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









Saturday, March 18, 2017

Finding the Darkness in the Light

Some people have hinted that my blog is a fairly sad and negative space.  I don't mean to be the kind of person who only talks about the doom and gloom in my life, as that is not my intention.

My intention is education in some maybe not so common issues.

I have so many beautiful blessings in my life, such is my title, "Pictures of my gifts".

I talk to people all the time who go through seemingly life breaking trials, trials that would knock almost anyone to their knees.  I see what they share and don't share, I see how much they are consumed by what their life has become and then I see many loose the bands of their hell and fly in the faith of their Savior.

I know women who have lost a child or multiple children to a sickness or a tragic accident.  I have known women who have never been able to have a child of their own and those they adopt are riddled with trauma and anger and these women are left with the struggle of raising a child who only wants to hurt them.

I've known men and women who have dealt with abusive husbands/wives who have hurt them over and over again, and these women and men trying their best to keep their family together, while the spouse lies and manipulates others for their personal gain.

I have known women who have been raped, beaten, and hurt by complete strangers.

I know women who have lost their spouse to death and mental illness.  Leaving them alone and lonely.

I have known men and women who struggle with infertility, with the illness of a child, their own daily struggle of health and illness.

And I've known women who have lost their entire family in a tragic accident.  Their whole family. Their heartbreak is beyond what I can ever imagine...and yet, they go on.

Most, if not all, of these women have used the faith and strength they have needed in their Savior to bear them up, to hold on and not let go, even if they are only holding on by a thread.  And to be honest, I have learned from each and every one of them.  Their dark times and light times have taught me how to fight and how to move on in my own life.

In their story of struggle, I was made stronger.

I hope that as I share what I am going through that I will only be helping those who feel they can't cope or they can't move on.  I hope that while I may not be going through what they are going through, I will be able to be a strength of hope and faith.

Sometimes when we see that others suffer, that we are not alone in our hurt, we can then hopefully gain the strength to get up, to move forward, to see the light again in our own anguish.

I know for years I suffered alone.  I suffered deeply and it affected every part of my life.  And now I am paying for it with my health.  Getting those unhealthy cells out of my body takes a lot of effort and growth.  Moving the pain out of my body rather than further inside me has taken such hard, painful, and gut-wrenching work.  And I, as all of us, will continue to be a work in progress.

God did not send us down here to wallow in our grief.

But He did send us down here to struggle, to struggle with pain, faith, work, and life.

Struggle is key.

Without struggle we can never understand joy.  Without struggle, we will stay stagnate in our growth.

Without struggle we cannot become like God.



And while we will all struggle, God also does not intend for us to do it alone.

We first and foremost, have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who has literally felt everything we have felt.

His suffering is not symbolic, it is literal.

The Savior's ability to succor us is unlike anything else in this world, but first we must let Him.  He can be the difference between night and day between utter darkness and brilliant light.

Second, God gave us each other.  WE HAVE EACH OTHER!  I don't think we understand how great of a gift this is.

So in the end, why do I write what I write, first to educate my circle of people in some of my rare, yet very difficult struggles, and second to hopefully be the beacon of light to at least one person who may need me.

I hope all of us can reach out in whatever capacity we feel we can and be the light to those who need us.

So much love to you all!

Niki


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Speaking Out

I get it.  Some people are horrified by social media and how our lives are put out there for judgement. I get that when someone is too personal, it can make others feel uncomfortable or upset or feel it is too close to home.

I don't know about you, but I am a huge Brene Brown fan.  I have read a few of her books and each time I do I worry less about what others think and worry more about who I can help with my story, my truth.

Some still don't like how open I am.

I am totally fine with this.

I know who I've been able to help and I know there will be others.

Our stories shouldn't be hidden or lost, it is through others we find our strength.

I have, however, come to find that life isn't about getting everyone to love you or understand you.  In fact, when you speak your truth it is easy to make enemies.  But in that process I have found life is about finding those true people in your circle who care, those who love you for your truth, who love you within your brokenness and pain.

In my church on Sunday we discussed the topic of helping each other.  While taking dinners, helping with cleaning, or child care are all AMAZING parts of this service, I have also found that allowing others to see that they are not alone in some of live's most difficult times, has been not only a blessing for them but for me as well.  And while I share my story, I have also found strength and help as they share with me their story and how they are working through it.

I do not, in any way, share my truths for you to cry over me or to feel like I am weak or self-absorbed, I share because honestly, I have felt I needed to share.

SO as I talk about this next subject, please know, that while I am truly putting it all out there, it is only to empower, to help, to show that hiding our pain isn't what God intends us to do.  Even our Savior asked for his friends, the apostles, to please stay awake while He went into the Garden of Gethsemane, he wanted his friends to be there for him and to protect him while he suffered for their very sins.

And yet, they slept and had NO idea what their friend, their Savior, their Redeemer had done.

He needed his friends and they were not there for him.

We are all in this journey together, hopefully doing our best to be the best moms, dads, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, and children of God that we can.

But sometimes we get hurt.  Sometimes others hurt us and we need more support, we need to speak up and get help from family/friends and professionals.

I want to share something very personal; in light of all those who are now speaking up about how common it is to be sexually assaulted or humiliated, I know their pain.  I have held it in for years.  I only told my husband this past month and he was the first person I spoke to about it.  I felt weak, I felt stupid, I felt humiliated, and so I never said a word.

I want to share this as I hope to give a voice to what is too common in our world.  I want to share my story to show that it isn't those moments of hurt in our lives that define us, but they can make us grow and stand up for what is right and true!

Sometimes saying something out loud makes all the difference in the world!

When we were going through our infertility journey, we met with a doctor, who knew how broken I was, who knew how desperate I was to be a mom, and yet he used that to hurt me.  At the time I knew what he was doing was wrong, even though he said it was part of the process of IVF.  He hurt me over and over again, and I never said a word.  I trusted him.  I wanted a baby so badly, I didn't know how to speak up and so he kept hurting others, until finally other women finally spoke up...and yet, I still stayed silent.  Maybe if I would have spoke up others wouldn't have been hurt!

I could have stopped him from sexually abusing others.

But I can't dwell on that now.

In the end, he lost his license.  I tried to tell myself, he didn't hurt me, even when my husband questioned me, I lied.  I couldn't be one of those women who allowed that to happen.  I wasn't weak, I wasn't stupid.

I was wrong.  I was wrong about a lot of things, as I realized it has nothing to do with weakness or stupidity.  It has to do with self worth.  I didn't feel worthy to share my story, I didn't feel worthy to NOT be taken advantage of. I didn't feel worthy of my truth and that somehow it was all my fault for letting it happen.  There was a dark cloud that hung over me for years.

But now that I am talking about it, I can see more clearly that it had nothing to do with me...it was not, in any way my fault.  I trusted him and he took advantage of my pain.

I hope that this story will only help others see that their worth in God's eyes is still pure and beautiful after something like this happens and that it is NEVER their fault.

Again, I hope that this is all taken in a place of love and understanding.  I don't share my truths for your tears, I share them to educate, to help, to show that we, none of us, are alone on this journey.

I love this quote:

"Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

*Update: I found out that only after 1 year in jail and 2 years of probation this doctor still practices in Provo, helping people through IVF.  He is under very strict rules to help his clients be safe under his care.  If you have any questions you can ask me in the comment section and I will be happy to help you.

Lots of love to all of you.

Niki

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why New Hope Academy?

Overcoming our trials in this life can be a gut-wrenching and seemingly impossible task.  Challenges that hurt every day and seem to never let up can make us feel isolated and utterly hopeless.

How grateful we are when we finally find the help that allows us to climb out of our dark abyss, the kind of help that lets us see the light again...the kind of help that can and will truly make a difference in our lives for the good.

We finally find HOPE.


I can tell you right now that I have found that help in our daily struggle with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  That help is a beautiful place called, New Hope Academy.

What is New Hope Academy you might ask?

New Hope Academy is a school, but it isn't like any school you have ever seen...in the academic world it is considered an Alternative School.  What is an alternative school you may ask?

An alternative school is an educational setting designed to accommodate educational, behavioral, and/or medical needs of children and adolescents that cannot be adequately addressed in a traditional school environment. (wikipedia)

Why would L, our child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, need an Alternative School?


"Neuroscience tells us that the brains of kids regularly facing significant trauma or toxic stress are wired for survival and likely to erupt at the smallest provocation. 
major study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente found that the higher a young person’s ACEs score, the greater the risk in adulthood of chronic disease, mental illness, and premature death. These children also have a far greater future likelihood of either inflicting or being the victim of violence...Children with high ACEs scores are constantly on edge from unstable home environments that can place their brains and bodies in a state of high alert. At school, even a small reprimand from a teacher or perceived insult from a fellow student can trigger explosions of rage, expletives, and other inappropriate behavior.  



Students struggling with this toxic stress are often ill-suited to learn in a traditional educational environment. “Teachers like to tell students that if they work hard they will succeed—that it is in their control to pay attention, do their homework, and perform well in class. But those assumptions don’t work for children growing up in high-stress environments, such as those living in poverty,” said Jim Sporleder, the former principal of Lincoln, one of the first high schools in the country to embrace so-called “trauma-informed” education practices and the subject of the documentary Paper Tigers." (http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/07/teaching-traumatized-kids/490214/?platform=hootsuite)

When L was in kindergarten she controlled every aspect of her environment without the teachers seeing it for about four months.  She manipulated her teachers and other students to have her perceived needs met. After about four months her teachers started to see how her behavior was affecting her and her peers.  L was stealing from the classroom, getting other classmates to give her their treats, not finishing or doing schoolwork or homework and refusing to do the most basic tasks; she did not participate appropriately in class, lied about others and things she had taken, triangulated her two teachers against each other, and was not in any way learning what she needed to learn, as her brain was fighting for her life all of the time.  L would come home severely irritated and go into fits of rage often, sometimes for two hours at a time.  Homework with L was pure HELL, and every time I would get frustrated with her, she would just laugh at me. 

I was left in tears and frustration on a regular basis.

A regular school just wasn't cutting it.

So after a lot of prayer and some serious research, we miraculously found New Hope Academy.  New Hope is just that...a New Hope for parents of children with attachment disorders, a place where families and students can heal and gain the kind of life we all dreamed of when we adopted these beautiful children.

Started by Kasey Harmer, a mother of a child with attachment issues, New Hope Academy has been a place of healing and love for many families dealing with the horrific and daily struggle of childhood trauma. You see, New Hope Academy gives each child the individual emotional and scholastic care they need.

Each child at New Hope Academy is able to grow and thrive at their own level.

The amount of peace and the level of help my family has gained from this miraculous place is more than I could have ever hoped for.

I don't have to worry every time my daughter goes to school.

I don't have to worry whether she is hurting others or stealing or manipulating others for her gain; at New Hope I can completely trust that my daughter is safe and receiving the exact help she needs that day.

I can now feel a level of peace each and every day that I have never felt before in parenting L.

Some have asked how I know what goes on at New Hope?  As parents with children at New Hope we are asked to work there as often as we can.  We get to be involved in the care of the children there, we get trained on what to look for and how to work with children who have attachment disorders and other mental or behavioral health issues.  In the end, we are all a part of the New Hope community. As parents we are there to help each other and in turn help each other's children.

It is a community of healing and helping.

New Hope Academy is NOT a place where you go as a last resort...if your child has attachment issues, New Hope should be your first choice so your child can get healthy enough to integrate back into the regular school system and finally thrive with other healthy children.

We have had several families even move to Utah so they too can get the best help for their child.

New Hope is a true place of healing and with the help of LauraLee and Kasey, New Hope Directors, your entire family can begin  the healing process as well.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.  If you don't want to post publicly, go ahead and message me on FB. (https://www.facebook.com/nikimartins)

Lots of love,
Niki


Here is a link to their new website: http://www.newhope-academy.com





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trauma and Normal Don't Mix

The definition of normal is this: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. 

How do we place children in this definition?  Well, frankly it's hard, as most kids do the unexpected and are not very conforming.  This being said, there is still an heir of typical or normalness when it comes to healthy kids without trauma or some other mental disorders. With a healthy or normal child, you have an idea of what to expect from them.

What we expect from a healthy/normal child:

-love
-eye contact
-hugs and kisses
-respect (if it is taught in the home)
-laughter (at appropriate times, yes, even crude can be socially appropriate) 
-time spent together 
-trust (of course ALL children lie sometimes, but they generally trust us)
-smiles of joy and love when they see you
-turns to a parent for comfort when they are hurt or scared
-feels or eventually feels bad when they do something wrong 
-a desire to be with you (until they hit the teen years anyway ;)
-a general respect for their property in their rooms and house (of course normal kids are messy and break some toys out of curiosity or even anger) 

This is where a normal or I like to say healthy child is...I can pretty much expect most of these outcomes from three of my children.  Do my three also vary on the hard scale, of course.  E is my hardest normal child by far.  She is stubborn, aggressive, hot headed, quick to anger, can throw a tantrum with the best of them and does that often, breaks toys and draws on walls, hits her brother, is blatantly ungrateful at times, fights with H non-stop and says mean things to her siblings...but E is also very loving, always wants to snuggle with me, can be the most grateful of ALL of my children, tries her best in school, will volunteer to help me clean, will make her brother's bed without anyone asking, feels sorry when she is naughty, says sorry and means it, cries for others who are hurt, laughs when something is funny or fun, doesn't lie much, and tells me she loves me almost every day.

In contrast, this is what a child with trauma looks like:

-no eye contact, none.  They look just above your eye at your forehead or off to the side as if they aren't even listening to you.
-they don't love...for real.  They don't know how, and as a parent this fact is blatant and in our face every single day (it is truly one of the hardest parts of having a trauma child as no one else can see it)
-they give hugs and kisses for show (my L doesn't hug me when it is just the two of us, but when someone else is around, she will always give me hugs...if I hug her too much or when she is not ready for it, a hug can set her off and she will attack me)
-they do not, in any form respect adults, they can pretend to, but it really is just a show to get what they want 
-they do not laugh at appropriate times.  I saw this very early on with L.  Something funny would happen on TV or at home and her face would remain blank.  However, if they feel they have done something funny they will laugh hysterically or as they get older they will laugh in public, as they know that is what they "should" do.  L laughs at burn victims, or if someone doesn't have a leg or arm, as she thinks they look funny.
-She does not in any form want to spend time with us.  This was the hardest part for me to work through.  But with the help of her school, New Hope Academy, I was able to see that spending time with us, on vacation, or just watching a movie was truly too much for her.  It is like taking a person who has a deathly fear of spiders and placing them in a room filled with spiders and locking the door. Trauma kids need to feel they are in control of every single aspect of their life, they feel their actual life is in danger when a new person or situation comes up in their life.  So when someone comes up to L in church or the store and shakes her hand and says hi to her, immediately her anxiety level skyrockets, it is as if I placed her in the room of spiders.  She feels immediately that she isn't safe and she blames me for it, because I'm the mom and I should protect her. This even happens with close friends and family members.
-trauma kids do not trust in any way.  They fear that their basic needs will not be met by their own mom or dad. They are in constant fight or flight mode in their brains and truly and completely think they can't trust anyone ever.
-like laughing, trauma kids smile at the most inappropriate times.  For example, L will smile when she is in trouble, she smiles when her brother or sisters get hurt, or when she thinks she got away with something like stealing or if she pees or poops in her room. She rarely smiles when I tell her I love her, or try to give her a hug, or when something really is funny.
-trauma children do not find comfort from anyone but themselves, again, it is all about trust. They do not feel they need anyone but themselves for anything.  Even when L was a baby, she rarely cried or asked for comfort.  She let everyone but me feed her in a snuggle form and rarely from a very early age wanted me to comfort her.  The only time I can remember was when she was sealed to us in the LDS temple, she cried the whole time she was away from me, and stopped immediately when I was finally able to hold her...but this is the only time I can remember in her entire life.
-trauma kids don't feel guilt.  None.  I remember when L was really little and I felt it was as if she didn't have a conscience.  I tried to tell others this, but they chalked it off that she was just strong in spirit or stubborn...but as she aged I knew that she lacked the ability to feel guilt.  She would lie about everything...everything, smile when she did something wrong and laugh in our faces when she was actually able to hurt one of us.  To this day, she truly doesn't care about rules or not hurting others to get what she wants (this is another reason she can't be with us as a family unit very often).
-trauma kids want to be alone.  This is where they feel safest and feel less agitated.  Spending time with family or even just mom or dad can be completely overwhelming to them and causes them to rage in anger and anxiety.  This is why we don't take L on vacation anymore.  Vacation with L was awful.  She sabotaged so many aspects of our family time together with hurtful words, peeing and pooping in her pants, stealing food, having full blown anxiety attacks, and never ever letting us sleep at night.
-one of the most outward blatant aspects of a trauma child is their need to destroy things.  And not only do they destroy everything: clothes, toys, walls, carpet, doors, tables, beds, mattresses, floors, windows, curtains, shelves, lights, books, and pretty much anything else they can get their hands on, they also make weapons with some of those items.  For their safety and their family's safety, keeping their world small, without clutter helps their mind heal faster or more completely. New Hope Academy also taught us how to do this with our L, and overall, she has become less violent over the past months.

I hope this helps you understand a little better why we don't always come to outings, why we don't take L on vacation with us or why it is hard for us to be spontaneous and be that "fun" family on the block.  Our home is truly a war zone, where we have had to put up real barriers from the world so we can have a little bit of "normal" at our house.

Thank you all for your love and prayers.

Lots of love,
Niki