“Mom,” I sobbed over the sounds of something sturdy hitting the bathroom door over and over again. “Please come over. I need help!”
“What have I done?” I thought to myself as curled up on the cool bathroom floor and just let the tears flow. “I am the wrong mother for this child!”
How did it get to this point? When did the excitement of preparation, the thrill of holding him for the first time, and the joy of bringing him home turn into a desperate cry for help? When did my dreams of snuggles and kisses get replaced by the nightmare of both smothering attachment and hostile violence? And why was it directed only at me? I struggled to reconcile my previously naïve image of my son with the reality with which we were now faced.
It hadn’t started this way. The time in his country, while exhausting, gave us no clues as to what was ahead. He was sweet, eager to please, and affectionate. He seemed to prefer both my husband and me to anyone else—almost as if he understood that we were his mommy and daddy. We had some of the typical behaviors as he grieved his separation from his orphanage’s assistant director with whom he was very close. Communication was a struggle even with our guide because he spoke a completely different dialect that was confined to his small town. However, other than that we thought we were pretty lucky to have escaped the “horror stories” we had studied during our adoption preparation.
Approximately two weeks after we returned home the honeymoon ended. He would meltdown seemingly out of the blue, and, within seconds, his cries would turn to screams. He had developed a hyper-attachment to me and had to constantly be held by me or touching me. He would get angry if anyone else was getting even the slightest bit of my attention. If someone were trying to have a conversation with me, he would simply just start screeching loudly to drown them out and make conversation impossible. He would grab my face or tangle his fingers into my hair and jerk my head around so that I would be looking at him. If this didn’t work to his satisfaction, he would escalate the violence. This happened several times a day, and each time the ferocity grew more severe and his threshold for any stressor seemed to get smaller and smaller. He pinched, bit, kicked, hit, pulled hair, threw things at me. It took all of my strength to protect myself both physically and emotionally.
I had read all the books I was assigned during our home study. I had taken the adoptive parenting courses. I just never imagined the distressing things I heard could happen to me. I was wrong. Our son was in pain. He was more than afraid. He was terrified.
Thankfully. both my social worker from our placing agency and my social worker from our home study agency made themselves readily available for support, education, and encouragement. They pointed me toward Karyn Purvis where I learned why my son could fly into such sudden rages and why they were directed at me. There was not a quick fix for this. Our son had years of flight, fight, or freeze behaviors before coming to us. There was not going to be an overnight remedy. Encouraged by my social workers, I began to reach out for help. When I had moments away from our son, I would watch videos and read books about attachment and abandonment and parenting kids from hard places. What I studied turned my entire parenting paradigm on its head. As I learned, I started putting some of the techniques into practice and found surprising results. As I learned these methods of working with our son, I also found myself much more able to regulate my own emotions and behaviors. In addition, as our son learned more English and saw that we weren’t going anywhere, he started relaxing more. His fears were no longer completely consuming him.
We are still in this journey. And we definitely carry the scars of these last eleven months. But we are in it for the long haul. And I think our son is finally starting to believe it.
Reading—The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis
Watching – Any of the videos from www.Empoweredtoconnect.com
-Find a social worker that has been there in the trenches.
-Find a therapist for yourself… you will need the space to vent, cry, mourn, and contemplate.
-Find a group of other parents of kids from hard places. There are a number of these groups on Facebook. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
-Keep feeding your relationship with your spouse. His or her support will help supply sustenance for those times when you have reached the end of your strength, energy, and hope.