We have been home with Kira for five weeks now. It is the same amount of time that we spent with her in our care in Uganda. It is with colossal relief that I can say without a hint of doubt that she has relaxed into my care. I think she has become accustomed to our home as a place where she is no longer tense but feeling more and more peaceful. As I observe her behavior I see many changes. She likes to go to bed so much that she sinks into the softness of it and cuddles her blanket as we leave the room. In the morning when she wakes up she plays in her crib until I come for her. She is sleeping longer and longer which is remarkable since her starting point was twelve hours. Craig’s mom has spent the week with us here, and several times to her delight Kira has taken a nap in her arms. That is surely a grandmother’s delight.
During diaper changes she gives me a battle of her little will. She would like to sit up before I am finished with the job. I have offered her mirrors attached under the cabinet above her to distract her, and butterfly decals on the wall next to her, and endless entertaining toys to occupy her while I finish the task, but still she prefers to challenge my rule. For the first few weeks, when I wouldn’t allow her to have her way she would begin a tantrum. She does not like to have limits and boundaries set on her behavior, and when they are immovable she gets frustrated. She has no idea what to do with her frustration besides throw a fit. But now, she is accepting the few boundaries I am establishing. At least she stops the behavior and sulks a bit rather than having a full out eruption of anger. I see this as excellent progress. I receive this as a sign that she is beginning to trust me.
All children NEED to know their parents will protect them from their own impulses. Absolute freedom is scary to a child. With adoption we arrive in the parent role after a period where trust should have been established. When I need to set a boundary for her safety, such as strapping her into her high chair so she won’t stand up and topple over, she has no reason to trust us and so our authority is rejected with a vehemence of an angry dog. It is so difficult to enforce safety rules on a child who hasn’t decided yet any one need boss her around. She tried to reject me at first to see if it would eliminate the rules. That didn’t work and she’s beginning to understand that.
Some would say, ‘but she’s a baby she doesn’t really know all that”. Oh yes she does. When she spits her food out at me it is followed with a defiant, intense stare that would cause a linebacker to step aside. Now she has learned to shake her head after she spits because that’s what we always do. However, since we turn our back to her and refuse to feed her until she utters her version of “please” she has begun to see the futility of spitting her food in our faces; at least the spit now dribbles down the front of her rather than all over us.
Sometimes she does get in a mood. This has to be a girl thing because I never experienced this with the boys. When she goes to that place she is foul, and nothing I do is right. What follows is a full out screaming fit where every way to pacify her is rejected. I surrender my efforts and allow her to work the demon out of her by herself. This is especially traumatic for me when I am driving, and even more so when my in-laws are in the car to experience the ordeal. It is over when she whimpers and hiccups herself to sleep it off. It is a miracle that I do not get in an accident when this happens.
I used to have several of those episodes a day when we first arrived home. But now there’s one a week, and I am sure that soon it will fade off as a very bad idea. I count my blessings because she is showing signs that she adores me. When she looks into my eyes she doesn’t retreat, she wants to dive in. When we play she interacts and gives me as many giggles as I crave. Finally, I can report she is beginning to give me kisses when I ask for them! Not every time, but I do get a few each day. These small gifts from her are like diamonds around my neck. They encourage me so much! The best things in life can’t be bought.
I am thankful that each week we are molding together with a snug and tight fit. It has been the hardest work of my life, let me just say that. It’s not the physical work of constantly hovering, and carrying a big baby. It is the mental work of keeping the self-control in check so I don’t become discouraged, impatient or depressed. A person can only take so much rejection and I was exceeding my personal limit. But now, she is indicating she wants to follow and allow me to lead. And it is clear we can have this relationship and also enjoy one another intimately. So after three months of working to become mama to Kira we seem to have left the scary dark forest and entered the open field of flowers and golden light. I am so relieved.