Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trauma is a Tricky Thing...

“After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom.” ― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha 

Charlotte had a counseling appointment scheduled this past Friday.  I called and asked if I could bring Caroline instead.  She hadn't been in a month, because she was doing so well, but she had really started acting out and I knew she needed to talk to Dr. Cynthia. 

When we got there I explained all of the changes that have occurred over the past 3 weeks in our family and how I really think this has affected Caroline.  From what I had observed I could only conclude that she was feeling left out, like she wasn't the "star" of the show anymore, and she was withdrawing.  Caroline has always had an affinity for playing the victim card.  It just came naturally to her after all she's been through in her young  life.  So she went back for an hour to talk.

When they came out the Dr. says "It has nothing to do with her new sister."  "Then what is going on with her?" I asked, surprised.  "It's about Brutus."

Let's rewind about 6 months for those of you who did not have the opportunity to meet our special Brutus and do not know the tragedy of how he left us.  Brutus was a kitten that was discovered with his litter in our church dumpster one Sunday morning after church.  The pastor had just done a message about James 1:27 (Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.) and making room for one more.  Although we already had 3 feline friends in our home, Mike, the rational one, said "let's take him home." 

He was only 3 weeks old and not old enough to be away from his mother, so we bottle fed him for a couple of weeks.  He spent most of his days those first few weeks living in a pack and play in my bedroom.  The twins, who had only been with us less than a year, adored this cat.  They helped take care of him and it was very therapeutic for teaching them empathy.  Brutus was a very special cat.  He let the girls do whatever they wanted with him.  He truly thought he was a human infant.  At that time I was doing in home daycare so Brutus would sleep in the bouncy seat or the swing, and hop up in the high chair for snack time.  He would let the girls push him around in their little shopping cart or the baby doll stroller.

He also loved going outside.  I have always had only indoor cats, but this cat would literally BOLT out the door whenever someone even opened it a crack.  For months we would all chase him, catch him and bring him inside.  Eventually though we realized that he would always come back and paw at the door when he wanted in.  So we let him have his outdoor adventures.

One day this past summer Brutus went out for his daily playtime.  We were all outside playing, I picked him up, snuggled him a little and let him back down to play.  He would follow the kids around outside and play with them.  We were out in the front yard when I heard Caroline scream a scream I had never heard before, and to this day it is burned into my memory.  He ran out into the street and was hit by a car, right in front of Caroline.  If that hadn't been bad enough, she went into the street...picked up his body...and carried up to the house screaming.  He was gone.  She had his blood all over her.  I took him from her and set him down in the grass.  I got her inside, washed her up and the three of us sat on the laundry room floor for an hour and cried.  I held them and just kept saying how sorry I was that this had happened to them.  I had lost my fair share of pets over my lifetime, but NEVER like this.

This cat was Caroline's best friend.  She was traumatized.  When we went to see her counselor she said that it was not developmentally appropriate for her to be able to go and pick him up like that.  Most adults (including myself) couldn't even have done that.  She said that just shows how much trauma she has already experienced in her little life.

I kept asking myself, why would God have this happen?  Why her? What were we to learn from this? Hadn't she been through enough?  From talking with both of the twins about their experiences in Ethiopia, it was apparent that she bore the brunt of the abuse in the orphanage, so why traumatize her all over again? To make it 10 times worse, she was convinced that his death was her fault, and I understood as I was feeling the same way.  Why didn't I put him inside when I was holding him?  It broke my heart.

Then someone from church pointed out to me that now she can experience trauma in a manner that is safe and healthy.  She can experience being surrounded by loving and supportive people who will help her heal from this.  This time she can learn how to cope.  So, we coped, as best we knew how.

She was a wreck for a couple of months.  We went to counseling, had visits from therapy dogs and adjusted her meds, all seemed to help.  We hadn't had any issues until...we got out the Christmas decorations.  There was Brutus' stocking.  That old wound broke wide open.  Being an internalizer I had no idea how much it was affecting her and how much she was still beating herself up over it.

I now realized that just because I have healed from the loss of Brutus, she had not.  We will need to keep revisiting this issue over and over again.  I won't always be able to predict what's going to trigger this trauma.  We have had a couple of nights since then where I have just held her as she sobs about her kitty.  We pray, hard.  I ask that God wrap His arms around this child and let her feel His peace.  I ask Him to help her trust His plans for her, especially when they don't make sense.  I ask Him to give Mike and me the patience and compassion to get her through this.

I have been fortunate enough in my privileged life not to have experienced anything even remotely like what this little child has been through already at the age of 7.  I have learned so much about trauma.  It's a tricky thing.  I don't know what will trigger it or when. I don't know if her heart will ever fully heal from these wounds.  All I know is that she hurts and there's not a whole lot I can do about it except love her and hope that's enough.
Friday, December 13, 2013

How's Everything Going?

"How's everything going?"

This is the question I hear every day from all of the wonderful people in our lives.  I don't quite know how to answer them because the answer, quite frankly, is out of my comfort zone...it's going AMAZINGLY WELL!  It's odd really.  Although I think any situation, when compared to our twins' transitions, would seem easy.  She speaks English, she is socialized, she uses her words, she is potty trained, heck she even puts her dishes in the sink without even being asked.  In the words of Big Bird, one of these things is not like the others!

It's as if she has always been here.  She loves her new sisters, and yet she annoys the heck out of them at times.  The twins adore her and have really grown up over the past month, stepping up to the plate of being big sisters.  Today in the car we had the following conversation:

Celia: "Mommy, are you weird?"

Me: "You betcha!"
Celia: "Is my dad weird?"
Me, Charlotte & Caroline: "YES!"
Celia: "Are my sisters weird?"
All of us: "Yep!"
Celia: "Am I weird?"
Caroline: "Not yet, but don't worry, you will be if you're in our family!

So yes, as hard as it is to imagine, things are going very well!  The only way it makes sense is that God knew I couldn't handle anything too stressful right now and He is taking it easy on me this time around.  Now, if He could only help me keep up with the laundry we'd be in business!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Secondary Blessing...Josh

So by now you are all familiar with the insane blessing we have received in the last 2 weeks in our new daughter Celia.  What you may not have heard about is the secondary blessing that has come from our family listening to God, and his name is Josh.

This journey all began when Mike and I saw Josh's picture on a Facebook page of an adoption agency that specialized in resolving adoption disruptions.  I found their page about a year ago and have been following all of their posts since then of children who were looking for a new placement.  Josh's picture came across my computer on Sept. 10th, 2013.  He was 5 years old, Ethiopian, and his family was choosing to disrupt his adoption.  I looked at Mike and said "Well, we say that this is what we are looking for.  It's literally in our laps, so what are we going to do about it?".  I emailed his social worker that night to get more information.  We emailed back and forth a few times and I got more information with each message.  We were ready to begin our homestudy and move forward with pursuing him...until I suddenly got a feeling in the pit of my stomach that he wasn't our son.

I felt so guilty about feeling this way.  If we didn't move forward with him, then who would?  He had some issues that we had dealt with before, we could handle this, but it would scare off most (sane) people.

 I decided to share his story on our regional FB page for families with Ethiopian children in the hopes that I could maybe help find him a family (I knew this was a LONG SHOT).  Within hours of me posting this I got a call from my friend Jamie.  "Tell me about disruptions." she said.  She had experience in international adoption and parenting kids from hard places, but not in disruption.  We talked for a very long time.  As it turned out, Jamie and her husband had already began the process for adopting a child internationally through the VERY SAME AGENCY that was handling Josh's case!!  GOD IS GOOD!!  This meant they had already paid their agency fees and already had a homestudy completed with them!

They moved forward with his adoption and put their plans of adopting internationally on hold for the time being.  They brought Josh home the same week we brought Celia home!  We even had out first social worker visit through the courts on the same night!

Josh is the one with his tongue sticking out ;)

Our family prayed hard for this little guy, every night.  I know now why I had that feeling in my gut.  He wasn't my son...he was Jamie's.  My favorite part of this story (selfishly) is that our family will now be able to get to know this boy, we will be at the same Christmas parties, the same summer picnic year after year.

I am honored at how God used allowed our family to play a small role in their family's story.

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