Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

I feel slightly sick and twisted at times. As you know by now, one of my biggest challenges in life was connecting with Aviana. From the beginning, I always knew there was something missing. Absent was the deep down underlying love one has for their child, the love that softens your heart when they are in the room, the love that makes whatever they do wrong, not so bad.

Although I loved her and we were making great progress on our journey prior to the accident...we were nowhere close to being finished. Through this process, I sometimes flashback to a conversation I had with a friend. We were sitting on the beach in Southern California, having a true heart to heart conversation. She assured me, the first time your child gets hurt, you will quickly realize just how much they really mean to you and how bonded you truly are to them.

At times, I have a sick sense of humor and jokingly said, “So, what should I do, shut one of her fingers in a door?” This sounds awful, but I was so incredibly desperate to be close to Aviana. At that point, I was truly at a loss and had tried so many different ways to resolve this issue.

As you know, Aviana is one tough child. She has had her fair share of scrapes, bumps, bruises, etc. We did call her "Rough and Tumble" for good reason :o) After each incident, the question remained, did I feel any closer to her at those particular times? If I am being honest, I would have to admit, maybe a little, but not too much.

When this accident occurred, I was severely questioning if the two of us had built enough of a foundation for me to properly care for her. I was so consumed with the fact that if Aviana, as we knew her, was gone....was there anything left? I questioned if I was just simply in love with her personality. If that was the case, I felt a house without a foundation would surely crumble!

As I spent hours and hours by her bedside, the winds began to shift. Without me even pushing for anything and just simply sitting close by, I found myself flashing back to my friend and my conversation. While of course we both could never have imagined an accident of this magnitude, I sat thinking....she was absolutely right!

While in the hospital, I felt closer to Aviana with each passing day. I felt sad when I wasn’t with her. I felt terrible for any pain or discomfort she had to endure. I also could not wait to get her home. I was getting so anxious during the weeks leading up to her release. I could not wait to be the one to take care of her every need. I began to even scare myself. Was this a true feeling or would it wear off after one day?

I am not proud of the mother I was prior to the accident. She was so perfect and full of life, but I couldn’t help but think that everything felt like sooooo much work. Through trial and error, I knew I could not make myself feel a certain way. I was more than impatient with her. Many times I was not caring enough toward her. Many times I felt as though I were just going through the motions. Our relationship was not what I had ever imagined it to be. Above all, I could not stand the way I sometimes was while caring for her.

Doesn’t it seem as though it would be much more difficult to take care of a brain injured child who cannot walk or talk, who has not much control of her body and who is weighing in at 37 pounds right now (UCD was really sticking the food to her)? Doesn’t it seem as though having to change diapers again, clean up throw up on a daily basis and complete all feeds through a tube would be more than challenging?

What I have found is once your heart is fully devoted, these things do not feel like much work at all. My mind can’t help but wander to the fact that this is happening now. Sometimes I feel selfish, as though Aviana has taken the fall for me to be the mom I always wanted to be. I feel as though I have arrived where I want to be at her expense.

At times this bothers me to the point of bringing it up in conversations. I have talked extensively to my friend Jen about this. She understands my feelings completely, but says, “Just thank God you are feeling this way now.” I think of what Jen said every time thoughts about this issue creep into my mind. I am then at ease. She and I usually end this topic of conversation with the all encompassing phrase, “it is what it is!” I pray with open hands and an open heart for me to continue to feel the way I now do about Aviana!


  1. Jen, your post is amazing. "What I have found is once your heart is fully devoted, these things do not feel like much work at all" -- this is so well articulated. I am so happy that you have found peace.

  2. Wow, Jen, what a beautiful post. Thank you so much for your transparency and vulnerability in this post. I've not commented before but have been following and praying for you since about a week after the accident. I can't imagine the games your mind must play on you, but I agree, try to allow yourself to rest in knowing this is how you feel now. You are a beautiful family and I so appreciate you sharing your story with a stranger friend like me.
    Continuing to pray from NC

  3. I loved the honesty of your post and you both are right it is what it is and you can't go back and change anything, and how great that you both have the connection now, I think most of us regret how we parent and want to be this perfect parent, I didn't ahve the connection problem but I definetly am not the role model parent I would liek to be, its just not realistic, be the best that you can be, at times you can better yourself and at times you are simply doing the best you can.

  4. In times of hardship some people come out ahead and some fall to the way-side. From my observation and reading what you post, I can see that you have grown to be such a great person and made you realize that life in general is more important than the things we think are. I apologize that I haven't seen Aviana lately, it's been killing to see her, I have been extremely busy with work, I am in Susanville alot of the time. So when is her coming home party?

  5. you should be commended on your honestly. i think its wonderful that you share this with us. continue to think of you and your family.

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  7. i think that taking time to bond with our adopted little ones is more common than many of us care to admit. i am touched deeply by your honesty and touched to hear of your connection to aviana growing through this ordeal.

    AND you were not a bad mother before, just a mother who was in a normal process of learning a child who did not grow inside her, who does not share her genes, who was not a physical coming together of the parents who are raising her.

    the stories would go on and on if many of us were to be really honest about our bonding (6 months after my son came home i sat sobbing on the floor of my kitchen apologizing to my husband for ruining his life by insisting we adopt instead of getting pregnant.) today, 2 years later i cannot imagine my life without my son. MY son.

    sending love to you and your family.

  8. I think you are doing an amazing job; I hope the honesty helps lift your heart--I find that happens when I share at this level; my bond with both of my children came differently...I was so blessed to have two in 14 months after 2 1/2 years of infertility and I felt horrible about being overwhelmed by it all---but I was. I became a mother much older and the loss of freedom, the devastating loss of freedom and add on of chaos w/ two under two was over the top for me at times. I wanted to love all that was happening, but I didn't always know how to be in it.

    It has gotten so much better, but I do have my moments; I do have to apologize for not being patient and not seeing the joy in their littleness.

    I am praying and caring and thinking of you !!

  9. Jen - NOT immediately bonding with an adopted child is a TABOO topic which needs to be brought out into the light so it is no longer scary and secretive...kudos to you for this post!

    I, too, did not 'immediately' (sheesh...or even gradually) bond to my 4th son (2nd adoption).

    He is from China, He is/was Special Needs.

    (Special Needs by our choice...so...even MORE pressure to bond...I mean my god if a woman cannot bond to a NEEDY, SICK orphan what kind of person IS she?! SHE WAS ME.)

    It took me TWO YEARS to develop my now overwhelming but still sometimes lacking (these feelings seem mutually exclusive but they are not. Trust me) bond and devotion to my son.

    I hid my feelings from EVERYONE. I was the MOST miserable human on the planet.

    I was "PERFECT MOM" to EVERYONE. But I knew the truth. I was a loser. I was cold-hearted.

    When I FINALLY started talking about it, who knew!, OTHERS had had this same experience.

    Phew...I don't want to redo those two years for ANYTHING. EVER.

    Sweet cyber-friend with an amazing heart - I would consider your new found bond with your daughter as one of the silver linings.

    It seems to be one of the ways God is taking a horrible thing that He never wanted to have happen, and making at least SOMETHING good come out of it.

    Luv on her. Eat her up. Your deep bond will not change now.

    WIll you have doubts? Yes.
    WIll you have bad das? Yes.

    But, what is once melted together through fire cannot be taken apart again.

    Blessings to you and yours,
    Mom to 5, 3 international adoptions/2 homemade

  10. Jen,

    Thank you for the courage to share your thoughts on the darkside of motherhood!

    You say that your were not that caring but I think you're being very critcal of yourself as ALL first-time moms DO! I'm certain you were loving but just needed a break each day. I know I need my time outs! We have our ideals of motherhood and a vision and then there's the reality. It's the hardest and often the dirtiest (diapers, spit up, mucous, etc.) job in the world and you don't get a heartfelt thank you until your children are mature. Possibly when they're in their 30's. Also, our reactions to our children are deeply rooted in our childhood and we're faced with dealing with a lot of emotions and issues that we didn't expect. My mom used to have a saying when we weren't seeing eye to eye, "just wait and see until you have kids Michelle".

    With infant bonding, I think it's a struggle for the biological mother or adopted mother. I had so much frustration with Joaquin (bio.) because he only smiled a handful of times in his first year! I breastfed him every 3-6 hours and we were together all the time. He even slept in our bed so I was trying to be close and establish the bond but he was not really an expressive baby. He didn't even cry when he had a dirty diaper. He didn't coo or respond to my baby talk. He didn't develop seperation anxiety from me. I would hand him off to moms that were going through a "baby phase" and desperately wanted to hold him. He went with out hesitation. Now, at 19 months he's learned how to share his feelings. I saw a huge change in him once Natalia was born. He wanted my attention back.

    Take things day by day ;)

    My thoughts are with you, Dave, Aviana, Kama, and Zoe.


  11. Jen,
    I am in total awe of your complete honesty because I'm sure there are many more people out there who have similar feelings and just don't or won't admit it. You have come a long way in your relationship with Aviana and it was not at her expense. She is still here and getting better everyday. You are a wonderful mother...that is quite evident in the way you speak of your daughter. As Aviana gets better you two will have a stronger relationship than you ever thought possible!

    I've been following your story from the beginning and from everything I've read, you are lucky to all have each other. You are a great family and you will all come out of this stronger than you've ever been. Thank you so much for sharing so much of your thoughts with us and know that even though we don't all comment, you are in MANY people's thoughts and prayers!

  12. I've been following your story and Aviana's progress since I found the link on someone's blog (can't remember whose). I think you are an amazing mother! I appreciate your honesty over the struggles you had with bonding. As others have said, it's not something we moms usually talk about with just anyone. We have eight children. Three are bios, one US newborn adoption. These four are now all either out of college and working or in college. Our last four are all adopted from Guatemala (two 13yr olds and two 15yrs olds now). Our last two daughters came home at the ages of 10 1/2yrs and 11yrs. I understand the feeling of mothering a "stranger". Even our newborn daughter "felt" different when she came home at 12 days old than our bios had. But I never experienced any real struggles until our last two daughters came home as older children. My goodness, we had specifically asked for these two girls. And yet it was a challenge for both them and for me to "feel" it. Bonding is truly a process. It's taken the longest with our last beautiful daughter. She has a beautiful smile and is a sweet, happy child, most of the time, and with mostly everyone but me. She saves her glaring and grumping for me. I understand the reasons, the hurts and challenges of adjustment, but it's still been harder to "feel" the love. She's old enough we talk about how her behavior has made it harder for me, subsequently for her. And we have made tremendous progress! But honestly, it was at times only my committment to her that has kept me going these nearly two years, as I waited for the feelings to follow. Yours would have too, if the accident had never happened. But because of this difficult road God has allowed your family to travel, the bonding process got accelerated greatly. What a blessing you feel such deep love for your beautiful daughter now. No need to revisit those early days when you were just getting to know each other and beginning the bonding process. If we all revisited our past, we'd never appreciate every day God has given us, to live and appreciate the blessings of today, the subtle changes that we eventually recognize as giant steps in the right direction. I'm reminding myself of these things, too. Your committment to your daughter was always there. The deep trauma you've experienced just opened your heart to let your love come spilling out in a beautiful, protecting, growing covering over your Aviana.

    I think her name is beautiful!
    Nancy in Iowa

  13. Jen,
    As other posters said, you are amazing to share such private thoughts with all of us. I am so glad that you have that connection now that will carry through forever. What a blessing to experience that closeness with your daughter. You are not alone in your bonding difficulties, as you know. It is just great that you were able to try to talk to others and read on how to make it better. That is very commendable. Don't look back or to the future treasure right now and she is home so BOND AWAY BABY!

  14. We all doubt ourselves as parents. Everytime my little one goes berserk and throws a tantrum, or bonks me on the head, or tells me I'm not a nice Mommy for putting her on time out I wonder if I'm doing things right.

    I can tell you though that I knew all along that Avi had a great family. (I didn't realize that she was adopted, and since I hadn't seen Dave I assumed he was darker skinned.) She always seemed to gravitate towards me, maybe because she knew I was a sucker and would pick her up. Avi never said more than a couple words to me over the course of a few months, but she just radiated love and joy when I'd hold her. Kids are only that secure and happy if they have a good attachment with their parents, which brings us back to why I never assumed she was adopted. So, even if things were tough and you felt insecure about your parenting, I think you were doing a darned good job.

  15. Jenn,
    The feeling that you are having are all feelings we have all had. The guilt, the time, the bonding, and the lack there of...all normal. Especially in times when what we love is in jeopardy of being taken away from us. I too have had to wake up one day to a totally new child. In reality it kind of sucks, he looks and has the intelligence of any regular kid, but the side effects are devistating, if we let ourselves think about. At times we feel like the worst parents in the book who haven't been as nurturing as we should be. But all of this is normal. We know what we want, and how to get what we want, it is just a battle to get it to happen, and it drains us.
    You are doing an amazing job with Aviana, and we are so very proud of you. Not just for taking the responsibility, but for beings so transparant about it. You are definately someone who I would love to know for the resto of my like.

  16. From one adoptive mom to another I think what you are feeling right now is very normal. I think that a lot of the attachment issues that we as parents have is that we have not taken care of them from the time they were a teeny tiny helpless baby. It seems like that is where a lot of bonding probably occurs between mother and child and it then lasts throughout your lifetime. Bringing home a toddler is a very different experience then bringing home a baby that cannot even lift there head.
    Right now she is an infant again and she depends on you for everything, and this time you are there to fulfill all of her needs. There is something very powerful about that. I am positive that you and Avianna are going to bond properly this time and that is precious. However, it is what it is. This didn't happen because you were not bonded enough with her. It just happened and now you are making the best of it.
    Many prayers for you.


  17. I read your words and thought that all mothers probably feel the same way! It is a lot of work and we do it because we love them but it doesn't make it easy! I have been struck by the idea that I wouldn't even question doing these types of things...my husband was hurt in an accident and I never hesitated to do what needed to be done to help him! But you don't know until the time comes. You are so obviously a great mother and it doesn't need to be a physical passage, rather the emotional one is what makes the difference. I remember when the first child was brand new and I wondered whether I was feeling the right way! Everyone does, I think! I think you are the best type of mother cause you have made a concious decision to be there and God had confirmed you are the best mom Aviana could have right now! Take care and know he is with you!

  18. Aviana has always known how much you loved her from the moment you held her in your arms. The memories that you continue to cherish of her before she was ever physically, or emotionally apart of your life; is proof of that.
    Stay strong my friend and know that we all have shared in that same deceitful thought of not loving our child as much as we could have. The key word there was DECEITFUL!
    You and the family are always on my mind and in my prayers.