Reflections On 3 Years 2 Months 23 Days and More…

Today our sweet social worker came over for our very last post placement report to Russia.  She has been doing our post placement reports and home studies since 2003.

When we found out about our fourth daughter, Sweetie 4,  three and a half  years ago, we talked with our social worker on the phone, and the overall conversation was good, but serious.
She wanted us to seriously contemplate what we were about to do.
Sweetie 4 was going through her second disruption  after coming to America.

We knew that in bringing Sweetie 4 home , there would be some new challenges.  Any time a child comes home, the dynamics of the family changes forever.  No child comes home to the same family, because family dynamics change with each new addition.

We learned so much with each sweetie coming home; each of them so vastly different from each other.

With Sweetie 1, we learned about ways to keep her busy and keep her off guard.  She was used to being in charge of her little life, and we had to help her learn to trust us, and to be a little girl, resting in our safety.  She was used to going from home to home to home, and we were just another stop on her journey; so she thought. 🙂

Our Sweetie 2, was just terrific.  She was very hurt from a disruption, and from abuse, but she was such a strong little one.  She was so open to being loved, and quite easy to love really.  She didn’t understand English very well and we learned all about explaining things and not assuming she understood us.  I learned how to go into her world to help draw her into mine.  Cooking Ukrainian foods  and giving her control of the blankets in the house were very important to make her feel safe.

Sweetie 3,  came directly from Ukraine!
She progressed quickly because  she was so  motivated to love and blend into the family. She didn’t look back.  She loved having new parents and sisters.  She has been soaking up love the whole time she has been home and it has been an amazing experience watching her turn into a fine young lady.

Five years later, Sweetie 4 came home.   We had plenty of experience in the adoption world under our belts including going to special training and being a part of a very large online support group over the years.  We had already adopted from overseas, from disruption, from foster care and now we were adopting from disruption again.
But this was a different child, and she had come over to the U.S. much older.  She also had been adopted twice.
This was serious.

We  prayed, and considered all the information we were given.  We asked questions of ourselves and our children to see if we were going to be a team.
You see, a family IS a team, and everybody needs to be on board when bringing somebody new home.
The situation is quite different from having a baby.
An adopted child comes with a previous life, and brings that life into your home, with all of its unpacked bags.  Even if they come as a newborn, they have still had 9 months, developing in the life of another mother.  They know her voice, her heart beat, her habits, and her stresses.
For our daughter, she wasn’t a newborn, but 11 years old.

We called our social worker and told her we were going to go for it. We felt we could be parents to one more child; this child.

When we got the call to go and pick her up, it was very sudden. I had just 1 day to be in NC from Texas.   I also had to wait in NC for all the proper ICPC paperwork to go through  before returning to Texas.

When I arrived, Sweetie 4 was waiting in the back of a car in the parking lot at Walmart.  It was awful.  I hate the idea of picking up a child, of all places, at Walmart!
She  was all smiles, but I could tell she was so very scared.
Who wouldn’t be?
I reassured her that I was going to keep her safe, and that she would be ok.
Children are so vulnerable to the decisions that parents make.
It breaks my heart. She had no choice about being born to alcoholic parents. She had no choice about going to an orphanage.  She felt she didn’t have a choice in her first adoption at nine.  She had to choose between leaving her mommy, hoping she would come for her, and losing her brother and sister, the only sure people in her life,  to a new life America.    She bravely, at 9 years old,  chose America.

Because things didn’t go well in her first home, understatement…
because things went terribly wrong  in her first home, her fears escalated.
Her biggest fears came true.  She lost her brother and sister;  no contact allowed.  She tried to be brave when sent away to a new home. Sadly there were complications with the next adoption.

Sweetie 4 was victim to a set of extreme circumstances that began before she was born.  It was not her fault.
After all, there is only so much a child can take.
New country, new language, new parents, loss of birth parents,
loss of siblings, loss of adoptive parents, loss of adoptive parents again….and now another new set of parents.     US.

She put on that  brave face (mask).  Honestly, what choice did she have?    At eleven years old we were her 3rd official set of adoptive parents.  Why should she trust us?

We didn’t dare say something cliche’ like “Welcome to your forever family!”  That didn’t exist in her world.
The only sure thing that existed in her world was rejection and pain, and in her mind, we were the next set of people placed in her life to torment  and reject her.
In her mind, surely she must deserve this type of experience because obviously there is something very, very wrong and bad about her.
She felt black inside.
And in spite of how she felt, our brave girl put on a smile and forged forward onto an airplane with a me, another well meaning stranger in her life, and started over.

Up Up and Away! Into Unknown Territory…..

It was unknown territory for both of us.    Yet, I had a peace in my spirit, in the very deepest part of my being, that this was right.
Mike had that very same peace, as did the girls.
We knew it would not be easy, but knowing it wouldn’t be easy and experiencing those “not easy” moments are vastly different.

Knowing what to do or what you think you will do in a very stressful situation because of your training  is very helpful, but those training scenarios do not give you the “feel” of fear and adrenaline as your brain is bombarded with emotion and doubt.

Training is VERY VERY important, because it is your tool box.  But it is equally  important to learn how to access that toolbox when you are in the midst of your own dysregulation due to stress.  A locked tool box does nobody any good!

I am so thankful that we could see deep inside of Sweetie 4, a desire to do well.  It was just very well hidden behind a wall of anger, frustration and self loathing.

I remember telling her one day that she really needs to love herself because you really can’t love others properly if you don’t properly love yourself!  That concept was so foreign to her.

We knew the only way to reach her was to focus on relationship and not behaviors, because you cannot become a respected  authority in the life of a child with whom you have no relationship.

This is where BCLC (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control) helped us so very much.  BCLC focuses on connecting relationship first.
We had our whole lives to work through the rest, but relationship is number 1!
Isn’t it that way with God?  He wants to have relationship with us, and until we come alive in Christ, we are in rebellion towards God.
When we come alive, in relationship, God doesn’t start giving us a list of what to change in our lives.  He loves us and we love Him and those changes occur as we pursue relationship.

To our real surprise, Sweetie 4 began to respond relatively quickly.
We had told ourselves not to have expectations early on, not even for the first two years at the soonest.   Instead, we found ourselves surprisingly falling in love with our sweet little girl and she with us.

We had many, many days of trial and error, climbing up trees, head banging, screaming, slamming, threatening, hiding things,  including scissors and knives.  Some days seemed surreal.  But God…..

He didn’t walk us to this point to abandon us, and we know he doesn’t change His mind.  We trusted him and pressed forward.
It was quite obvious to us that God had some work to do on us too.
Just as with all the other families in her life, there was work to be done .

We had many days of soul searching and trying things that worked with one child but didn’t work with this child.  She was different.  Her hurts were different.  Her pain was different.

I am so thankful for Sweetie 1, because she prepared us for Sweetie 4 in the area of behavior.  And I am so thankful for Sweeties 2 and 3 because they prepared us for Sweetie 4 for in the area of  language and culture changes.

As her first anniversary approached, she was literally terrified we were going to send her away.  It was palpable in the air.  She lashed out in a big way, and she and I wound up in the car going for a drive;
her convinced I was taking her to a psych unit and me trying to convince her that she was ok, and didn’t need a psych unit.  But in her previous family she had been taken to one, and it was an awful experience for  her.
She was reacting to some very, very deep hurts and I had every confidence she could overcome them, not by erasing them, or pretending they didn’t exist, but by facing them and not allowing them to rule her life.
When a person has been through some of the extreme things this daughter has been through, how could she not have some extreme behaviors?  She was reacting in my opinion normally, to very abnormal circumstances!

We succeeded in that trip around town, as  we headed to the park, and oredered a coke to sip, to connect, in a very special way.

Some would think we should have punished her for the things she said or for what she did.  Some would have figured there is no hope.
But God…..

We knew better. We could see a little butterfly ready to emerge from that cocoon.  We could feel it.  She was doing well in many areas, even though it was 3 steps forward 2 steps back, then 20 steps forward  21 steps back, and then when we worked through that, a HUGE jump forward both emotionally and intellectually.  She could concentrate better, give eye contact, give and receive love and more.

She was responding to LOVE.  She was responding to REAL and Unconditional love.  Some people say that Love is not enough.
But Love is enough, if it is real love.
We only have one word in our language for Love.   But there are many different types of “love”.
True love is a verb.  It is an action word that means you choose to love and do what is best for another without expectation. It is laying ones life down for another.
It is much easier to love when you are loved back.  This kind of love requires much prayer and is found in the prayers and tears of compassion over the brokenness of another.

In our second year of being home, contact was made through Email with her biological sister who was now out of the first adoptive home.   There were careful emails exchanged to make sure that Sweetie 4 and her sister would not be further hurt.
After being confident that we could move forward, they exchanged letters first.
It was so precious to see Sweetie write that first letter to her sister.
“I am sorry. I broke our family apart. It was my fault.”
I didn’t interfere. This was how she felt.   I let her send that letter, feeling so sorry that she carried such a huge burden.
After she mailed it, I told her that it was not her fault, and we had some very good talks, but it would have been wrong for me to try to correct her letter to her sister.

Her sister wrote back, and responded exactly how I had hoped she would.  “It wasn’t your fault, you were just a little girl.”

I am so thankful that Sweetie 4 and her sister were able to reunite.
It was a precious time.  And they have continued to stay in contact, getting together and doing face time on the computer.
What a blessing to help Sweetie 4 reconcile the past with the present.

This year, we took our first trip out of state besides Oklahoma, to attend the graduation of our oldest grand daughter.  We had a wonderful time together and Sweetie 4 thoroughly enjoyed herself, as did the rest of us.

She also had her very first sleep over at her brother and sister in law’s house.  She was able to help with her little nephews for an entire day and loved every minute of it.

Sweetie has processed a lot this year especially, and we have learned how best to help her when she gets dysregulated. Each child is different, so what might make one child relax might cause another to escalate.  We worked really hard together to see what worked best.
We were then able to give her tools to help her.

One of the things that works well for her is to request permission to cool down in her room.  It just takes her about 5 minutes, but that time is crucial for her to gain control of herself.
If we were to try and talk with her before that alone time, she would escalate.  If we were to try and have her sit close to us it would escalate, and on more than one occasion I was on the receiving end of her frustration.

The best thing we did was make sure she had the space she needed to not feel closed in.    This is her tool, “Mom, Dad, I need to go and cool off, may I go to my room?”

You would think in a dysregulated moment she couldn’t do that, but she has learned through calm role play and do overs what to do.
We will ALWAYS say YES for this request.  It is what is best for her.

What she is not allowed to do is disrespectfully walk away. It took her a while to get it, but she has it now.

We are so proud of her!

So as I write this, I am writing out there to encourage those of you who are walking a similar path.  Our children have been broken from their histories, but they don’t remain broken, they do get better, and learn to put their past in perspective and not allow it to control who they are today.

That is where all of our Sweeties are today. They are happy and continuing to progress  towards a happy, healthy adulthood.

Having four teenage girls in the house is delightful (most of the time 🙂  )  Seriously. It is .

And as I look back on our last 10 plus years, I am fully comforted and aware that my early childhood experiences that I didn’t get for so long, were intended for my good and the good of my girls. They were there for me to draw from, to give me compassion, to allow me to have a better understanding and to help us all to heal together.

1 Responses to Reflections On 3 Years 2 Months 23 Days and More…

  1. mamaV says:

    This made me cry! May God continue to bless your family!

Comments warmly welcomed!


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