I've always wanted to adopt. I wasn't particularly interested in being pregnant because I felt that my calling was to adopt children who needed a family. I made that clear to my husband before we married -- while I wasn't opposed to having a biological child, I still wanted to adopt. Soon we learned the pregnancy was going to be a difficult road for me. I had severe endometriosis and fibroids; and while that news may have been devastating for most, it only served as confirmation that we should move ahead with our plans to adopt.
So we signed up for foster parenting classes and began the process of what was called foster-to-adopt, meaning you foster with intent to adopt should the child become available.
Our daughter came to us as a shy two-year-old. At first, some of the things we saw, not making eye contact, unintelligible speech, no real signs of potty training even though we were told she was potty trained, we chalked it up to just a bit of regression being in a new home. But as she got older things only got worse -- the tantrums over simple requests began, the screaming, pulling at the hair, anxiety in the restroom -- I could go on.
Soon I realized we needed to have her tested, but for what? In the process I found out that we weren't given her history and the family background that we were entitled to by law before the adoption (but that is another story). With the help of a local post adoptive agency we were able to figure out what we needed to do next.
So, fast-forward 11 years later. My baby girl is now 13. She is only two inches shy of my height of 5'8, she has a dancer's build, (although she has no rhythm,) her hair is cut short because she tugs and pulls at it constantly and we thought the shorter hair might help with that. She still isn't fully potty trained and she has been diagnosed with a host of disorders including autism/pervasive developmental disorder (she seems to exhibit a bit of both), sensory perception disorder, mood disorder (Bipolar) and ADHD. She constantly sucks her bottom lip as a way to self-soothe. The orthodontist says we can't go further with treatment until she stops -- we've tried everything.
It's interesting, for lack of a better word, the comments people sometimes think its OK to make when you have a special needs child that is adopted no less. I've been told things like, "It's so nice that you all haven't given her back with all that's going on," or "Do you know if her REAL mom had some of these issues," and "Would you have adopted her if you had known about all of this?" I soon realized people truly meant no harm; they just needed to be educated. So I often correct them and make sure they understand that I am her real mom, and that I could have just as easily given birth to a child with disabilities, so no, giving her back isn't an option. She is mine.
Sometimes people feel the need to come up to me and tell me how smart she is, as though that was ever in question. My daughter can recognize words on a 12th grade level so yes, she is smart -- but she can't tell when her shirt or pants are on backwards and that the tag almost always goes in the back. It's as if they think I need to be reassured, or that they can't reconcile the areas where she is so bright with the areas that she struggles with. I hate it when people go on and on about how smart she is while she stands there uncomfortably looking at the ground. I often wonder if she thinks I somehow think she isn't smart and I somehow need to be reassured.
I wonder how my daughter handles all of it, the over stimulation, the mood swings she can't control. Sometimes I know she feels ashamed, when she comes to hug me and says she's sorry after she's just knocked her plate over, ripped her shirt, tried to pull her braces out of her mouth, thrown all of her clothes over the floor and yelled "I HATE YOU," for a solid hour all because I told her she had to take a bath before having her treat. The look of shame sometimes breaks my heart and I feel guilty too. Could I have diffused the situation by letting her just have the treat first? But if I always give in, what am I teaching her? Even with a disability she has to learn there are rules in life you just have to follow, right?
I often feel like I am walking in a minefield. I never know what is going to set her off and I find myself in a constant state of... I don't know what to call it. Can I get away with making a stop to the store without giving her a treat or will she get upset? How do I change her routine when necessary without throwing her into a tailspin? When I take a trip and we are apart how do I make it less stressful for her? She's having her period and totally doesn't understand what is going on, do I try explaining it again, or just make it go away with a shot or birth control pill?
The journey I am on with my daughter is full of highs, serious lows, and a boatload of self-doubt. But I have to remember that while the things I deal with may be more stressful than most, parenting is tough for everyone, if you do it right. So this is what I've been chosen to do, and so I do it, because no matter what, I love her to pieces.
By Karin Davis-Thompson.
This was originally published on The Purple Fig
The Purple Fig is an online women's blogazine with an emphasis on realistic and inspiring personal stories from women of all age groups, lifestyles, and nationalities. We feature essays about parenting, the journey to womanhood, feminism, overcoming challenges in both career and personal life, and issues surrounding sexuality, relationships, and family life. This is where women go to be inspired by the knowledge they are never alone.
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