Friday, January 7, 2011

I Need a Shower...Among Other things

When you have children, no matter how you "have" them, you have ideas about how it will go. Your body has ideas about how it will go. For instance, babies start sleeping more and fussing less, just as you think you are at your breaking point. Nursing hurts so, so bad...and then it hurts a little bit less, and then you can do it in your sleep. Really. Preschoolers cry about everything. Some preschoolers lose their bones when they cry (about everything), and they drop to the ground in a great boneless pile. And then one day, you realize that no one has cried for days. Weird.

When my homegrown children were small, I had a hard time taking showers. I often ate bowls of cold cereal instead of meals. When children napped, I scrambled around the house just trying to get caught up, bracing myself for when that sleepy, fussy voice would alert me to baby's wakefulness.

It wasn't that I didn't like to be clean. It wasn't that I didn't like to eat hot food. It was just that I was always on high alert, watching and listening for my child's need. If I went into the shower, I could not easily stop what I was doing for a moment, to soothe a child or avert a disaster. In fact, I might not hear that a child needed soothing, or that disaster needed averting. Similarly, a bowl or cereal can be put down and taken up again, over and over. Yes, it gets soggy, but no mommy ever died from soggy cereal.

And just when I thought I would never get a shower before four in the afternoon, or sit down to eat an attractive lunch, I began to have those things happen now and then. This is because children grow, and change, and mature. My two month old was not my two year old, was not my four year old, and so it goes.

Then I adopted traumatized children. I went back on high alert. I went back to no showers, and cereal bowls, and scrambling to get housework done when the children were asleep. I was exhausted and bleary-eyed, and chronically under the weather. Nothing about this surprised me. I had planned for it and expected it. My mommy rhythm told me this is how it would be. But then some time went by, and I began to expect the shift, where things slowly got easier. My body seemed to expect it. To be quite honest, it didn't happen for a long time. Long, long past any of my expectations, and even to this day, some of the "easier" is because I have become accustomed to the strain, and not because it has disappeared.

When we have babies, we plan for the hardship...or we do if we're wise. We set our expectations in a place that is reasonable. We cut ourselves some slack. We set up good support systems. And we know that all of it is temporary. Newborns seem like they will be tiny forever, but in the blink of a tired eye...they're off and running.

When we adopt children of trauma, we do all of these things. For a time. And then we begin to despair. We are tired and worn, and we don't know what is reasonable anymore. Temporary stretches out endlessly. Maybe we thought we had supports, and then we realized they weren't supporting us anymore. What then?

We need a Plan B, or C, or D. We need to find other parents who have been stretched beyond that which is natural. We need to have people in our lives who understand the great depth and width of our struggle. We need to love one another, and hold each other accountable, and slowly go crazy together. That is why I am going to Orlando again this year. I am going to see some incredible people I love with all my heart. And I am going to say to anyone there who will listen, "You need to get a little piece of this, and take it home with you. Keep it safe, and treasure it. It will help you to be a better wife and mommy. It will help you to be a better you."

1 comment:

D said...

I can't wait to see you there!