Friday, February 15, 2013

Confessions of a New Trauma Mama

Looking at the calendar, it was 10 years ago just last week that Gregg and I put aside our dreams of having a family “the good old fashioned way” and started down the adoption path.  For the first six years, we had dreams of a baby being the missing piece to our family puzzle.  After six years and plenty – and I do mean plenty of research, we decided a baby wasn’t necessarily the missing piece – it was a child.  We opened ourselves up to the possibility of a child up to age 8 and kept learning.

We knew that children adopted at older ages frequently come home with feelings of grief, loss, and profound sadness.  We knew that they frequently have histories that go above and beyond and are heartbreaking.  Then we brought Francis home.

While my son’s history is his and his alone, I will say that he has endured trauma I would not wish on my worst enemy.  At seven years old, he has been to hell and back and he is my hero for surviving it.  What he went through yesterday made him the tough little boy he is today.  His trauma pushed me from “Just Mom” to “Trauma Mama,” and here is my first confession:  I love and adore my son, but oh, what I wouldn’t give to just be a regular mom.

What fills my heart and breaks it all at the same time is my son’s desperate need for a mother – not just now, as he should, but that he recognizes what he missed as an infant.  Not everyone who knows us can see it when he rages.  It’s hard even for Gregg to understand when he sees me, beaten down and discouraged, my hair a mess and my eyes half-shut from the mental and physical exhaustion.  “Mommy” can sometimes be too much for Francis.  “Mommy” has not been constant in his life.  Will I leave him?  Why am I saying no?  We’re taking steps to work on this and the attachment is getting much better, but there are still regular struggles.

Still, as much as we struggle, I know that I am the only one that Francis goes to to be soothed.  He frequently regresses into baby behavior with me.  Another confession?  I love that I can do that for him.  I love that despite the fact that he can fight me tooth and nail, most mornings he will come to me as soon as he wakes up for some cuddle time in the rocking chair.  And the fact that we can have an absolutely horrible day, but he still only lets me tuck him into bed and rock him to sleep, singing horribly off-key lullabies.  I love that he will stop whatever he’s doing during the day to refocus himself and reconnect with me through a “big hug.” 

What Is amazing to everyone, those closest to us especially, is how this sweet little boy who needs reassuring cuddles from his Mommy can turn on what seems like a dime and suddenly lash out the moment something in his brain tells him something isn’t right – whether we see it or not (and so many times it’s not).  He’s big for a seven-year-old and has a pretty athletic build, so when he goes to town hitting, kicking, head-butting, and biting, he’s got force.  This I could certainly do without, and it’s not often understood how I can love him through a black eye.  I do.  He’s my son, and he’s forever.

Sometimes I wonder what our lives would be like if we maintained the line of thinking that “if we’re only going to have one child, we should adopt one as young as possible.”  Honestly, even though I may wonder, I wouldn’t change my family.  Make Francis’ life easier for him, yes, as well as our own daily experiences working through the trauma.  This little boy, while frustrating at times and with a firecracker temper, is also one of the greatest love and joys of my life, with a brilliant smile, infectious laugh, and huge, warm hug.  I wish he didn’t live through what he lived through and I wish I wasn’t living the after-effects.  But I do believe that the hardest-fought battles yield the biggest rewards, and that’s my Francis, all the way around.