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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Triggers

Our Friday night tradition of Pizza and a movie continues, and then we all retreat to camp in mom and dad's room for the night. It is usually a peaceful sleep, but last night was a little different. The sleeping arrangements were changed. This time Erika slept on the cot at the end of our bed, Anna took the chair and Sarah slept on blankets on the floor.
I was awoken to Erika having one of those dreams. The kind that give me chills. She never remembers them. But they are of that deep,mournful cry; a panic, a sense of loss and loneliness that is so great it can't be fathomed by those of us who have never experienced total aloneness.
And then, once again, I heard the cot start to squeak back and forth. When I got up to check on her she was in a deep sleep rocking back and forth and she had tightly wrapped her covers all around her like a straight jacket. I touched her gently and said, "sweety, you are rocking". She opened her eyes,smiled and then went to sleep again, this time without rocking. Then it started up again.....
When she woke this morning, she was rested and had no memory of her restless sleep.

I am so thankful that in God's mercy, he allows us to not remember things in our conscious state. Things so terrible and feelings so fearful that they are best left untouched.
When the right time comes, if God so chooses, she may remember more. She remembered a lot when she first came home, and the things she told us were shocking and upsetting.
She was in the dark a lot. There were other beds. She was tied, sometimes she ate and sometimes she didn't. The covers were wrapped around her. She was left to lay. For four years she rocked before she made it to an orphanage. Much of what she told us, she has forgotten. Time has a way of helping us to forget.

But then there are those times when her memory is triggered and she does. The season of year, may be her trigger. Our 3 year anniversary is coming up soon. It is both joyful and sad. It triggers memories of belonging to a new family, but it also triggers memories of rejection, abandonment and loss.

That is the nature of adoption. It has 2 sides. Happiness in finding a forever home, but profound sadness because you were rejected by the very ones who gave you birth.
The circumstance doesn't really matter. The rejection hurts just the same.

One thing we as adoptive parents can do for our children is to grieve with them. The compassion we show them when they feel that loss is so important. Their sadness does not reflect on their love for us, nor does it mean they don't love us. It just means they have suffered great pain and need support to heal. It is our job and DUTY as parents to love them through these moments, being careful to not trivialize them by saying, "But you have a new home, you are here with a new mommy and daddy, your life is wonderful now!" Those things do not matter at that moment. What matters is that momentary memory of pain and rejection. Our reaction to that can make all the difference in the world towards their complete healing.

Our daughter is a happy, loving and caring child. It is our prayer that her past pain and experiences in life will be used by the Lord to mold and shape her into the vessel He has chosen for her to be, and that she would see His hand on her life.
I know she already does.

6 comments:

Diana said...

Oh, I can so relate to this. Our little one especially has this happen almost every night. All we can do is hug him and love him. We learned quite a while ago that if we don't completely wake him up - as in wake him up to the point that he'll play a little game of "touch your nose, touch your head" with us, these nightmares go on all night long. It is so heartbreaking. But, to our great delight, he has also started calling out for Mama, even when he's not fully awake. Yes, healing is happening and we are so thankful.

Mike and Christie said...

Erika calls out for mama too.

I remember when she first came home she would dream in Russian. After about 4 months, she started dreaming in English and instead of calling out NIET!!!!! She called out NOOOOO!!! and then asked for Mama! Mama!

Heart breaking.... but at this point it is happening much more rarely. Maybe once a month compared to every few nights when she first came home. And we are so thankful.

Debbie said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am tearing up, but so glad she has you to grieve with her and help her through. Thank you for the reminders that will help us when we bring children home.

Mike and Christie said...

Debbie, one of the reasons that I keep this blog is for those who are coming after to have a point of reference. :) I'm so glad you are here. I am not an authority on anything, but just write from my personal experience.

In that light: I do want to add to this post:

One of the types of therapy that was being tried years ago was to force people to remember things, and in doing so they could deal with traumatic events and heal from them. I witnessed personally the destruction of one of our children's friend's mothers due to this type of therapy. She literally went insane because of memories drummed up. Then later, those therapies were deemed faulty because the brain can play tricks on you and make you think something is real that isn't. I think about the famous Manhattan Beach preschool trial back in the 1970's or early 1980's where there was a literal witch hunt made out of day care workers who were later found innocent. Suggestion was made in "therapy" to children and their little minds drummed up all sorts of "memories" that weren't true.

In that light, I feel that God protects us many times from true bad memories. For instance: He mercifully doesn't allow us to remember traumatic events like being in a car accident or the first day after a surgery. He has imprinted into us a protection that is, in my opinion there for a purpose. To protect our minds.
If there are things we do remember naturally on our own, then He allows that memory for a purpose too.
I just don't believe in messing with memory. If it comes up, we deal with it. If it doesn't, we do not suggest what it may be, as that can be leading and cause "false memory or false guilt".

So, while I might ask her, "do you remember last night" and tell her what happened, I won't press her to remember something she may not be prepared to face. If it NEVER comes up in her actual known memory, that is ok. She can live a successful life without needed to know every awful detail of her past.

Christine said...

You are a great mother. Glad you were able to be there for your daughter.

Anonymous said...

What a touching post. My little one has night terrors. She was only in an orphanage for 6 mos so not nearly traumatic, but just that little window gives me a taste of what you are talking about. Take care.

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