Wednesday, October 25, 2017

L is nine.

Today is my L's birthday.



She is nine.

Nine years ago today we had no idea she even existed.  Nine years ago this week we had just been through another failed adoption that left my heart broke in half.  Nine years ago today, my L was left alone in a hospital with no one to claim her, no one to love on her, no one to celebrate her birth.

And this just added to her already broken mind and heart.

As an infant she had no one, we wouldn't know about her until she was a week old and then we wouldn't be able to meet her for another five days.

She was eleven days old when we took her in our arms.  She had already been hurt in the womb, then left at the hospital, given to a foster family, then given to us.  In eleven days my L had felt the break from her birth-mom, the nurses, her foster mom, and finally she was placed with me.



My L was already on a course of attachment problems, and we didn't understand what she had suffered.

****

I love birthdays.  I love celebrating those I love on their birthday.  I love spending time with them, giving them gifts, letting them know they are loved.


I want you to imagine your deepest fear.  Is it spiders, heights, loss, darkness, large crowds, speaking, or even death?  Now I want you to imagine that every birthday those who cared for you most made you experience this fear, they pushed it upon you and they celebrated and had fun the whole time you sunk into a deep darkness, into total anxiety, into a swallowing hell of fear.

That is where L goes when our love is poured upon her.  L's greatest fear is love, as love is no where near controllable.  Her need for control is as strong as her need for water, for food, for air.

This may seem ridiculous, but so are most fears.  When someone screams bloody murder over a tiny, little spider, that isn't even poisonous, it seems ridiculous right?  Or when someone can't go up an elevator or up a large flight of stairs due to their horrific fear of heights...the rest of us can't understand.

But I promise, no matter of talking, showing charts of safety, or forcing will help that person overcome those fears in just one day.

It takes years, maybe even a lifetime of baby steps of little doses of this act for them to hopefully overcome this fear.

That is where my L is.  She literally thinks she will die if she allows us to show her love.  She truly goes into complete and total anxiety driven fear when I do anything that resembles too much love.

My heart aches that I don't get to make cute little invitations to her birthday party, my heart breaks that even singing to her will cause her to fold up inside and regress from all her progress.  It destroys every part of me that we can't celebrate her the way I want to, they way a mother should be able to.

Each birthday she has, is a reminder that my love, that no one's love will ever be enough to heal her, to console her, to bring her joy.

She is literally wasting away her childhood and all we can do is wait, wait for her fear to subside through therapy, wait for her to desire more, to desire to trust, to desire to feel this kind of love.

We love you our little L, more than we can show you.

We are waiting, our precious L for that day you will want to run into our arms and feel completely safe and happy because of our love will finally be a source of light and joy, rather than a source of pain and fear.

We pray every day for that day to come.

Happy Birthday, our dear L.

With love,
Mommy and Daddy


****

I want to add, per L's amazing school director, that what we are doing for L is how we show our true love for her.  We don't give her the big party or any kind of big celebration, we give her what she can handle today, we hold back our desire to give her more than she can take.  We keep her birthday simple, but I can't tell you how perfect that is for her right now.

I simply told her, Happy Birthday this morning and she beamed from all angles.  That is how much she can handle right now, a simple and predictable day, with the ever so small addition of, Happy Birthday.  The stress from a party, from others laughing and cheering, the unpredictable aspects of fire and candles and too many presents sends her over the edge.

Just as putting a person afraid of spiders into a room full of spiders would be too much, and then singing, Happy Birthday and expecting them to be happy about it. :/

So we will go against the world's view of showing love and give her the amount of love that is best for her, the amount of love that won't spin her into darkness and a fit of rage, the amount of love that she needs at this very moment so that she will one day be able to accept the total amount of love we want to so badly give her.

Hugs!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I'm not as excited as I should be...so please be patient with me.

(this post is very honest and not very heart warming, just a warning) 
💕

Last week we announced the adoption journey our family will be taking.

We were not planning to add another little one to our bunch, but God let us know that we aren't quite finished. 🙈

But now I am an emotional wreck. 😜

For those who have suffered infertility, adoption failure, or miscarriage, you will completely understand what I mean when I say, as soon as I knew there was another baby that needed to come to us, was the exact moment I fell in love, not when I got pregnant or when we received the baby, it was the moment I knew the baby existed.

And it has happened that way each and every time.

I am already emotionally involved, attached, hopeful, joyful, scared out of my mind, and so worried some days, it literally makes me sick.

I've had so many people these many years tell me to, "just adopt" when our IVF's failed.

If only they knew how difficult it is to do so.

To want something so badly and have zero control over when or if it happens is one of life's more difficult lessons.

Adoption is no exception.

Imagine getting pregnant, and you are able to get past the first 12 weeks, everything is well with the baby, you can't wait for the baby to come, you have names and a room all ready, you love this baby fiercely, and yet, when you have the baby you don't know for sure they will be yours to keep.

Now, I know, biologically, this baby isn't mine.  They are not growing in my body, but I will tell you that maternal love does not have anything to do with biology...that love is real and it starts the day you start your adoption paper work.

That love continues after emails and phone calls and pictures are sent.  That love grows as the baby's due date approaches and you have names picked out.  That love intensifies when you make plans to meet and be there for the delivery, and then when they place this precious baby in your arms, all you can do is pray, pray that this sweet birthmother won't change her mind, that her mom or boyfriend won't step in and take over, you pray that this little angel will know how much he/she is loved.

You pray they will be yours.

We lost three babies to adoption failures, two were exceptionally hard.

And I will tell you right now, it is fall on your knees heartbreaking hard.  It is cry your eyes out, slam your fists on the floor hard.

You grieve for a child that never died.  You grieve for their love, their life, their future, you grieve for the carseat that sits empty.  You grieve as though that child had died, and yet, you know they are still alive somewhere without you. You pray they are happy and healthy.  You pray that they are being taken care of and given every opportunity to succeed.  You pray that you can make it through a day, a week, a month knowing they will never be yours.

And you do this alone.  You are not met with flowers or dinners or help with your little ones.

No one comes to visit or cry with you.

Life goes on, and very well-meaning people see it more as bad luck and tell you maybe the next one will be yours, as if you were shopping for a car or a house.

I am here to tell you, it is a true and heart-wrenching loss, and even when you do receive that next one, you never forget the ones you lost.

Never.

You never forget the what-ifs, the maybes, the hurt.

So if you see me and talk to me and I'm not as joyful or excited as you think I should be about this journey, please understand that I've walked this road many times.

The road to adoption, every time, is in darkness.

Every step is a step forward into an unknown of hope and pain, joy and fear.

Every time I dream or plan or get excited about having this little one in my arms, I have to stop myself, to protect myself, to keep myself sane and moving forward in the present.

This is not a path I chose, but I trust God, and I have faith He will not let me down.  I have faith that we will find that beautiful spirit that I know needs to be with us.

However, in the end, that does not guarantee we will bring that baby home, and because of that one fact, I must not get too excited, I must not make too many plans.  I have to protect myself from the potential and real loss that comes with every adoption.


As, either I or his/her birthmother will lose their baby.


With love,
Niki





Friday, September 29, 2017

A picture is worth a thousand words

I've had a few people still wonder how in the world L could have anything wrong with her.  They only see a very obedient, shy, seemingly sweet natured girl.

People still wonder if I am making this all up.

We were able to take some family photos last night, and while I had a dear friend of mine take the family shots, I took the individual ones of each of my children.

In doing so, I was able to take a picture, without L realizing it (as I didn't prepare her first) that shows truly how she looks at me nearly even minute of every day.

I have had people ask me to show them her rages, her violent side, but I struggle to do so, as I don't want to vilify her.  If you saw what we saw, you may not accept her when she heals, you may not want your children to play with her, or invite her to your child's birthday party.  I want the past to be the past with our L.

She is making improvements still.  She is moving forward and trying to overcome this harrowing disorder with the right help from our therapist and her amazing school.

She is healing.

However, that doesn't mean she loves me.  She simply doesn't want me in her life and we are working to help her see that being loved is not life threatening.

Children with RAD literally feel that love will kill them.

So they fight.

They fight hard.

And only those closest to them will ever feel their wrath.


I want to share these two photos, just to give you an idea of what I, her nurturing enemy or mother, sees every day.  I want you to see how quickly she can go from one child to another.  I want you to hopefully see that we are not making this up, we are not seeking attention, we are not in any way, harming our child.

We love our L with a deep love, one that goes beyond this life.  We love her, even though she does not love us.  We care for her, even when she throws that care in our face.  We hope for her, even when some days it feels there is no hope left.

Here is what I see every day, every morning when I greet her, every afternoon when I pick her up, every time I reach out to her, this is her face, this is her reality:

Here is what she did not two seconds later when I told her to smile for the camera. This is what EVERYONE else gets, this is the greeting friends and family get, this is what she shows the world:



This beautiful girl truly has a mental disorder, and even though you may not see it...it is there.  Her world is dark and lonely and we are gently chipping at the cracks to let out her light.  We have to chip slowly and carefully as not to crack her further...but I promise every decision, every step forward or back is for her.




With love,
Niki

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Choose Hope

As I begin this blog post, I am overwhelmed with the notion that I am truly blessed with an abundant and beautiful life.

I am grateful for my blessings.

And, I am grateful for my trials.

I remember a talk given by a man who I truly love and look up to, Elder Henry B. Eyring, a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called, Mountains to Climb.

In this talk he literally tells us that we can and should be thankful for our trials.

When I first heard this, I was taken-a-back as he opened with this statement:

"I heard President Spencer W. Kimball, in a session of conference, ask that God would give him mountains to climb. He said: “There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord, humbly, ‘Give me this mountain,’ give me these challenges.”
My heart was stirred, knowing, as I did, some of the challenges and adversity he had already faced. I felt a desire to be more like him, a valiant servant of God. So one night I prayed for a test to prove my courage. I can remember it vividly. In the evening I knelt in my bedroom with a faith that seemed almost to fill my heart to bursting."
I honestly thought, "How crazy! Why would anyone pray for more trials?"

As I journey through this trial of having a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, and as many do not understand or still do not believe our truly heart-wrenching and emotionally and spiritually depleting life, I will honestly say that I am still not able to ask for any more mountains to climb. ;)

The mountain I am on is enough, thank you.

However, on this mountain, I have learned that I can either fall into a deep darkness of hurt and fear, which I have many times...

OR

...I can look to my Savior and choose hope.

L's school is called, New Hope Academy for this very reason.  They teach us and help us on our journey, guiding us up the steepest of hills, coaxing us to CHOOSE HOPE over fear.


And I can tell you right now, it's working.


These past few months have been an awaking for me.  While the trial of RAD is just as hard and painful to navigate through as L gets older and is trying knew and sometimes difficult ways to hurt me or my family...we have also seen some significant improvements.

Imagine a child you love throwing themselves around her room, hitting her head on walls and doors, kicking the door until she takes it off it's hinges, kicking and hitting you, spitting on you, saying horrific things about you, throwing food at you, ripping apart her clothes or bedding, pulling down curtains and any decor in her room, taking toys or other items in her room and throwing them at you or making weapons to hurt you, and screaming at the top of her lungs how much she hates you.

Now imagine your child doing this almost daily, sometimes multiple times a day and nothing you say or do can calm her down for hours.

This is what our L did for nearly seven years.


And now she doesn't.  


We have gone three entire months without a full-blown rage.

Three months!


She is truly making progress in her healing!


Seven years of climbing this mountain and I can finally see the top!


It has been seven years of some of the darkest, most painful days of my life.  Lower than our infertility journey, lower than our failed adoptions, lower than our failed IVF trials, lower than losing a loved one (not including a child, parent, spouse, or sibling), and even lower than my experience of being sexually abused.  

I have never experienced more pain, more loss, more fear, more loneliness, more desire to give up, or more struggle in my faith than I have these past seven years.

But as Elder Eyring stated, that as I have climbed this mountain, I have changed, I have gained courage and empathy in return, I have gained the unshaken faith that my Savior knows me, He loves me, and that there is nothing in this life that I can go through, that He does not understand.  

Nothing.

I have gained a relationship with my Father in Heaven and my Savior that I never want to lose. I have leaned on my Savior more and begged of the Father through Him, I have fallen on my knees over and over again and can now see, clearly, that They were with me all the while.

This is a blessing far greater than I could have imagined.

Now, while I may not be to the point where I ask for more mountains to climb just yet... ;)

...I can truly say that I am grateful for the ones I have been given thus far. 

We still have YEARS of therapy to go with our L, she still is no where near ready to join her peers, but I have truly seen the hand of God in my daughter.  

I have seen what seemed impossible become possible.

Her healing is my greatest hope.  And I choose hope for her.

Lots of love,
Niki


Elder Henry B. Erying's talk:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/mountains-to-climb?lang=eng

Monday, May 8, 2017

This Is Not Who You Are

I am sure most of you have seen one of the newest Disney movies, Moana.

If you haven't, you need to.

I may be biased in saying this, as I spent two glorious years living in Hawaii and hanging around many of the beautiful Polynesian cultures.  I have friends from all over the South Pacific and to say that I love them and their very differing cultures would be an understatement.

With that being said, I also loved Moana for a very different reason.

This picture shows a scene where Moana has come to heal or return the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti.



Te Fiti has literally lost her heart, or her ability to love and thus has become something that she truly is not.  And because of her trauma, her pain, her suffering, she is left completely broken and unrecognizable.


As Moana walks toward Te Fiti she says this:

"They have stolen the heart from inside you, 
but this does not define you, 
this is not who you are, 
you know who you are."


Immediately, I was struck with how comparable Te Fiti was to my L.  I was bawling in the knowledge that my L's heart had been taken from her and she was left without the ability to love.

There are many reasons a child's heart can be stolen from them, some may be from cruel abuse and neglect, some may be from a trauma in early childhood, and some may be from circumstances beyond anyone's control.  No matter how a child's heart is broken, the child will then turn into something they truly are not.  

They become full of fear and anger.

Their light is gone and darkness appears.  

And they feel constant threat and violence. 

When I saw Moana walk toward Te Fiti's state of rage and anger, I knew at that moment that I do the same thing every day with my L.

I walk toward her rage and her cruel words, her hateful threats, and her physical attacks, telling her with all my heart that, 

"This is not who you are. 
They have stolen the heart from inside you. 
This does not define you...."


Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder and other attachment issues, literally are unable to understand and properly feel love...it is as if their heart is gone.  But with consistent work and therapy, with showing them love at their level, and constant prayer and hope, their hearts too can be returned!

We love our L so much that we walk toward her as she runs toward us in her rage. 

We tell her over and over again, that she is a daughter of God and that she is defined by that truth. 

One day, I hope that her heart will be returned and that we will be able to see her grow in love and beauty.  



One day she will know who she truly is.


Lots of love,
Niki






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Does it Look Like?


I want you all to know that I do count myself a blessed person.

I have more at my finger tips in terms of luxury than so many people of the world, I have a warm, safe home, a country that allows me freedom and comfort, I have a loving, honest husband, who truly would walk through fire for me, I have four beautiful children who I count as an amazing gift, and I have the knowledge and testimony of my Savior and Redeemer, and that I have a loving Father in Heaven who knows me by name and truly cares for me.

So when I talk about what is hard in my life, I am not trying to discount any of my precious blessings. In fact, with time, I undoubtably see these hard times as some of my most beautiful blessings and my greatest opportunities to grow.

As I sat talking with E's therapist today, we talked about my ability to deal with some of the extreme emotions and stress both E and L feel on a daily basis.

This made me think.  The first thing I thought was, is this is hard.  I can barely work through my own feelings, let alone be in tune with theirs on a daily basis.

But then I remembered how far I have come in working with L and even E, and I was immediately grateful.

How does our Father in Heaven work with us?  Does He treat us selfishly?  Does He try to make us something we are not?

No.

He meets us at our level and works from there.  He never has and never will make us do anything or be something we are not ready for.

This is what I am learning with my own children.

L's school taught me recently something that seems really simple in principle, but I will be honest, it is hard to do in reality.  It is that when I am working with L at home, I need to be in tune with her love comfort and not enforce my own love comfort on her.  When working with a child who has attachment issues, especially the reactive kind, finding the ability to show her love on her level is harder than I ever imagined.

When I picture any of my children, I picture myself holding them tight, kissing their cheek, rocking their fears away, singing my favorite lullaby in their ears (which happens to be, "Baby Mine") and cuddling in our favorite lazy-boy chair.  I picture us talking of their dreams, their fears, their heartache, and triumphs.

However, L's idea of love looks like this:



This is where her comfort level stands with me.  Every time I would enter her space to just say hi, or to try and hug her, she would freeze up, get agitated and stressed.  This could set her off into rages or nights without sleep. I wasn't sure what to do, how could I show my daughter I love her without hurting her?

This is what L's school asked me to try...let L be in her room (her safe and favorite place to be), with her door open, while I sit all the way across in the living room, about 40 feet away.  

What?!  How would that work?  How could she feel anything from that distance?

Well, let me tell you, she did.

I went into her room and told her, "I will be over here on the couch, while you can stay in your room."  I then told her, "I want to spend time with you," and left it at that.

I walked over to the couch, sat down, and looked at her and what I saw was the most relaxed L I have ever seen with me.  She was actually smiling a sincere smile at me.  I could only spend about five minutes before I could feel her starting to go to anxiety, so I got up, smiled at her and shut her door.  She calmed down immediately.

This is her level.

This is her working to feel love.

This is what Reactive Attachment Disorder looks like.

It is finding the right balance of love within her comfort zone.  It is letting her know that I still love her without causing her stress or anxiety.

It is hard.  

It goes against every mothering feeling that I have.  But this isn't about me, it is about her.

Helping my E and my L with their emotions takes so much out of me daily to stay calm, to stay in tune, and to stay with love.  It can literally drain me dry.

But I know that I am learning.  I am learning how to see even the hardest of children as my Heavenly Father sees her.  I am learning how to seek the Holy Spirit for guidance during every melt down or hateful word.  I am learning how to see past my own needs and put my children's needs first.

It is hard.  But it is also a blessing.

Lots of love,
Niki




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Definition of Grief and my E

I read today, on my friend's FB post, an amazing definition of grief.  It talked about how at first the waves come crashing in on you rapidly and they feel as though they are 100 feet tall, hitting you over and over again without mercy.  It talked about how the waves eventually become smaller and less frequent, that you eventually are able to see the waves coming at you and can prepare a little more for them as they crash against your soul.

The loss of a loved one is hard and cruel, especially if that loss was too soon or too tragic.

While I have lost a dear grandfather, two wonderful uncles, and some peers from school, the pain of death hasn't stung me like it has others.  I have never lost a parent, a sibling, or my greatest fear, a child or spouse.  I have been spared this strangling pain so far and thank my Heavenly Father daily for their life and protection.  While I truly do miss those I have lost, they weren't mine to claim. Their children, spouses, and parents are the ones who have had their lives changed forever.

So while I have never felt the true pain of death, why do I still feel like I have 100 foot waves crashing down on me?

Why am I grieving?  Why do I feel the pain that seems to only define the loss of a loved one?

When I looked up the definition of grief, this is what is says:

keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.


I will say that I was grateful to see that grief doesn't just cover loss or death.

I remember the first time I felt the deep cut of grief.  I had just been through the difficult and rigorous journey of In-Vitro Fertilization.  We had traveled to California and spent two weeks there, I had met with one of the top doctors for IVF, and then after two weeks of waiting and feeling completely sure that I had one or two babies growing inside me, I got a call from the nurse saying I wasn't pregnant.

I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach.  Punched so hard my breath flew right out of me.

I didn't know this then, but I know now, that I was in the middle of complete and total grief.  Wave after wave poured upon me.  I felt cold and dark and hopeless.

Since then, I have had my share of grief riddled trials. I have come to see them as what they are and I am learning to own them and accept them.  I realize I don't need to be strong at first, I just need to wade slowly through until I can catch my breath again.

I saw this quote the other day and it sums up completely how I feel about grief:

Reactive Attachment Disorder has brought to our family a lot of sadness.  Sadness that doesn't go away.  Sadness that fills me up to the top and spills out in tears several times a week.  I feel loss of hope and a loss of self, often, like I am only able to catch my breath once in a while.

And now we have had another big blow.  When I got pregnant with our E, I was ecstatic. She was our final try of IVF and it worked!  Our L was only 18 months and we were so excited to bring another child into our home.  Little did I know that L's RAD would start to show it's full colors a few short weeks after we found out our amazing news of E.

We were knew to the area, here in Saratoga Springs, and we didn't know a soul.  I will admit, no one opened their arms to us and I started to become a recluse.  And I started to spiral fast downhill from L's trauma raging fits.

I felt so utterly alone; I wanted the earth to just swallow me up.  Looking back, I believe that is when depression had set in.

Needless to say, my pregnancy with E wasn't as joyful as I would have wanted.  Stress, anger, and complete total loneliness wrapped me up daily.  No one believed me about my L and said I was being too sensitive.  They all told me it would pass and that some kids are just hard.

I was barely able to breath at this point through the crashing waves and felt honestly as if I were drowning.

Deep down I have always known that this heartache would indeed affect my precious E.  She has always been my fire and ice child, difficult in many ways, but I held on to hope that she didn't feel the constant hurt I felt each day while pregnant with her.

I was wrong.  She felt it all.

While her anxiety will never be as severe as our L's, she none-the-less has been expressing her own disorder very clearly these past few weeks and we finally had to take her in to see what was happening.

E has been diagnosed with Hoarder's Disorder.  That is right, hoarding.

She flies into raging fits of anger and panic when we ask her to throw away garbage.  She hides it in her room and lies about how she threw it away.  She holds onto string cheese wrappers, fruit snack wrappers, juice bottles, paper towels, broken toys, etc. like they are precious treasures to her.

Once again, those 100 foot waves have crept up on me and I feel like my strength is waning, as I wade through knowing another child of mine will have to go through the difficulty of dealing with a rather complex anxiety disorder. I am trying to look this trial in the face, see it for what it is, and spend the time we need to with it.

I am owning my grief and I know that time will lessen the frequency and height of the waves.

But just know that if I seem down again, if I don't show up, it is because I am barely able to catch my breath right now.

Lots of love,
Niki