She came home two years ago on March 29. It was Good Friday. And something that we prayed and labored for for two years came to a sort of completion but something we would pray and labor over the rest of our lives began. A new daughter, a new life, a new story to weave into our own.
It started almost right after she came home. I just called it a sort of “baby blues”. My heart and mind were tired from the sudden upheaval of adding a new member (no matter how long the wait, it always comes suddenly). I was emotionally drained from the years of waiting. It would pass with time. That’s what I told myself.
But as time went on, it really didn’t get better. She seemed to be attaching well to everyone in the family except me. The world around us acted as though she hung the moon. My heart felt cold.
Time went on and she became one of us, as though she had always been here. Sort of. Her relationship with family and friends was normal. Her relationship with her sisters was healthy and strong. Her relationship with Matt was beautiful and unbreakable. But she and I, we kept each other at arm’s length. I, resentful and lacking confidence and more fully aware than ever of my short comings as a mother. She holding back from me, guarded, untrusting.
The past two years we have danced this way, more of a line dance, side-by-side, than a slow dance, face-to-face. Occasionally we will turn and draw closer and it will feel almost normal, almost natural. Most days it’s an awkward relationship and feels like I’m forever babysitting someone else’s child. An unnatural mother with my natural children, I don’t know how to reach out to connect with this one not born of my body who brings a six year long story I was not part of. My four biological girls, I can look at their face, listen to the tone of their voice, and instinctively know so much of what is going on inside each of them without a word being said. This littlest one holds secrets I may never know. Her face and tone often betray something deeper, but she holds it all tight inside. Only she holds the key.
The shame and guilt of being the mother who can’t attach has worn on me. When you adopt, you read and prepare endlessly for the child who struggles to attach. You walk into it with the awareness that the child may never be able to form healthy bonds if they were never formed in the first place. But no one talks about when a parent struggles to attach, especially the mother. Because mother-love is supposed to be instinctive and strong and deep and easy, that’s what the whispers in the dark tell me. And what mother spends countless hours preparing paperwork and endless nights of tear-filled prayers longing to hold a child she did not carry and then builds walls around her heart once the child is home? Satan assured me I was the only one and that I was the very worst mother possible.
A few weeks ago, in a post-adoption group that I am on in Facebook but don’t participate much in so it rarely shows up on my feed but this day it did, God gave me a grace-gift in the form of a woman sharing my story, except it was hers. How she couldn’t attach or connect and the shame she felt and that her child had been home over two years and it was just finally starting click. And a glimmer of hope flickered in my heart. Not that Amania and I will connect soon; I dare not hope for that. But hope that I am not alone in this painful place, just as I am not alone in the other dark areas of my life.
I do hope that Amania and I will one day have a natural, comfortable relationship. That she will no longer look at me like there’s a story she cannot tell, but that our story will be written together. I do not know when that will come or how long it will take or how hard we will have to work to get there. But I find no small significance that our story starts on Good Friday – that day that Satan thought he won the victory, but God wasn’t finished. Friday was dark and hopeless and terrifying. But God was writing redemption and restoration and hope and beauty.
God’s still writing. And in some parts of my heart and in parts of Amania’s heart it’s still Friday. But Sunday’s coming….