Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Adoption Thoughts: Nine Years Ago Today

Last night was the ninth anniversary of the day we first kept Greg and Eric over night.

9 / 9 / 99

Two days prior we had met two excited, scared and thankfully, prepared little boys. They had been shown our family video, read from our family story book, talked to about the pending transition by their foster mom. They were as ready as they could be for the transition from all they knew into nothing they could even imagine.

New parents.
New brother.
New family.
New city.
New country.

And for the first two days everything was ok. Amazing at times, overwhelming and stimulating at others, but overall just fine.

Eric, at 3, could not understand or even begin to fathom the changes that were about to occur in his life. With his mommy since infancy (foster mom Deb), he had no frame of reference to even imagine that could ever change. It took him months after he moved in with us to even grieve the possibility that things had REALLY changed forever.

Greg, at 4.5, had memories. Strong memories of being removed from his first mom, L, at the age of 18 months. He remembered their visits. He knew, somewhere deep in his soul, the heart breaking changes that were about to occur. And he was scared. And he showed us how scared he really was by pushing us away. Running from us in parking lots. Screaming at us when we wouldn't comply with his demands. Attempting to control the transition process as much as he could.

Then there was that first night together. A crowded hotel room in St. Louis wasn't exactly ideal for 3 preschoolers, but it would have to do. Our home video of that night show lots of laughing. A group bath with much play between the boys. The new big brothers showing Tanner how to jump on the beds. Lots of "mommy watch ME" "Look at ME daddy" over and over again.

Finally we settled them. Shel and I were completely exhausted by this point.

Tanner, 22 months, asleep in his playpen. Greg and Eric asleep, sharing one bed, Shel and I staring at the ceiling in another.

At midnight Greg awoke. His scared, hard exterior broken by the intimacy of night, desperation of a little boy whose heart was breaking.

He crawled into my lap sobbing. For hours I held this stranger. This little boy now legally my son as he screamed and begged to be brought back to another mother. He bargained, promising to be good. To do anything if only I would give him back.

There were no words to say other than what I did say "I am sorry this hurts so much, I am so very, very sorry this hurts so much". Repeated a thousand times as I whispered into his ear and rocked him close. At that moment he hated me for taking him away, and yet desperately needed me because his world was falling apart. I understood, as best I could, how really torn he was.

There was nothing else to say. That I loved him? That he would be "better off"? That really there were good, good grownup reasons for him being moved? You, for even a moment, think he cared about any of that?

What he cared about was that he was leaving what he knew. His mommy. His family. A child doesn't hear the words "foster" or "birth" or "adoptive". They don't care about rules, or laws, or good grown up reasons. They care about what they know. Those familiar to themselves.

I knew, and understood, all the grownup reasons why the boys were being moved. Good reasons, valid, important reasons. Reasons that from an adult perspective that made a whole lot of sense. I knew, logically, that with alot of work and alot of time, both boys would come to love us and need us.

But at that moment, on that night, I would have done anything to take away the pain of my sons. Anything.

Maybe adoptive parents don't talk about that enough. The pain our kids went through to get to us. For me to become their mommy, they had to lose two others. Two others that they loved and needed.

Often people say "Oh those boys are SO lucky". Lucky? Imagine what they have survived. Imagine going through half of that yourself.

I understand its hard to see when you look at these amazing, happy, growing boys with glowing smiles on their faces succeeding and growing and learning every step of the way. But, understand they have paid a price to be our sons.

Today I can look back the help of time and perspective to understand that moment of holding my sobbing, heart broken son wasn't the end of his world. That he came through, that he bonded and attached and grieved.

He has long forgotten that night, but I will never.


pam said...

Oh Jen you so elloquently put into words the exact moments I recall when someone tells me or my children how lucky they are. We are the lucky ones they are the brave ones.

Andy said...

My heart is breaking just trying to imagine what they went through.

Anonymous said...

Jen, you hit the nail right on the head with your words about the idea of our kids being lucky. That "luck" equals sadness and loss that no child should ever have to experience!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing post - thank you for sharing it!

And I know they're handsome boys today, but how cute were they 9 years ago!!! Absolutely precious!!!

Lala's world said...

wow I really thought about what I would think I would have said and was like I don't know I think I would have cried too! so amazing to me!

Elizabeth said...

Yes. This. A thousand times this. Every day.