She did not come to us as a child who has been in our care all along. She came with a whole set of experiences that wouldn't have happened if she had been born into our home.
Before I begin, I hope I don't scare anybody away from adopting an older child. I am blogging about this because I know there are others out there in the same boat. We need each other. If you have found something that works or can pass along a word of encouragement, please leave a comment. If God places it on your heart to jump in and be a part of His plan for orphans, then you'd better jump. He has good things in store for you.
I feel the need to talk about this for several reasons. I am blogging because it is therapeutic for me to write out my thoughts. I'm blogging because some of you know Cupcake and can't understand why she does the things she does. I'm blogging because I fully expect God to get the glory as He continues to make beauty from ashes. We have already seen Him working in her life and we are excited to see how He heals her broken heart.
Before I begin to talk about specific behaviors, I want to explain a little of the "why" behind them.
When we accepted Cupcake's referral, we thought we were dealing with a straight-forward older child adoption. We were told that she had been with her birthmom for the first 2.5 years and her birthmom tried but just couldn't make it work any more. We knew we would be coming up against some big issues simply because she was not coming at birth. We felt somewhat prepared for the obstacles that would surely come our way. We read tons of books, plus, we're experienced parents with 3 somewhat well-adjusted kids. How hard could it be?
The longer it dragged, the more books I read. Quite frankly, some of them scared the bejeepers out of me. The "what-ifs" caused me to lose sleep at night, but Cupcake seemed so well-adjusted in Guatemala that we thought we had dodged most of those bullets. But, realistically, we could see problems coming up simply because she was stuck waiting so long. And as the adoption went on and on and on, we discovered more and more truth about her history that was tough to swallow.
Cupcake's story is a long one. She has endured more trauma in her first 4.5 years than most people deal with in a lifetime. I won't share all of the details of her history here. That is her story and she can talk about it when she is ready. But much of her trauma is common in older adopted kids.
In every adoption, the child eventually has to deal with the loss of the birthparents. They must come to a peace about the real or perceived rejection of their birthmom and the rejection or absense of their birthfather. With older kids, they may remember their parents and home. That loss may be fresh in their hearts. Cupcake doesn't seem to remember her birthmom, but she has a gut level fear of rejection. She doesn't remember her birthmom because she was relinquished for adoption a full year before we accepted her referral. We discovered this about 8 months into the process. That adoption fell through after she spent 9 months in foster care. At that point, Cupcake was returned to her birth family. Through a miracle, we met the other adoptive family that loved and prayed for her. They were able to give us a more complete picture of her history...and we are forever grateful for their friendship and prayers.
Multiple placements cause trauma in a child. Although her early life is lost in a haze (or maybe we just can't understand her language well enough), she definitely remembers being removed from her foster family of 18 months and placed in a orphanage. She has a lot of anger toward that family. I'm sure she feels rejected by them. Then, just as she was getting used to the orphanage director as her caregiver (after 8 months), we came along and took her to America. She has a gut level fear of being moved again...and who can blame her? She has been moved no less than 6 times in 4.5 years.
Now, if Cupcake's idea of family is a temporary place to live, and even the nice people eventually bring you somewhere else to live....that's not a great reference point. This one is going to take some time and much reassurance from us to overcome.
The adoption books all talk about some of the more common traumas that adoptive children experience. They include chronic hunger and malnutrition, physical and verbal abuse, neglect, alcoholism, violence, and the list goes on. Each one of these things can throw a kid for a loop that takes them a lifetime to work through.
Think about traumatic experiences in your own life. As adults, we need to deal with the issue and move forward. Something like a car crash can cause a physical reaction every time we drive by "the spot". Sometimes, we fall back into the same bad place that we thought we had conquered. It's hard work to heal from the pain.
I remember as a high schooler, having one teacher who was a jerk. He wasn't evil, just a jerk. He never hurt me physically, he just had a teaching style that beat me down and made me feel inadequate. As a young adult, I had to forgive and forgive and forgive that man for his harsh words. It was years before I could think about him without it causing a physical reaction. He made my blood boil, until I finally forgave him in the very depths of my soul.
Now imagine how much harder it is for a five year old to work through actual serious trauma. As time went on during the adoption, we discovered that Cupcake has experienced most of those traumas listed...and so much more. God was so good in that He did not allow us to get walloped with all the truth all at once. We learned bits and pieces over the two year process. Since we were committed to her and knew that she was the one God had planned for us, we took a deep breath (several, really) and prayed for her heart.
Then she came home....
Blessings to you,
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