Thursday, April 9, 2015

Starting Over

Two years ago, I was opening my heart to the reality of my new daughter. By this time in 2013, we knew her name and had a single picture and were just two weeks away from being legal and forever family.

I was preparing as any expectant mother would: reading the books, getting her room and clothes and toys ready, packing and preparing for a trip overseas that I knew would change my life.

I opened my heart to love a perfect stranger, who had a past, a personality, a life I didn't know about.

May 15, 2013

This day changed my life. We welcomed Mali into our arms and family. She plopped into my lap as if she knew we were hers.

So when we came home we did all the right things: we stayed with her at bedtime, we tried not to ever leave her alone. We opened our hearts to this new little stranger.

But after what should have been a transition time where the beginning bonds of attachment started, where the gossamer strands of trust should have begun to bind us together, they blew away with the breeze. It didn't take long for us to realize that there was something seriously wrong, that I was clearly not equipped to handle. So we sought help, we learned the right words to say, we were encouraged how to love and care and support this one who was so obviously hurting from a very deep and fundamental place in her spirit.

Her wounds are deeper and more fundamental than we ever imagined. And for the past 22 months, life has been challenging.

I have been spit at, hit, kicked, head-butted, pinched, bit. I have had to hold my daughter to keep her safe from herself. I have had virulent ugly words spat at my face--her hurt and anger and fear poured out on the nearest, safest person she could find. Usually me, often Eric. Both of us.

So slowly, ever so slowly, after dark nights of regret and whispered prayers of desperation, I closed my heart off. I couldn't handle the manipulation, the abuse, the anger and then the desperate need. I had three other children who also have strong emotional needs. It was easier to love the ones who loved me back, who craved my touch, who wanted to spend time with me, who apologized for their ill-treatment, than it was to love the one who has openly hated me.

Summer 2014
Mt. Rushmore National Monument.
After an hour long tantrum--in public
To the place we are now where my soul is weary, where I am so weary all the time. My emotions are shot. I am empty and it takes more than a night out to restore me. I have second-guessed and doubted my abilities as a parent, a wife, a mother. I have chided myself for not being able to better deal with this life, faulting myself for every issue in our home. I feel old, care-worn, and heavy-burdened. I was beginning to resign myself to the simple fact that this was going to be my life and try to make the best of it.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I remember them well and my soul is downcast within me. 

But now, we've started making some headway for our sweet girl. New therapies seem to making a tremendous difference. I don't think she's had a serious tantrum in at least a week. Although I don't know this child in front of me, I think this is my only chance at starting over. She seems open to hear the messages of love, safety, family, and attachment. But now I need to learn to love her. To treat her with tenderness and devotion. To open my heart to her as when this was fresh and new and life was full of possibilities.

But with tears in my eyes, I tell you that I'm not sure I want to. I'm not sure I'm willing to open my heart up to this little one. I'm scared. I don't know that I can handle having my heart raked across the coals again. I don't know if I can.

As the person reading this, perhaps all this makes you uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable with the idea that love isn't natural or that a parent could close their heart. Maybe you hear blame--that I am blaming my daughter for all these things, which I am not. I am one who has made mistakes, yelled too loudly, disciplined unfairly, put an undue burden on a child unable to bear it. Maybe you just don't like knowing how messy and broken I am, my daughter is, my whole family is.

So why am I telling you? Why am I putting this deep pain on display? I know that I am opening myself and our family up for judgment, just talking about this is in a public forum is frowned upon. Someday my kids will probably read this and have their own questions and a few accusations.

Because I need to believe that redemption is coming and I want to remember where we've come from.
Because I know that I am not alone. Sitting on their own couches, holding back tears, other mothers and fathers, struggle with similar pain.
Because I am tired of not having people understand, of people doubting my exhaustion and experience.
Because I have to believe that I am capable of healing, that God is capable of healing me.

Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love, I am not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. 

So today is a day of starting over.
Tomorrow probably will be too.


Deb Tuitel said...

Oh how true and beautiful. I remember loving a young girl (who was eventually diagnosed with RAD) who would kick and scream if I told her I loved her. She would scream at me, "Don't love me!! Love hurts too much!!" And my heart would break a little. I remember holding her to protect her (and others) from herself. And it was hard to love her. But I was able to. Not the same thing, she wasn't my child; but I do understand some of the emotions.

We are all so different and our stories are all so different but we can understand and support each other if we open up. Thanks for being willing to be so honest.

Sarah said...

Your honesty is refreshing. Parenting a hurting child is hard, so hard. Thankful that the new therapies are promising and praying that God restores both your hearts.