Should I say, "six months already?!" or "it's only been six months?!" I think the latter is more true. Sofie belongs with us. She always has. She is a part of us and I can't imagine life with out her. We had our first adoption check up on Tuesday with a social worker from the agency. It went well. Jon keeps making fun of me because I cleaned my house like I had OCD for the social worker to inspect and she didn't even look around! She just asked questions about Sofie's development. I'm just going to talk for a moment about my experience and feelings over the past 6 months. I'll give you an update on Sofie around the 15th when she has actually been home for 6 full months.
In looking over the past 6 months, I've learned a lot, changed, grown, been enlightened and developed a whole list of new worries and personal issues :) Adoption is amazing but so very hard, and I say this thinking that I have had it pretty easy. So many people thought we were choosing the hard road because Sofie has Down Syndrome. This is just not the case. If anything her DS, innocence, love and openness has made this transition easier on everyone.
I remember meeting her for the first time and been so completely enamored with the frail little bird that cautiously explored and ate up our attention. When we got home, things got real. The first two months were hard. So. Very. Hard. I was sleep deprived, most new parents are, and felt very alone. I was walking down a road very little people had any experience with. No one could give me the answers that I needed and I discredited those that tried because of their inexperience. I didn't know how to separate Sofie's orphanage/adoption issues from her natural delays with having DS. Even the doctors and professionals we saw seemed to dismiss possible adoption issues and figured everything had to do with delays associated with DS.
I remember, in those first few weeks, wondering what I had done... I felt "I had brought violence in to my home". Sofie hit, pulled hair, threw things and scratched to the point where she made me cry from pain a few times. I saw no end. No cure to the behavior. I was scared for the harm that the "violence" would bring to Livi and I wondered how much I could take before I lashed out. It was a dark few weeks.
Thankfully, that's all it was. A few weeks. One day, I began to realize how much less Sofie was pulling hair and throwing things. She was relaxing. Realizing we were safe. She doesn't have to defend against or attack us. I saw hope again! Once we all made it through those first two months of no sleep, panic and distress, we started finding solutions and relaxing. I've said it before... we LITERALLY saw Sofie's entire being relax and come out of the tight little shell it was trapped in.
I had the maternal instinct early on that the issues Sofie was facing had way more to do with the neglect and trauma she experienced in the orphanage setting rather than DS, so I approached them all like that. I understood her difficulty going to sleep as this was the first time she had been out of the walls of the orphanage and she was too scared to relax and sleep. I saw her hitting as the only defense she knew how to use against other children and adults. I saw her quiet, calmness in new overstimulating situations as her inability to cope because she had never been stimulated in the orphanage. She just shut down and inward. It was so sad to see but followed her lead, tried to give her the support she needed, and stayed close.
It'a been a hard balance to give Sofie the extra attention she needed and give Livi the attention that she needed. I still struggle with this balance. Livi goes through moments still of wanting to be babied like Sofie. Livi regressed in her own development when we first brought Sofie home and it took a frustrating few months to get a handle on proper toileting again! Bedtime for Livi is still a battle. And don't even get me started on the attitude! I can't blame that on bringing Sofie home though :)
With Sofie it is hard to know how much to push her independence and how much to still baby her for attachment reasons. She doesn't love being babied but giving her independence usually ends in such a huge mess! She has begun attaching to us but is still very non-discriminate about who else she goes to. She will come back to Jon and I but rarely looks for us in a crowd. She does recognizes us and is happy to see us though. She comes to us for nurturing and occasionally asks for us if she is with some one else for a few minutes. We still have only left her for a few minutes at a time with her Marmee and one evening at Christmas with my sister. Looking forward to a date night one day!
I love my girls. I love the journeys I have been on with both of them. I feel pretty confident most of the time with parenting Livi. Like I know what I am doing... at least to a point. With Sofie, I feel like I am in such new waters. Most of the time, she is just my darling daughter. I see her more as an 18 month old more than a three year old. I think she is somewhere between 12 - 18 months developmentally. I don't think about her being adopted or worry about her having Down Syndrome... except in rare moments.
I find those moments happen more when I'm in public or talking to acquaintances or strangers about my family. I am so proud of my family. All of them and their unique journeys and gifts. But people don't understand us... or at least me. When I get asked how old Sofie is, I usually answer with the truth, "She's actually 3." Then I feel like I need to explain why she is so small or enlighten them about certain unattached behaviors they are commenting on. I hate people thinking that she is so tiny just because she has DS. She was malnourished and neglected so she didn't grow. Or that she is so quiet and calm in new surroundings because she is an angel. She is actually emotionally shutting down and inwardly freaking out because she can't process everything and she's scared. And I'd hate for people to think that hitting, rocking, throwing, eating issues, being overly friendly and explorative with new people and having unattached issues are typical for people with DS. These all stem from being in an institution for over 3 years.
I want people to know her story, our story, but I don't like myself always telling people that she was adopted. Does this make sense? I don't want her or Livi to grow up hearing me tell everyone she was adopted. That could just cause a bunch of other issues. Maybe this is just the stage that I am walking through and it is a good thing I'm going through it while she is still young. As she grows and attaches, I hope I won't feel the need to explain her size and different behaviors. I also hope people won't assume things just because she has DS. This is completely my issue and I don't really know where it is coming from. Do I feel extra defensive and protective for some reason? Am I feeling judged and guarded? Why? I generally don't worry about what other's think to much.
Although this journey has been so difficult, there are immeasurable things to celebrate! It's been two years since we started this journey to Sofie and now we get to celebrate her being home with us for six months already! I'll fill you in on all the things I celebrate about our little monkey in the next post and hopefully have some commemorative pictures for you!