You’ll have moments when you’ll question your sanity! You’ll wonder if you’re cut out for this! You’ll cry! You’ll be tired! For me, though, I’ve never regretted it! Even in the midst of our “troubles,” even when I was locked in the bathroom crying while she was having a major tantrum, I only had superficial thoughts of “what am I doing?”
Somehow, I knew we’d get through it and get to a good phase. Although I’ll admit, I did get nervous as to how long that was going to take. You’re a solid thinker. You do your research. You think about things very carefully. Once you’ve decided, you’ll have concerns, you’ll have doubts, but I don’t think you’ll ever regret it.
What can I ask for in a prospective child?
One of the most amazing things about adoption is that you can ask for what you want! No one talks about that. Maybe because we somehow think that’s inappropriate. With birth children, we can’t select their gender, or their interests, or their abilities, or their looks. But with adoptive children, we can! And with older children, we can learn quite a bit about their health, abilities, interests, etc.
Certainly, there are no guarantees. Seemingly healthy children turn out to be FAS, well-adjusted children have streaks of violence, and quiet children turn out to be ADD. But still, to think we can ask; It amazes me. I told my caseworker, “If I could select my perfect child, I would want 1) healthy, 2) smart, 3) coordinated, 4) sweet. I got it! (Even if the “sweet” comes packaged next to “strong-willed!”)
I looked up at God recently and laughed, “You do have a sense of humor!” I was so worried about Hannah being smart! Now I’m concerned about learning to parent an “exceptional” child! When I was in Russia, the grandmother in my homestay family was a retired pediatrician.
After we had been in their home for two days, she said to me, “You have an exceptional child here. I’ve dealt with thousands of children in my practice, and she is very extraordinary.” I thought she was being nice. I now humbly acknowledge that I’m blessed with a fantastic child.
What will it be like when I first meet my child?
We had a wonderful first meeting! Everyone does not. I was prepared to say hello, sit quietly and play with her, and hopefully be able to hug her goodbye at the end of the first visit. When I arrived, she leaped into my arms and never stopped leaning on me or holding my neck for the two hours I was there.
My translator, who works in tandem with his mother as the regional coordinator, said that he and his mother never had before in their practice seen an older child “take” so instantly to their new parent! From what I’ve heard, reactions from children might vary from fear, shyness, happiness, weariness, confusion, and excitement.
Of course, age has a lot to do with what happens. Expect nothing, and you’ll be fine. Most of the time, the comfort level and affection have to develop slowly.
What will it feel like when I first get home with my child?
Exciting. Unbelievable. Surreal. Comfortable. For me, it felt like she had always been part of my life. It’s hard to explain, but once she was home, I didn’t specifically think of “before” and “after.” She was just here. The first day was like being inside a helium balloon.
Everything felt soft and happy. We went for a walk, blew bubbles (the ones you sent!), went to the grocery store, and went to the school playground. I’ll never forget how she climbed to the top (she instantly impressed me with her agility and strength) of one climbing apparatus, let go with her hands, spread out her arms, raised her chin, and began heartily singing a Russian folk song!
What will it feel like during the first few months?
Hell! I had a very rough time, as you know. Hannah’s meltdowns occurred from two-six times per week and lasted from one – five hours long. They were not tantrums. They were a state of complete out-of-control. One day it could be triggered by tiredness. The next, it could be not wanting to get up in the morning. The day after, it could be because I told her to brush her teeth.
Many times, it was over bedtime. Her actions included hitting, kicking, biting, screaming, and spitting. In addition, to my bruises, bites, and cuts, the walls were scratched, doors were scrapped, and the banister was broken.
I tried all of the following–timeouts, removal of privileges, holding and rocking, putting her in her room, taking all of her toys out of her room. Putting her in the car for school in her pajamas (she got dressed very quickly in the car!), ignoring her, complimenting the correct behavior, point system, behavior chart, massage, specific directions as to my expectations, long transition times, and active ignoring. We talked a lot about how to control emotions, using words, not body, and making the right choices.
The most effective tool, in the end, was the writing and strict adherence to “house rules.” This was my effort to get control over the most violent and abusive behavior. “No hitting. No kicking. No biting. No spitting. No yelling.” Breaking of these meant instant timeout. Getting her into a timeout, and keeping her in the timeout, however, took months.
I must add–importantly–that even through the horrible months, we had fun, she was affectionate, and we laughed a lot. That’s what sustained me. Five and a half months after she got here, the meltdowns ended. Several weeks after the meltdowns ended, we were in church, and the lay leader asked some of the children, “What have your parents taught you?” Hannah instantly leaned over and said, “Mama, you’ve taught me to control my emotions.”
What will it feel like after a year?
Anecdotal information indicates that the traumatic adjustment period, in many instances, ends after six months. Indeed, some children exhibit none of the behavior that Hannah did. Others display much worse. For me, though, now at the 20-month mark, I’m in heaven! I can’t stop smiling!
We are the perfect fit. Sometimes she says to me, “Mama, why are you staring at me?” She now knows that I’m going to say, “Because I can’t believe you’re my daughter! I love you so much!” Every time I say it, her face lights up, and she gives me a big hug and a kiss.
What is the hardest part?
How much sleep should she get? Is she in the right school? Will I have enough money so that we can go back to Russia one day? Am I exposing her to too many new things? Do I like her playing with the girl across the street? Am I spending enough time with her?
How can I help her in regards to leaving her birth brothers in Russia? Will she ever come to peace about her birth mom? Does she need a sibling? Even though these questions and uncertainties run through my mind, I’ll admit I don’t dwell on them. We now seem to have developed a rhythm to our lives, and these questions seem to be part of the flow.
What is the best part?
I think its when she runs upstairs in the morning, beams at me, says, “good morning, mama,” and crawls into bed to hug me! Or maybe it’s when she asks me a very profound question like, “why do families love each other?” or perhaps it’s when we sing funny songs with pretend words. Lately, it’s been as we walk to the mailbox or into the grocery store together. She leans very close to me, reaches up and puts her arm around my waist, and smiles to herself.
I’m a better person because Hannah is in my life. I hope if you decide to do this that you’ll be even a smidgen as happy as me! Because then your life will have changed for the better, and you’ll be stunned by how dominant this new role of ‘mother’ can be. You’re in my thoughts and prayers, dear friend, as you make your decision.
Here’s a very successful adoption story of Polina.