I had nothing left

Four weeks and two days ago, I looked up to see the strongest man I will ever know, weak in his knees, filled with overwhelming pain and desperation. In that moment, I knew it was as bad as I had thought. We were drowning trying to save our son. Our other children were seeing their parents fading away in front of their eyes, lost deep somewhere in a broken, dirty, trauma filled trench, desperate to save their son. I didn’t know where to turn, or how to get help, I just knew we needed it. I had nothing left.

Four weeks and one day ago, I screamed out in desperation for help. I was sinking, losing and terrified. My breath was gone, my endurance had been pushed to a ability above anything I could ever have envisioned. I had nothing left, but an empty bed.

Earlier today, I sat at a table, each chair was filled with therapists, doctors, high needs caseworkers, behavior coaches and family support therapists. I felt okay until I pulled into the parking lot, a instant sadness and grief engulfed me. I somewhat pulled it together and walked into the meeting. After the hello’s and small talk, our high needs laid it all out in front of me. I am not exactly sure when it happened or how, but as she talked, the room felt more and more as if it had been emptied of all the air or maybe it felt like there was too much air and the room was going to explode, I can’t quite explain it but it felt very real. As the room filled with that overwhelming feeling of pressure, I sat trying to listen to each person talk about their client or their patient, but all I was thinking about were his eyes, his empty bed, his untouched clothes and toys, his dry dinosaur toothbrush. I was thinking about my son. I felt such sadness in that moment, I wanted to leave, I wanted to be anywhere but there. I laid my head down as tear flooded my face and in that instant the room went silent for a moment. In these folders were information on therapeutic homes and they wanted me, this little boy’s mom somehow to pick the best home for him to live in. “It’s our home that’s best for him to live in,” I silently screamed inside. Eventually his team and I narrowed the folders down to a few that met his safety level and location. Towards the end of the meeting someone asked me if I had any more questions for the families and all I could think to say was, “will she pray with him, when she tucks him into bed each night, will she pray with him?” A response was given, “we can ask, when we meet her.” I then signed the papers needed and I walked out to my car where I cried the hardest I have ever cried in my life. I eventually went home, where I just couldn’t, so I put on my very dusty running shoes and started to run. I ran until all the emotional hurt turned to physical hurt. I ran until my head hurt as bad as my heart, until my shirt was as wet from sweat, as my face was from tears. I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to feel this. This was not how my family was suppose to be. Love was going to fix him, my arms were the safest place and yet it didn’t and they weren’t. I had nothing left, so I ran.

A HTCT home is a family setting with high needs trauma training and safe guards put into place that the average family can’t or doesn’t have the ability to do. The goal of these places is for both families to work together in therapies and in personal life to help heal the child and his family, while also keeping everyone safe. It sounds good on paper, it’s not the hardest thing to admit that this is bigger than us and we need help. But choosing, sending and letting go, there are no words in any dictionary that can accurately describe the anguish and heartbreak that comes with those words. I had nothing left, but to choose.

Our son is so little and so innocent. He didn’t ask for this trauma or how he acquired it. He isn’t able to do any different right now and this is the safest place for him, we know that. Somewhere in this story there will be a chapter that leaves us all cheering and praising Jesus for the victory in little man’s life. I know our son’s story doesn’t end here, it just can’t. He is worth fighting for. This is our hope and we are clinging to it with all we have. So if you are skeptical or not emotional attached, please fake it in front of us, we need that hope and we need others to have that same hope. We need to set our hearts and eyes on the chapter that leaves us all breathless in a good way. Today we are sad and have nothing left but hope and somehow that’s okay.

Image 3-15-17 at 11.27 AM

Gotcha day

Two years! How can it only be two years since I first laid eyes on this little boy? It feels like I have known him my entire life and then some. It was around 11 pm, when my husband and oldest son brought him home and laid him next to me. He was pretty beat up, and extremely exhausted. He couldn’t talk, was scared to death, so he just screamed. I held him for hours that night as I rocked and tried to reassure him that he was safe and okay. The state had told us that night he was only 15 months old. We never question it because, he was so tiny, walked as a new walker would wobble around and he couldn’t/didn’t say anything besides, mama, over and over as he cried. We didn’t find out until five days later that he was actually 2 years and 7 months old. Imagine how scary that must’ve been for him, being taken from the only place he had ever known, even if it wasn’t the safest, he knew no difference. Then he slept in a DCS office for four days as they waited to find a foster home for him. Finally being sent to a new family, new house that was full of Caucasian people when he had been surrounded by only people with skin tones as beautiful as his. This is just a glimpse of his story, but so many kids in foster care share similar stories. They come with nothing, they are terrified, often hurt and extremely abused.
Today is little man’s gotcha day, for us it’s the day we laid eyes on our son. The day my heart said, ‘oh, there you are, I’ve been looking for you my whole life.” To him it was a scary day, a healing day and the start to a new normal as he grieved his life before us. For many other reasons the journey of foster care and adoption have been one of the hardest seasons so far of our lives and yet, I would do it all over a million times, just to say hello for the first time to each of my babies. I still would tell each of you, if you feel called, jump in headfirst. My life is fuller, crazier, harder and richer because of each of the children God brought into our home. We are ending foster care month, so it’s fitting I get to end with one of my favorite days, the day I met my son! Happy gotcha day, I am so thankful and blessed I get to be part of all your tomorrows. Love you!

It’s a RAD world

Welcome to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as we awesome parents like to call it. Take RAD, mix in PTSD, anxiety, conductive disorder and oppositional defiance disorder, add a bunch of good hearted, well meaning adults, and you have the perfect storm for  CPS to be called and investigations to be done and false judgment by pretty much everyone that is not in your inner circle.

Children with RAD are masters at triangulating the adults in their lives. They thrive on controlling the situation, and learn from an early age (like babyhood) how to manipulate folks to get what they think they need. If that means turning the rest of the world against the people that love them, who would die for them and are fighting like hell to help them, that’s ok, it’s all about surviving life the way they think they still have too. You can’t blame these kids for it either, it’s how their little broken brains works after their early years of trauma. But, knowing all this doesn’t make it any easier on the parents who are watching themselves become the no longer good parents of the neighborhood, by child’s therapist, at school, with family. These loving parents that would do anything for this child have people questioning their hearts. Here is why, the child with RAD is telling everybody what horrible parents they are with words and in actions, all day, every day, it’s what they believe they have to do. I call it shopping for parents, when the child are trying to charm and manipulate every person they see. But really what it comes down to, we (the parents) are no longer safe, because we are pushing emotions that scare the heck out of them, calling them out on behaviors that are not acceptable, expecting them to be authentic and feel those big scary attachment emotions. Any outside adult, friend, family, stranger, teacher, mailman etc. RAD is trying so hard to convince them all, they are good, cute, perfectly behaved and that you do want to take them home. For a better or perhaps lack of words, they are selling themselves to you.

My son, that has reactive attachment disorder is prostituting out his heart, his mind and his body every chance he gets, not so much in a sexual way, but in a real way, because you are safe to him, he can control you, manipulate you with his charm, with his sweet voice and perfect manners and soon you will start doubting what we as his parents are saying. You will start wondering what it is that we are doing wrong or why he is so good with you and horrible with us. You will soon start to wonder if our hands are just too full with the other kids and your heart will feel such sorrow for him. You’ll think he’s starving, he will eat so much and keep asking you for more that you will start to wondering if we are withholding food from him. He will tell you lies upon lies, all to see yours eyes soften and for you to pull him closer to yourself. He will come across as starved for affection, attention and love. He will be a model child for you and he can hold this façade together for awhile. He did all those things the first few months he lived with us too, it wasn’t until we started catching on to his behaviors and calling him out, while having real expectations of him, did we start to see the real side of him. Once he started to feel emotions and have true expectations, we were no longer a safe place because, he could no longer manipulate us and that’s when our world turned upside down. Every time we have a new evaluation, therapist, doctor, coach, teacher or someone new come into our lives, I feel I have to over emphasize that we are good parents in the hopes they will believe us, because, I know once they meet him they’re going to wonder if what we were telling them, is even true. Until you have been questioned about your ability to parent correctly, you can’t fathom how frustrating and lonely the road of trauma can be. It isolates you. Your circle of trust becomes smaller and smaller and your world is forever different. You have now seen firsthand trauma, brokenness and mental illness in your child, a child that you love more than anything in the world, in such a real, raw way and you are forever changed. You quickly realized how uneducated the world is on early childhood trauma, and the devastating lifelong effects these children have to face and the families have to walk through. So the parents keep outsider at arms length a little more, they protect their family unit and do what they know is right because at the end of the day they are what matter the most.

Welcome to the world of RAD.

This is the very real world of reactive attachment disorder. It’s not uncommon, they’re so many parents that have adopted children or have biological children that have experienced severe trauma early in life and this is the world they live daily. The parents that are walking this road are forever changed and yet, most of these parents would still say they would do it all over again, most don’t regret saying yes, most go to bed each night exhausted only to wake and ask God for extra wisdom, extra patience, and a giant extra dose of love to make it through another day. Mental illness isn’t just panic attack, depression and ADHD sometimes mental illness in children is scary, it’s devastating and it’s a lifelong sentence. Let’s keep this topic going, let’s shine a light on mental illness and early childhood trauma, so more people understand it, more people show compassion towards it and maybe more doctors and therapist expand their education about it. ribbon

Upside Down

I think I have read probably every single book, blog and scribble note ever written on RAD by other trauma parents or at least it feels that way with all the sleepless nights I spend searching the endless internet suggestions and best ways to parent your child with RAD links…Most have helped me in some way or another. Some give me a sense of, YES, see, I am not crazy. Other books or blogs give me tools to parent my guy better. But most if not all that I have  read from actual parents in the trenches have helped. So to all you bloggers, Authors and Facebook posters, THANK YOU, from one trauma Momma to another.

While talking about books, I have one that if you haven’t read, and you know, teach or are raising a child with complex trauma and attachment issue, run, I mean that, run and get this book today. It’s called, Upside down, Understanding and Supporting attachment in adoptive families by Shannon Guerra. IT. IS. SO. GOOD. Since you just ran to buy one go a head and buy an extra few and give it to people in your circle, a book like this is what the world needs to be educated on attachment issue and the struggles we go through in trying to help our children heal.

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A broken season of healing

Broken times, call for broken words, ramblings and tear smeared ink. Do you ever have so much in your brain and heart that you HAVE to sit down and write it out, or you may explode? Because you feel like talking about whatever it is that is weighing you down is too exhausting after you have repeated your words 45 times a day for weeks and even months, to doctors, nurses, therapist and state workers.
So, today as my house is calm, quiet, safe and a few of my little humans play next to me, I will spill my heart and I am sure share more than I should. But what do we have to lose?
Our home is filled to the brim with love, like crazy, I couldn’t breathe without you in it kind of love. There is no place like home to me, the people God filled this home with, are my tribe, my safest place and have my heart completely. I love the crazy noise, the laughter and 98% of the time, I love how perfectly the kids fit together like a glove and I am not talking about OJ’s glove, but a perfectly tailored glove. Even as I write this, I can’t help but smile thinking how awesome our kids are. How much they have made this house a home and how blessed I am to be their mom. I am sure all of that sounds beautiful and what so many folks thInk of when adoption is brought up, because it is. Adoption is beautiful and at the core of God’s heart. But there is also another side, a broken side, a hard as hell side to adoption, a side most of us just don’t want to talk about for so many reasons.
Trauma.
The absolutely devastating trauma some of these kids go through, is life shattering, DNA changing and crippling to name just a few things. There is a secret society of moms and dads that none of us wanted to be part of, but there are thousands upon thousands of us. The tired and yet very determined parents that are fighting to save their child’s life, all while being aware there is very limited help and understanding out there.
We have spent the last year and a half learning about abbreviations like, RAD and ODD. We have tried to educate friends and family as much as we can. We have spent the last five days between home and a hospital, between eight parts of our hearts being at home and one part being away. Although, it is the safest and best choice for us all right now, we are broken at this decision, our hearts are bleeding and we are so dang mentally exhausted. We want more than anything to see our child through this pain to the other side of his trauma and yet, it’s becoming painfully apparent how deep and hard this road is going to be. He is worth it, our other kids are worth it, our marriage is worth it and peace in our home is worth it. But here, here lies a gut wrenching hard spot to be in as a parent, wanting your missing link to be home in its rightful spot in the family, while also seeing the difference your home has when that child is away. Guilt, shame and brokenness, those are the words hanging around Ben and I. They hang around reminding us of those moments we feel a sense of exhale, as we also feel a sense of not being able to breathe, because our baby isn’t home. There is just nothing like it, no amount of PS MAPPs training classes, well intended and informed people that walked this lonely, hard road before us can prepare a Foster and or Adoptive parent for what severe trauma will look like in your home. There is also no class or preparation that will prepare you for the fight you will have inside you for that very same child either. The natural momma/poppa bear that will come out of you, all while guilt, shame and brokenness are dancing around simultaneously, is immense.
Our family is on hold right now, we are in a moment of stand still and yet moving at a fierce speed. Have you ever road The Gravatron at the state fair? Is that still it’s name and is it still even around or did I just age myself? I use to love this ride as a child. It’s a circular ride that looks like a spaceship, you go inside and it moves so fast that you stick to the wall from the gravity racing around you. You are moving so fast that your body literally sticks to the wall and yet when you get off the ride you realize you never really moved anywhere. That’s where we are. Somewhere on that ride moving fast and yet not moving at all. One day we will get off this ride and we will move on to the next, but for now this is the ride we are on and sometimes it makes me want to puke and other times I go on for a second and third ride.
Do you all see how much I trust and love you? I just let you into our home, our hearts and the hard broken places, not just the rainbow and unicorn parts, but those places we like to pretend don’t really exist. Thanks for loving us so much and giving us a safe places to be, sit and even cry with us. Those gifts are priceless. There’s always extra seat on this ride and if you can stomach the speed and dizziness of it, please come sit next to us and join us. Life would be impossible if we didn’t have the friends and family we have. God set us up long before this season, knowing just what we would need and it included you!

Little victories

By 8am I was already contemplating how to run away and hide. It was a rough morning and typically a rough start just rolls into a very rough day. I was upset and I wanted to keep a child of mine in his room until he graduates from College. Yeah, it was one of those mornings. I was so frustrated that I fell into his trap that goes straight to crazy town once again. So instead of allowing my head to explode all over and make a mess over the walls and floors. Because who wants to clean up that?  I went out for a swim alone, I swam until my arms nearly fell off and all my energy went to that instead of something that would have lead to nothing but more stress. I then went in and brought him to me, perhaps closer than I wanted to at that moment. I held him and told him he can push, hit, and scream but this momma is not going anywhere. His faced showed he didn’t like to hear that, but I know his heart needed too, again. Even when he pushes every dang button I have and most of these buttons I didn’t even know existed until this last year. He stretches me and pulls me to a point where somedays I feel like I am nearly going to break. Thank goodness for friends, family and most importantly God, who have really good shoulders, even when they might not all fully understand it all. The severe trauma life is a completely different world. But somehow they are there at just the right moments and I am so thankful for it.
Did I win? No, but I didn’t fully lose the battle, because I pulled him closer, and held him when his primal instinct says to run and fight. It’s not easy, In fact it’s the opposite, times a million not easy. To write about it all, super easy, to live through, freaking hard as hell. But folks, choosing love even when it’s the last thing on earth you want to chose will always produce a seed, even if only a teeny tiny seed that you can’t see today. Those seeds, one day will grow and produce something more. So here is me praying for many more days of planting seeds of love and watching them bloom one day. If you are also in a really tough season, I want to pray for you. Because knowing that you have someone that is praying for this season of your life to pass or the ability to walk through it all still standing is something we ALL need.

Healing may look different for him

I struggle.
That sentence on its own is and could be the beginning and the end of this writing. It’s how I was feeling and wondering how to over come it all. I struggle with so much lately, well lately, might be an understatement, perhaps, more like the last 34 years, but who’s counting, right? I want to be open, transparent and vomit some of my heart on a few of you safe folks, with what I am going through, but in that lies the real struggle. Sharing my heart would mean, sharing my children’s lives, pains and exposing their brokenness and as a mom, I want to be the holder of their pains and that is hard to do sometimes, because holding on, means not letting go and I need to let go. I have three children with pretty big special needs, two of them have more obvious abilities, and one has an invisible illness. Mental illness, sucks, it’s hard, it’s invisible and devastating to walk through, but as a mom, to watch your child walk through or really be stuck in the depth of this illness is heart breaking and a level of frustration I can’t even begin to explain. It has brought me to my knees, rage, tears and back to joy and some times I go through each of those emotions in a single day. The amount of trauma some children have walked though or better yet barely survive through in order to have so many broken pieces is heart breaking for me to grasp and I thought I knew trauma. I mean doctors at one point in my life, labeled me with all the letters of the alphabets. Healing has mostly been attainable for me, but can or will healing always come? Will healing come to our small innocent children that never asked to be filled with all the inner turmoil they carry inside of them? What if healing looks different for them, what if it doesn’t come the way I beg God for? What will our lives look like, feel like and be, as the years past?
After the last while of asking God, “will this get better,” and feeling as though I am failing daily at parenting one of our kiddos. No, really, I mean failing for real, whether I really am or not, that’s how I feel so often. Recently while sitting in a doctor office for another one of my children, I started crying to the doctor about my fears, my failures and my heart to help one of my children win at life. This Dr. probably wanted to prescribe me some happy pills but honestly, it was what I needed, I needed to cry, vent and feel validated and then walk out knowing, my child will see healing one day. Maybe not how I want him too or maybe even better than I could have hoped for, but he will see healing, he will! I know this, because I know he will always know love, unconditional love, he will never again feel the pain of unthinkable abuse, neglect or the fear of not having Ben or I meet his basic every day needs. He will never have to question if he belongs, if he is wanted or how deeply he is being prayed for. His mind might not know how to trust all these thing just yet, but day by day, year by year, his heart will begin to see that he can trust and let his hyper vigilant little body relax in his momma’s arms that are so desperately waiting for such a chance.
I said I always wanted to be open and I do, I really do. Its been life giving to me to be more transparent. Adoption for us has been one of the most beautiful roads we have ever been on and yet, some of the deepest pains, lost dreams and many tears have entered into our lives over the last two years. Somehow, mental illness isn’t talked about as easy as other illnesses are. Maybe, it’s because it makes us feel weak or there was something we could have done differently, maybe we feel like we haven’t prayed hard enough for healing or maybe it’s just too damn painful to talk about but, we need to start talking about it, because it’s real and it’s stealing lives and breaking families apart and if I have breath in me, I will not let it win in our home. One day, maybe not for awhile, I will be able to say just how far he has come, how deep he loves and how big he trust, all while being wrapped up in my arms. There is always two sides of every story and every story has the beauty and heartbreak, sharing both is equally as healing and life giving.