Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Why You Howg Me?"

The whole thing with the photos, that I wrote about the other day (Adoption Moments That Break Your Heart), has continued to plague Abby. She just couldn’t seem to get past the fact that I had Mackenzie with me when she was a baby.

I found her watching us quite often…especially when we hugged. I wandered what was going through her little mind. I think I feared that she looked at mine and Mackenzie’s relationship as something that was unattainable for her, that somehow she felt excluded.

I think we’re all familiar with the feeling…you join a new group and you see these amazing friendships that you long to be a part of, but somehow don’t think it’s possible because of the history they share. I don’t think Abby thought through all of that, but I do think that insecurity is something innate in us, or at least many of us…that desire to belong, yet feeling like we might never. I can only imagine how much greater it is in a child that has been through so much.

Well, Tuesday morning, I hugged Abby before she went to school. She backed up from me, sat down on the stool and said, “Mommy, why you howg (that’s how she says hug) me?”

How do I even begin to describe the emotions of that moment…desperately searching for the words to explain? “Abby, I hug you because you are my baby and I love you.” “But Abby not your baby, Abby a little girl…Mackenzie your baby.”

At that moment…I was speechless and God wasn’t providing me with any words…I had to trust that He meant for me to stay silent.

That night, she was tired and asked to go to bed early, so I had a little time with just her. And again her fears and insecurities were evident… “Mommy, Mackenzie your baby.” But this time, I had something to say, “Abby you’re right…Mackenzie came to me when she was a baby and you came to me when you were a little girl, but I love you both forever. You are my little girl.”

That brought a BIG smile… “Zack my big brother…Nick my big brother?” (She’s never referred to them as ‘my’ brother before) “Yes Abby, we are a forever family. I love you forever.” And with that, I got a BIG hug! And finally, she seemed at peace!

I guess Abby just needed the assurance that even though she didn’t join our family in the usual way, she was still just as much a part of our family…that she really did belong. And, I guess she just had to process through some pretty hard things to understand, in her own way and in her own time... healing is a hard process and there are no doubt some wounds that need to be healed in her heart.

I’ve read a lot to prepare for our adoption, but let me say, while books are great, it’s as much, if not more about preparing your heart as is it about preparing your head. Yes, I gained valuable insight into attachment, it made me very aware of things to watch for and it made me think very differently about parenting, but before all of those things could change my behavior, my heart needed to change.

The single greatest piece of advice about this process came from a child psychologist who knows a lot about attachment… He said, “Sharla, the Bible is a story of attachment. God is the master of attachment, look to Him and you’ll be fine.” And you know, he was right…I have learned, more than ever in my life, to depend on my Heavenly Father to give me what to say and how to say it, even when to say it.

I so wanted to fix it for Abby, to make it all better…but God knew that she needed to process this in her own heart…and then He gave me the words at just the right time. I hope this is a lesson I can take and apply in the rest of my life.

Sometimes I just want to barrel into a situation and say what I think needs to be said to fix a situation…to right a wrong…but I need to learn to pray and wait…to trust God to open doors and provide the opportunities (just like He did at bedtime) and then the words to go with the opportunity (just like He did at bedtime!)!

I am constantly amazed at what happens when I remember to live in humble dependence on Him!


April Isaacs said...

I know you don't believe I cry at almost everything you write, but I'm not a liar, Sharla. You can think about me, but I am not!!:-)

I am so glad precious little Abby is feeling more part of your family. I was just reading this morning and it was a great reminder that everything about us, over flows from our heart. I felt really convicted this morning and knew something was not right about my heart.

I too just want to fix things. Ok, so Emme's hole between her esophagus and stomach doesn't close. It will in time, but until then she needs to speech therapy and she needs her mouth desensitized. Ok, so let's get it done already. I hate waiting for all these things to start. But, in the meantime, it's a heart check for me. I get so mad when Emme won't eat or when she MAKES her so throw up... not always but very often. Why?? It's not her fault, but it's because I can't fix it.

Thank you for being such a great mentor for me... even if it's through cyberspace!!


April Isaacs said...

In the last post... I meant to say

Big Howgs!!

Leslie said...

OK, Sharla, this is just breaking my heart. You remember I told you about Susannah pointing at all the photos in frames hanging around and shrugging her shoulders and pointing at herself. Well we just changed a bunch of them out downstairs. She was SO EXCITED!!! And you know what, the boys were too.

Do you have any of Abby's baby photos from her orphanage group? I have just a few and we have those panel deals of the boys, you know 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Well I am working on altering the photos I have of Susannah and I am going to frame them just like the boys except with a pink mat of course. You know she is not all dolled up in pretty dresses but so what. She is still beautiful and I want her to stand firm and be secure in her past though it was different.

I was thinking since Abby is older, what if you two wrote a book together. You could add the photos you have or even tell her she will be the illustrator. I don't know a lot about child psychology, but I know drawing is great therapy for children. Some may help her to process any pain she has endured. And the book would be a treasure for her to share or not share. It could be her choice but it would certainly be fun. She could be the main author and you could be like a contributor. My boys love to write books on the computer and Jackson, who is 6, had the idea of having a bookstore. The grandparents ate that up! You could even make copies for grandparents as gifts making sure they don't share if you don't want it shared. Just an idea.

Another thought is to tell her that though you were not with her when she was a baby, God was and He knew the exact day you two would meet. We also have Mommy and Me and Daddy and Me photos taken at 6 and 9 months respectively. I am going to do the same photos with Susannah, she will just be older. So what you know? Maybe if you have some of those you could do that too with Abby.

I am sure you have some moments where you knew you would adopt though you may have fought it. Do you have any moments that go back to around Abby's birth time, maybe you could share that with her. I don't know what to tell you really, but am just sharing that Susannah has some of the same issues though she can't verbalize them yet. I know that will come in time with added speech and age.

Hugs to you my friend. Thanks for sharing so honestly and boldly. You have great courage. I KNOW people are praying about older child adoption because of your blog.

Beth Gore said...

My name is Beth and I have stumbled on your blog. I'm an adoptive mother of 5 sn kids (one from China). I was asked to write a book and would love, love to discuss with you the idea of including an entry or two (like this one) of your blog (in whole or part). Would you consider emailing me so we could discuss further? You've touched my heart. Beth Gore

Michelle said...

Sharla, this is a great post, I'm so glad you shared this story. Another adoptive friend said that when her daughter was in a doctor's waiting room a woman asked her, "Are you Mommy's baby?" in an innocent way, to which the girl answered, "No, and I don't want to talk about that right now". It gave the mother a chance to talk about how that phrase "You're her baby" didn't make sense to her because she was NOT her baby, she was someone else's baby - so the mother did much like you did and pointed out yes, she was right, but she was HER daughter and would be was a sweet moment for them, too. :)

Now, I have a question and I don't have your email address here in Ukraine on this old laptop - didn't you all get a handheld translator type of thing? We are considering getting one for use with Mary Darina. She is a VERY talkative little 5 year old and sometimes I think we're just going to HAVE to understand what she's saying, before the English ramps up. If you don't mind letting me know about this, please email me at teachermommy at mi-connection dot com.

thanks and sorry for such a long comment :)

Amy said...

What beautiful insights! Your last three posts have blown me away because they are all about ideas that are floating around in my head already, but you are somehow able to express it so beautifully. Thank you for giving me more to think about in the process.

Jen said...

We've had the same thing with Chloe Grace. She'll tell me Jarod was my baby, Madison was my baby and Jason was my baby but she's not my baby. I told her she's my baby now and I'll be her mommy for always. She's started asking us all the time, "do you like me?" It breaks my heart that she would even feel the need to ask that! But I always answer the same way, "Yes, I like you and I love you for always!" She'll smile and hug me and seem at peace about it for a while. It's so hard to see these sweet girls struggle with finding their place - we know their place! You and Abby are blessed to have each other!

Jeff said...

Hi Sharla--

I've been meaning to coment on your last few posts, but haven't gotten around to it. I follow several blogs, but yours is among my most favorite. You are a great and insightful writer. I appreciate your transparency, while respecting your family's privacy. Keep blogging!


Denise said...

Ok, I have told you that you should write a book! You are gifted my friend and touch others through your is a gift you should use!

Anonymous said...

Greetings: During the Advent Season we exchange gifts. What a great gift that you are receiving from Abby as she is beginning to embrace her "forever family". I'm so glad she's starting to process these things in her head and heart. What a gift to all of us as we see our really BIG God at work. love and Howgs to all

Sydney said...

I am so glad that Abby was able to feel at peace with the situation. Sydney has said the same a few times and now calls herself my baby. I think she is trying to re-create the past by pretending to be a baby sometimes. She wants me to carry her around like a baby and will even "whaaa" like a baby. I allow her to do this since I figure she needs to go through this stage of development to meet a need that is lacking.

I have learned so much from your blog and you are an amazing writer.

You guys are in my prayers.