Loving Sevy

Monday, November 20, 2017

<<< So incredibly grateful for the love and support and the “same here”s in response to my last post. I heard from so many of you who are stumbling alongside me on this wearisome journey with our adopted children. It was also really eye opening to hear from so many who were able to relate to my words and feelings in regards to your biological children for various reasons. It makes perfect sense. While the part of my story that I’m sharing is specifically about my struggles in bonding with my adopted child, It’s good to know that the words I share may have an impact on an even broader range of parents >>>

I wasn’t so naive to think that Sevy’s adoption would go as smoothly and easily as Archie’s. With Archie, things were as close to seamless as could possibly be. Our first time meeting him was truly magical. My flashbacks of that moment play in slo motion. His floppy little body stumbling down the long white hallway, illuminated by the bright fluorescent lights above. Running straight into my outstretched, wide open arms. Our bond was immediate, strong, and mutual. I was in love. I physically ached for him in the months between our two trips. He was my baby. 

Despite both being orphans with Down syndrome in the same country, Sevy’s life had not looked much like Archie’s. Her living situation was very different. She bounced around a lot more. She wasn’t attached to any caregivers. She was five years older than he was at the time of their adoptions. I knew it wouldn’t be the same. But I was hopeful. And I subconsciously set myself up for failure. 

Nothing was the same. From the second I stepped through the door and a caretaker pointed to a little girl whose face I recognized. “This is the one”, she unenthusiastically declared in reference to a child who I only knew by the stories I created about her in my mind. A stranger. My daughter. 

I wouldn’t admit the disappointment I felt after that first day with Sevy. Not to myself, or anyone else.

The months in between were long. And while I was anxious to get her home and out of the hell she was living in, my heart didn’t hurt like it had in the wait for Archie. Please, God, make me miss her. That was my daily prayer. 

Once we were finally back in Bulgaria and it was time to pick her up, I was terrified. I already felt like I had failed her. I felt like I was doing everything wrong, or just maybe that something was wrong with me. 

I was desperate to live into the adoption clichés. I was desperate for the magic. I was desperate to feel what I thought I should be feeling.

We all read the quotes and the stories. We hear people talk about how they love their adopted child exactly the same as they love their biological child.  

We read romanticized thoughts like Bob Constantine’s: “I have four children. Two are adopted. I forget which two.” 

I understand these things, and I don’t mean to take away from anyone whose story genuinely goes this way. Remember, my story with Archie did. But the problem comes when we start to believe that these are the things we should be feeling. That this is the way it should look. That if we don’t feel these things, and it doesn’t look this way, then we are doing it wrong. 

What I have learned through my relationship with Sevy is that I must allow myself to feel exactly how I’m feeling. To own my feelings, live in them, admit them. Because if I don’t admit them and I try to pretend, then I am only perpetuating some ridiculous stigma. 

People will judge me. People will question me and people will say mean things. All will be people who have never walked in my shoes. 

But this is my truth:

I have four children. Two are adopted. And hell to the no, I do not, nor will I ever, forget which two. How could I? I remember very clearly the fear, the sadness, the endless piles of paperwork. The sleepless nights, the desperate attempts to live on Eastern European time so as to never risk missing an update. I remember the long flights, the jet lag, the language barrier. I remember the orphanage smells, the faces of starving children. I remember the moment it registered in my mind that most of them would die before ever knowing the love of a family. I can’t forget. 

I don’t love all my children the exact same. It isn’t as if Sevy has just always been a part of our family. She entered my life a nonverbal, stubborn, untrusting twelve year old. She refused to hold my hand as we walked out of her orphanage door towards our taxi and her new life. She pushed me away, she yelled unintelligible sounds at me, that I am certain were meant to cut deep. She cringed and cried when I so much as softly rubbed her back. 

From day one, loving her had to be a choice. It had to be intentional and deliberate. It didn’t feel natural. 

Loving her hasn’t always been easy. But it has always been an honor. There will always be a depth to our love that could never exist with another soul. It was born in tragedy and heartache. In a shadow of loss and pain and trauma. It is redemptive and rare. It has felt heavy, it has left me weary and broken. It doesn’t look like a storybook. But still, in its own dark and beautiful way, it is magic. 

Twenty months into being her mom and we are a long way from where I had hoped we would be. We are also a long way from where we started. This mountain that we are climbing is high, but we are climbing it together. And in the end we will be strong, secure, indestructible. 

My Sevy Girl, I love you. I promise. 

Lots of Love!

I’m back.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It’s been a year and a half since my last post. To those who have loyally followed me, some of you since day one, I’m so sorry. I left you hanging in the middle of Sevy’s adoption trip and that was just a jerk move. To those of you who are still here- thank you. To those of you who have asked and encouraged me to get back here- thank you. 

I’m back. 

Where I left off, we had just gotten Sevy out of her orphanage. We had a successful first day and even an ok first night. Ok meaning nothing overwhelmingly terrible or horrific happened. But it was far from easy. She cried a lot for reasons I couldn’t figure out. Was she in physical pain? Was she frustrated that she couldn’t communicate? Or was she simply scared? I believe it was a combination of those things and many others. 

That night and the days to follow I lived in a steady state of intentional denial. It’s all I could do to stay afloat. She stiff armed me from the start. She sought comfort from Ace and turned her back to me. 

I was the enemy. 

Shortly after she was home I went on a writing retreat in California. I almost backed out a thousand times. Could I leave her just a few months into her being mine? We were already struggling and I started to wonder if me leaving for three days might make things even worse. But I also knew that I needed it. For so many reasons. One of the main ones being a break from her. 

On the first night there, I sat in a room full of strangers. Possibly the furthest out of my comfort zone I’d ever been. My plan as we went around the room and introduced ourselves and shared a little about what brought us there, was to say my name and a couple of basic, benign facts about my life and quickly pass the torch. I wasn’t gonna cry. I wasn’t gonna be vulnerable. I was gonna keep my wall up and just allow everyone else’s tears and stuff to be a distraction from my own. 

I swallowed the lump in my throat as the girl in front of me wrapped up. And then- the dam broke. I found myself completely powerless over the words pouring out of my mouth. And it was that moment that I became fully aware of my feelings. Denial was no longer an option. 

I finally finished my hyperventilating cry and my attempt to explain the heartbreak that I was experiencing in my relationship with Sevy and i felt exhausted. I also felt dumb and ashamed and less than. 

I still don’t really understand how the hell I found myself on a retreat in Ojai that May weekend. But it was exactly where I was supposed to be. With the exact people I was supposed to be with. 

After that weekend I decided I’d start sharing more openly about life with Sevy. This is the stuff that’s hard to talk about. It’s also the stuff that we most need to talk about. 

It’s been a year and a half since Sevy has been home. Since then it has been one step forward, ten steps back every single day. We have had some seriously incredible moments of bonding. We have had some ugly moments of dissension. She learned my buttons as quickly as she could and has made it her job to hit them as hard and as often as she can. 

She has not made it easy for me to love her. But let me be very clear- I love her. Fiercely and madly and in a way that i can’t fully comprehend. I would cross oceans over and over and over again every single day to get to her. She’s my daughter. But it’s also okay that my love for her has been hard work. That is doesn’t come naturally like it does (and always has) my other three. 

It’s adoption awareness month and i feel that the most important thing I can do, in this month and always, is share my truth. It’s important that we acknowledge reality and that we quit attempting to live into clichés. Adoption is beautiful. It’s magic; it’s powerful. It can also be painful, it brings grief, and heartache. We often feel so alone, so isolated, so afraid. 

Since opening up about my struggles with Sevy on social media, I’ve had so many people reach out to me. I’ve had countless private conversations with moms who are in the exact same spot. I’ve cried with moms I’ve never met simply because we found someone who gets it. 

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more about my life with Sevy. The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you have any questions or topics you would like me to discuss specifically, leave me a comment or shoot me a message.  

For now, here's a visual of how Sevy felt about me when she first came home. I mean, she still feels this way a lot but she just shows it in less direct ways. They told me in her orphanage "she will show you the middle finger when she's angry." They were not lying.

This stuff is hard. You're not alone.

Lots of Love!