What were the first two weeks really like?
Kira and I have emerged whole and unscathed through the scary tunnel of our first two weeks adjustment here at home. It was a journey unlike any other I can remember with a baby, and am I ever relieved we emerged on the outside. In some moments it was unsure if we were going to go backwards rather than forwards. Now that we’ve been birthed through our American initiation rites I can process what happened and share. While we were passing through it was almost impossible for me to understand what was happening because we were purely coping minute to minute in some instances. Now we both seem to have a surprised look, we face each other with our whole minds attached and say, “what was that?” Whatever it was, we are glad it’s over. She didn’t like it any more than I did.
When we went through our educational training to parent an adopted child, in Dec 2009, as part of the requirements for our home study, there was a couple who spoke about the first two weeks home with baby. At that point we didn’t know if we’d have an older child so we paid loose attention. Mostly, I knew we would have to gear up our parenting skills and put them behind the harness of God’s ability to provide us patience and perseverance and simply go through it without too much anticipation or assumption. What I do remember from that lesson though is that anything could happen, and it wouldn’t be easy. I was at least prepared for this period to be challenging.
The periphery problem was that it was very difficult to return to my life after being away for six weeks and have the mountain of catch up pressing in on me from every direction. Also, there was the responsibility of helping Jack and Kevin re-enter school without causing a rash of problems to erupt. Jordan was fairly comfortable in his own ways after my absence, so re-establishing my way of helping out at home and keeping his things tidy was an adjustment for us both. It took me two solid weeks just to get out of our suitcases. And if I’m honest, I’ll admit my photography gear is still sitting before its cabinet packed up because I know I need to clean it all and I haven’t got time to get a shower for myself, let alone wipe lenses. I’ve also been bombarded with requests from everyone, and for all good reasons. Once Craig emailed me and said, “will you please put some updated photos of Kira on a flash drive?” because everyone at work was begging to see her. I answered him, “as soon as the baby stops crying, the cat gets off the kitchen table, Lucy stops barking, the kids have their homework finished, and dinner is cleaned up I’ll do it if I don’t pass out on my computer.” As it turns out a neighbor girl knocked on the door one afternoon and asked if she could play with Kira. She was a Blessing from God, so that’s when I copied the pictures for Craig. Small gifts mean so much! I didn’t have to ask, she just showed up.
The main problem was that Kira was not the baby I knew while we adjusted to life together in Uganda. There she was joyful, but here she was cranky and unsettled for the entire two weeks. Her facial expression was an eternal look of worry as if she existed with a bitter taste in her mouth the entire stretch of time. Anything I did to soothe her was insufficient. There was no possible way for me to entertain her into a better mood. At any point she could erupt into a screaming fit that made no sense to me. At those times I was dumbfounded. I was humbled as a parent because my confidence was shattered. She wouldn’t respond to me as her comforter, she often rejected me as the enemy arching her back and pushing me away with sturdy little arms as if it were my fault she was feeling so out of sorts.
One afternoon we went to Barnes and Noble so I could get some Baby Einstein videos for her. I was smart because we did our business in the store before we sat down in the café where I offered her a snack and a bottle. I suppose she had been pushed beyond her limit for new stimulus- that’s all I can guess- because in the middle of being offered a bottle she threw a tantrum like none I’d seen before. There we were with our things all spread out for a nice treat, in a place where people were hoping to read in a soothing quiet atmosphere, and this baby with lungs that surely must have a built in megaphone adaptor began to shatter everyone’s nerves. I couldn’t assemble the contents of her baby bag fast enough and console her at the same time. I considered leaving it all there and taking her outside just to get over whatever it was that pinched her from the inside, but I knew that could take hours. I tried not to notice the perturbed stares of people around me. Really, I couldn’t care less what they were thinking. For once, it occurred to me that the moms who let their kids cry in public for far too long are really being passively aggressive towards all the people who scorn her for bringing a grumpy child into public. It occurred to me for a split second to use that tactic for my own entertainment, but, truthfully I couldn’t stand it anymore than they could. She screamed in a way I was sure could spew blood all the way home for a twenty minute drive. And I have no idea why she was so upset. I did all the natural mothering things that made sense. And I do have some experience with that so I wasn’t really blaming myself. I was just confused, spent, and exhausted.
The whole two weeks was mostly like that. She enjoyed activities like her bath, her toys, and books, as normal but then out of some crazy corner in her soul she erupted into fits. And she’s not one to get over herself quickly. Once it began it would be hours of a bad mood, and apparently it was my fault. And to add insult to injury when we met new people, especially women, she would reach her arms out to them to hold her. It was like she was asking them to rescue her from me. I wasn’t even being authoritative with her! I hardly used the word “no” and I was allowing all of her naughty self to express whatever she needed to without consequence so she could learn to trust me. It really made me see clearly how God must feel when He lavishes love and is wholly rejected.
Then over the weekend it was as if a dark cloud passed out of sight, the skies were crystal clear and stunning blue in our relationship. Suddenly she was giving me belly laughs, intense smiles, and hugs…but no kisses yet, only Lucy gets those. She would play with her toys, explore her surroundings happily and enjoy our interactions. Whatever was pinching her on the inside had left the house. We both had a sense of being able to breathe deeply again. I don’t think either of us are sure what exactly happened, but we are certainly pleased it has passed. And now I can say there is an intense, painful labor involved for the adopting mother. I just went through it without an epidural or a nursing staff to cheer me onward. The good news is with this labor, I don’t have twenty pounds to lose, and my baby sleeps twelve hours through the night.