Surprise! Welcome to Holland

I’ve just realized that I’ve never posted pictures of Jonathan on this blog. There is a good reason for that and I thought I’d explain: Jonathan was adopted through foster care in Calgary and the way the system works here is that it takes about a year for adoptions to be legalized through the courts. Until that happens we are not suppose to publicly post any pictures…which is too bad because man is he cuuuute. But, I have posted some pictures (tsk tsk) that are blurred out or don’t show his face publicly, so why I have never done here I do not know! So there you go, and here you go – this is Jonathan…well the back of his head anyway;)

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Visiting mama’s work

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I’m not the mom I thought I’d be. This is surprising, as I think I know myself very well.

I thought I would enjoy being home more, enjoy the everyday things more.

I thought I would have more time to bake and sew and spend cold winter days cozy with a cup of tea and Jonathan by the fire…sigh.

I thought I would want two (or even three) Jonathans’. Ha! HAHAHAHA!

How different things are now on the other side of adoption.

This is not a bad thing, it’s just different than what I thought it would be.

I love him. I love watching him discover new things, figure things out, process information. I love seeing him being a goof ball, his crazy expressive facial expressions, how hard he tries to repeat words and say words again and again at my prompting and is always willing to try. Even his over-stimulated crazy out of control yelling and running on the spot not listening being at his worst – I love that too (I think I love that because I see it slowly getting better).

But it just isn’t how I pictured it all going down. I thought I would have more patience. I thought I would be better at spending more time working on speech and catching him up in different areas of development. I thought we would get out more and do more fun things. I thought I would meet other moms and have a new circle of peeps who could relate to attachment stories. I thought I would feel different than what I do…Instead I just feel tired (well not just, but tired is easier to write then trying to explain an entire gamet of emotions) and that although there are small windows of time that we can have fun or focus on some goals, it feels like I just grocery shop, cook and clean, run to appointments and often get frustrated over stupid things.

It’s not terrible or heart wrenching or anything that needs a whole lot of analysis (anybody who’s been within 30 feet of me in the last year knows I’ve exhausted analysis of all possible things in the entire universe) but it’s simply just different than what I thought it would be like. Perhaps because we are still in early days (just about to celebrate the 3 month mark of meeting Johnny Rocket and moving him in!) and perhaps I’m still adjusting to new routines and new roles (I admit I am feeling more settled now than I was just 6 weeks ago), but regardless of the reason, I’m surprised at how well prepared we were, yet how unprepared we felt when it all actually happened. I guess the lesson is nothing can prepare you for a traumatized little human moving into your life and heart. No books, no amount of home study, talking, planning, reading…nothing.

There is a poem by a woman, Emily Perl Kingsley. She is a writer for Sesame Street and a huge advocate for people with disabilities. She wrote the poem “Welcome to Holland” after her son was born with Down Syndrome. I’ve always loved this poem since I discovered it when I began working with children with disabilities 13 years ago. And now, I get it. Being a parent to a boy (two boys actually) who not only has a disability but who arrived in our lives by bypassing Italy altogether and instead detoured through Holland to even get here (read the poem, trust me it will make sense), makes me get it. AND, I think it fits with how I’m feeling about not being the mom who I thought I would be; it’s not horrible…just different.

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14 thoughts on “Surprise! Welcome to Holland

  1. Thanks for adding this post to the Weekly Adoption Shout-Out. I love the photo, I’m becoming better at taking more anonymous photos!
    I can identify with this post so much. Thanks also for reminding me of this poem, which I’ve heard before – Italy is great, but Holland is fantastic too x

  2. It’s all so true. I certainly didn’t set out for this destination but now I’m here and getting used to it I really do like it and feel settled, I’ve been here 6 years. The poem is brilliant, and your description of your feelings at the moment are honest and realistic. I found it very hard to come to terms with what it meant to be an adoptive mum and how that made my parenting different from others and how that sometimes excluded me. I now mostly embrace the task of creating a positive future for my children but there are still days when you wonder…

    Thanks for linking up with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out

    • Thanks so much. I know I parent differently too because he is adopted, and my other son because he’s my step son…. but I struggle with that…I can almost feel a blog post forming in my head! It’s definitely been a crazy journey so far and can feel us flowing through different stages of settling and adjusting:)

  3. For what it’s worth, what you are experiencing is very normal, particularly given the adoption and attachment that you are working through. I don’t know if it’s helpful to hear or not, but don’t judge yourself right now. Learning to attach, paricularly if you’re trying to help a child through significant medical needs at the same time, is very very difficult. It’s not something that you can prep for because your attachment process will be based on your own child’s uniqueness and the losses he has experienced in his life. Many of those losses you probably won’t know about for a while. I say this from the perspective of an adoptive mom to a Deaf child that we adopted at the age of 4 (techinically, he’s Deafblind). If it’s helpful, here’s the first year of our adoption – it wasn’t that it was ever terrible on any given day, it was just that I was sort of lost. I was still trying to find my way to being my son’s mom, rather than the mom that I’d expected I was going to be. It’s hard work and I hope you find individuals in your community that “get” adoption and, particularly, adoption of a child from a unique culture, in this case, Deaf culture.

    Month 1 (September/October): Do I love him? No. I loved the idea of him. I loved the dream of his becoming a totally normal child, particularly given how beautiful he was. I didn’t love him, though. I was overwhelmed by him. I was scared of him. I didn’t understand him or know how to reach him. I wanted to love him, but I couldn’t.

    Month 2 (October/November): Do I love him? I don’t think this can be love. Hundreds of hours of medical appointments later and I was tired. I was overwhelmed by how many times we’d filled up our hospital parking pass, only to have it back at nothing again. Still, now I knew how to defend him. I was tired of hearing all the medical team ask questions about his progress and his developmental delays. I was tired of hearing the “tisk tisk”, when he acted out or did not respond to their requests, asking them what they expected from a little boy that hadn’t been able to see or hear for three-quarters of his life, but I didn’t love him. I stood up for him and demanded the best treatment and services possible, but I still didn’t know this boy and he was so sticky all the time and covered with drool and saliva. He didn’t fit my outfits or dressy shoes. Good grief, he chewed on shoes – don’t ask me what I think about therapists that teach children to “identify” the people in their lives by smelling and tasting their shoes!!! I wasn’t feeling the love, but I knew that I was responsible for him, even if I was embarrassed by how far his little hand was shoved into his mouth.

    Month 3 (November/December): Am I starting to love him? I don’t know. I’m so tired, I can’t even remember what day of the week it is. The night terrors are in full swing and I’m running to his room, my heart racing, two or three times a night and, once I get back to bed, I lie there staring at the ceiling, waiting for the sleep that seems to arrive moments before the next screaming fit. Do I love him? No so much, but then again I don’t really feel anything right now. I’ve got an overwhelming fear of being alone – so totally alone. Nobody understands what it’s like to have a 4-year old that is still in diapers and absolutely won’t be trained. I dread waking him up from his nap because I never know what I am going to have to clean up. There is so much throwing up with little GERDlings. I’m not miserable, just tired, but I do love the smell of his golden curls and how he wraps his little arm around my neck when I carry him, snuggling his cheek into my arm.

    Month 4 (December/January): I’ve started to hide from this question. I know that I’m attached to him and that I look forward to seeing him every morning when he wakes up, but I’m still not totally used to always being responsible for him. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming of what it was like to just do whatever I wanted in the evenings, be it catching a late bus downtown and attending a concert, or just postponing dinner till whenever I felt like it. Still, I know that I’m becoming fond of him and I shocked myself with how I couldn’t stop crying when we learned that he had the worst type of hearing impairment. I was confused by how deep my pain and sorrow was. I’m not mourning the loss of an easy life with a hearing child, but a gut-wrenching sorrow that my son may never enjoy music or the sound of waves at the beach. I can hardly stand the thought of never being able to share the calm that listening to loons on the river brings or the splashing of skipping pebbles with him.

    Month 5 (January/February): Do I love him? More than I don’t, but I spend a lot of time reminding myself of what delights me about him. Going back to work and having to fit 8 hours of work into my already busy life is leaving me feeling thin around the edges. I’m pressured to provide the same level of dedication and commitment to work that I did before I adopted my son, but my work is no longer my goal, it’s what I do in order to afford the experiences I want my son to have. I don’t care to chat about or sign up for extra projects or social/charitable events. I want to go home and see my family and watch my husband play with our little boy, who’s getting more and more mischievous each day. I’m starting to recognize how he responds to changes in his school and daycare schedule.

    Month 6 (February/March): I like him a lot and mostly I love him. He’s so much fun and so patient, considering all the therapy we take him to and all the medical appointments and changes that he has to deal with, generally without having the slightest idea that they’re coming, given that his communication skills are limited. He’s starting to become a real little person. He’s picky about what toys he wants in his room and how he gets ready for his bath. He’s helpful when it comes to getting his jacket on, but doesn’t like wearing boots or caps. Sometimes I’m afraid that he doesn’t know we’re his family and that he divides his love equally between us and school and daycare, but he’s always at least mostly glad to see us when we come pick him up in the evenings, even if he’s distressed by our apparent inability to bring all the cool toys he’s collected home with him.

    Months 7-10 (March-June): Life is beginning to have an order to it. I know and understand my son’s moods and what makes him nervous or upset. We’ve learned that he’s very clever and delights in figuring out ways to get around the “barriers” we set to his fun. I’m less edgy and freaked out about things like his doing what I ask immediately or keeping his fingers out of his mouth and am working on keeping rules and disciple as guides and education sources, rather than as results of my will being thwarted. I can see his little personality blooming under the watchful care and love of his Daddy and it makes my heart squishy to see how he runs to his Daddy and begs to be picked up and carried. I no longer face diapers and a non-trained 4-year old as a failure on my part, but as something that I am not going to ask of my child right now. The stroke he suffered as a baby makes walking and balance hard for him and I don’t want to set him up for misery and failure. I struggle with getting those Pull-Ups on him, how in the world could he get them up and down without collapsing and frustration. Besides, this little boy has my temper and it won’t do us any favours to require something of him that he’s just not physically capable of. Once he’s had his surgery, then we’ll think about it again. Till then, I focus on how he squirms when I tickle his tummy after changing him and how he peeks through his fingers at me, hardly able to contain himself as he watches my fingers creep towards his tummy. I appreciate how, even though food still makes him nervous and he often has to struggle to keep meals down, he is willing to taste new things and try various consistencies. He turns into a positive ball of happiness when we cheer and clap at his accomplishments. Sometimes he gets so delighted and his grin is so big that his whole hand slips into his mouth as he claps his little hands over his mouth in excitement.

    Month 11 (July/August): I don’t even think about whether I love him. It’s like asking if the sun’s going to rise tomorrow or if I plan on breathing during the day.

    • Wow! Thanks so much Elizabeth for sharing, it sounds like you have had quite the experience with your boy! I know we are in early days still, and I can see how we will move through different phases as we all get to know one another and redefine our roles with each other, I can already tell we’ve moved through a few!
      Thanks again for sharing, and I think I’ll document this first year like you have and reflect month by month how things are changing and growing:)

  4. This poem was part of our adoption preparation groups. I know opinions are divided about it, but we loved it. It is a wonderful way to express the path that many of us find ourselves on. It is still very new to us, and we are finding our feet, but I would have it no other way.

    • I’m glad your preparation groups discussed this – ours felt very surfacey and I think that we all could have benefited more if we had more discussions around topics like this and the poem etc. We are only three months in ourselves and just starting to feel a slight bit of normalcy in our routines! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I think the Holland poem is such a great analogy. I remember being like a cat on a hot tin roof for about our first year. I barely ever sat down and I was living on adrenaline. I was so determined to be the perfect mum after so many years of waiting to board my flight. I fell in love with Katie when I met her but noticed how the depth of that love changed and deepened over that first year. I now, three years on, cannot imagine life without her or loving a child more. I know I love her because she can put me through he’ll during the day and I still coo over her when I sneak upstairs for a goodnight kiss when she’s asleep (obviously she also gets awake kisses too lol). I’m also forgiving of myself that I’m not the earth mother than I thought I’d be;that some days my IPad is infinitely more interesting than playing with my child; and she doesn’t eat organic food (had to let that one go she she took nearly three years to start eating well). Thanks for sharing. I can reassure you that you’re feelings are totally understandable and ones I’ve shared.

    • Haha, I totally relate – especially when it comes to imaginary play. I suck at it and I’d rather be checking Twitter or perusing Pinterest, or doing anything but. However, I know I love him because some days I can actually suck it up and jump in and be a fireman or hunt for spiders for 20 minutes. I definitely feel my feelings and love for Jonathan shifting and changing already and it’s only been 3 months:) Thanks for your comments!

  6. I love that poem! A facebook friend of mine sent it to me recently and it makes me happy and sad at the same time, every time I read it. We recently had it confirmed that our three year old daughter has a hearing loss (moderate to severe/profound loss in both ears) and we have been going through all the things that come along with that news. Up until last December, we were well on our way to Italy (she has had perfectly normal hearing all her life, as far as we know). December rolls around and all of a sudden we are detouring to Holland- no warning, no explanation! Thanks for posting that poem here and reminding me again that Holland is a beautiful place :)! Best wishes with the adoption and your growing bond with your children :)!

    • Sounds like you are entering a whole new chapter and this poem is such a good metaphor – for kids with disabilities or for any kind of unexpected change. Thanks for your kind words and for reading. I look forward to following along on your journey:)

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