Adoptive Momhood – Chapter 5: The Tuff Stuff

I sometimes think maybe I shouldn’t document the hard stuff because it feels like wallowing, but then again I’ve lived too long to get stuck in thinking it will always be this way. Despite my moments of questioning, “Really? Are you sure that I am the person for learning this lesson?”, the follow-up words, “Hang on”  are a like a fire blanket smothering the flames.

A young girl of 10 and grown man in his 40’s were both born into a world of chaos. Abandoned. With drug addicted mothers, they were passed on to adults who were thought to know how to take care of them. But they didn’t know. There was some love and affection along the way, but those who were offering it also came from chaos and passed on some stuff that they thought was simply the way of life. It was too late anyway. The loss of bonding with their mothers or primary caregivers led to deep emotional scars.

It has taken 8 months of navigating, but I feel like I’m finally learning how to live here.

Thanks to his own hard work and studying of the gospel, Alan has learned how to heal his scars for the most part. If you knew the extent of it, you would be as amazed and honored to be in his life as I am. But having a mirror of sorts through Samantha, he’s discovered wounds not fully repaired. Complicated and challenging though it may be, I’m grateful that Samantha has come into our lives because we’re all learning. As for Samantha, her wounds are still gaping.

“Shower her with the love and affection and the attention she’s starving for,” you may say. And it’s completely understandable. That’s the logical thing to do. That’s what I grew up with: Non-chaos, by comparison. And I brought it into this family relationship. The same rules that worked in my family often backfire and I think, “Huh? Why isn’t this working?”

Believe me, we have done the showering. She came to a home unlike anything she’s ever seen. It’s nothing extraordinary, it’s not even our own, but it’s clean and organized. She came to a big bed of her own and her name in bright colors on the bedroom door. She had new clothes and games and adventures beyond her imagination. And she had two people who were so ready and willing to dump all the love for a child you could possibly imagine into a starving heart. I mean, we’ve both been waiting a long time to be parents! But the thing is, all that love falls flat when the recipient doesn’t know how to receive it.

In our research over the past several months, we’ve come to understand now why she behaves the way she does. It’s called a lost attachment. They say that attachment to a mother can begin before birth. An infant later begins looking for signs from his/her mother about how to react, how to organize feelings of safety and love in their developing brain. If that’s not there it doesn’t develop and/or, little by little, they learn to create their own idea of what love and security is. I sometimes wish I could see a video replay of Samantha’s first 4 years so I could understand her better, but then again I know it would absolutely break my heart. She’s never been taught to truly care because she’s never been truly cared for.

When the world turns at all, Samantha’s heart flips a switch. That’s how quickly things change for her. It’s a defense mechanism to protect her world. A world where she once had a mom and a dad and a grandma and grandpa and brothers and sisters who sporadically showed up and then left and then came back and left again. Some of those people were there, but not there. I could give you a rundown of behaviors that add up to her way of controlling her life, but I won’t because it’s making sense to us now; it’s not her. The reason she tries so blasted hard is because she’s never felt completely safe. Why attach or feel secure when it all keeps disappearing?

The true beauty, the glimpses of purity, the real Samantha comes out every once in a while. I don’t mean the times when she’s seemingly perfect for a moment. I’m talking about the fleeting moments when our souls connect–in sadness, happiness, neutrality, or learning. That is the real Samantha and sometimes I wonder if they really happened. We don’t want her to be perfect or act like an adult. We want to see Samantha emerge from this false sense of safety and discover her true, innocent self. We want to help her heal.

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