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.