Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What happened?

I really wish I knew, because I'm doing a great job of torturing myself, looking for answers. Don't have a clue if I should start now or backtrack to our time in China. Then again, does it matter? Well, yes it does matter, because it's about SS and her adjustment. Because there are many other parents (and parents to be) out there thinking that they are alone. Thinking how everyone else's children are well adjusted, but not their own.

One of the best decisions that we made was to purchase the Ergo and not acquiring a stroller. We had SS strapped to me for most of our outings, only taking her out for photo ops. If you go back to our archives, a lot of the time we did not even bother taking her out. SS would reach out her hand to others, but could never really leave us. Also, we were surrounded by other parents who were in the same situation as us. When SS would reach out to others, she was met with a "you need to be with your Mommy." That is, except for the female guides. I know they meant well, but they were irritating at times.

Then we came home and jet lag, coupled with a cold and sleep deprivation, made SS's exposure to others minimal. We have been discussing how we failed to notice that SS is possibly struggling with attachment. I wrote one or two posts on what seemed like clear stranger anxiety. SS's bait and switch approach, smiling at strangers and when they approached her, quickly pointing at me and saying "Mama." Then there was the incident at P's company Christmas dinner. SS was truly scared when Andrew picked her up, and she immediately reached out for us.

Then the last incident I recall was when she met her Abu. It took her 2 hours to warm up to her. That one is the easiest to explain, since SS was asleep and P woke her up to meet her Abu. But what about the other incidents? It seems to us that it comes down to control. I don't think we ever realized what a tiny control freak we have. Now, we can't blame her, it is how she survived life in a SWI. When I was stupidly thinking that SS did have stranger anxiety down, she was simply in a control kick, and doing very well, thank you very much.

SS is a charmer, although I know that we are biased. Still, there is no denying that we get way too much attention wherever we go. Our family and friends have commented on this. At times, P just looks at me and asks me ,"did you ever imagine it would be this wild?" No, I didn't and I can't wait for it to stop. Last weekend, I told P that if I posted on the daily encounters we have with total strangers and what they say, it would come across as boasting. I'm pretty sure people would think that I'm drunk, high, lying or all three.

Then add SS's size to the equation. Children are social magnets, they are cute for survival purposes. Here is this tiny child, who started out in this world in dire need of medical attention . I'm sure it did not take SS long to figure out how to pull at people's heart strings. When we met, I was not aware that SS and J were from the same SWI. The other four children were from the Kunming SWI. Amidst all the chaos of our meeting, I could tell that P and I were being closely watched. The SWI director took a lot of pictures of us, and SS's nanny stared at us the entire time. They definitely were watching our interaction with SS. When I found out that afternoon that J was from the Yunnan SWI, I felt really bad. There was not much interaction with him and his parents. Then again, J was 18-months old, and looked very well fed. SS, three months younger, was not doing as well.

So SS, like any child in those circumstances, honed her attention getting skills for those 15-months. She has safely used them from afar, and done a great job of not alarming us. I think things began to change when Abu and Grandpa visited. P and I, knowing that Abu might not be able to make a return trip, deviated from our routine. Much to SS's detriment. Our girl was sleeping through the night, in her crib, and had only shared a bed with us for nine months. Allowing her to sleep with Abu was a dumb mistake and for that I'm sorry. But, at the time, P and I thought all was OK, and we did not want to deny Abu the opportunity to do with SS the same things she did with JJ.

But that's the thing, SS and JJ are completely different children. When JJ met Abu, he had been with me for 18 months without disruption. SS had experienced at least two major losses. The loss of her birth family and the loss of her SWI family. As much fun as SS had during her grandparents visit, she was overwhelmed. JJ and Grandpa left the same day, and I'm sure that shook her up. Then when Abu departed, SS understandably fell apart. What the heck? Everyone is leaving, are you two next? I can only imagine how scared she was, how insecure she felt, waiting for us to disappear. SS was also very angry after Abu's return to PR. She unleashed her anger on me, and it was not pretty. She slapped my face several times, a big no no here. One evening, out of the blue, she walked up to me, and threw her sippy cup (filled with milk, giving it heft) at my face. SS had wonderful aim, and a lot of momentum, and it hurt. I was so stunned, that I am ashamed to admit that I lost my cool. P was outside, I picked up SS, placed her next to him and stated, "I need a break from her now, please DO NOT bring her inside until I tell you." I then cried my eyes out, not because of what SS did, but because of why she did it. I realized that she was in a lot of emotional pain, and that hurt me deeply.

So SS went back to what she probably did very well while at the SWI; indiscriminately latching to any adult in her presence. This decision by our tiny control freak (said with lots of love), coincided with our Easter weekend trip. Once again, SS was presented with an assortment of adults, willing to hold her and hug her. We initially thought that she felt comfortable with Taun, Eric and Auntie C, because she could tell we were comfortable with them. But that was not the case. She willingly went to M, JJ's coworker. Now, M is Asian, and perhaps the familiarity did it. But P and I did not feel right about it. There was that gut feeling that it just was not right.

The real kicker came at Mickey D's Easter Sunday. We were having breakfast and SS did the sign for up. P and I explained that she was not done eating, so she had to remain in her high chair. SS tried with her loving brother, but JJ smartly turned her down. See, JJ is aware that if something happens to us, he is responsible for SS's upbringing. Our son is a smart man, he knows that indulging his sister now, might have serious consequences for him down the road. SS simply turned to the man sitting next to us, gave him her mega watt smile, and did the sign for up. I vividly remember how awful I felt, how crushed I was at that moment. P and I knew that this was not OK. We talked a lot on the drive home, mainly me beating myself up about not recognizing the obvious. I had only one thing to do for nine months, to take care of my daughter. Great, I really managed to screw that one up.

As if that wasn't a real riot, we had an incident two days later . That incident made us even more concerned about SS's stability. But, I have rambled long enough and it's 4:00 a.m., so I'm going to give my tired brain a break.


Bangs said...

I just want to de-lurk for a momment and tell how much I appreciate your honesty here. It is so difficult for these little doodlebugs to overcome their difficult beginnings in life. Although it is great that you are aware and taking action, it is not your fault that she struggles. You have not failed and more importantly, you have not failed her. Attachment is a process that has no end. I can tell from your writings that you are going to do everything in your power to ease her pain. Wishing you all the best.

2china4S said...

Thank you A for the kind words. I guess after a sleepless night, things seem a bit overwhelming. You are so right, attachment is a process. :) So we'll keep on going.

Anonymous said...

You are doing a HUGE service to the IA community with your candor, story-tellling ability and willingness to share everything - warts and all. You will help untold numbers of new mothers struggliing with the same issues. You are to be applauded big time.