Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Black Holes and Revelations

On our way to therapy last week, Genea started telling me a lengthy story about Daddy's shirt. It's from Denver, and he got it a long time ago. And when she asked him about it, and he told her, she remembered another question she'd been meaning to ask.

"Why didn't that other family want me"?


"Do you remember what we've told you?"


Whenever this has come up in the past, maybe a handful of times, we've always told her it was because the parents who adopted her first were getting a divorce. This is not exactly the truth, though that marriage had clearly been over for a while, and they did wind up divorcing a year later. Genea has been young enough, or oblivious enough, that the answer was enough. She accepted it with the idea that all three of them separated from each other. 

The truth as I know it is, she was too much for them. Her shrieking, that primal infant scream that they could not stop with any usual methods. They resorted to some unusual methods and the shrieking stopped, but there was nothing there then. They had no relationship, and felt like she hated them. She may have. She had stopped growing after a few months with them and developed a cortisol disorder similar to Addisons Syndrome. She also developed the bizarre ability to stop herself from making any sound while crying. Imagine a 3 year old who can do that. If I'd not seen it I would never had believed it.

In the therapists office, Genea pushed me for more information. "I don't know" was not going to cut it this time. I said "I can tell you what they told me, which was they thought they were bad parents and they didn't know how to help you. You were so sad all the time and they tried but they had some really bad ideas of what to try, and that made it worse". I asked her if that made sense, and she said sort of.

I explained some more, the things about her screaming and how they thought she was miserable. I made a point to tell her none of it was her fault. There is nothing a 4 year old can do to make parents do anything. The entire responsibility is on them. It was a hard conversation for many reasons, one being to describe her as she was then, without using any language to suggest anything was her fault.

When I asked her again if it was making sense, she again said "sort of". I realized she was waiting to hear a good reason. Something she could hang on to, to tell herself, oh so that's why. A reasonable explanation as to why the people who adopted her first didn't want her. Just throw a cement mixing truck at my head, I'll eventually catch on.

"If you're waiting to hear something logical, there isn't anything. If you're trying to understand what the good reason they had was, there isn't one. It was the wrong thing to do and they shouldn't have done it. What they did was bad for you, it hurt you".

And so she understood, in her 11 year old Genea way, that it was not going to made sense.  I'm certain it will all come up again and again, and I'm not sure why she doesn't remember. My suspicion is that she struggles so much daily just to hold the usual stuff together, that hard stuff gets pushed to the side and eventually forgotten.


  1. It's so hard to say
    They missed out.
    And I'm so glad.
    But I'm also so, so sorry for all your hurting. I'd never choose that for you.
    And I'm so glad you're mine now.

    It's all a jumble, isn't it? A great, big tangle of...tangledness.

    Big hugs to you both.

  2. Oh my God, that made me cry. Your explanation is perfectly heartbreaking but also perfectly honest and most likely exactly what she needed to hear.

    1. Sorry about that!
      Yeah I struggle with it A LOT, but there's just no fancy spin I've ever thought of to make it all sound good. I even asked "them" ages ago what they wanted us to tell her when the day eventually came that she asked, and they never answered.

    2. Then what you said made absolute sense. There was no good reason.

  3. I am so sorry that this has to be a "thing" in the back of her mind. That breaks my heart, that she should spend one second pondering such a thing. As you keep talking to her honestly, I hope it will fade. It's not her fault-- it's NEVER a child's fault.

    1. That is the one thing she said she understood- that its not her fault. But then her language, "why didn't they want me", makes me think she takes more responsibility on herself than she is probably aware of.

  4. What a conversation to navigate, sounds like you found the right level of truth and straightforward answer that she needs.
    I see your reply above, we all have soft spots lets say where we analytically think one thing but give away our subconscious in others. It was commented in my home study I talk as if I'm defending my dad when no one is attacking him. No idea what that means or where it came from from an analytic stand point, but he's right. I do.
    I've taken to reading your posts in email and I forget to come back and say how much they mean to me. Thank you for sharing these moments, I learn a lot from them too.

    1. Thank You! :)
      When we were doing our home study and I was freaking out, a friend reminded me it's their job to work with you. Their goal is your adoption and they want you to succeed. Helped me relax!

  5. I think you gave perfect explanations. Thanks for sharing this moment, I hope I can handle these kinds of conversations with as much grace.

  6. ah, it's hard isn't it? And to present it all so a kid will understand... but still have it make sense... and there are SO many nuances.
    And, thank you :) I'm certain you will handle the same beautifully and wonderfully!

  7. And I think at 11, there's just SO much they're trying to reorganize & make sense of, that everything gets re examined. Our 11 year old has been asking over and over and over the last few months - - and she was adopted at birth, the story hasn't changed - but she just can't wrap her brain around the fact that her birth mom placed her for adoption & not her older half sister. And so she keeps asking -- I think she's just hoping there's a better answer then the one we give her... But there isn't. Good luck with 11

    1. oh man, aint that the truth! SO much is changing for her right now!
      Its not easy to explain either, something that adults see as valid but a kid wouldn't necessarily understand. Like poverty, Genea has barely come across mild poverty, let alone that of another country. So when we say her bio mom was "poor", to her that doesn't mean much.

  8. This is so hard--but so interesting to read your family's experience. My older child, who had things tougher in many ways, also has real trouble with remembering and understanding his own history, and needs to hear things several times to really incorporate them into his mental story.
    It is so interesting to see both of the kids processing information. I try to work pieces of their lives into conversation without it being a big "Let me tell you something difficult about your early childhood" event. They usually kind of roll with it, maybe ask a few questions--then come back to it repeatedly over the next few weeks, clarifying and double-checking. The next step is they will bring it up on their own with confidence, like they've assimilated this part of their past now.
    I read somewhere early in our journey that it was best to be sure kids had the uglier facts before they hit puberty--when they were old enough to understand intellectually, but before they were dealing with the angst that puberty gives all of us. Also, so they wouldn't feel you'd kept secrets. This kind of makes sense to me, but now that my kids are 9 and 11, there are still a few remaining pieces of information I really struggle with sharing. I know I need to get it all out there this summer.
    Thank you for this very thought provoking post!

    1. I'd never heard that, about getting it all out there by that age- makes sense!
      This just came up again in our last therapy session. I took a pad of paper and drew everything out, with lines and arrows. She asked to keep the paper, then left it in the van. Its like, she wants to know but doesn't want to think about it. Hmmm.


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