When I adopted my daughter in 1992, my greatest wish was to bring joy and happiness into the life of a small child. Joy filled my heart as I traveled to meet her and I believed that, with love, anything is possible. Little did I know the pain and suffering that her little heart, body and soul had already suffered.
Six years later we have finally found the help my little girl needs to begin to deal with the neglect, abuse and sorrow she endured during those early years. How could one small child have so much anger that she would lash out and try to injure the one person in the world who loves her more than life itself? She displayed so much hostility toward me that I began to believe that I was not worthy of her love.
A “Good Mother”
I tried everything to prepare myself to be a “good mother”; my background as an educator had given me years of experience working with children. Before the adoption, I read parenting books including those addressing adoption issues. During the first six years, I read more books, consulted a medical doctor, a neurologist, a play therapist, and a psychologist. In 1995 the neurologist diagnosed her as “Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Combined,” and she began play therapy and a series of medications, some of which helped as least temporarily. However, they continually increased dosages and added new medications, as nothing had lasting effects.
I was becoming more convinced that it was not her problem, but mine. I felt that if I was a better mother, I could make her happier and she would not “hate” me. In 1997 the psychologist diagnosed her as “Reactive Attachment Disorder”; we spent three months in traditional therapy. I presumed I had an understanding of the problem, and I was convinced for a short time that she just needed to know how much I loved her. The more I loved her and the closer I tried to get to her, the more aggressive she became. I was often the recipient of emotional and violent outbursts; however, I now realize the anger that consumed her body was not her fault or mine.
Few people knew the anger that existed in our home or the pain we suffered physically and emotionally. Even fewer would have suspected that this little girl could not love me or anyone else. The neglect and abuse that my daughter suffered during her early years threatened to destroy not only her life, but mine.
Approximately six weeks ago I felt as if I had lost the battle of my life. I have been rowing up the river as hard and as fast as I could for six years, while my daughter has been rowing toward the falls with all of her strength. I had fought the current and her efforts to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. I found us going over the falls, there was no way out, and I could not see beyond the chasm that was to be our death.
Today my daughter laid in my lap, looked up at me and said “Mommy, I love you.” For the first time I truly believe she understands and means those words. Sure, we have work to do, and rough water to forge. However, we have made it over the falls and are paddling down the river it not in harmony, at least not in opposite directions.
At Niagara Falls,
At Niagara Falls, they tell of the miracle that saved a small child who plunged over the falls. I believe that a miracle has also touched my daughter and me. God sends us miracles when we need them the most, and He provides the agents by which those miracles are available. As I felt we had surely hit the bottom of the falls, the expertise of two professionals and a loving therapeutic foster home touched us. With their power my daughter has began a long road toward recovery, and I am learning how to parent a child with reactive attachment disorder.
One month ago we began intensive holding therapy. The path has been rough for both of us; there were times I was not sure if I could deal with the deepest pain of my child. The ear shattering cries and screams tore into my heart as I realized just how much pain she endured. Yet the reward of having the precious child I love lay in my lap and lovingly return a smile has convinced me that we are now on the right path. The strength of the professionals has given me the courage to continue and to look for the little things that show my daughter is making progress toward our goals. I have been empowered to take control of my home and know that we can both be safe. My goals for her seem very simple: I want her to be happy and healthy. How long that will take, I cannot guess. All I know is without the therapy; our family could not have survived the plunge over those devastating falls.