Friday, June 17, 2011

We are most certainly NOT the Cleavers...

Well, since I am a single Mama to one child, we are more like the "Cleav's" - we're missing a few consonants and a couple vowels but we're family and it works.  This blog topic was suggested by a fellow blogger (you will see many blogs with this title today) as an opportunity to tell about the "ugly" or "real" parts of adoption that don't often make the blog.  If you know me you know that I wear my heart on my tongue and in my blog, there isn't a lot that I don't include... but there is some.
The some that I refer to isn't what I had prepared myself for.  I did the time waiting, read the books, the blogs the on line adoption sites for Russia and I felt comfortable that I'd at least know where to look for help.  Perhaps I am simply a naive person who through some hard knocks in life has become accustomed to figuring things out alone and looking on the bright side but, I don't feel like there have been any issues that specifically relate to Corbin having spent 3 years of his life between a less than optimal birth family and an orphanage.  Maybe Corbin being my first is a blessing - ignorance is bliss.  I don't have other children to compare him to in terms of milestones or achievement but I don't think I'm blind to what other children his age are accomplishing / enjoying or learning.  I re-read this part and wanted to add that I did something up front that to me makes a huge difference: I was careful and definitive in using an IA doctor that I trusted implicitly to take the emotion out of deciding on a referral.  I had my heart broken in turning down a referral that without her (Dr. Bledsoe) I would have happily accepted.  She counseled me and advised me to decline. It wasn't what I wanted and if I'd followed my heart, I'd be writing a different post today.  Does using an IA doctor mitigate risk 100%? No.  Did I trust their experience and advice and know what my limitations were? Yes.  I was braced to say no if I had to and for me, it was the right choice.  Corbin was meant to be mine.  A preemptive piece of adoption advice? Know YOUR limitations and trust your IA doctor.  I knew I couldn't parent a child with high special needs and chose to limit that risk as best I could.  The happy part of my "we're not the Cleavers" is that - developmentally, socially, educationally, physically, and inter-personally Corbin has done incredibly well and would be indistinguishable from a "home grown" Canadian kid.  The IA doctor we see at home says he's an easy case and laughs that he doesn't make her work very hard .  I know I'm blessed because I know there is a strong chance that if you are undertaking an IA you may encounter some challenges in any number of areas.  Development, health, attachment, sensory, trauma, pre natal exposure... you name it, it's a risk.  I can't say for sure that I have gotten off scott free... but so far so good.  It's weird but there are times that I feel like I am somehow judged for not having dirty laundry to air about things that Corbin is struggling with - like I'm hiding it or glossing over any challenges.  I'm not.  The 2 things we dealt with were dental work and battles over eating or rather the amount of time he took to eat.  I don't feel like less of an accomplished AP because I don't have to deal with extra challenges - but I respect those who do.
So what have I not talked about?  What's my dirty little adoption secret?  Being a single adoptive mother by choice is harder than I thought for reasons I never considered.  I don't talk about it because I don't feel like I have the "right" - after all, I CHOSE this... so don't complain.  And I try not to.  I arranged my "community" of support and they are... well... supportive and wonderful.  Here's the trick: you have to become vulnerable and open to asking for help... and that's tough for someone who has lived just figuring it out proving that I'm OK on my own.  Asking for help seems like the sensible thing to do, but for someone who chose this path, I'm conflicted because if I need help am I saying I can't do it on my own??? But didn't I know I would be doing it on my own???
I am blessed to be Canadian where we have the opportunity to bond with our newly adopted child for 37 weeks or so.  All said and done, I chose to take off 53 weeks in the pursuit of bringing Corbin home and settling in.  I felt the situation demanded that I take off whatever time I could to ensure that Corbin was content and secure in his life and home.  It was a wonderful albeit long, hard, solitary year.  When you are on your own, there is no one else to share the load financially, time wise or just conversationally at the end of the day.  Everything I did was a consideration of money, or time.  Nothing was a fast 5 minute stop - there was always the car seat tango, the game of 9zillion questions, Mama can I have that please... and 25 minutes later I triumphantly would buckle back in with the coveted toilet paper that led me there in the first place.  This isn't unique to single AP's, it's a reality of single parents everywhere.  Next it's the 5pm lock down: If it's not in your fridge, in the pantry or in the house next door, it wasn't getting got until the next day at the earliest.  Lock down - dinner, bath, books, bedtime.  I couldn't run the dog, go to the store, go for a drink or dinner... it was lock down.  Which leads to the next point: Babysitters are expensive.  I continued to play soccer and hockey for my own sanity.  They were often after Corbin was in bed - I just needed a sitter to hold down the couch and keep the remote company.  After dues, gas, and sitter, I figure each game cost me about $50... now I love the games and the social aspect but OUCH! Having a sitter led to another complication: Thou shalt rush.  It's 11pm and the final whistle goes.  Now begins the get out of your equipment scramble (don't shake hands - you'll save 2 minutes).  I was out of my gear and had my shoes on before most of my team had untied their skates or cleats.  I'd RUSH home having missed the after game laughter and companionship and come home feeling physically exhausted (good) and empty because I didn't fill my friendship / adult conversation tank (bad).  Then there would be the "hey, do you want to go out with the girls" invites... which begged the financial consideration that often ended with, "I can't because of xyz" reason I made up because I couldn't justify the cost when I was going in the hole deeper and deeper each month.  I spent a lot of time alone... which is deafening.  I did a lot of grocery shopping because I could be with people - yes they were strangers and I technically didn't have any conversations but Corbin could be contained in a cart and I could buy things that weren't frivolous (like new heels or clothes) - I stocked up (see my freezer full of discount chicken thighs, pizza, roasts...) but I was out where adults were talking. (note: a cart is REQUIRED for shopping, otherwise it's like walking the isles with a blender... with no lid).
I think there were points that I would say I was depressed - not with my son or because of him... but because of the isolation.  I can only imagine how much harder this would be on your own having a child who came home with additional needs or if I had to go back to work right away.  Would I trade the time off I had with Corbin? Not in a million years - I just didn't think it would be that hard or lonely.  Having a spouse to share the trials and tribulations with would make all the difference.  I now treasure my alone time doing adult work but can't wait to come home to hear about the triumphs of his day.  My nanny... that's en entirely different and glorious blog post in and of itself - is my saving grace - more on that topic another day.  So, advice for the single girls taking on adoption?  Have girlfriends over for wine and sleepovers, don't rush home when you have a sitter.  Take the extra 10 or 15 minutes to fill your tanks and ask for help.  When you figure out the last point, please message me... I still suck at it.
So no, we most certainly are not the Cleavers but we have learned to be a pretty incredible dynamic duo.  Under medicated, over worked, over joyed and loving being a mom to my really awesome, totally adorable 4 year old son who thinks the sun rises and sets on his Mama.  Yeah, that's right - someone thinks I'm the bomb... how could I stay in a funk knowing that?


Amy said...

LOVE your post! My situation is very similar (except I wasn't able to take that much time off work). Norah is very healthy and we don't have many adoption related issues anymore - the biggest were some eating issues when we came home. That girl could shove an entire meal down in 30 seconds! But the whole "asking for help" is my biggest struggle too! I totally feel like I don't have the right to ask since I signed up for this. I loved your comment on the carts in stores - I won't even go in a store that doesn't have carts - great analogy!

amy said...

Thank you for posting about this Stacey! Although you have been super fortunate to not have adoption-related issues, I can only imagine how tough it would be as a single parent. You are doing an amazing job!

optimistikchick said...

Stacey, absolutely love your post. I am a single mom and as I read your post I recognized almost every feeling you had. I had minimal issues with my son, maybe eating and some sleeping (lack of) but that was it. It's lonely and you are so right about the "lock down". I miss my night runs and workouts in the morning. I missed my nights out and my sleeping in on the weekends, there is no back-up for the single mom. But it has been worth every second and wouldn't trade it for anything.

BTW, I am going to shoot you a private email and catch you up on my second adoption. I leave tomm. for court! Yippee!


Mama said...

Man Stacey, you always make me want to hug you! If I was in Canada wine and a sleepover would be mandatory.

Naomi said...

Stacey: Our conversations are very valuable to me! I have some of those thought already and to have someone put them into words is inspiring and brings me alot of contentment (sorry if that doesn't make sense it was meant to be a compliment to you as a person and all that you share). Will take all of your experiences to heart and you are a very good role model for use newbies!

Silvana said...

well said Stacey!!!