Thursday, August 6, 2009

Education is Messing With My Mind

When we adopted Bunny, I was a newbie, I was scared. I wanted a child but I was also terrified of children, they cry and you have to figure out why. You are responsible for everything when it comes to children and if you make a mistake you could mess it all up. That is scary.

Since I wasn't carrying Bunny inside of me, those maternal instincts never kicked it. The baby was always this hypothetical concept, it wasn't real. It was sort of real when we got her picture. I loved her but the picture could have been of anyone's child. The reality that I was going to be a parent, didn't truly kick in until they placed her in my arms. Oh my god, this is my baby.

For all those months we waited for her, my body was not telling my brain that there was a baby coming. There were no hormonal messages being sent saying you better get ready. I mean, objectively I knew a baby was coming but it didn't always feel like it. I knew I had to prepare in some way. But how?

Well I did what any self respecting, anal retentive law talking gal would do. I read books, lots and lots of books. I read books on parenting, on adoption, on anything remotely related to the subject. I thought the books would help. They did. I thought they would provide the answer, the magic bullet if you will. They did not.

I'm glad I read the books. I even referred to a few from time to time. But they didn't really help me become a parent. That I did on my own (with help from Bunny), through trial and error. Most of the time I was successful. Sometimes my efforts were a failure and I learned from them.

In between the time we adopted Bunny and the time we started Turtle's adoption, our state instituted an education requirement for all prospective adoptive parents. In order for the state to approve your homestudy and for your adoption to move forward, you are required to have 16 hours of educational training (10 if you are already a parent). I think this is a great idea. Heck, it should be required for all people before they become parents (but the state can't exactly regulate that).

So I went about fulfilling my educational requirements through on line training and reading books. I had no problem with it, I viewed it as something akin to the continuing education requirements I needed to maintain my law, financial and insurance licenses. In other words, I viewed it just like the geek I am.

But then as I actually started reading the books and completing the courses, I began to completely freak out about parenting. Not about parenting Turtle (well maybe a little, what with the fear of the unknown and all) but about parenting the child I am currently parenting, Bunny.

I know adopted children have grief related to their adoption even if they are too young to remember the event. I know that Bunny may have memories of the way she left her birth family and went in to orphanage care, on some deep fundamental level. I know that she will have questions about what happened and why. I know that I don't really have the answers she is looking for. I know that I will have to help her come to grips with her past in a way that is right for her.

I know all of this intellectually, in this big, over educated brain of mine. I do. But in my heart, the heart that loves my daughter more than anything, more than air itself, this knowledge scares me. It scares the shit out of me. Reading something a long the lines of "grief over the loss suffered during adoption can arise at any time and may not have a triggering event." is not what my mushy, weepy heart needed to hear.

So I obsess and over-analyze everything. Every behavior, every action takes on new meaning. "Did she do that because . . . ? " "Is she angry or upset because she is . . . ?" How do I know? How can I tell? OhMyGodWhatAmIDoingWrong?

When I get like this, I need to step back and take a deep breath. I need to let my brain be in charge. Most, if not all of her behaviors can be explained by one thing, the fact that she is THREE. She is trying to find her place in the world, figure out how far she can push, what she can get away with. Its normal.

I need to trust my instincts. I need to follow the path we decided on, discussing Bunny's adoption as openly as possible in an age appropriate manner. But most of all, I think I need to stop reading these books, they are really messing with me.


Kelly L said...

I can so relate to this post. I have two adopted girls... I was always afraid of kids before - never really wanting to hold my friends' kids... I was not this Maternal woman that bee lined to the nearest baby.... but when I held my new baby girls for the first time - I never knew a love so great and so terrifying.. I seriously don't think that there is any difference between adopting your child vs birthing your child... I also agree with you that we need to trust our own instincts - and if the books are confusing you... throw them away!

Christy said...

I totally understand how you are feeling - about being over educated in a certain situation. I felt the same way about pregnancy. I read a couple of chapters of books and thought ok, then I continued reading and learning more about what could go wrong, and I thought OKAY enough. If something goes wrong, I'll deal with it with my dr's help.

I think you should put down the books (except the ones you have to read to take the tests) and just enjoy the time you have with just Bunny. Turtle will be there soon enough and you'll be just a fabulous a mother to him as you are to Bunny! I'm sure of it!

Issa said...

I think the fact that you are watching for it so closely, means should something ever come three years or thirty years, that you'll help her through it. That's what we do as moms. We do the very best we can and then we try again when we fail and help them in any way possible when they need it.

Three is yeah. A challenge? And hi, four isn't a picnic either. Sorry. :)

I'll let you in on a secret okay? M was about 5 weeks before I went, holy crap, I heart this kid. She has my whole heart now and she's mine forever and I'd kill for her and move the moon if she wanted me too. Renee, I carried the child inside of me for 8 months (she was a month early) and I had no idea what the hell that meant. But for me it wasn't instantaneous with her. In fact, I still wonder how she managed to survive that first 6 weeks. I was clueless.

It's obvious you adore Bunny and I know that whenever you bring your son home, you will adore him too and be as great of a mom too him. The rest of it? Deal with it as it comes. Can't count on them having any issues and can't say they won't. All you can do is be proactive when things come up.

Okay, done leaving a novel. Hugs my friend.

Kirsten said...

What Issa said.

Kirsten said...

Just kidding. Sometimes I think just being aware is the best we can do. I worry all the time about my kids being bi-racial and holy shit what will this mean for them and how am I going to deal with it.

Bunny is so lucky to have you (and Turtle too!). Too much information can be dangerous. You're an amazing mom. The chicken costume proves it.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to second Issa... for me, yes, I loved my baby... but it wasn't for several months that I felt that overwhelming maternal love that everyone talks about. It took time for me. And maternal instincts? I think the PPD effectively masked them for quite some time... over a year.

It's different for every parent, I think.

anymommy said...

I completely understand this. I stopped reading books and stopped following certain chat groups for this reason. I try to trust my instincts about what is related to adoption and what isn't, how we are doing on attachment, etc. Because, when I read too much, it drives me bonkers too.