Being a mama is easy. And it’s also really hard. Being a mama of a child you chose and adopted into your family comes with great privilege and also great sacrifice. Two sides to every stone, am I right? Today I am talking about the unpolished side. I could brag for YEARS about the polished side of my amazing son and the true honor it is to be his mama, but that is for most other days. Today I prepare to cry at a doctor’s appointment with a behavioral health specialist. I will have to tell the doctor that I sometimes, often lately, find myself out of ideas for how to help him calm his little body that is moving so fast and speaking so incessantly. I will have to explain how I try to have him take “deep candle breaths,” and how we work on counting techniques, taking breaks, whispering quiet songs, and even sitting with our hands and heads together to try to find a quiet minute in the dizzying chaotic moments of his running and spinning and scream-singing. I will have to explain that the child I love more than anything in my entire world, who I would lay down and sacrifice my life for, sometimes pushes me to a total breaking point where I am seeing red and I have lost all ideas and am just struggling to hold onto my sanity.
I will cry today explaining this because it is horrifying to me, that as his mama and an educator by training and trade, I don’t know how handle his activity level and help. Also because he is *so* happy all the time and his happy little energy just can’t be contained and sometimes its just too much for the rest of the world because we don’t know how to handle that kind of extreme blissful enthusiasm. I will cry because it mades me question myself and why U can;t seem to do better, to react better, to help better...
Today I will cry because despite how happy Isaac is now, I still shudder to remember our first eight months together where smiles were almost non-existent and he screamed and cried for hours on end every day because his soul was deeply devastated and genuinely confused. My sweet baby who met me at three days old and came home for good one month later, was deeply rocked by attachment struggles. His little brain and body could not understand why he was not where he was before with the people who’s voices he grew to know for nine months and then the new voices he heard for his first month in interim care…why they weren’t around anymore to comfort him. For eight months, Isaac and I attended doctors appointments where they assured me he had colic and every other over-diagnosed baby illness known to man. They pumped him full of all sorts of medicines and sent us to specialists for reflux… none of whom helped a bit. They sent me to these appointments because they told me i was wrong and ignored me when I told them I was fairly sure it was anxiety and attachment issues. They told me that was not possible because babies don’t even know. Such a shameful way to have been treated seeing as science proves otherwise. I knew better and I am telling this story today so that you know better too.
I worked HARD to get this boy to feel safe and secure. We walked and snuggled. We did months of co-sleeping and I wore him until he started walking in every baby carrier I could find. We worked and it paid off. Isaac overcame. But then just past his second birthday, he started developing anxiety. We live near the United States Naval Academy and once a year to mark graduation ceremonies they have the Blue Angels fly over to do an air show with tricks and flips and tons of amazing stunts. But what was amazing to most flipped a switch for my sweet son and triggered crippling anxiety. He was terrified and convinced the loud jet planes were coming for him. He screamed and cried and refused to go outside without major coaxing for 3-4 weeks. He didn’t want to go to daycare because that where he had seen the airplanes. He feel asleep and woke up with panicked questions about whether or not he was safe and if the airplanes were coming. To this day, a year and a half later, he still gets a fear-struck look in his eyes when he hears a plane or helicopter despite the fact that he does enjoy them now if he knows they are coming and is with someone who knows to assure him he is safe and that it’s “just a regular airplane.” He still has the occasional breakdown if one is too loud or too low. I’ve learned, thanks to a few doctors who knew what they were talking about, this is due to the fact that those stunt planes were combined with some random life events that felt, to Isaac, like abandonment in some ways. I had just returned form my first day trip away from him since he had come home and he had a different provider with him at daycare when the planes flew over that day. This combination of strange circumstances and loud scary planes means Isaac now associates those noises and the feelings they induce with abandonment. My heart breaks that this is the case but it is where we live and we have been visiting attachment and anxiety more often lately so this is another reason we visit the doctor today.. hopefully one who knows what they are talking about.
I share this story because it is not atypical for adopted children. I think it’s important to note that while he is easily the best thing that has ever come into my life and he is wroth every second I spend worrying and ever tear I shed for him, adoption brings new issues. He is a worrier, he has mild attachment issues that we are working through, and he is extremely active in ways that I am currently unsure how to manage. Today we are off to another doctor… this time a behavior specialist and therapist… in hopes we can learn some strategies together that make life feel a little better and easier. Bring a mama is easy, friends… except when it’s hard.