Friday, June 11, 2010

Ethiopia (taking custody)

(The moment we took custody)
(First Bath)
(Getting used to having another little brother)

The day after we returned from Awassa our agency brought our children to the Guest House. All of us parents were excited and we paced and waited for the van to pull in... yet not far from our minds was how difficult this moment must be for our kids. I think Sweet M* had the hardest time out of our travel groups children. His heart was racing when they put him in my arms and he even tried to run out the gates of the Guest House bc he was just so nervous. It was the hyper/ excited/ nervous so he was smiling, but he just wasn't himself. We took him upstairs and gave him a bath which he loved. We were shocked that he could wash his entire little body all by himself with a bar of soap. He would even scrub his face with the soap and then dump the water right into his eyes. It really makes you wonder who or how he was able to bath in the orphanage and with his birth family. He was pretty proud of himself after the bath and some new clothes and he continued to bath about 3 times a day for the remaining days.

But, what also came with the nervous/ excited/ scared little boy that I had was tantrums. I was expecting tantrums, but I had read more about them with kids from Russian orphanages and I hadn't seen much about it on Ethiopian Adoption blogs. I don't know that I was ready for the blood curdling/ inconsolable crying (screaming) that was going to occur. From the moment we took custody anytime we had to give direction Sweet M* would go into a full blown tantrum. He wouldn't hit or bite (yet) he would just scream and cry. It was so loud the maids and guards would come to see what was going on. I felt awful. Walks outside would help him calm down, but at the time I just couldn't do it. Taking him into the streets as a white person in Ethiopia while he was kicking and screaming was just too much for me- I was scared we would ruin international adoption for anyone behind us. So, I would allow the maids and guards to help console him. At first they could, but as the days went on and people just kept giving in to his fits he got worse and even the guards and maids would give up trying to get him out of his raging fit.

The last day there I decided that I was not going to let the others help and if he needed to cry bc I had to give him a direction so he did not hurt himself that was okay. His tantrums started to slow down and get a little better. And, he would calm down after he came out of a fit which I noted as progress. But, I was really having a hard time and I was exhausted.

The one thing that really helped me was Nancy Thomas' "Taming the Tiger" program. They have a yahoo group that was my savior while I was in Ethiopia. I just needed to hear that others had been in my situation and that they and their children got better. They told me that they did and now I can say that we are making it to. But, I'll catch you up soon on our more recent progress.

I have paused, erased, re-wrote and re-thought typing this information, but I want to be REAL. I was scared in Ethiopia. I was worried that I wasn't capable of handling my son and it was hard to see it getting any better. And, yes I read a ton of books and researched toddler adoption- BUT it is different reading it and experiencing it. I want those behind me to understand and be able to be prepared for this part of the process. And, I hope you find this information helpful.


Little Lesiw said...

Amber, I SO appreciate your honesty on your experience. Personally, I think it's the BEST thing you can do for future adoptive parents. Many times people only tell the 'good', and then the true 'realities' of adoption can be frightening.

I follow quite a few Korea adoption blogs and there was one where the parents posted about 30 seconds of their daughter 'grieving' the night they got her. To see this sweet little baby crying inconsolably - and the parents obviously tired and sad -made me cry. BUT - I was so thankful to get a glimpse at what real grieving can be like.

There have also been Moms in my adoption forums who have talked about how their children were 'taking' to the Dad and not them... and how hard it's been for them (which as Moms I think its natural to assume that our children will instantly be more attached to us as their primary caretaker).

To me, all of these experiences I value SO MUCH as I prepare to pick up our son (from S. Korea). So THANK YOU for being honest, for sharing your fears, and for just being real.

Jennifer said...

So what did you do when he had his tantrums/blood curling screaming. I would love to know because I am planning to adopt older children.


Calmil2 said...

I am soooo proud of you for posting this!!! The truth helps so much more than the sugar coating that we read most of the time. You are doing an amazing job!
xoxo, H

Zoe said...

Thanks, Amber. This is helpful. I got the Taming the Tiger book and CD and would love to know what you found most helpful and what you used. We will have two kids and I feel like I need to prepare myself for an all-out hell-fest :-)

Amber said...

Thank you so much for the kind comments. Rachel & Harmony I too learned so much from the blogs that really told both sides... I am so glad that you appreciate it.
Jennifer most times we had to work very hard to distract him. Sometimes a maid or guard would speak to him and he would calm down... sometimes we resorted to candy mainly lollipops. It was hard.
Zoe the things that have worked the best for us are the carrying... I carried him for hours a day in the beginning. Bottle feeding we do it twice a day, and no self feeding. I just started today actually letting him feed himself and we have been home for 5 weeks. I know it sounds insane... BUT it is EXACTLY what he needed. I will post more when I get the chance.

msl said...

Amber you just did a lot of people a big service. As you know when we picked up Tessa she HATED us. I wasn't prepared for the inconsolable crying and point blank rejection from this little baby - she'd go to anyone else as long as it wasn't us. Nothing I'd read on anyone's blogs except one mom's -who briefly touched on it - had been anything but beautiful kodak moments. It was a frightening, hard, gut-twisting 10 days. We all got through it and Tessa is beyond great but it's really important to let people know that sometimes getting to the great takes a lot of time, patience and understanding and doesn't happen in the first 10 minutes. Thank you for being brave enough to discuss this.
xoxo M.

Kim said...

Hi Amber,

I just found your blog through the WACAP yahoo group. My husband and I are researching agencies right now and are looking seriously at WACAP. Also, we're considering toddler adoption. THANK YOU so much for your openness and honesty about the challenges you faced! It is extremely helpful for those of us who are trying to make an informed decision. I would love to talk with you about your experience with WACAP if you are able. Here's my email address: God bless!

Kim Plattner