Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meditations at 5:00am

One of the crappiest things right now is having this vibrant, beautiful little boy, and lacking sufficient history with him to know how best to soothe him, calm him, anticipate his needs, head off his tantrums, and help him feel better. It just sucks.

My daughter wasn't in a good situation. She has been very slow to warm up to all these changes, but she is definitely warming up. Watching her soak in her new reality that she won't ever be hungry again, that someone will actually respond when she cries, that she can get all the snuggles she wants...Every day we get more smiles, more giggles, a little more of her personality peeking through. We visited her orphanage a couple of days after taking custody of her, and even with only two days, when the aunties passed her around to say hello, she was clambering to get back in my arms.

My son was in a very good orphanage. All of his growth reports note that he was a favorite of all the caregivers there. He is a naturally outgoing, good-natured little boy. He was prepared well for the adoption. He came straight to me, put his arms around me and called me momma, and walked off into the sunset.

It took a couple of days before the first reality check. He went to bed in the hotel room and shortly after I glanced over to see him shaking with silent sobs, tears rolling down his cheeks. That became something of a pattern. He can go a few days, living in each moment and totally enjoying things, but then all the newness wears off and he just cries. This is greatly complicated by the language barrier. We can't explain and reassure, and so sometimes he has big, ginormous meltdowns over simple things--because, in his world, even simple things can be huge. In China he sometimes screamed if we had to get in a car. He absolutely refused, if I didn't get in first, to assure him that I would be with him in the car. I couldn't blame him for freaking out--the last time he got in a car, they took him to a civil affairs office and left him with me. His whole world turned upside down. From his perspective, getting in cars is the scariest, most dangerous thing in the world.

He seems to really enjoy this new "family" thing he's got. He LOVES following his siblings around everywhere, especially Grace. He gives Annie little kisses, and shares food with her (the true way to Annie's heart). He plays with the neighbors, loves the sandbox, is learning his alphabet, shapes, and colors with the nanny, and tries to give Barney hugs through the TV. He's almost always happy. But sometimes he grieves. Unlike Annie, he did leave people he loved, and people who loved him back. He had a place there. He knew who he was there. I am told that he is exceptionally verbal in the dialect of his region. It seemed clear that he is used to being able to communicate readily with people. Now he's stuck in a new place where no one understands him and he can't understand us. For a bright, social little boy like him, it must feel like a special part of hell sometimes.

I don't know him well enough yet to know when to hold him and when to leave him alone. I don't know when to ignore tantrums and when to listen for a deeper need beneath the tantrum. And even if I can discern the deeper need, I don't always know how to meet it.

He had a rough night. At 5:00am I finally took him out of his crib so that he wouldn't wake everyone else. He fussed and moaned and whimpered for over an hour. I finally noticed that he kept holding one side of his face, and together with earlier observations that he was chewing hard on things, deduced that he might have molars coming in. I gave him some ibuprofen and rocked him, wishing that I could take some of the hard away for him, that I could carry some of the load he's bearing right now on this little four-year old shoulders. Sometimes he would relax into me and calm down, but within a few minutes he'd remember and tense back up, and the tears would start again.

It just hurt that I couldn't do anything, that I couldn't wave a magic wand and show him that it's safe to let Mommy hold him & snuggle him, that I can help if he will let me, that this new family he's liking so much is for real & forever, that I may not always be able to solve his problems but I will always try, that I understand how rough this is.

My 5:00am epiphany was that the 5:00am rocking chair sessions are the only magic wand. Over and over, one at a time, love starts to slowly trickle in. My earlier babies learned it as I got up and fed them, rocked them, changed them. Days and days of that, coupled with soft words, stroking hair and faces, holding them close, smiling eyes--these are the ways that babies learn to trust. Jack is just getting started.

Don't get me wrong--I'm really tired. I'm hoping we don't have a lot of these 5:00am sessions coming up. But along with my prayers for Jack this morning, I was also praying prayers of gratitude to be back in the sacred ground of 5:00am magic.


Tiauna Elise Noble said...

Sometimes it is so very hard to be grateful for those 5ams. I know, today was one of those days for us. However, we as parents aren't alwAys as patient and understanding. I was very frustrated today but, in those tender moments, even for just a minute, they were worth all the joy that minute brought!

KerryLynn said...

You have such a beautiful way with words Wendy. Once again you have brought a distant memory to the front of my mind. On a more practical note. we went thru the same thing trying to help our son learn about feelings. One of the more helpful things was a chart of several stick figure faces showing emotions. at first he always pointed to the sad crying face,when we asked how he was feeling. but as we worked with him he learned the difference between sad and mad...mad and frustrated..or lonely..he was able to communicate thru the pictures. And now he is the most feeling in the family..if I am hurting for any reason he always recognizes it even before hubby and asks what is the matter. :)I will see if I can find a chart like it. he even had a t-shirt from our therapist with the faces on it

Anonymous said...

My sister was adopted from Korea at age 4 and her grief was intense- she remembers it- and so do I. Recently I asked her what was so hard exactly and she said it was her inability to communicate- she couldn't express herself, talk about her worries, couldn't ask questions, find out what would be happening- nothing. And she said people acted as though she should be able to understand them! At age 4 children are chatterboxes; I can only imagine how hard it must be to take away language- especially with so much change happening in their lives! Anyway, she pointed out that it shouldn't be such a barrier now in the age of technology. There are many apps geared especially for children to communicate and understand using pictures. I encourage you to look into them to help your little guy adjust and process so many changes in his life- and communicate with his new family.