Welcome to the first My Mountain guest post of 2018. This series has been one of my favourite parts of the blog for the last couple of years and I’m looking forward to bringing you even more parenting stories from more fabulous guest bloggers this year. Today we have Paola from The Elephant Mum.
The first time I heard the word “trauma” was several weeks after our adopted son had been place with us. I wasn’t new to parenting, having a toddler daughter already. However, this time felt different. Harder. Terribly harder.
We did not receive any training as adoptive parent. We underwent a strict scrutiny which lasted almost two years, but no preparation was required nor encouraged. We expected that our child would feel scared and would need time to attach, but that was it.
Fast-forward right after the trip to India to meet my toddler son, I’m home with a child who does not settle. He cannot stay put, he cannot sit down. My face is full of scratches, as he keeps pinching and hurting me all day long. He cannot fully control his grip and he’s so overwhelmed by emotions that his arms go their own way. All the strategies which had worked with our girl were rubbish with him. He would not listen, he would challenge me all the time. Every single daily action I had to carry out with or for him was torture. He would run off without warning or throw himself down from any height.
I felt depressed and had no hormones to blame this time. Later I would discover post-adoption depression is more common than PND, but back then I felt only inadequate. When you adopt a child, it doesn’t just happen. You consciously decide to adopt and you choose that particular child. When I was struggling to parent my son, a voice inside my head kept repeating he deserved a better mother. I had been selfish to think I could handle all this, and now he had lost his chance to have good parents. Love wasn’t an issue. When I held him for the first time, I felt the same blind affection I had for my newborn daughter. The first hard lesson my adopted son taught me was that loving your child is different from liking your child.
My son needed me at my best. I was the primary carer back then and my daily actions had a great impact on his ability to adapt to his new life and attach to his new family. I started reading every book I could get my hands on and looking for a supportive community, and a whole new world opened to me. I realised my son was just expressing his needs and I wasn’t able to listen. I found out about trauma and how it affects child neurological development, attachment, and emotional intelligence. I wasn’t the mother he needed, but I was more than determined to become it. We embarked in a journey together and we were lucky to see small positive results right away. It gave my husband and me the energy we needed to continue the major changes in our approach.
Almost one year after placement, I have changed so much as a parent and as a person. I realised I was mostly aiming for my kids’ compliance and not for meeting their needs. This was the second harsh lesson I received from my adopted son. He taught me to listen to his actions and find the real reason behind them. We spent more quality time together and we learned to like each other. I know more challenges are yet to come. However, as any hard journey, this one gave the whole family new strength and a sense of trust that there is nothing we cannot face together. I am proud of myself for reacting fast to the difficulties and above all I am proud of my son, for finding the courage to trust his new family and learning to love us.
Paola is a mother of two living in the capital area of Finland. She likes to write about adoption, multicultural families, bilingualism, and much more of the parenting world. Read more here or follow these links to chat to Paola on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter.
Do you have a parenting struggle or challenge you’d like to write about? If you’re interested in contributing to the My Mountain series please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.