Saturday, November 20, 2010

I love my adopted child differently

Yes, I admit it.
I love my adopted children "differently."  
I do.  
I can't help it.  

They didn't "come from" my body.  
We do not share the same DNA.  
Or the same skin tone or the same hair color.   

In the adoption community, these are not things we try to ignore.
Overlook or down play.
We are "different" from each other.
My children and I,
And these things need to be acknowledged.

Last month, I went away to NYC with my mom and some dear family friends.
It was a much-needed, rejuvenating "break" from my life and responsibilities.
It also just happened to be the first time I had been away from the boys.
Or more importantly, the first time they had been without their Mommy.
Later that same week, our other dear friends left for China to bring home their son, Zak.

In the last 5 - 6 weeks since these two "trigger" events occurred, 
Austin and Logan have been "acting out" their worries and concerns.
Yes, a lot of it is typical 4-year-old worries.
But in our family – “typical” is always laced over with
“adoption” issues and on top of that, “twin” issues.

Case in point:
On the way to a preschool singing performance, Austin and Logan were talking about all of the kids in their class.
Hearing the usual very Middle Eastern-sounding names, I was hoping to readdress Logan’s earlier concern from that morning, that his skin was “different.”
“Logan, don’t a lot of kids in your class have brown skin like you?”
Before he could answer, Austin quickly and with great shock cuts into the conversation,
“What!?!  I’ve got BROWN skin?”
(Logan thought this was hysterical!) 
And while Austin moved on from this newsflash with no additional questions,
I was reminded again to make sure that I address the boys’ concerns separately as they EACH reach them.

Anyway, while the boys have been going through this little spell of uncertainty and unease.
They have done a lot of regressing – going back to being little "babies."
They want to be held and rocked and they practice taking their first steps
...and falling...and having Mommy/Daddy and Nonnie pick them back up.
Which is actually pretty smart when you think about it.
They are going back in time to the moment(s) when they were the most vulnerable.
When their needs were not being met.
And at a time, when, for them, their little hearts were getting “broken.”
Lucky for us, this time we get to be there for them and reassure and nurture them.
But it is also very scary, very worrisome.
The term "attachment issue" FREAKS me out!
Especially after years of infertility,
It's hard not to go down that path of rejection and fear -
"My child is not attached to me!'

Despite being very outgoing, fun-loving, like to play 24 hours a day little boys,
Austin and Logan have not wanted to "go anywhere"
When they are dropped off at school or at a playland area,
they scream and scream and cling and beg me not to leave them.
Insert another twin issue here, when ONE child sounds the alarm,
the other child does not wait to access the situation and make his own determination.
He simply hits his own panic button, trusting the fact that
if brother is scared, there’s probably a pretty good reason for me to be scared, too.

At first, I thought their behavior was mostly Mommy-separation issues. 
And for Austin, I think it mostly was. 
But then I started noticing all the focus and attention Logan was putting on Baby Zak and the adoption.
And Logan really, really started loosing his mind when it came time to be "separated" from Mommy or Daddy or Nonnie.
You could see and feel the fear that riveted through his body. 

For Logan.  For an adopted child. They don't have that same "right" to their mommy. 
That "I came from you" type of security that non-adopted children have. 
Deep within Logan's growth and development, his mind, his body knows
that at any given moment
anything and everything
 familiar to him
No, he doesn't have real "memories" of these "clearing house" events.
But his mind.  His heart.  His body.

Logan describes the fear as "There are monsters in my belly, Mommy."
That anxiety, that nervousness that starts to work its way up through him on the ride to school in the mornings. 
He doesn't know why and he can't explain it. 
And I use every "mommy phrase" in my arsenal to try and help him and walk him through this.

But my heart breaks.
Watching his heart hurt.
Knowing the pain that he suffers,
That he doesn’t have a sense of “belonging” to me.
He tells me he just wants his WHOLE family
(Mason, Lory, Evan, Amanda, Mommy, Daddy and Austin)
With him.  In the house.

Logan looked at the adoption of Zak like this,
“That little boy was adopted like ME. 
That little boy is coming FROM somewhere. 
Who’s to say
Someone can’t swoop in
And adopt me again
(read: take me AWAY from somewhere…this time that “somewhere” being HERE.)

Last week, it got to be too much. 
Austin had recovered for the most part. But Logan was getting worse. 
Like I said, I could "see" the fear in him. 
And I couldn't do it anymore.
This child who has had everything taken from him 3 times in his first 13 months of life
 (first 3 weeks in the hospital, alone or maybe not, and then through two different foster families)
was not going to have to go through any more anxiety and pain.
I pulled him from school.  He came to work with me.  He went to Nonnie's. 
We made sure he felt safe. 
We made sure he felt like he was in charge
and that we were gong to move forward on his word.

I see a lot of posts on facebook about
“giving birth to a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body."
And I think loving an adopted child is like that, too
but also
it's like having to watch their little hearts walk around outside of their bodies. 

That little invisible thread that connects us isn’t the same.
It’s different.
Security is not a given.
It must be earned.
It must be built. 
And then, Reiterated.
And Reestablished.
Over and over and over again.

I could really associate to Logan’s pain because also last week,
there was a little newsstory going around about a court case
where it was to be determined if a little 4 year old boy
was going to stay with his adopted parents
or be returned to be raised by his birthmother.
Now, there are many, many circumstances involved in this case, but still
the core
the reality
the fear
that because my child did not COME FROM my body,
he could be TAKEN FROM me
The depth
of the pain
is immobilizing.

When Logan flung his arms around me
And his body was convulsing with fear. 
I listened.
I scooped him up.
I held on.
And I didn’t let go.

Daddy, Nonnie and I have all very quietly reassured him.
Loved him.
Let him take life at his own pace.

Eventually, I would drop Austin off at school.
And Logan’s “monsters” didn’t act up.
Little by little,
His security
His faith

And this morning
He went to school.

And I bawled.
Such a big, brave little boy
To overcome an innate fear.
To put himself out there
Despite that life has shown him several times now that things can be taken away and can change in a blink.
He still chose to live
To laugh
To play.

With one little step.
One little step,
He is CHOOSING to step away from the fear.
He chooses to embrace life
He feels safe enough
Secure enough
To walk away from me
To trust that I and his whole family will be there waiting for him.

Do I love my adopted child differently?
I didn’t spend the next five minutes bawling in my car just because
 my child went to school
I bawled
with relief
That for now, we had done a “good enough” job reassuring him
I bawled, swelling up with pride
Because at that moment I had never seen a bigger, stronger or fiercer HERO!

Being an adoptive parent, you don’t try and dodge a bullet
The bullets are coming
It’s a part of the program.
We don't try to be "normal"
To glaze over the issues
And pretend that being adopted isn't different.
It is different.
And so, my love is different.
My love is fierce. 
And each time my child's little heart
is raw and exposed
I will stop the world.
And quietly quelch the demons that are attacking him.
I will make sure I am giving him the tools that he needs in life
to make that invinsible thread stronger.


Once there were two women who never knew each other
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother
Two different lives shaped to make you one
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun
The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name
One gave you a talent, the other gave you aim
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried you tears
One made an adoption plan, that was all that she could do
The other prayed for a child, and God led her straight to you.
Now, which of these two women, Are you the product of?
Both, my darling, Both, Just two different types of love.

---- Unknown


Kjbikakis said...

Reading this post broke my heart! I hope that Mr.Logan is doing better! I feel bad for the poor guy to have to go through that. I would never wish upon anyone to go through that, and for anyone that does, i hope they get the love and support they need just like Logan did. Logan is most defiantly a hero. Reading this, and thinking the stuff that i found hard when i was that age, doesn't even begin to measure up with Logan went through. They're both in my prayers ever day and give both boys a big hug for me!
I love reading about them (:

Melinda said...

I have tears in my eyes as I read this because what you described in Logan I also see in Crita at times. Fear, uncertainty. Needing to be reassured time and time again. Its just not fair. It breaks my heart. For Crista, for Logan, and all the other sweet adopted babies. And to be honest, I gained a whole new perspective on Crista's adoption and loss after experiencing pregnancy and infancy with Addie. Crista doesn't know {yet} what she missed out on, that immediate, overwhelmingly strong bond with Mama, the security of having her next need met. But one day she'll have a fuller understanding and it'll be our job to pray and love her through. I can't even imagine my life without Crista but in a perfect world there would be no need for adoption and these precious ones would have no lingering scars to bear. Thank you for sharing the not-so-fun side of adoption. Its good to know we're not the only family with these fears, questions, and triumphs!

Sending hugs your way!!

ps-I LOVE how Logan was so surprised that he is brown :-) I wish we all could be that blissfully color-blind!

Anne said...

Oh my dear friend. I have unshed tears in my eyes for you and your sweet boy. I'm so sorry Logan had to face all of that uncertainty. It is so sad to see them process what it means to be adopted. Luke keeps asking me if he grew in my tummy like Aunt Patty's baby did. I hate the questions in his eyes when I say no baby you grew in Guatemala until mommy and daddy came to get you. I'm glad I'm walking this adoption journey with you and some other amazing women.

Steph said...

Such a beautifully written post, straight from your heart (and I learn so much about adoption from you). He is such a sweet little hero and you are his hero as well. I pray that things continue to improve for him.

Tracey said...

You are my hero mom...I can't even begin to say how sad we are that Logan is going through this and that we unfortunately play a part in it.
It truly breaks my heart. He is such a brave brave smart boy that is wisdom beyond his years and he will lead the way for our three other brave boys who will someday have to process this same fear and saddened our hearts once again. I will certainly be reading and rereading this post when that time comes around here. We love you all so very very much and hope we all walk through this time and beyond with stronger love and faith. Thank you so much for putting it in these beautiful words.

Donna said...

Tracey - Logan ADORES Zak! And we knew, if someone in the group had to be a trail blazer, it would be Logan! ;-) Logan is indeed, wise beyond his years and now you and I are so much more the wiser, too and ready to walk our next three through it! Love ya lady! Can't wait for tomorrow's playdate!

Steph said...

I am trying to type through tears! You are such a wonderful mama and Logan is one very special, brave, and strong little boy. It is amazing what we learn from our children.

The adoption "issues" seem to ebb and flow and pop up when we least expect it. I have been thinking a lot about this, too, and wondering how our 2nd adoption will affect Eli. We were reading an adoption book the other night and he asked me "Why are people adopted?" And, then he said "I don't want to be adopted again." OH! My heart just ached wondering what he meant by that...abandonment, being taken away again, etc.

Once again, I get to see my future through you! You are the trailblazer. Thank you, thank you for sharing this and being "real."

Bobbi said...

Poor Logan! I can say that you handled that perfect!! Hw great that you reassured him, let him feel safe ad secure. Our children are "different" and that is never going to change. Makes me sad. Everytime they fill out a medical sheet, or a school project, etc. they will be reminded that they are "different" I worry so much about this, and know that I can't always prevent the "monsters in the belly" that will come up. But, I hope that I can be there in a way that you are for your boys.
I have been blessed with biological children as well. Yes, I do love Rees differently, as I love my girls differently. However, I feel that with Reese I feel it is a privalege to be his mother. One that I don't like to take forgranted. I don't do it perfect, but I do feel honored to be his mother.
This is one of many hurdles, and I am so glad we are in this together.

Hannah said...

I love you even more now :)

I seriously, seriously do.

I'd type more and tell you how this fits my life to a T but I am just know I love you.

Deb said...

Donna, you have such a way with your words, with your thoughts and your heart. You have so many blessings and I thank you for sharing your family with me! It sure is hard to see your childen hurt ~ YOUR children! Love you!

ManyBlessings said...

"I see a lot of posts on facebook about
“giving birth to a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body."
And I think loving an adopted child is like that, too
but also
it's like having to watch their little hearts walk around outside of their bodies." THIS. EXACTLY.

May I please, please repost this on my blog giving you all the credit? You said what needed to be said so well. THIS is what I need people to understand.


Carey said...

Donna...I read this awesome, truth-telling inspiring post on Dawn's blog...A Life Outside the Box. I am a writer on the blog of Katelyn's Fund ( With your permission I'd love to post it there as encouragement and teaching to many adoptive families. Please email me at borch @ premieronline dot net.

Thank you so much for posting. As an adoptive mom as well, my heartstrings were pulled over and over as I read it!

Stacie said...

I just read your post and the tears are flowing down. We have two adopted children and I've been looking for a way to help explain to my family what they are going through and why it's so different than my bio or my sisters' bio kids. Thank you for these words. I am asking if you mind if I post them on my blog, with credit to you, and link back to yours so my family can read this?
Please email me at tsfberg@yourstarnet(dot)net
Thank you,

Paakharu said...

when i first read the line, "I love my adopted child differently' I started reading, hoping to be angry and indignant, writing you a stinker and reminding you of equality and some such! but after reading the article, I too bawled with relief and pride ... for a mother who will do things differnetly, if that's what her child needs! i could not relate to the 'differntness' since i don't have any biological children. but as a single woman, i recently adopted a baby boy. in the one eek that he has been with me, i am fiercely protective of him, cry at the mere thought of having to go and work soon enough, dread him not loving me, and want to whack any one who asks me about his lineage! i cannot imagine motherhood being any different! i wonder if i am being too pigheaded ... but a friend says, "good mothers ususally are" THank-you for a good old fashioned cry!!! its so therapeutic! happy new year to you and lotsa love and prayers for logan and the rest of your pride ... they are lucky to have you!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have adopted three siblings. The oldest girl came into our care at 7 months and the brother/sister twins the day of their birth. The oldest is exactly 1 yr. older.

There is no love in the birth mother...she is damaged goods. The birth father loves them but can not take care of them.

This article is my only concern with my children. I do not want to see them hurt knowing we are different in appearance...but not much different personalities.