Saturday, 24 November 2012

What I've learned: home two months

That four kids is harder than 3. And much, much busier.  And louder. 
That 2 boys under 7 could eat so much. 
That I love the 45 minutes or so my husband and I have before we sleep, and how much I miss it with a small child in the bed. 
That Madeleine loved Fort before he was even here. 
That Ben really wanted a little brother who looked up to him. 
That Madeleine's attention to Ben means as much to him now as when he was a toddler. 
That Evie can break. 
That there is much to learn about the differences in black bodies and white bodies. 
That rubbing oil on Fort's body after bath would be so bonding. 
That Americans have such incredible sentiment tied to a birthday. 
That Fortune would be so different emotionally here than he was in Uganda. 
That I would feel so unprepared. 
That Fort would learn good habits (seatbelts) so quickly but also lose other habits (peeing alone) as quickly. 
That I would feel like I was doing it all on my own for so long. 
That my husband and I would grow closer, even with our struggles
That no matter how wonderful his orphanage was, he didn't love it and he never wants to go back. 
That I would be so emotionally wrung out from my experience in Uganda. 
That he would be so affectionate. 
That he would always feel like my son. 
That I would be so comforted by the support I felt from my friends, family, and community. 
That all my emotions need to coexist, and that love, fear, grief and joy do not cancel each other out. 
That I am too old to carry around a 40 pound boy. 
That most of what I took for granted in our biological kids was created by love and security. 
That I am so proud of myself as a mother, and of my relationship with my husband. 
That I will never cease to be amazed by the incredible resilience of children. 
That the child Fort is becoming is the child that I glanced at the orphanage, and anyone who only knew him 2 months ago would be amazed by him now. 
That every day I am tapped out and yet somehow I get renewed. 
That I thought I was so educated on what adoption would be and how blind I was in reality. 
That Fort is so strong. 
That I am so strong.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Therapy Becomes Me

I went to see a therapist twice. Othe first visit was right after hitting bottom at 3 weeks, when we didn't know some of Fort's distress was caused by scarlet fever and a double ear infection. That day, when he screamed for 7 hours straight- except for the 45 minutes when he was asleep, I promise you I made it through because I knew I had a psychologist appointment the next day.  She is a specialist for international adoption and child development, and just having the appointment made me feel better. I needed someone who could tell me that I wasn't crazy, that this was tough, and that I was not going to unwittingly scar him. 
Then I went back to see her 3 weeks later, and in many of the tough days I felt encouraged just by having her number handy in case I needed it. I never called her, but it was a great comfort. And I loved making a plan of attack, even if it was just an outline, and most of the time I still had to react and make spontaneous decisions. The plan gave me confidence, and helped me to be more decisive, which I know is good for Fort. One of the best things was at our second visit, when she asked me how a number of things were going, and with each question I could say, "that's getting better" and "yes, THAT is getting better!".  I had a gauge to look back and realize how far we had come. 
Fort's English is rapidly improving, as well as his basic ability to communicate. I can better anticipate his moods, and tell when he's hungry, tired or overwhelmed. My girlfriend who was adopted as a baby talked to me about her frustration that any troubles she had growing up almost always got pegged as an "adoption issue", and how everything was put together on that shelf. I think about this now, as I sort through Fort's issues. Is his fear of being alone part of an adoption issue?  Is it because he missed handling separation anxiety as a toddler?  Does he just have a fear of being alone like many kids?  We are finally at a point where his English and communication skills are better and he is able to express things like "me skerred" and "I don't like that". 
We can't discipline him in the same manner as we do our biological kids, but we can't let him get away with everything either.  Fort and Ben were in their room playing when I heard Fort screaming for me. They were clearly physically getting into it. I ran in, only to see Ben calmly playing with his back to me, and Fortune lying on the floor, crying hysterically. I was just about to begin on Ben, asking him what he did to make Fort cry, when Ben turned around. His face and neck had angry scratches all over. He was fine, but Fort had tried to take a toy from him and when he couldn't , he started to fight. So Ben pushed him to the ground, which is when he began to call for reinforcements. I was so grateful to be able to have evidence of what clearly happened. Fort was shocked when instead of going to him I went to console Ben. And told Fort his behaviour was not ok, and that Ben was allowed to push him over if Fort hurt him.   It was a learning moment for all of us, and something Ben sorely needed to hear from me. 

It is true that some things just work themselves out with time. 6 weeks into it, Fort knows our routine and what we expect. I know what how much he can handle, what battles are worth fighting over, and when I have to stop whatever I am doing to manage him. I know that he gets bored and anxious being with too many adults, that he opens up amidst other kids, and that he loves it when I take 10 minutes to be "silly mom". He loves going outside or on his bike, and will easily spend 20 minutes watching a man with a jackhammer or a dump truck. He loves having a job, and will wash dishes for an hour or vacuum the house. He won't go in the basement or outside without someone going with him, but is now able to "go susu" by himself like a big boy. He loves playing with the kids, misses them when they are at school, and thinks baths are no fun alone. But he hates sharing me with them, tries to push them out of my arms if I am snuggling with any of them, and cries if anyone rides "his" tricycle or plays with "his" toys.  It is a struggle on their side too, having to handle multiple layers of having a new brother all at once. There is the typical new baby feelings, jealousy of the attention he receives from others and the time he gets with me. The dynamic changes of having 4 kids who need something instead of 3. The way things are not "how they used to be" because now we have a little guy. And there are especially changes for Ben- going from the only boy to having a brother who is sharing his room and his toys;  having a brother who wants to do what Ben can do but is not yet capable. And his crying. We all are trying to deal with that. 
Is it getting better?  Absolutely. Enough so I can see it now. Is it still hard?  Yes, but we are not in the same fog of wondering what we had done to our family, to ourselves. Wondering if we'd ever sleep again, or if I'd ever have time to myself again.  Yes, the therapist helped. As did every single voice who has been supportive of me, and this crazy thing we did. So I thank you.