Being Sheep

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep."John 10:14-15

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Special Needs

Steve and I had a chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping on Black Friday, thanks to a dear friend who watched our boys for a couple of hours. We went to only one store and it was mid-morning, so it wasn't terribly crazy.

As we stood in line, we couldn't help but hear the conversation of two ladies behind us. They were discussing whether or not one of them wanted another child.

She said, "I just don't know if we really want another. I mean, we have a boy and a girl. It's perfect. They're completely healthy. What if we have another one and it has special needs? I mean, I know we'd love it, but why take that risk?"

And it just made me sad. Not because I can't understand realizing it is incredibly difficult to have a child with special needs, but because this woman's fear that it could possibly happen would make her choose not to have another child.

I am not one to say everyone needs to have as many children as possible, that everyone should have lots of children, or that choosing to be "done" having kids is necessarily a bad thing. However, the idea that one shouldn't have another child just in case he or she "has special needs" makes me sad.

There was no way for us to know that Nathan would have so many needs when he came home. Of course we knew a lot about attachment difficulties, we knew it was a risk, but he was only 8 months old. We really had no idea how much trouble he would have adjusting to life in our family and attaching to Steve and I.

But would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Not without much fear and trembling, but absolutely would I adopt him even if I knew ahead of time everything we would go through.

Being Nathan's mom has brought so very many blessings to my life:

I found out I'm pretty darn strong,
I've learned to love a child so fiercely, even when he detests me.
I've learned to rely on God more than I ever have before.
It's taught me that I can fire people when needed. "I'm sorry, this therapy is just not meeting our needs."
I'm learning to ask for help when I need it.
I've watched Alex and David be amazing big brothers, even when Nathan hurts them.
I've seen my husband be such a caring dad. I've fallen in love with him all over again.
I've learned that my marriage can withstand a lot of trial and come out stronger afterward.
I've had a front seat to this little guy's healing, and it's a beautiful thing.

So many tears, hard work, determination, and patience have gone into each and every one of the hugs, kisses, and smiles I can coax out of this boy. And that makes each one all the more awesome.

What if I'd missed it because of fear? What if I'd said, "I don't know if I really can handle a child with 'special needs'?" Sure, my life would be easier in many ways. I'd never know what I was missing.

But then again, I wouldn't know what I was missing. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Anxious Attachment

We have noticed for quite some time that N prefers men to women. He's more calm, more himself, less scared when he's with a man rather than a woman. We can only speculate why this is, but before he was in our family most of the adults in his life were women, so our assumption is that he mainly has a fear that any connection he has with a woman will mean he loses the connection he's made with me, his mama. He's still terrified of having a true and healthy attachment with me, but at the same time craves that attachment.

This past week N had his first dental appointment for a cleaning. After talking it over, we decided that N's daddy should bring him to his appointment, since that would reduce the amount of anxiety he has just due to being with me.

I was very nervous about bringing him, so I was thrilled that S made it work out in his schedule to be the one to bring him. I pictured 30 minutes (or more) of screaming and fighting, ending with a lecture from the dentist and many stares as I left the building--screaming and kicking toddler in tow.

We love our dentist office, and I know they really would have handled it well, but that fear was there anyway--and even if the staff handles it well, you know the other patients would be assuming the worst: that I just don't know how to discipline this child and that he's horribly spoiled. And I must admit, years ago I would have thought the same thing if I witnessed it with someone else.

But anyway, the morning of the appointment N was in a frenzy. Everything was upsetting, he just couldn't get regulated no matter what I tried. I ended up putting his compression vest on him, wrapping his arms with ace bandages, and 'helping' him jump on the mini trampoline about 5 minutes before he needed to leave.

So off he went with Daddy to the dentist. He was fine. S put his compression vest on him and used gentle pressure on his legs to give him some proprioceptive input. He was nervous with the female hygienist, but still cooperative. Completely, 100% fine with the male dentist. Came home with a balloon, stickers, a new toothbrush and a big smile.

And I was thrilled. But a little sad. Because I'm certain that had I brought him, he would have fought with me,  the hygienist, and the dentist.

And so it goes with an anxiously attached child. He wants the attachment, the love and bonding; he craves it deeply--he can never get enough, no matter how much I give. And yet at the same time he fights it tooth and nail, so it ends up looking to everyone else like there's something wrong with me. Since he's not like this with others, there must be something about me, I must be doing something wrong. And that's a hard thing to deal with, to remind myself that I'm not doing anything wrong (I mean yes, I make mistakes, but you know what I mean...), that I need to just keep on loving. Keep on caring, keep on putting our relationship first. Because the only thing that will truly help his behavior is for him to feel safe. I know he's safe, everybody around us knows he's safe, but he does not. And the fear will stay until he knows.