Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dealing with Older Child Attachment -- PART 1

I am hooking up with Red Letters Campaign to promote awareness through my blog for orphans and adoption. So occasionally you will see me post an answer to an adoption question here on my blog.
This week's question caught my attention because of the things we have been through with our 2 daughters who were adopted from Romania at ages 9 and 10. The answer is very long and I probably could write a book but I have tried to shorten it for blogging purposes. I felt that now was the time to share our story in some detail so parents going through this would know that someone understands. So they would know that there is HOPE. Your child and your family can have hope that attachment can happen even in the direst of situations. I have talked to my girls about sharing this and they have agreed that it is ok. I have only used a letter in place of their names to help with privacy.
I have actually cut this into several parts so bear with me.
Question: Older Child Attachment. ..oh yes, that again! The ever present question with adopting older children. Please, give us specific strategies that worked for you in attaching as well as examples of conversations that you may have had with your child that may help others!
Answer: I will try not to make this too long but hopefully through our story (which has been going on for 6 years now), someone else will be helped. I am going to be a transparent here because I think it needs to happen. There are too many families out there struggling in the closet." I want to help them and tell them , you are not alone!"

We adopted our girls who were siblings 6 years ago. They came to us with an expectancy that America involved Everything Brittany Spears and the party life. Having been in the rundown orphanage since ages 1 and 2 and periodically visited by their mom, they had never experienced true love and affection. After a honeymoon period of about 2 weeks, our relationship was on the rocks. M. was having nicotine withdrawal and S. and M. were both not happy. The girls took turns running away, though they always came back. M. tried to strangle our 5 year old. It was then that I started researching about attachment disorder. I learned everything I could by reading books and looking up things on the Internet. Living in a small town did not afford us the option of an attachment therapist anywhere nearby. Daily life with the girls became hard. One was defiant and the other severely depressed to the point that you didn't even know she existed because she was never seen. M. bullied S. and our twins who were developmentally delayed and caused B. to have a nervous breakdown. M. was also triangulating with my husband and I. On top of all that, I had fibromyalgia and the stress was causing more intense flare ups. To be honest our lives were miserable. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.
We tried EVERY therapy we found, and implemented it to the best that we could without a therapist but our lives were not really getting better. I READ EVERY book I could find on the topic but it seemed nothing permanently worked. I researched and read so much that I could have gotten a degree in RAD! I even educated Ben's psychologist about it. All of this though was like putting a band aid over a very bad wound that needed stitches or even surgery. Somethings worked and some didn't . We dreaded each day. Me more so than my husband as he was at work all day and I was at home dealing with my daughters.
In M.'s eyes, I didn't even exist. I would get so angry at her for bullying the other kids, for ruining our lives and for all the chaos she caused so no one could live in peace. I knew I shouldn't feel like this. I was supposed to love her unconditionally but she knew I didn't and I knew I didn't. I would cry out to God for a solution. But it seemed I heard nothing. Everyday, we pushed each other farther apart. My husband and I started looking for a place to send her so we could get some respite, but nothing we found seemed right. We were beginning to see that all our other children along with ourselves were suffering severely and nobody could heal as long as M. lived in the house. We felt hopeless. Finally, I found a place in Montana for adopted kids who were suffering from RAD. Most of the kids there were mainly from Eastern Europe. The kids there received group and individual therapy and it offered us respite as well. The people were also Christians. I called them and talked to them. Typically they take only about 15 kids and usually had a long waiting list. But the day I called them, they had one opening. I felt that God had finally showed us a solution. Within a week and half, I was on a plane with M. to drop her off. M. had been saying for weeks that she no longer wanted to live with us and so she was very happy that she was leaving. She had been threatening for weeks to run away. Neither one of us said much on that long trip from AL to Montana. We had a two hour drive to the Ranch from the airport and that trip was silent as well. She appeared to be happy and I was filled with guilt and failure.
As I walked out, leaving her in that cabin, I felt relief but at the same time, I felt failure as a mom. She didn't even bother or make any effort to hug me goodbye. She turned her back with a smile and at the same time, I was feeling as if I had turned my back on her.
As I climbed into my car, in the middle of no where, I turned on the radio and there blaring through the speakers was Nicole C. Mullins singing, "Are you tired and heavy Laden? Are you weary and can't go on?... When you call on Jesus, all things are possible....mountains are gonna fall.... "I burst into tears, because I had hoped for 3 years that M. would become my daughter and we would bond, but now it seemed like all hope for that was gone. My heart was terribly heavy. I was sad, mad, grieved and angry all at once.
Arriving back in AL, I could not bring myself to write or call M. for 3 months. I couldn't even look at her picture. We were also dealing with people who didn't believe we did the right thing. That we had abandoned our child and that if we just loved her enough all would be well.

To be able to pay for M.'s stay, we had to pull all the equity out of our house and sell my cute car that my husband had bought for me for my birthday. Needless to say, I WAS NOT feeling happy or loving. I was downright angry! Now M. was taking our money! Hadn't we already spent close to $40,000 on her adoption and getting her out of Romania??!!! Now, not only had she messed up MY family but she was draining us financially!

At around 5 months after her departure, God started pricking my heart that I WAS WRONG! I argued with Him.
"I had adopted her hadn't I? Didn't I give everything to make her life better? Hadn't I sacrificed my wants and needs to fill hers? Wasn't she ungrateful?" "Yes," He replied, "But you are doing it all by yourself, and without love, it is NOTHING." At that point, I wept, I told God that I didn't know how to love, I repented for my sin. For my sin of unforgiveness, bitterness, hate, selfishness, anger and pride. It was then he took me on a path to healing my heart. It was a long path and and it was a hard one, but little by little he cleaned me out and started teaching me about forgiveness, about HIS Love and about being unselfish.
During the ten months that passed, I watched as all of my other kids blossomed and healed. Life got better at home. As for M. we were in weekly contact by now and it seemed she had progressed enough in her behavior to bring her home. During this time I also discovered Dr. Bryan Post's book, "Beyond Logic, Control and Consequences." This book totally changed my thinking and made more sense to me than any other book or therapy I had researched. It is based on a verse in John, in the Bible, "There is no fear in Love". Then in April of 2006 Duane and I flew to Montana to see in person, how M. was doing. Our plans were to bring her back home with us if we felt she was ready.
As Duane and I flew to Montana, my head was filled with all kinds of thoughts such as,"What if she doesn't want to come back ?, What if this is not the right decision?, What if....?"
We stayed for a week and visited M. and then on the last day we told her she was going home. She seemed happy about the news. When we arrived home, all the other kids had made her a banner welcoming her home. S. was the most happy to see her.

She did great! M. was pleasant to be around. She was compliant and was nice to the other kids. I noticed though that she really had to work at her attitude. It just didn't come easy to her to be nice. She really did struggle to do what was right. She was a workaholic. This somewhat bothered me, but life went on. She had pretty much quit eating since returning from Montana and this concerned me as well. She began to drastically lose weight. Then 4 months after she returned home, it was like a dam broke loose and she no longer could do it anymore. It was too much for her. The rebellion, the ugliness, the bullying reared their ugly heads again! I was determined I was not going back to our "old life" and so we sought help. Amazing to me was that I no longer felt angry toward her for this behavior but felt sadness and compassion. Yes, it was hard for me but I chose that I would not let those feelings of anger and hate react back to her.
We found a Nurtured Heart Therapist in town and began seeing him weekly. This helped Duane and I tremendously. M. continued to worsen. She lost down from a size 8 to 0. She looked ill. She acted as if she hated us. There was no talking to her reasonably. She was 14 by now. She kept threatening to run away. She became more distant the more we tried to love her. We prayed and prayed for direction and then we made the heartbreaking decision to send her to a Christian group home in AL where we could retain custody of her but where she would feel less threatened by being in a family . It seemed as if she just couldn't handle living in a family setting where she felt obligated to bond to us. I was heart broken. Again, I felt as if we had failed with this child. I mailed in the application in September through Duane's office, but it never got put in the outgoing basket. Duane then brought it home, thinking it was mail for me. I then tried to mail it again and our post woman never picked it up, so I finally took it to a mail store and mailed it. A few weeks passed and I never heard any thing from them.
Unknown to me, it had gotten lost in the mail. (We later discovered this when the Home called us in January. Things with M. were worsening and all the kids were beginning to show signs of stress again. M. had earned herself at least 11 weeks of grounding and we had tried to motivate her, by offering to take off a day for every good attitude or deed she did. Instead, she would deliberately add a day. We contacted several people for advice and prayer. We knew M. 's problems were rooted in spiritual matters. We were disappointed with their help. Then Duane and I got together, prayed and dug into the Bible, asking God to deliver our family and guide us. Man had failed us. We were hanging on by a thread. We knew of nowhere else to go. God told both of us to Fast and Pray(We had to look in the Bible to figure out how to do this, we had never done it before). We thought we were fasting over her but what happened is that He drastically changed us and made us incredibly thirsty for Him. ("Seek you first the kingdom of God and these things will be added to you.") Approximately, Six weeks passed and it was now November. I approached Duane about what I felt God was telling us to do. Now I was anxious about telling him this idea because Duane is such a person as justice has to be served and if you don't follow the rules , you serve the consequences.
Anyway, I told him that I thought we should offer M. outright Grace and Mercy. Wipe her slate clean. Amazingly, to my surprise, he said God had been telling him the same thing. So, that night, we told M. what we were going to do. We explained how Jesus had done the same for us by His death on the cross and had extended Grace and Mercy to all of us though we did not deserve it. She looked at us and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "Whatever".
She then left our room and went to bed. There, nothing dramatic, God did not come down and deliver her from all the torment in her soul in front of us. But that night we released her to God. We had been obedient and done what we were told to do.

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