Monday, September 15, 2008

When Cupcake Came Home

Sorry for the long silence. This is the hardest post I've ever written because it describes a different person than the sweet spunky daughter I know and love. And it also reveals the doubts, fears and desperation that was in my heart - and still lingers from time to time.

Before I begin...

Hindsight is 20/20. At least the view is clearer in retrospect. We had no idea what was happening at the time, or how it was going to turn out. We still have a long way to go, but Cupcake has made huge leaps since those first days. Almost everything that I will describe to you has disappeared, or been significantly reduced in the past 3 months.

The first night home was fine. We got in about 8:00pm. She had been tired, hungry and crabby at the airport, but when we got to the house, she was fine. She ate some dinner and then proceeded to scope out her new surroundings. She was very curious to look drawers, cupboards and the fridge. She went to bed in her new bed without a hitch and slept the whole night through. Okay, she didn't sleep the whole night, but she didn't cry out and she didn't leave the room. So we were off to a great start.

The next day, Cupcake was a different person.


It's like steroids on steroids.

My favorite adrenaline story is how, years ago, my petite mother-in-law ripped a car door off it's hinges when Daddy's brother was wedged between it and a brick wall. True story. Fear can cause incredible strength.

Cupcake was terrified those first few days. She had adrenaline flowing through her veins. She would oscillate between pleasantly charming and violently angry.

When she was pleasant, we played and laughed and smiled. Cupcake loved to take walks in the stroller, complete with baby blanket and bottle. She really, really enjoyed being the baby. She would snuggle into our arms. We danced in the kitchen. She experimented for the first time on the swings and trampoline.

But when she was angry (Really, she was afraid, but it looked like anger.), she would grab my hair and pull it out by the handfuls. She would spit on us - not PTHBTHB with her tongue - HOCK-TOUEY deliberately in our faces. She peed on the floor. She tried to choke us with a ninja chokehold - thumbs in the soft spot of our throats. She threw her food on the floor. Biting... hitting... throwing... kicking... screaming. She called us bad, bad names - in Spanish. Thankfully, we couldn't understand, but we got the message loud and clear. And worst of all, the scratching...clawing really...gouging. She would go for the exposed skin and DIG IN - arms, hands, legs, and face. I feared she would actually gouge my eyes out in those first weeks.

You all know the gorgeous hair Cupcake has. She wouldn't let me comb it. When she was raging, she would pull it all over her eyes, so we couldn't see her face. She would tear all her clothes off and run naked to hide in her closet, or under the bed. She would scream and cry and not let us get near her. It was the most pitiful thing I've ever seen.

We were at a loss as to what to do. The questions and the unknown were SO overwhelming.

What have we done?
How do you take a child who has apparently been raised by wolves and civilize her?
Have we destroyed our family?
Where do we begin?
Will she ever get better?
What are our options?

Believe me, I thought of every option under the sun - except homocide. In the end, there was nothing we could do but endure this and push forward. So that's what we did. In desperation, on the 2nd day home, I called my dear friend, Manyblessings, who had hinted that she had dealt with rage in her adopted child. Her words were such an encouragement to my broken heart. We were going to live through this and Cupcake would begin to heal in time.

So, how did we live through this?

Right from the git-go, we began telling her how much we loved her. When she was happy and when she was raging. We told her in English and Spanish that we were her mom and dad FOREVER. We had to stop her from hurting us, so we began therapeutic holding. It's a bit controversial in some circles, but I believe for terrified, aggressive kids, it is essential. To describe the hold - You are basically a straight-jacket for the out-of-control person. All the while we held her, we spoke as gently as possible.

"I love you, Cupcake."
"Mommy's here for you."
"Daddy is strong and Daddy is in control, even when you are not."
"Mommy is a good mommy."
"You're angry."
"You're scared."
"It's okay."
"Daddy won't let you hurt anyone."

We sang "Amazing grace" and "Everlasting God" over and over.

And we prayed...and prayed...and prayed. I have never prayed so fervently for someone in my life. This was and still is a spiritual battle. I prayed that God would send His Spirit to Cupcake and calm her with His presence. I prayed for her heart to be healed. I prayed for strength to endure. I prayed for the wisdom to do this. I have never been so aware of my utter dependence on God's power as in those first days.

We did and are doing many other things to help this girl heal from her brokenness. I'll talk about some of the other parenting things in another post.

How do we know she was running on pure adrenaline?

Because she was STRONG! UNBELIEVABLY STRONG! Every time we had to "hold her tight", it was like fighting with Mike Tyson. I am NOT exaggerating. She had the strength and the rage that we so often see in that man. It took every ounce of strength in my being to maintain control - and sometimes I lost. I'm 44, and I'm not in bad shape...but I was never athletic or strong. I feared that I would not be able to handle this three years from now. Every night, I crawled into bed feeling as if I'd gone 18 rounds with Mike.

Now that she has begun to trust us and her fears have subsided, her strength is gone. She still has a temper and she still gets MAD, but when we hold her, she has the strength of a 5 year old. Almost all of these behaviors are completely gone - most of them were gone within 6 weeks. We can see her thinking about pulling my hair or scratching me, but she chooses not to. She hasn't thrown her food since week 2. We can see her beginning to self-regulate and it's so cool. She is becoming the little person that God intended her to be.

The one thing that steadied us through this very difficult time was the fact that we knew that we knew that we knew that God had called us to specifically adopt Cupcake. We were the parents that God Himself appointed to this job. He would provide what we needed at exactly the time that we needed. Her life is in His hands. We're just supposed to be faithful.

So that's what we'll do.

Blessings to you,


Katie said...

Again .... WOW !! You all have been through alot !! You are doing a GREAT job parenting cupcake !!

ManyBlessings said...

Love you girlie (and miss you).

You know that I know exactly what you are talking about. All of it. The super-human strength, the stripping, the spitting, the clawing, and at the base of it all, the sheer terror and will to survive. So sad that something caused our babies to hurt so badly.

You are doing a PHENOMENAL job there mamita. :) And I also know that when I tell you that, the first thing you will do is give the credit right back to God where it belongs. But it IS through your hands that He is choosing to work and you are hanging in there with him and blessing your baby girl.

Love to you guys!

Therese said...

I am amazed at your story and your strength and your faith. (I've just been playing catch-up on your blog.)

Thank you for sharing with all of us. Although years separate our kids' ages, I can see shadows of what you describe in our daily life with Danny.

Your bravery in sharing helps me to remember that fear is at the root of so many of these behaviors.

Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to keeping up with you now that I've gotten up to date!