Who are we?
Well, I am The Accidental Mommy. The title for this blog just came to me one day as I was slapping peanut butter on a sandwich, making lunch for my kids for the 283rd day in a row. I call myself Essie on the blog, that has been my internet "handle" since the days of geocities and dial up.
Many years ago I decided I was not going to have children. I "knew" from a young age that it was not going to be for me. I grew up in the Chicago area. I met my husband living in Denver. We briefly moved to the rim of the Grand Canyon to work in the resort. Yikes. Too much nature. So we moved to Phoenix.
Fast forward through a ton of great times. My husband had a job in the restaurant industry and we moved a lot. Phoenix to Green Bay, to Columbia to Green Bay again. To Houston and to Youngstown, then back to Green Bay where we stayed. I got a job with a counseling agency doing in- home therapy with children with autism, and children who have what they call "severe emotional disturbance". Husband got a job selling insurance.
The little story on my sidebar is true. Husband and I were living a nicely indulgent lifestyle with a double income and no children. Going about my life, I noted a few days where I felt strange. Not ill, just "off". A few more days and I noted I was feeling mildly queasy. OH! I called in sick to my job and made the husband go and buy a pregnancy test. Sure enough.
I don't know that the words shocked, or stunned can adequately convey how we felt. I remember laying down on the couch and staying there, motionless, for several hours. Happy, excited and nervous.
Teena is an amazing child. A combination of happy, friendly and highly spirited. Also coming in the 97th percentile of Attention Deficit Disorder.
Fast forward again, about 2 years later. I continued my job at the clinic doing in-home therapy with children. During a staff meeting, a family new to the clinic was discussed. They had waited 6 months to get a spot in with our therapists and psychiatrist. They had a little girl, about 3 years old, whom they had adopted from Ukraine. They were desperate for help, and actively seeking a new family for her. I shared an office with her therapist and she told me of the extreme withdrawl, refusal to speak and overwhelming sadness in the little girl.
I approached my husband right away about the possibilities. He needed to think. A lot. For a long time. Which was smart, but I am not all that patient of a person. He finally agreed to take the step of seeing what we could do and I let the clinic director know that we might be interested in the little girl from Ukraine who needed a new family.
Things rushed and were stalled equally. We found an adoption agency, met with the parents and child, attended therapy sessions with Genea and our other daughter. At the same time we are filling out piles of useless forms and allowing ourselves to be subjected to the ludicrous process of the home study. Anyway. Genea, that's her "stage" name on my blog, was beginning to show signs of life. In our sessions and activites with her, she slowly started responding to us. We began to transition her to our home with brief visits and then overnight visits, then several days at a time. After about 3 months she was placed with us officially.
All hell broke loose that very day. We knew she had a "rule out reactive attachment disorder" label. We knew she was severely withdrawn and prone to catatonic episodes. We knew she had a life threatening cortisol deficiency with a strict and complex medication schedule. There were a bunch of other possibilities thrown around in her records. She had been diagnosed with moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder. She had rule- out PTSD and early onset bipolar disorder. She had speech and language delays with periods of selective mutism. We knew all of those things and not a bit of it prepared us for what was unleashed in our home.
Grief, anger, and explosive rage. Sadness, such a deep deep sadness in such a little girl. Constant eruptions. Minute by minute Genea moved in and out of rage and was uncontrollable. We did what we knew to do, which was to strongly, assertively and consistently parent her. She was demanding and vengeful. She was loud, holy crow was she loud. Her cry was primal, from the bottom of her soul and she shrieked and wailed at a level I have never heard come out of a child before.
It was excruciating to watch and hear. It was massively disruptive to our home. It was maddening to live with. As hard as it was living with her, I knew being her had to be even harder. For as much as she let come out, I could only imagine what was within.
This blog tells our story. I try to share what I have learned over these years with Genea and Teena. I have made lots of mistakes and had success as well. I eventually left my job to stay at home to "Mom" my children. I talk about what it is like to have a child with a mental illness and a child without. Ultimately Genea was officially diagnosed with early onset Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADHD and a few others. I don't really know anymore how accurate any of that is and I don't even know if it is relevant. I know what we struggle with and what works to help. I know that what works one day may not work the next and I know no matter what, I have to keep trying.