Adoption is hard.
That’s what we’ve learned so far. I truly believe that a call to adopt is a call to suffer with the orphan. It begins the moment you decide you’re doing it. The fear and insecurities jump all over you as you begin to doubt, second-guess, and pick apart your ability to parent. The paperwork is no walk in the park (although typically delegated to the more capable spouse). And due process often feels like swimming upstream. On top of all these things lies the emotional task of helping your family process something you’re not sure you’ve processed yourself yet.
Although the journey to adoption is remarkably difficult – we’ve certainly heard – and are experiencing first hand that life after the adoption has it’s own set of challenges as well. Strangely its as if adoption unlocks a new set of emotions you’ve never experienced before. Honestly, I never knew they existed.
This is when real life kicks in. When you’re back at your house and you have new little people living with you, and they’re yours. Reality.
So far the most difficult time for me has been Remy’s difficulty “attaching” to me (I’ve written on this in depth in prior posts). According to the psychiatrist at the orphanage, this is normal. She’s learned in her past that daddy’s are not “safe”. It will take some time for me to break that paradigm.
Although in the first week she decided she wanted nothing to do with me, a few days later we began to have some break-through moments. As I think back now, each at a time where she felt physically insecure. Once at the pool she magically decided (after rejecting me for a week) that she wanted daddy to be the one to hold her while she played in the water for about an hour. It was daddy she wanted to help her ride her bike the next day. And it was daddy whom she wanted to lift her up into the air to do cheerleader moves.
And it was daddy who bought her the pink bike, not the purple: “Ah yes, doddy… ‘dis one please, doddy. Pink. Ah no purple. Please doddy.” She affectionately held my hand skipping to the checkout line singing a made up little song about daddy.
Later that night (after an afternoon of “doddy push bicycle. Doddy again.”) We decided that I would attempt to do the bedtime routine alone. Everything went great until I was about to say goodnight and I decided to push the envelope, “Goodnight Remy Matawi… I love you.”
She looked at me and softly said, “Doddy….” Crinkled her nose, pointed to the door, “Goodbye”. She turned her head, plopped it on the pillow, and pulled the covers over her face. It was so close, yet so far away (At least she went to sleep).
I’m a bit proud of myself. I think in a good way. I’m thoroughly enjoying the special moments. And the not-so-special ones? The ones that don’t go my way? I’m learning not to take them too personally. I can get pretty insecure when I think someone doesn’t like me… so this is a good thing.
I’ve said this before, but I mean it more now than ever, when I look into her eyes I see hope. Hope of a restored life. Hope of healed heart. Hope of a future with a family who loves her. And hopes of Remy becoming a healthy, emotionally sound, mature young woman one day.
The other night when Jen was out of town, Remy was having a pretty rough time going to sleep. It was quite an evening. After trying every trick in the book, and out of desperation I asked if she wanted to lay down with Daddy. She nodded yes and took her place on the bed next to me (Yes!). I was scratching her back lightly trying to get her to settle down when she reached over with her little hand and started scratching mine. It was precious. No words were exchanged… I didn’t want to make a big deal about it… and make her think too much about what she was doing. just. avoid. eye. contact. After about 5 minutes she said, “Doddy… I love you”. Then she plopped her head the other direction, pulled the covers over her face, and fell asleep.
Something happened in that moment that has stuck. And we’re doing even better now. And while I’m selfishly happy for me about this moment, I’m even more happy for her that she is feeling a bit more safe with her “Doddy”. Ah yes, a huge step forward. The call to adopt is indeed a call to suffer with the orphan… in many ways. But so far – one moment like this – with the hope of many more – make it well worth it.