It’s been one whole year since officially, legally, Vi became our daughter.
Court had been almost two weeks prior, but according to their 10 day waiting period she was not legally our child until THIS day: February 28th.
One month and five days after we first met.
It would still be a few more days until she could leave the orphanage, and then Ukraine.
But legally, on paper, she was ours.
I spent that day one year ago obtaining a birth certificate in the town where her birth mother once lived, in the town where she was actually born. It was so strange, so surreal, to become a mother because someone says so on a piece of paper. To be handed a “birth” certificate proclaiming you have had a child, who is in fact already nearly 6 years old.
I am so glad I wrote it down, because it is now such a blur.
I went back to read that post.
And I realized, when it comes right down to it, the whole adoption process can be summarized in one photograph, taken that day as I waited for the birth certificate to be produced in a tiny office in a tiny town in the middle of no-where Ukraine:
I want to say something, that I don’t think I have ever really said here before: Adoption is Hard.
Like with a Capital H. A. R. D.
This year has been the most challenging, difficult, painful, emotional, demanding year. More than I imagined. More than I was prepared to face. It has altered who I am and how I see the world, fundamentally. It has also been more beautiful, more miraculous, more amazing that I could have imagined or been prepared for, but I think I have made that aspect of it very clear.
I apologize to those of you who don’t know me in real life. Who may have the impression that older child international adoption for our family is only sunshine and rainbows, smiles and cute videos. I hope that most of you know that is not the case. I mean, Parenting in general isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Everyone knows that, I think. Parenting an adopted child, however, brings a very unique set of challenges.
I share what I choose to share here about Vi and her journey for many reasons. But the biggest reason I choose NOT to share certain things is for one simple fact:
It is Not My Story to tell.
It is Her’s.
There are things, that if I shared them here, would violate her privacy. There are things that, if I wrote about them, Teenage and Adult Vi…I imagine would never forgive me.
And so, I haven’t shared them.
But it is a fact that adoption is a necessity born out of trauma. The first trauma, of course, being the dissolution of the nuclear family for whatever reason. The traumas after that are individual, depending on the child, but one truth holds steady regardless:
Trauma leaves scars.
This Little Girl, who became part of our family one year ago….
Deserves so much More……
So VERY much more than the beginning she was given in life.
But there are things that can’t be undone. There are hurts I cannot comprehend. There are hurts that can only mend with time. And there are some hurts that may never mend at all.
One year ago today when that document was produced declaring that she had new parents, her entire future changed. But that didn’t change her past.
A Past where getting out of bed at night to use the toilet was unheard of because “the monsters would kill you and eat you”, as she was told by her caregivers.
A Past where having your teeth knocked right. out. of. your. face. by an angry nanny as she dragged you up the stairs by your hair, powerless and terrified, means to this day you flinch at sudden movements.
A Past, full of so many unspoken images, fears, loneliness and hurts that make you behave in ways you can’t even understand, and often cannot control. Because you are a Child. Who has been abused by those who were entrusted with your care.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. So is she.
I am still trying to figure out how to parent her, how different her needs are from my other children, how my own strengths and weaknesses as a parent have been magnified times a thousand in the wake of her birth in to our lives.
She is still trying to figure out what “family” means. What “Love” means. What having choices means.
She has come so far, in one short year.
She is Becoming. She is Overcoming.
She has transformed before our eyes, physically, mentally and emotionally and will continue to do so.
But it is an uphill battle.
While the delight, wonder, beauty and grace which is fully represented in the many things I have written about the last year outweigh the struggles….those struggles which she and all children who have been orphans face are still Very Real.
It is The List, composed by many friends and adoptive parents I have come to know and love over the last year, which sheds light on many of the challenges and struggles our children face as a result of their harsh beginnings. Through no fault of their own, the traumas they have endured leave them with maladaptive coping mechanisms. Behaviors that can be impossible to understand from our perspective but which make perfect sense to a child who was never shown love, who was never treasured and kissed and rocked to sleep….who had to fight to survive.
I am not going to point out which ones apply to Vi and which ones do not.
Again, I do not think her private struggles should be on public display here. That is a choice each adoptive parent has to make, what to share and what to keep private, and it is a delicate dance because you want people to understand but you have to acknowledge how your child may feel about these things having been divulged in the future. Some parents share more than I do, some parents share even less. Rest assured, we are all trying to do best by our children. And I do not judge parents who choose differently than I do, I just want it to be clear.
Just know, as you read, that there are things on this list we have struggled with and some we continue to struggle with….sometimes daily.
Know that what is happening to these children is so very damaging. And it is absolutely unnecessary and preventable.
Know that while Vi now has a future full of bright possibilities, we left an entire orphanage full of children who may never know the love of a family or have an opportunity to heal because what was her Past is still their Present.
Let your hearts break. And be moved to act, in whatever way you can, to help a child in need.
Mama has done her best, sweet girl. Sometimes it is exhausting. Some days are frustrating and long and hard. Some days I just do not understand. But I am trying. And I will keep trying. For you.
I hope some day you can fully understand how beautiful and amazing you are.