Thursday, February 14, 2013

Her Real Disability

I've been struggling with some thoughts lately. Often people who know Zoya pretty much forget her life before us. I truly wonder if some people just think the moment the child crosses the line into America, their life is redeemed and they go on their happy way, with no "baggage." I wonder if people think I'm holding on to the past too much when I talk about how her early days affect her current days.  And if they think that, then they probably haven't been in our shoes. The truth is, most of Zoya's difficulties lie in her early years of deprivation, NOT in Down Syndrome. I made it a point at Zoya's IEP meeting to tell them that in my opinion as her mama, her real disability is the anxiety and post traumatic stress she struggles with from her 22 months spent barely living in an orphanage. Her brain is wired differently because of the first 22 months she spent with little interaction, struggling each day just to survive, going through open heart surgery and recovery alone, not having anyone to nurture her or rock her or kiss her or love her.

I struggle with the guilt of this, as I've written about before. There are days, certainly, that I just wish with all my might that I could have met my babies they day they were born...that I could have been there for them from day 1....that they wouldn't have had to endure those months and years without the love they so clearly need and deserve. But, that's not how it happened, and I will continue to praise God because He knows best...even if we can't grasp that right now.

I struggle with trying to put it all into perspective and just "forget" the past. I can't ever forget her beginning (or any of my girls' beginnings), but I don't want to dwell on it either. The truth is, though, that even nearly 3 years post-adoption, Zoya still needs me to remember so that I can parent her accordingly (with a much more sensitive and gentle style than I'd naturally be inclined to) and advocate for her needs accordingly. She has come a long way, she sure has! BUT, I'd be kidding myself to think that her brain developed in the same way it would have had she had those first 22 months with a loving family. Zoya's beginning in life will always play a part in the person she is. Maybe her beginning has affected her more than some children and less than others, but either way, it has clearly affected her. And we recognize that. I'd be failing Zoya if I just brushed it under the rug. I'm not trying to use this as an excuse for Zoya and I'm very careful not to fall into that trap. Do I think Zoya has active memories of terrible things from early on? No, but I think her brain remembers and her emotional regulation (or lack there of) responds accordingly. We might never be able to grasp the extent of how those early years shaped the child she is today.

At the end of the day, it's important for Zoya, and for us as her parents, not to just forget the loss and loneliness that she has experienced early on in life. Grieving along side her, at times, has been the glue that has bonded us. At the same time, it's important to remember that the best way to help her is to just keep loving her. God has made it clear to me (over and over and over since I'm stubborn) that my job as Zoya's (and Mila and Sofia's) mama is to simply love them. That's it. Just love them. That sure takes a lot of pressure off of me, because loving them is so easy to do.

So, my friends, my point is that redemption is not always an overnight happening. Sure, in the literal sense of the word, Zoya was delivered from her old life the moment we took her out of that orphanage. But, I'm here to tell you that her redemption is a lengthy process.  Redemption is still being seen and felt almost 3 years later, as the Lord continues to deliver and heal Zoya.  And as he does that, we love her for exactly who she is today, triumphs and struggles.

10 comments:

  1. Had this exact conversation with Dariya's IEP team this year. Trust me they got the picture when I couldn't say institutionalized without crying how much this has affected our family not only Dariya.

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    1. We're in this boat together, sister!

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  2. Please don't take this as me being some kind of "creeper" but even tho I have never met you guys, as I read your post I found myself thinking "I just love you guys and I wish I could give you a hug!" Having come thru life with my own "baggage" from childhood trauma, I just have to say THANK YOU--for doing what you guys do--for meeting your girls where they are at, accepting them and loving them, cheering them forward while recognizing when they need that something extra, that extra bit of encouragement, cuddles, and simply understanding. I wish ALL parents could have that sensitivity, Sarah--I truly do!! Zoya (and your other two sweeties) is an AWESOME little girl who has so many gifts, such a precious personality and has come soooo far. You are all blessed to have each other!

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  3. But, you know that love is not all you have to do. You have to encourage your dumplings to stretch and grow.Look at what Zoya could do at the dance show! Your little anxious girl got out there and did a great job! I believe that we all carry burdens from the past and learn to cope and get around them as we need to. That is what you are doing for your girls. Every time Zoya pushes through the worry she has gained confidence and skills. You and your family and friends are doing great things for her and Mila and Sophia.

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    1. For Zoya, especially, there is no convincing her to do something she is not ready to do, she has to realize on her own (which we lovingly help her do), so I agree, but at the end of the day the way we do that is to just show her love and by doing so she feels safe enough to take those stretches :) So if we just go back to "love them" that covers pretty much everything LOL! It may not always be the outcome we hope for, but then we just love them through the next development. It's a rollercoaster for sure, this parenting thing!

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  4. Thanks for this post. I feel the same about our little guys. When we are out in public and Hannah does something strange it kills me inside for people to think badly of her when they have no idea what she has been through for 7 years.

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  5. My daughter also suffers from PTSD and high anxiety from her first 4 years of multi caregivers and emotional abuse - she was a foster child and I got her at age 4, adoption was final at age 6 and she is now 12. She will always be who she is due to her early years and I agree with you - we can never forget but cannot use it as excuses. Hannah has trouble at school and when trying to get them to understand that her reactions are not defiance but defense it is very hard to get them to realize how much her past shapes her present. Bless you and you family and I so appreciate your honesty and understanding. Judi

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    1. Hi Judi! You said it perfectly "trying to get them to understand that her reactions are not defiance but defense is very hard...." YES YES YES! How DO we do that without looking like we're using her past as an excuse...WE don't see it that way, but other who don't believe us and think it's just controlling or defiant behavior probably roll their eyes thinking we're just making up an excuse for our child :( Frustrating for sure!

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  6. I feel like this is a must read for anyone who comes into contact with children who have been adopted. The brain is wiring from birth, like you said, and THAT is exactly where the difficulties stem from. You're so wise mama!

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