goodbye to his friends in Haiti and he seemed to have a hard time respecting Jim and I as any kind of authority in his life. This presented many problems and lots of tears and feelings of fear that if it didn't get better it was going to really hurt everyone in our family. I'm so pleased to say that my heart just swells with joy over him and his change of heart! These last couple of weeks he has been such a delight. 90% of the time he seems to accept our direction or requests instead of getting angry over everything we say. He's been so loving and affectionate and has tried so much harder to be thoughtful to everyone. Today we had a little battle of wills again. When I tried to lay down a punishment he did not do what I asked of him and then tried to not tell me the whole truth when I called him on it. As I talked to him about it he began to cry for the first time since being home. As I tried to get him to talk to me about what was going on inside of him I finally got the truth that he is afraid that when I am not happy with something he has done I will no longer love him. How my heart breaks for all the emotions and uncertainty he is having to go through. We were able to talk it out, pray together, and then just cuddle up together for a long time. These little battles are not fun when they are happening but I really do see the greater good that comes out of them!

Johnny~ Johnny is a crack up. I thought he might be one of the family members that would struggle with the change the most but he's just smiled and bounced through it like a chipper little tigger! He has a pretty sweet relationship with Stephanie and likes to snuggle up to her and she is so kind to him in return.

Luke~ Oh boy! Luke was a strong willed little guy with a big attitude before all of this change so it is hard to tell if he is just being his usual self or is having a hard time adjusting. He certainly seems a little bit unhappy with his bump from being the baby of the family. I know his stubbornness and attitude has at times been frustrating and exhausting to Stephanie and Jude. I do find myself, while disciplining Luke, having to remind them that he is only 5 and much younger then them. They seem to be more understanding with Lovenie being little and I need to sometimes remind them that he is only 1 year older then her (because she seems WAY younger).

Lovenie~ Lovenie has been such a surprise. In Haiti she was usually pretty mellow and just wanted to be held all the time. At home she is totally different. She can usually be found giggling, dancing, or just plain being goofy! She's just a happy little girl who has jumped into this new life setting with the greatest of ease during the day. At night my heart breaks for her. She sleeps through the night but moans, cries, and even sometimes yells in her sleep. I wonder what is going on in her mind at these times. She sleeps with me and Jim and we are woken up many times in the night by her sad sleep time. We both wake up and reach for her to comfort her until she is quiet again. When the sun rises she is all about the chipper again. She is a whirlwind of trouble too though. She needs to be watched at every second or you can be sure she is somewhere doing something she shouldn't do, making a huge mess, or making a sibling mad, but she does it all with a smile. She is very much like having a 1-2 year old curiosity with the physical abilities of getting into things of a 4 year old. This is not always a fun combination and can be very tiring but she sure is happy!

The Parents~ We are so very exhausted. It has really taken all the energy we have and then some to get through each day. We can see the great hope that one day things will settle into a new normal but we are not there yet. Add to that the lack of sleep from waking up again and again to comfort Lovenie at night and we could just use a REALLY long nap. ;)

The good news is that our family is changing and growing. It has not all been a struggle as there have been many great moments of laughter and fun but we do still have a long ways to go. This has been a long post but I hope to be able to share soon about a few more things. Just as a quick teaser~ I can't believe the things people ask us in front of our children or to our children. Oh man... are you kidding me? Also, where did everybody go? I think when you bring children home friends and family want to give you space to adjust which is sweet but it can also leave a feeling of being abandoned when you need the support more then ever. Phone calls, emails, as well as physical help like meals is so needed during these first six weeks especially but it seems most people are willing but have no idea how to go about helping. I don't want any ones feelings hurt by this honesty because we have been on the receiving end of MUCH kindness and support from a few family members and friends but for the most part it has been a pretty lonely time going through this. I know I have not "bothered" a dear friend when I knew her kids were home and they were adjusting. Now that I know more about what it is like I wish that I had done the opposite and called her and emailed her more to encourage her. And last thought for the wee hours of the morning~ we have learned SO much during this time. I would love to share some of the things others have shared with us that has really helped as well as what we have figured out along the way.

So, we are getting there slowly and quickly at the same time (weird, right?). I know this change in our family is and will continue to be a HUGE blessing. The really wonderful things in life are rarely achieved easily. We did not expect this time to be easy and it has not been but I do believe it will be by far one of the most rewarding things in our lives.


Becky Hinchley said...

Thanks for the update Angela...I'm so glad things are going better.


Amanda said...

Wow. That is amazing! Really! Thanks for sharing. I can't imagine! I hope to experience it one day, but what a challenge to bring THREE home at once. I'm so glad the Lord's mercy is new every morning! Wonderful that everything is settling down. Hey could you email me your snail mail again?? :~)

Rose Anne said...

Girl you are sooo very right about the first six weeks....
When your babies come home they alot of the times act much younger than they are...
I only know about the younger ones, but I think it would happen with older ones also. It depends how long they at the O and how young they were when they came in...the older they are the more things they have to grieve , because that is what they have to go through. a Grieving process.
Your family has been in my Prayers with all the changes going on for everyone...
Stay strong it does get better!
God Bless,
Rose Anne

Chapter Two Manmi said...

I enjoyed reading your updates. I've prayed for you as I've visited your blog to check for them. The early weeks are so very hard and I'm glad to read you are already starting to see some forward progress. I remember a dear friend telling me that we'd likely see progress after three months and much progress after six. We'd been home two weeks and I'd thought I might be dead by three months. It held true. Time doesn't heal wounds...God does and He gives us the ability and wisdom needed to in time. We've been home 10 months now and I still say I wouldn't want to relive those early weeks again. You'll get more rest, you'll start to feel normal, you'll see healing in your kids hearts, you'll be blessed. I'll pray for you as I visit here and think of you.
Many blessings,

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you for this update! Amazing! I am quite interested in how you will handle issues and Kyle. I am contemplating adoption from Haiti too, and although it may not be as many as you have so wonderfully adopted, I still worry about my little one changing from bright, happy-go-lucky, chipper child to depressed uneasy, uncomfortable, bleak child. I look forward to reading your blog for tips, updates, downs, ups, etc.

ange said...

Have I told you I love you? You are doing an amazing job girl. Keep looking up! Six weeks blew by already? (hehe) we are 4 months home now and I can't remember life before...... God is good like that!

The Haiti Lady said...

Thank you for the update and complete honesty!
1 of my kids had the night cries/terrors and would scream, moan etc. It took her quite while to grow out of them..hang tough and Lovenie will feel your love and comfort while she sleeps. Jude displays what Kai and Demi did when they cam home. They feel everyone else abandoned them, why are YOU any different. We still work witht he kids on the fact that THEY are the kids, WE are the parents and WE will love them NO MATTER what they do to us in defiance etc.
Know that we love you guys, you are prayed for and it will get easier and easier until you cannot remember a time when they weren't home.
Love ya,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the updates and the reality check!
I will remember you when we have our kids and know you got through it...with 3 new ones!

Angela said...

Thanks so much for your encouraging words, understanding, prayers, and kindness!!!

ManyBlessings said...

You are doing SO good! I know it is incredibly tough! I had so many of those "what have I done?!?!?!?" moments too. But time is a great healer and those babies will heal. One day at a time. One moment at a time. One prayer at a time.

Ericka said...

Thank you for your honesty Angela.
It IS so important that us PAPs really understand that there is a process AFTER the kids come home. We got so caught up in the paperchase, anticipating travel, etc,
I'm glad the kids (and mom and dad) are healing.
You are a great momma Angela and you have a ginormous heart that will help guide them.
You'll begin to get rest and your perspective back.
ps I loved the pic of Louvenie smiling..... :)
Keep doin' what your doin' and don't forget to do some things for you, even if just eating a really great chocolate or a having a cup of tea.....
Sending lots and lots of hugs,

Cheryl said...

Hi Angela, thanks for being so honest in your post.

While we 'only' brought home two at one time and did not disrupt birth order we still had our frequent moments of wondering what the heck we were doing. Simply having to be hyper-vigilant because the kids do not understand or know about boundaries is exhausting. Our kids also just needed time at home with just the family to learn what a family is all about and more importantly how their new family functions and their place in it. Because of that we felt kind of isolated.

I also understand about feeling lonely through the first weeks. I still have my times of feeling lonely and alone because most of my friends do not 'get' the adoption/trauma issues or think 'well, what did she expect.' Because there was a ten year gap between our bio kids and adopted kids many of our friends also were not 'tied' down anymore as we were. My online friends and the Haitian adoption groups have been a sanity saver to me throughout the years.

I guess my question to you is this: what could we, who already have our kids home, done to help prepare you better? Is there anything? I know when I was waiting for our kids to come home I did so much reading about trauma and attachment but I didn't know how to apply it to me because my kids weren't home yet. When they did come home, parents who already had their kids home reminded me about what I had read and it all started to make sense. I would encourage you to use the HFH group. The moms there are really a great group.

I am not being flippant when I say 'Hang in there'. You can do this--you won't be perfect or tearless, but you can do this.


Amy said...

Hi Angela,

Great update! I love your honesty. Truly waiting parents need to hear it and *I* really needed the reminder about not being perfect and forgiving myself. I am definitely guilty of the mom guilt! See? ;) You are doing wonderfully with your kids! And they will thrive from the love and structure you give them every day. It is a TOUGH job!