Healing the Child Within

My journey to motherhood was a battlefield; my mothering experience has been one of joy and thankfulness. But in recent months there have been little cracks developing in who I am as a person, away from being a mother. A child is an incredible gift, one that has the power to make you become acutely aware of what was tarnished, broken or missing from your own childhood.  I have learned I will never be able to be the mother I hope to be until I deal with the child I was, that remains within me.

When you choose to become a parent by way of adoption in Canada there is a required education component to being approved. When you choose to adopt transracially there are countless courses and resources on how to do so. When your child is home there are other parents who have walked the road before you, and articles to support almost any situation you may encounter. You often can choose how prepared you want to be.

However, as a child you just become a member of your family. No choices, no guidance, no advice. We all navigate some bad experiences in childhood; many times we celebrate the good. Hopefully, life has offered you balance between the two.

Often times, when the balance is lacking and we carry some memories with us that were perhaps not what our parents ever intended. Some are dealt with, talked about and worked through. Some are buried. Some things seem unimportant until we have our own little girl or boy in front of us and we cannot imagine them ever being hurt.

I have become aware that how I parent, and what I dream of for my child is based on what I felt was missing for me. Doing better, or doing right by my child is the driving force behind many of my choices. My focus is not on baking, or activities, or keeping a perfect home. It is purely emotional, being there for her, helping her grow in confidence and letting her know she has a voice.  All valuable lessons, but they control me. I will never be perfect; and I will never be free of making mistakes. I will do my best, and hopefully she will be free enough to tell me what she needs.

As adults we can put on glad faces and do all the right things in front of others but who are we in our quiet moments? What do we think about? What do we say to ourselves? What do we fear? A child will make all of these thoughts, fears and feelings so much more obvious.

I must come to terms with what I needed as a child, what I didn’t receive and what I hear in the quiet. These are my issues and I cannot save my daughter from something that may not necessarily exist for her.

This year will be one spent working on me. I must see beauty in myself before I can truly appreciate the beauty around me. I must understand that the love of my husband and daughter will not fill the emptiness created by me not loving myself. I must believe in myself first, or I will never truly accept that someone else believes in me.

This coming year brings the promise of growth, for my family and me. I am thankful for my daughter and how this little person has stirred within me a desire to be better to myself. I know I will be more for her than who I dreamed to be because I will not be choosing from a place of fear. I know the child within me is safe and loved because I am the one holding her.

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A Child of My Own-Repost

This is a piece I wrote for the website Mothering in the Middle in October 2013, I am reposting here as it is near and dear to my heart….

I was walking through an antique store and a lady approached me to say how adorable my daughter was and, that now that I had adopted, I would get pregnant and have a child of my ‘own.’ I had not met her, spoken to her about my road to adoption, or about infertility and if it played a role in my world.  But she continued to tell me her friend had finally given up and adopted, and then she got pregnant.

Many (most) adoptive parents experience things similar to my encounter. “Do you have any of your own? Do you plan to have yourown child?” I could brush it away as ”another woman had this child” therefore… but really that isn’t what is being asked of me. They mean biologically, thus resulting in the child officially being mine.

Others may think I am being picky about wording, obsessing about semantics. Clearly my daughter is adopted, I am white and she is brown.  Obviously the woman is just chatting me up, telling me a story about her friend. When strangers ask questions it usually isn’t with the intent to be rude.

I remember as a child having a couple of different children introduced to me as someone’s “adopted daughter.’ Each time it didn’t matter what ethnicity, the significance was they were ‘adopted.’

If you are following what I have said so far you are noticing that everything is from the adult’s perspective. But now think if my daughter was older and capable of understanding the statement ‘a child of my own.’ The children who I was being introduced to as ‘adopted’ were around eight years old, at the time.  What kind of impact do these statements have on them?

I do not want to see what will happen to me if I hear the words ‘adopted daughter’ prefacing my child’s name. I think the same knife that could pierce her heart will pierce mine. I share who she is with her with her Haitian Mother; she carries her blood and her characteristics. But this little girl carries both of our hearts.

I have loved her since my eyes first saw her wrinkly little face and her tiny knit hat. I fought for her when I thought I had lost her because of an earthquake. I cannot put all the different emotions I felt into words describing the first time I held her. I have been up with her while she cried, been to the hospital with her when she was sick and had anxiety attacks stressing over things that will likely never happen.

To throw an extra word in front of son/daughter removes a portion of the bond any child has to their family. If there are biological siblings involved it makes it even more damaging. It creates an opening for a child to feel less-than. She is my daughter. My daughter by way of adoption, and yes it is semantics but the wording does not preface my child’s identity within my family.

I used to feel I needed to share details so that people wouldn’t judge our family and the extended family in Haiti. I have since come to understand the cloak of protection that families have over their adopted children’s story. I am thankful my daughter was a baby and didn’t hear me blathering on so that I am the only one carrying shame. A great deal of who our children are is tied up in their story. We should only be adding to it not taking. They have already experienced too much loss before they come to be our sons and daughters. We can’t afford to give away more of who they are.

If you are in a position where you have to introduce someone’s child as “adopted,” introduce him or her by his or her name. If you see a family who looks like mine (transracial), refrain from asking personal things. People will always have questions; it is inherent in human nature.  But know that their story is not your story.

Original post, and my others here: http://www.motheringinthemiddle.com/?tag=michelle-eisler

Grief and Promise

This past week I have grieved for you.

You are a son I have not met. A boy I have not held. Now you can walk. You are getting teeth. You are eating solid food and learning how to say prayers.

Your smile makes my day so bright. But I have only seen it in pictures.

Your mother asked for me to raise you. in that moment I knew it would happen. I couldn’t see how, I didn’t know the way, but I knew if it was her hearts desire it was mine.

We are waiting. So many approvals, so many steps. A year ago we started. I know the wait, I walked it with your sister.

This is so hard, and my head knows better than to get trapped in these emotions. But I understand there is a new delay, one I didn’t count on and now all I feel is loss. My heart is heavy.

I am missing out. We wait once again for things we have no control over, no timeline. How do I not see time with you slipping through my fingers, like every other adoptive parent?

I skipped Christmas. And New Years. And all the days in-between, I have spent the last 3 days in bed, I have no words for people right now. I was even afraid to tell your Dad how hurt I was because it would make it real.

Know this: You are worth every tear I have shed. Every missed meal. Every prayer. Every anxiety. Every moment of cocooning myself away. Every minute.

You are worth it and so much more. My son.

This morning I saw this on my computer: ‘Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.’ Isaiah 43:19 Be encouraged!

I will hold onto these promises, and carry them as closely to my heart as I carry you Jadyn.

The Lean

I knew about you before you were born. I prayed for you, cried for you and you were in every waking moment of my day.

The email came saying “it’s a boy”. You were my son and I knew it in my heart. I named you, and continued to pray for you. I begged for God to open the doors and show me the path to bring you home.

It’s been over a year and now I am in the lean months, my work is done and I must wait. The papers are making their way through the many required steps. Your sister waits for you and smiles when she sees your pictures, she has many plans for you.  Your dad worries about the finances needed and how we will do it. His eyes sparkle when we get new photos.

It’s quiet. No emails come telling us where we are at and what we need to do.

I’m trying to push forward, not focus on the wait.

I remember this now from when we adopted your sister. Wavering between feeling good and having faith about the quiet. Then struggling for a couple of days with all the unanswered questions, wondering, missing out on your days.

I feel the distance.

From you. From reality outside of my bubble of adoption. From God. He isn’t quiet, but on these days I don’t hear Him. I am in the stage of ‘doing’ and praying. Not meditating, not learning, not reading about His plans for us. I’m selfish and focused only on what is next for us.

I need to lean into this journey and look The One who has brought you to me. Even if some days I can only successfully do it one minute at a time.

In the meantime, know how much you are loved.

My yesterday’s, today, and tomorrow’s

Well, I may wind up opening this blog up eventually but I am going to continue writing as if it’s private still.

I have been writing for myself, I hesitate to say journaling as it can have a negative connotation. But really, any type of journaling or blogging is usually just an extension of what we feel-the good, the bad and the crazy. It can be motivating, helpful, a dumping ground or freeing for the writer. Everyone has their own idea or expectation for what they are writing. Some have themes or messages to guide the reader, some are for teaching, and others are for entertainment.

I have no intention for anything at this point. These are my thoughts, and I have been encouraged to get them out in whatever way I would like. Traditionally, I am a pen to paper girl, but then I wind up with papers randomly stuffed in drawers after providing myself quite a hand cramp. Back when I was kid it was my only outlet as we had a VCR and no computers. I would wind up reading some of these outlet scraps some 2 years later and think “wow-who was I?” even though I could vividly remember each emotion.

This blog will save my hand and allow me to choose if, and when I want to go back in time and read where I was at. I can already see I have either been happier (as I mentioned last year), or I have been sitting on my feelings and chasing around my 2-year-old instead. at this point I will admit to both sentiments being right, depending on the day.

So far mother-hood has provided me so much joy, I find so much of my happiness in my daughter. Seeing the world through her eyes has created many fun-filled moments. She brings such life to our home, and my husband and I share great joy in being her parent’s. Now I need to learn to find the balance, a never-ending struggle I hear, between being a wife, mother and a person. Just me.

I have dealt with some big things in the last year. I finally wrote and confronted the Canadian adoption agency that handled our adoption process with Haiti-especially after the earthquake. It was a long, drawn out task, a lot of writing, a lot of anger and tears. I would say the end result was less than satisfying, but when would anyone expect a company to take responsibility for wrong doing? For them, I assume that they do not want to be held liable for a service we paid $10,000.00 for, and admitting they failed us could leave them open. I had no intention of suing them or asking for compensation-I wanted them to be made aware of the issues and change their policies. After many back and forth emails following my complaint letter being sent not only to them but the head of provincial adoption, I received a 2 paragraph letter from a member on the board of directors. Months of effort and emotion, reference email communication and facts downgraded to a half page reply letter.

Isn’t that just how life goes? Thankfully I had to decide during the waiting period what I wanted out of this process, and for me it was healing. I wanted to let go of the wrongs I felt and this allowed me that. There were things that I wish they had said, it would have made it a more tidy ending, but I have walked away knowing I said what I needed to.

I have made it my goal to deal with my fear and anxiety before it became part of my parenting style. I do not want my 16 days following the earthquake to impact Nathalia’s little life as she, herself, would have no recollection of those days. It seemed foolish that given what the people of Haiti went through, and all that Rachoul went through to get Nathalia home to us that I needed help? But  I have been going to counselling to learn how to deal with all my emotions related to our experience with the adoption post earthquake, and the impact it had on my heart.

So on the checklist of life: I should write more often, spend money less often. Cook waaaay more often, eat take out waaaay less often. Exercise more, sit on the couch less . I need to acknowledge my feelings, and acknowledge how my husband is feeling too. I need to not allow another person’s view to impact my own and most of all trust my instincts. Easy Peasy.

Mother’s Day

I just celebrated my first Mother’s Day this past weekend. At the age of 38 it feels late but as I understand it isn’t as odd these days. One would think motherhood has been something I have been trying for forever but it isn’t, I’m a late bloomer! I have, however, waited a couple of years for this but didn’t know just how much until this past January.

My husband and I were matched with Nathalia in October ’09 and traveling to Haiti in February 2010 to sign the first Haitian documents for our adoption process. We expected to be a family by the summer of 2010.

On January 12th we received a text message asking if everything was ok, “earthquake in Haiti”. I cannot describe what went on in my heart, the denial of the magnitude of things was quickly washed away the first time I turned on CNN. From that moment on life was encompassed with fear, hurt, hope, angst and endless prayer.

The first weekend after the devastating quake I was without hope that we would be among the families assisted by the government. I realized we were missing a document we needed, and those who should have helped us would not be. I was broken, more than I have ever been in my life.  Nancy, a friend with children in Haiti and I were both caught in the paperwork trap and afraid.  Through tears I told Nancy that I now knew, more than ever, I wanted to be a mom. The fear about wondering if I would ever be “good enough” was quickly replaced with the fear it might not happen.

After a sixteen-day struggle, on January 28th we received an email confirming that our daughter would be flown out of Haiti. The children at our orphanage had been living outside for more than a week; they were out of the specific formula that Nathalia needed, and low on all other basic needs to survive. Rachoul our orphanage director had fought to help our family while caring for the children, nannies and her family.

On the 30th we were in Ottawa to watch the plane land. A gracious woman handed my husband and I our daughter, and she was in our arms for the first time. It was so surreal I couldn’t even cry, I clung to every moment. My friend Nancy was there, our girls came home to us on the same flight. At the end of the day we sat beside each other and just breathed our miracles in.

3 months later, this past Sunday I went to church and stood with the other Mother’s for the first time. I knew I had the right to be standing. But I cannot deny that there is much turmoil as I stand, my mind is in Haiti. I think of the children who lost Mother’s on January 12th, of the Mother’s who lost children. I think of the children who are now being born- harmed or hurting as they are without homes, shelter, food and protection.

My mind wanders to the Mother’s who cannot fight for their children, their spirit’s broken as they face so many losses. My heart breaks for those that before January 12 never felt that they had to choose between being a Mother and giving their child a chance to survive. Now they arrive at the gates of an orphanage to give their child up. Suddenly, they have no home, no job, no clothes, no food, and no shelter. After being a mom for 4 years, for the sake of the survival of their child, they make a heart-wrenching selfless decision. I stood on Mother’s Day and in my heart I stood with them.

This Mother’s Day I say thank you to my mom, for how she raised me and all she taught me, I pray that I can be like her. I am blessed to have her still in my life to meet her granddaughter, I know what a gift this is and to not take it for granted.

Most of all I want to recognize Florence Derise, as her sacrifice offered me the greatest gift a woman ever could.  Motherhood.

 

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