Three years ago when we dove head-first into adopting our children, doe-eyed and full of optimism, I whole-heartedly believed love would be enough to solve all their problems and heal all their hurts. I knew there would be issues, we had done the research, we had spent countless hours in classes on trauma-informed parenting, RAD (attachment disorder) and PTSD. I knew it would be difficult, it would take time to work through the issues but wasn't too worried, after all, love was on our side and love could fix their issues. Fast forward a year post-adoption and I found myself facing a very different reality. The happy-go-lucky family people were seeing on social media was not always as happy as we wanted them to believe and the harsh post-trauma reality set in. No one understood and could relate to the pain, hurt, anger and blow-ups we were experiencing behind closed doors. I was failing and my hope was dwindling. I was scared (still am) if I talk about the difficulties, people would shy away from adopting. I didn't want people to think we regretted it or discourage them from pursuing adoption. If you are considering it, or experiencing this, please know you are not alone. As a mom, I should have all the answers. I should be able to make my kid feel better, work through his issues and help him solve his problems. I hit a dark whole when I realized I could not solve his problems. In fact, I seemed to be the cause of his problems half of the time. I often felt I was trapped in my home as a prisoner. My sons trauma were the bars that kept me entrapped in guilt, shame and frustration. Why had God not healed Andrey and made things a bit easier on us after all the craziness we had already gone through? But the hardest pill to swallow, after all my efforts and energy, I could not make him love me back.
No one warned me (or maybe they did but I was too optimistic to listen) that'd I'd poor all my efforts, time, energy, prayers, money, love and patience into parenting a 11-year old boy who then turns around and repays me in anger, frustration and hatred. There was a period where it felt like I was his arch-enemy. In hindsight, I was throwing a teenage-like emotional tantrum of my own. How dare he be ungrateful, selfish, hurtful and angry after all we'd done for him? Didn't he realize he should be grateful to have a family? Why couldn't he see how good he had it? At least once weekly people would say something along these lines " they must be so grateful to have a family, a room and his own toys. He is so incredibly lucky. He must love you to the moon and back." It was so far from the truth that I was often speechless. I didn't want to admit it then, but I felt so defeated. We had risked so much, energy, time, money and finally made it home from the hellish weeks we spent in Ukraine. When I entered my home I should have felt joy and warmth from finally getting my wish of bringing home the children I desperately fell in love with. God had placed this unexplainable love and drive to help these children and call them my own, I had no doubt about that. What I could not understand, is why had it gotten harder and harder to parent Andrey with each passing day? I had never stopped loving him, but I did not always like him and his actions were often appalling to me. Well a few years later, I can sum it up quietly simply:
Hurt people hurt people.
They don't know love. It's a foreign idea to them. They don't recognize it and they don't know how to respond to it. You have to find a different approach and be very patient.
When Jonah was born, people often asked us if we felt a difference between him and our adopted children. Honestly, yes, but not for the reasons they think. We love them the same, but the love that is reciprocated is different. Jonah is a newborn who has spent every day with me. I know his different cries, his preferences, health history and biological make up. When Jonah cries, a whole slew of people come running to sooth and comfort him. With our older ones, we are peeling them apart like an onion, learning about their past, their likes, dislikes, preferences, fears and insecurities, one layer at a time. The baby knows laughter, comfort, gentle carress, goo-goos and ga-gas, and love. Andrey and Katya, they know hurt. They didn't know love, it was as foreign to them as abuse and neglect is to me. Katya was fortunate enough to be placed in an orphanage with young children and her biggest enemy of growing up was neglect. When she cried because of a wet diaper, no one came running. When she fell and injured herself, no one rushed her to the emergency room and kissed away her boo-boos. Andrey had not grown up with a family who encouraged and praised him, reaffirmed their love on a daily-basis or even provided for his basic needs of air, sleep, food and warmth. Andrey had a family that consisted of 100+ children from the age of 7-15. He was abused, neglected and traumatized by this family of children and care-takers. The only family he knew was a harsh and bitter reality that no person, let alone a child, should have to live through. The difference is when I go to hug my baby, he hugs me back and greets me with a warm smile, because he feels safe. For a long time, when I would try to hug Andrey he would flinch, or fight me off, saying something like "you are so annoying, what do you want?"
The truth is parenting a child with post-traumas is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I don't regret it for one moment, but often I feel I'm not cut-out for it. Then I'm reminded that God makes families and he must see something in me that my children need. The problem is I often feel like a horrible parent. Why isn't my love enough to help him? The truth is the things my son has experienced in his lifetime must be so painful and difficult, that this is how much it has impacted him. I know MY love may not be enough, but I know God is more than enough!
Can I ask a favor? Can you please pray for our family and Andrey specifically? We know that God is doing his work with him and he's made so much progress, but we need help and wisdom in parenting. Only God knows how to heal his heart and to mend his wounds. I pray for wisdom as a mother to parent three very different children from different backgrounds. Most of all, I pray that Andrey accepts God's goodness and finds healing in our home, church and community.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
At one point four years ago, my doctor had a serious talk with me about if I should just take the safest route and avoid any potential cancer risk by getting a complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy, which is removal of the uterus and ovaries. This would mean I could live pain-free and stress-free. This actually sounded like a reasonable option at that point and after consulting with my family, my mom turned on turbo problem-solving mode (which she often does), made a ton of calls, researched and begged me to come to Ukraine with her for three weeks to give this holistic clinic a shot before I made any life-altering decisions. At the time, every morsel of my body was against traveling to Ukraine in the middle of the coldest winter in 20 years and seeing some doctor who would probably want to take all my money, comment on my weight and gawk at how horrible my ovaries looked. After MUCH hesitation, I agreed to go with my mom, more to appease my mom than with any hope that anything would change. The truth is, after a complete health diagnostic, numerous tests and labs, I had discovered my issues were more serious than we thought and the doctor compared my health to one of a 45 year old. That really stung, but it motivated me to do what I could on my end to preserve my health. With a whole suitcase of hollistic medicines, essential oils, powders and the like, I headed home. Although my period had never returned as they hoped, I was able to manage my pain naturally (IB Profen and vicodine was my previous go-to). This had made my life WAY more pleasant and I had not seen any urgent reason to move forward with any surgical procedures and was happy to keep my lady parts in tact.
Fast forward two years, still no sign of a regular menstrual cycle or ovulation. I had put all my attention into Andrey and Katya and the various challenges that came with that (this is a blog post in itself). After having the kiddos home for a few months, I was so incredibly stressed out. I was juggling a lot with the kids appointments, therapy, extra-curriculars and meltdowns in between. As my health was not getting any better, I decided I would make the best of PCOS and all the issues that came with it. I realized my kids needed me and my healthiest and I needed to give them the best version of myself, they deserved that much. I would take back control of my body and start eating a very clean diet and exercise 5-6 days a week. The dual benefit of exercising was my body was looking better and the endorphins gave me more patience when dealing with parenting. My kids needed me, they deserved a healthy and active mom who could keep up with them at the park, have the energy to swim laps with them in the pool and not take out my anger on them from the chronic pain I was previously in. It felt so good to take control of my health and my body! With much support and encouragement, I was able to lose a significant amount of weight and had a whole new level of energy. I was feeling great, until one week in September, I started feeling a lot of pain in my left lower abdomen, similar to the pain of a cyst. The pain would come and go but made it really difficult to make it through my workouts. I decided to secretly go to the doctor and get checked out to make sure it wasn't a ruptured cysts or anything crazy. As I sat there with my gyno of nine years, he did a standard internal ultrasound and then proceeded to tell me he had some good news and some bad news. I thought for sure I'd need another surgery and was hoping the good news is that it wasn't too serious. He then proceeded with the bad news: I probably wouldn't be losing anymore weight. The good news: I was 6-7 weeks pregnant!!! I right about jumped out of my exam chair. What??!!! Are you kidding me, how is that possible? I made him check and recheck and show me the screen about four times after that, which of course all I saw was a bean-like-looking-thing. I walked out of the exam room, walked straight to my car and sobbed for about 20 minutes before leaving for my house. I arrived home to an empty house, immediately went upstairs, peed on about 11 pregnancy tests (I always had a stack of amazon pregnancy tests on hand) and fell on my knees after seeing each positive and simply praised God for his goodness. I waited over 12 hours before I could tell anyone the exciting news since my husband was out of town and I wanted him to be the first to know, but I did not want to tell him the news over the phone.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Let me tell you friends, parenting is not what I thought it would be, some things have pleasantly surprised me, and others have horrified me and have brought out sides of my personality that I didn't know existed. Adoption is SO different than I thought it would be. Being a stay at home mom is SO much more exhausting than I anticipated. This faith thing is more challenging than I expected. Moving forward, I'd love to share how are family is doing, our pregnancy and birth story, my health journey before and after pregnancy, some unsolicited parenting advice and reflection, raw venting from someone who has been thrown into the trenches of parenting three kids in a matter of two years and hopefully some encouraging words. So stay tuned and let me know if there is anything specific you'd like me to write about. For now, I hope you are having a great start to your new year.
Thank you all for stopping in. I am humbled by those that have written or emailed me asking me to update my blog. Thank you for your encouragement.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
CAUTION: This post is about women’s health, PCOS and infertility issues. If you don’t want to read about periods, body-image and so on, stop right here! If you continue to read on, please remember you were fairly warned.
I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately. After becoming a mother, I've tried to look at the areas of my life I can improve and I've realized that although I've had a good grasp on most things, the one thing I could never seem to get a handle on has been my health. I have avoided facing this issue head on because any time I ask additional questions, go to doctor’s appointments, or decide to research new information online, I hit a wall of frustrations and it reminds me of a deep dark place I had been a few years after being diagnosed with PCOS, Endometriosis and infertility. This is a place where I feel I have no control and very little understanding. I've managed to have a positive attitude about most things in life, but I've fooled myself into believing if I don’t focus on my health, my issues will somehow eventually go away. When I think about my declining health over the years, it makes me feel like a failure. I hate the fact that my body doesn't do what God intended it to do. I've avoided sharing this post for many months because I’m embarrassed and scared of exposing my true insecurities. The truth is once I truly face my prognosis, I feel defeated. Hopeless. Angry. I’m trying to take a different approach for once. I want to be proactive and face my condition head on. The first step of this is acceptance. In hopes of helping someone else who may be struggling with medical issues, I've decided to recap a bit of my history and how I was diagnosed.
Before getting married, I had never struggled with any major health concerns, other than the occasional cramps and headaches. Although I had never had exactly 28 days between cycles, I had a cycle every 4-5 weeks. After about 9 months of marriage, my periods became less frequent and we had been convinced we must have been pregnant. I had felt drowsy, tired, bloated and was gaining weight rapidly. After about 6 months of hit-or-miss cycles, 30 extra pounds of weight and stomach cramps, it was time to see the doctor. Eventually after numerous appointments, an additional 15 pounds and severe pelvic pain, I was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. My OBGYN had said I had a small chance of ever getting pregnant naturally, because of how severe my symptoms were. I had never heard of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome but I learned it was a condition in which levels of the hormones are out of balance. Not only would I be faced with infertility, but the additional symptoms that I had been warned about were cysts on ovaries, heart disease, diabetes, high-cholesterol, unwanted hair growth, acne, obesity and endometrial cancer. That was a bitter pill to swallow. I quickly learned there was no known cause of PCOS and no cure and my case was quickly severe. Since being diagnosed over 6 years ago, I've been pre-diabetic and have had surgery to remove the 30+ cysts and endometriosis I had on my ovaries. After surgery, I was able to find natural remedies for managing pain and preventing cysts growth but the few times in the last years I’ve gotten a period are worth celebrating. #PCOSProblems #DreamingofPMS
|A few weeks after our wedding|
This may sound shallow, but I think the most difficult part of dealing with PCOS in the first few years was dealing with my body-image after I had gained 45 pounds in a matter of 9 months. I was #stillAM terrified of being perceived as a couch potato and someone who lacks self-control. I have to admit that I may have had one too many pizzas and lattes in the last few years to contribute to my weight gain, but it all spiraled out of control with my hormone issues. I learned my appearance was extremely important to me and I hated the person I had become. Thankfully God has shown me he loves me despite of my weight and has sent people in my life who feel the same way. Later in my journey, it hit that infertility was truly going to be a problem and coping with infertility has been a process of its own (I spoke about this in my previous posts). At this point, I've accepted the side effects, although unpleasant, but I’m fed up with feeling helpless. I don’t want to go down this slippery slope and I've decided it’s time I take control and responsibility and fight this condition. I want to be the healthiest person I can be, even if that looks or feels different than others. I need to embrace that I can change the statistics. I can prove the doctors wrong. PCOS, infertility or insulin resistance don’t have to define me. I have three people in my life who think the world of me and they are worth fighting for. I want to be proactive about my health, and take back control, once and for all. I’ll follow up with additional posts explaining how I’m going to do that and write about my progress in the future.
Have you ever struggled with health concerns that made you feel helpless or overwhelmed? How did you tackle them?
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
It’s been 272 days since we landed on American soil as a new family of four. 2014 is behind us and to say 2014 was a whirlwind for our family would be a gross understatement. When reflecting on the year, it was the most traumatic, unnerving, costly, stressful, exhausting yet GLORIOUS year yet, and I have some unwanted grey hairs to prove it #thankfulforhaircolor. 2014 was truly epic! For the first time in seven years, I was able to cross off my “Become a Mom” New Year’s Resolution. Hallelujah!!!
I’ve been horrible about writing lately, partly because I’ve been busy with my jobs, mommy job and accounting job but also because we were in stage three of adoption bonding, commonly known in the adoption community as the spaz out/meltdown phase #soexhausting. Well I’m thrilled to announce stage three, the triage phase, is mostly behind us. We’ve stopped the bleeding and the vitals are looking good. Stage three was so exhausting. Oops, I already said that. I felt like I was a failure as a parent and there were times I wondered if our son would ever see past his anger and grief. Now we are joyfully entering stage four – rehab. God has been good to us and we are seeing the sun light shine through the clouds and boy, do I love sunshine! We have a ton of work ahead of us, as we teach them to cope, manage their frustrations, feel secure, find self-worth and tackle their education, but we feel incredibly blessed to have made so much progress in the last few months.
Even more exciting, is for the first time in the last 272 days, I feel content. I don’t feel frustrated or guilty for not meeting my own made-up fascinations of what type of mom I need to be. For the first time, Andrey has went off to school with a large smile on his face and gave me a hug and kiss before leaving. For the first time, I’m not comparing my children to anyone else, adopted or bio. I can also admit for the first time, I am extremely proud to parent two creative, witty, strong-willed, loving, outgoing, determined, brave, caring and joyful children. I have made a lot of mistakes in the last 272 days, but as I look at the wide-eyed smiles on my kiddos, I feel content that I must be doing something right. With God’s help, I have the family I have always dreamed of. I have three people in this world that adore me more than I deserve, my children’s health has seen phenomenal improvement, I have my dream job of being a mom and I live in a country that is safe from warfare. Moments of pure bliss are common in my home and I have God to thank for that. God has been with us every step of the way. Taking that first leap of faith over three years ago has proven to be extremely rewarding. I’m looking forward to see what God has in store for our family in the coming year and hope we can make it as memorable as the last.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Okay friends, the pity party is over! It's time to prepare for the many, way more enjoyable, parties that await us in the holiday seasons. As thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking of all God has provided for us in the last year and how His protective hand has been over us in the last year. This year could be summed up by so many life changing moments that showed me how miraculous and powerful God really is in my own life. Some of those moments are when we got the call to pack our bags and leave for Ukraine to pick up our children, when we arrived in Kiev and saw the devastating aftermath of the Maidan revolution, when we met our daughter for the first time, when the judge officially pronounced me to be the mom of Andrey and Katya and most of all, the moment we landed on American soil, complete as a family. We had made it out of Donetsk unharmed and our family had doubled in size. The overwhelming amount of emotions I felt in that moment will be engraved in my mind forever. God had provided a victory! The moment that had kept me going through the crippling fear, anxiety and stress came to fruition. We were all finally safe and ready to walk into the loving arms of our family and friends. I'm so grateful our friend was able to capture this moment to share with our children. This isn't a professional video, but it's by far my favorite video of all time, because it's a symbol of what we have to be grateful for, not only this Thanksgiving, but many more to come!
Monday, November 10, 2014
First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for my inconsistent and infrequent blog posts. I could make excuses all day long about my not having enough time, being a working mom, juggling the kiddos schedule and finding time to reconnect with my husband, but I know deep inside those are all just that, excuses… The reality is when I put my thoughts on paper, or in type, they all of a sudden become very real and I’m not always ready to face the reality of my emotions and feelings. I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been scared to share the truth about what’s really going on in this head of mine. You see, when you adopt, people are always telling you how amazing you are, how they think you are practically saints and although that is so kind, I also have become very aware of this false image that people have painted of me, and I’m terrified to let them down. The truth is we are ordinary people, with tons of flaws and we are just starting to figure out this whole parenting thing. We make mistakes daily and I am always aware of the fact that I need to work on myself, that I am still being molded and mended. Don't forget we are all human and nine times out of ten, we face the same struggles in various areas of our lives.
Confession: I’m breaking my own rules over here. I’m always telling people how the worst thing you can do for yourself is have a pity party. Well guess who’s having a pity party this week and feeling bad about it? I've been comparing my children and my parenting to everyone else’s. No bueno! I know better than that, but I can’t help it. Here are the things I’ve been struggling with:
- I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t had the opportunity to raise my kiddos from birth, like most moms, which I feel puts my children at a disadvantage. This especially happens when we get bad news at Katya’s doctor’s appointments, which for a while, were weekly visits. If it wasn’t an ulcer, a parasite, staff infection, ear infection, it’s been hip dysplasia and birth defects. Anyhow, every time I hear about another issue I begin to resent others who had perfectly healthy kids and complain about nonsense issues, like the color of their hair and the size of their nose. I completely understand this is unfair, but once again, not always rational in moments and far from perfect. The good news is despite of all these physical and psychological challenges, Katya is the most optimistic kiddo I’ve ever met. I wish I could have protected her from all these physical ailments and given her the medical attention she deserved, but I’m also grateful to have medical insurance and access to Shriners Hospital, who can help us bring her into good health.
- I’ve quicky realized my kids aren’t going to be like all the other kids we hang out with, or most kids in general. This week was parent teacher conference time at my son’s school. While other parents were beaming with joy over their child’s straight A’s, honor roll and student of the month, we were relieved our 4th grader has managed to count to 20 and has learned basic addition. Most of the year, our homework sessions have ended in either or both Andrey and I in tears. It’s been tough. Katya has her own struggles as well. The preschoolers at Katya’s school are celebrating how nicely they write and sound out the letters of the alphabet and 7 weeks into school I’m still trying to get my daughter to call the Teacher by name instead of yelling “Hey!”. Just when I think we made progress, I pick her up from school and ask, “Katya, what is your teacher’s name? She says with a huge smile on her face “Miss Doggy!” Oh Vey! I feel like the more I realize how far behind our children are, the more work I realize I have to do to get them to be normal functioning adults one day, and the truth is I’m already getting burned out and overwhelmed from the physical and emotional needs, that I don’t feel l have anything left for their educational needs. I feel like they will always be carrying around the damage that was done to them by their past. It sucks and it’s not fair that they are already at such a disadvantage in life. Also, selfishly, I’ve always been a go getter and have made my parents proud in my accomplishments and I become a bit jealous that others will be proud of their children, showing them off to the world, while I try to rush out of church, hoping my kids don't dig in people's purses for candy and ask complete stranger if they can please have their Ipod. Like seriously, this is hard work!
- I feel like I’m too hard on my kids, but I don’t know how to change. First of all, I wish I was a more graceful parent. I’m not the calm and collected mom I envisioned I would be. I struggle between making sure they know the rules and I'm consistent with follow through and feeling like they really may not know better. In my defense though, I don’t think I was fully aware of how difficult it would be to parent an older child. We knew to some extent it would be difficult to parent an 11 year old who has been institutionalized the majority of his life, I still feel the books should have said in bold and underlined… WARNING, THIS WILL TEST YOUR LAST BIT OF PATIENCE… PROCEED WITH CAUTION! Don’t get me wrong, if we knew how difficult it would be, it still would not have changed our decision, but I think I would have had set different expectations. The truth is Andrey is doing amazing for the short period of time he’s been in a family environment, I think I’m the one who is failing. I always say I feel like we've hit the jackpot as far as international adoption go, but I can’t let go of my standards and my expectations. Roman constantly reminds me that we need to set different bench marks for our kiddos, but I guess the over-achiever in me doesn't want to accept that. I’m working through this and hope God guides me through this process.
Comparison is a road that leads to know where but resentment, jealousy, anger, etc. A friend of mine recently shared a quote with me, “comparison is the thief of contentment.” This is so true! I’m not entirely sure how I’ll work through these issues, but I think God will come through and change me through this process. I’ve realized I don’t have much grace for mistakes but I have to constantly remind myself of how much grace God has shown me in my life. I’m definitely far from deserving of the magnitude of blessings that surround me each day, yet God still pours out his love and compassion. Too bad I haven’t made a lot of time for devotionals or reading God’s word, or I bet I’d be doing much better #workinprogress. Have you ever struggled with comparing yourselves to others? How'd you work through it?