Toddler Adoption

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I've been reading a lot of blogs dedicated to adoption this month - I've really been too sick to do much else!  I've been enjoying the reading and getting to peek into the lives of others who have adopted, who are hoping to adopt and of Birth Moms who chose to place their children for adoption.  They are all beautiful stories. 

But there is something lacking.  There seems to be an unspoken agreement that adoptive bloggers will not speak of the trials and challenges of parenting.  Part of that may be a Mormon thing.  Mormons are taught that we shouldn't murmur and lots of the bloggers I've been reading are LDS.  (Be a Lark, Not a Starling!)  Part of it is also the fact that many of these families waited so long and encountered such adversity in becoming parents that they do not want to complain about the challenges associated with that which they desired so greatly for so long and now finally get to enjoy.  That's cool.  Most of these bloggers were placed with infants and I'm pretty sure that most  infant adoptions are about a billion times easier than most toddler adoptions.  

But there also seems to be an undercurrent of not speaking badly of Adoption or Foster Care because you don't want to sour the pot for anyone else or undermine public support for these processes.  Those of you who know me well know that I'm absolutely a Starling.  I murmur.  I'm not very big on denial.  Denial is unhealthy and sets you up for disappointment - it is beter to be prepared for the worst and able to truly celebrate the less-than-perfect reality you eventually find yourself in. 

I think that is very important for parents who adopt Toddlers.  We have a very dear friend whose sister's toddler adoption story ended in tragedy.   I do not want to get into details, in part to protect this sweet woman's identity.  Suffice it to say that the adoptive mom is now incarcerated.  Her dreams of motherhood and marriage all ended when PADS (Post Adoptive Depression Syndrome) took the life of one of her girls.  She had wanted them so badly, she loved them so much, but no one was clued in to the fact that she was struggling with a demon that she couldn't beat on her own until it was too late. 

Why would I want to talk about these negative things now, at the end of National Adoption Month?  

Because I believe that no one should ever walk into Adoption, especially Toddler Adoption believing that NOW life is going to be beautiful, NOW they are going to have everything they ever wanted, NOW they will finally be able to overcome all obstacles because NOW they are a parent.

Parenting, especially parenting an adopted toddler or older child, is going to present difficulties you have never before imagined.  Are you ready?

After we received the call about Maxx and before we went to meet K, his birth mom, I had a symbolic dream in which the early stages of Maxx's adoption were perfectly revealed to me.  I was instructed that I would be isolated in the middle of a storm of tornadoes, that my family and friends would be completely unable to help me, that I would be exposed to the torrents of life in their full fury and in great peril.  I was shown that I would be utterly brought to my knees in the emotional tumult of becoming Maxx's next mom.   It was made abundantly clear to me that the first few months of being Maxx's mom were going to be akin to Gethsemanie in my life.  Motherhood was to be my altar and I was going to be the sacrifice. 

There was a question implied in the dream - Was I willing to proceed?


We were already becoming concerned about Maxx's well being.  We knew a little about his birth mom's situation and the struggles she was having finding good child care.  We knew that time was of the essence, that our little boy needed stability NOW.  We were beginning to love him before we even knew his name or what he looked like.

Would I have been able to make it through those first several months without having been given that warning and consciously humbing myself and offering myself up on the altar of motherhood after that dream? 

No way.

Every time things became hard, every time I felt bitter about being placed with a toddler with an emotional history and fresh, raw greif instead of the relatively clean slate of an infant, every time I felt like mourning the loss of personal freedoms associated with being the mom of a smart, independent 12 year old or struggled with the identity crisis issues of being a new mom at 37, every time the PADS and PMS demons began shaking their cages in unison, I was reminded that the Lord had warned me of these things before I agreed to proceed.  I had made a commitment and I could not (would not) back out.  Maxx required my commitment.  His little life and his eternity were literally in my hands.

I could make you a laundry list of the challenges I've experienced since Maxx came to live with us - everything from being sicker in the last 3.5 years than I have been at any point in my life (thank you, snot rocket!) to trying to show affection for a child who sits like a slab of wood on your lap to trying to nourish a child who won't eat anything that is not composed of orange carbohydrates and refuses to let you put anything in his mouth.  Instead, I will list a few resources that helped me overcome or at least come to terms with those stuggles.

My husband and daughter.  In the early stages, we really couldn't leave Maxx with  anyone else or allow anyone else to hold him.  He was too insecure and needed to attach to us well.  As I've mentioned before, he bonded with MB right off.  Her willingness to help allowed me to breathe a little bit every day.  Bry was incredibly sensitive to my need for occasional solitude or at least a break from wiping the bottom and being sneezed on.

Prayer and Priesthood blessings.   I'm so grateful to know that I have a Heavenly Father who knows & loves me well and who knows how to turn my weaknesses into strengths.

Our friend whose sister experienced the above mentioned tragedy.  He and his family have been right there beside us, cheering us on, reminding me of the causes of some of Maxx's more dificult behaviors and reassuring me that I can do it. 

My dear friend Karen, who provided a shelter in the storm for her RAD nephew.  She has been to darker places than I have had to go and seeing her meet those challenges head on gave me courage on hard days.  I'm so lucky to have her as a cousin.

Our LDS Family Services worker who also has a child with attachment disorder.   He talked me down out of a few hysterical crises. 

My sisters, Adrienne and Molly, who also both have wild and crazy boys.  Sometimes behavior isn't all about attachment.  Often it is just about boy-ness.

The book Toddler Adoption.  If you plan to adopt a toddler or an older child, read it.  You would be irresponsible not to.

The forums over on  It was there that I received reassurance that my emotional reactions to becoming the adoptive mom to a toddler were normal.  A lot of good advice is shared on those forums, as well as references to good resources.  I'm sure that PADS would have been more dificult for me if it were not for the support community there.  Advice there, that could only have come from other adoptive parents, helped me break through the attachment barrier with Maxx. 

Now we're three and a half years in.  Would I change anything?  Well, I really do mourn the fact that I never got to hold my son as an infant and smell his soft newborn hair.  We don't even have photos of him as a little baby.  That is a little sad.   But somehow, I know that our difficult journey has been good for all of us in the long run.   K is moving onto a better life than the one she was pursuing when she became pegnant and married Maxx's birth father.  I have much more patience, determination and compassion than I ever would have developed without Maxx and Maxx - well, he is who he is because of his experiences with both of his families. 

We can't imagine life without him.


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