Guest Blogger: Amanda
This post was reblogged with permission from my sweet friend, Amanda. May God continue to use your voice to educate others on adoption and living with RAD. I’m blessed to walk down the path with you and beside you.
Two years… Two years ago we brought Mikiyas and Eyob home. What a joyous time that was! These two precious little boys were FINALLY home! We had prayed for them, we had fallen in love with them, we couldn’t wait to get them home! The airport homecoming was incredible and joyous and happy!
The drive home was exciting and terrifying all at once! We had just became a family of 6 after living nearly 4 years as a family of 4! Eek! We were prepared for a few hard weeks of transition and endured them. The “honeymoon” stage of adoption had worn off, but we overcame some trials and things seemed to be going smoothly. Finally, we were able to live “happily ever after” like it always seemed would happen. You know… People spend long, hard, trying years in adopting a child. They usually have an abundant amount of support and prayers and encouragement during those times. And once they bring them home, many people stop the prayers, thinking “Things are perfect! Their children are home now! And now they will live happily ever after!”
But… We only thought the adoption process was the hard part. Did you know that once the newness of bringing them home wears off, they struggle with loving you and YOU struggle with loving THEM! I can almost hear you gasping “What? You struggled with loving those two beautiful boys? The boys you advocated for? The boys you wanted home so desperately?” Yep. Those boys… Loving a complete stranger does not come naturally. Yes, they were strangers. They were strangers in our home and in our family. Crazy sounding, huh? They had to learn about us and get to know us. We had to learn about them and get to know them. We had to become the parents of a 15 month old and a 6 year old. To two boys who have not been in a family setting for a long, long time… Loving them took time. Them loving us? Took time… It was hard. I felt alone and SAD. These weird feelings of sadness and questions of what were we doing began to take over… I wasn’t aware of the fairly “normal” post adoption depression. Why? Because it’s rarely talked about! But after speaking up and talking to other adoptive mommas, I quickly found out that these feelings were NORMAL. These feelings happened to just about every adoptive parent (AND adoptive siblings!). It was reassuring to me… After a couple months, things began to improve, my feelings began to change and I began to truly enjoy my boys and we were on our way to “happily ever after”. Six months into our “happily ever after” things changed. Radically changed. And for lack of better words, I felt like I was in a living hell… My sweet not even 2 year old boy began to change drastically. He used to be a momma’s boy, loving me, wanting only me… To be honest, I forget exactly what he was like, because here we are now 18 months past the radical change and he’s still not that boy he once was….
5+ months into those hard times, I finally began to Google, trying anything to see about getting help. There was something wrong. Very wrong. This was not typical 2’s tantrums. After assessments, questionnaires and talking to attachment counselors/therapists we had a diagnosis. RAD. Reactive Attachment Disorder they said. Finally. An answer. Something to go by. RAD. How could 3 letters make such a “RAD-ical” change in our life? The great thing was that we could finally start getting help and a therapist would begin coming to our house once a week. I was hopeful that things would finally improve. I prayed for change. I prayed that things would begin to get better within 3 months. Little goals helped me endure the living hell. 3 months passed. No better. 6 months passed. Still no change. I had been pregnant during some of that time and I prayed things would get better by the time we had our sweet baby girl. October 8, 2013 came and our baby girl entered the world. Things at home continued to be rough. Dealing with a newborn and a RADical child was a struggle… “A year,” I said. “Things have to be better after a year of his diagnosis! That’d be 18 months of him being home!” A year came and went and I began to feel discouraged. I began to feel disheartened. I wanted to give up. I couldn’t handle this anymore. I couldn’t handle any of it. And I had to keep it all inside because no one knew what he was like. No one understood the effects of RAD. Even those closest to us. They only saw a sweet, charming, happy little boy. They rarely, if ever, saw his fits. His rages. Where he’d be happy one minute, and the next I’d be sitting with him getting clawed at, slapped, kicked, or bitten. It was hard to stay silent, but I knew I needed to. If I said anything, that could turn people from adoption! I still cared about adoption and how God’s Word said to care for the fatherless. I didn’t want my experience to scare people from doing His command of caring for orphans… I spoke a little bit about it to some close friends and some adoption friends I trusted. Found someone who was going through something similar and she became my venting partner . It got worse and got harder for me to keep quiet. I became a ticking time bomb and began to get depressed. So. Very. Depressed. I felt alone. I felt so completely alone, despite being in a house with 5 other children and a wonderfully, amazing husband who did everything he could to get me through this. There were times that I didn’t think I’d ever make it through and I wanted to just quit. With EVERYTHING… I never imagined I could get to such a low point. But I did. And then I’d hold my sweet baby girl in my arms who would just stare deep into my eyes and seemed to bore through my soul. She was worth it. She was worth continuing the fight. My older kids were worth it. My husband was worth it. And yes, Eyob. The little boy who seemed to hate me and want nothing to do with me was worth it. I began to speak up and wrote a blog post about RAD and what it was (http://www.defendingthecauseofthefatherless.com/2014/01/our-radical-life-something-not-much.html). People were amazed and many had no idea… At that point in my life, I thought nothing could get worse!
Boy was I wrong… Within 2 months, things piled on. We went on a vacation to Nashville(okay, really, we just tagged along with Michael on one of his work conferences). We thought it would be great to get away and enjoy some great family time and do lots of fun stuff. Unfortunately, it was awful. The change in location/scenery/time/sensory/etc. caused Eyob to freak. I quickly found myself sitting in a hotel room having to hold Eyob down for hours while he threw fit after fit after fit. That was the first time he began acting out to more than just me and he hit Mireya (5 months at the time). The only good part of the trip was getting to see Michael’s parents, who got to meet Mireya, Mikiyas, and Eyob for the first time. Eyob was great around them (like he always is with other people, especially new ones!). After that, things piled on more and more. The day after we returned home (after a looooong drive home with me having food poisoning ALL the way home….), Mireya began throwing up blood. She was transferred to a Children’s Hospital and was admitted for a couple days for testing. A couple weeks after that, we discovered our 5 year old son suddenly was blind in one eye. Turned out to be a detached retina in which he has since undergone 2 surgeries and we are looking at one or two more in the fall/winter. Mireya continued throwing up blood, we continued having tests with her (eventually finding out she has a milk protein allergy which caused an esophageal tear). I was having thyroid issues. And then Mireya was having breathing issues – turns out she has RAD (only a different type of RAD – Reactive Airways Disease). It was just problem after problem after problem. All these appointments were rough on all of us, but for a little boy who struggles with “go with the flow” and any change in routine, it was hard. The only way he knew how to react was to fight. And he fought. And fought. And fought. I thought a year and a half ago, when he first started the RAD symptoms, was hard. I never imagined it could get what seemed like 1000x worse… But it did. He began acting out more to others, and not just me. His siblings, specifically Mireya. It got to the point where I couldn’t ever leave her out of my sight because I had no idea what would be done. She’s become such a momma’s girl, partly due to me providing her sole nutrition, and partly because she is either constantly attached to me or within my view… For her safety…
At that point, I realized I could not continue this. Along with the RAD, he was significantly delayed in speech. He had been receiving speech therapy for a year, but he still only spoke at about an 18-24 month old level. He was 3 years old. I couldn’t be the mom that all the other kids needed me to be because I was so focused on Eyob and the RAD. I couldn’t be the mom I needed to be for Eyob because dealing with a tantrum-ing three year old abusive child for hours every. single. day got long. Got tiring. And made a mom who became impatient. Made an angry mom. Made a mom who could barely look at her son. I could deal with his tantrums for the majority of the day, but by the afternoon or evening I was done, and to be honest – wanted nothing to do with him. That’s when I couldn’t become the wife Michael needed me to be. I was sad and defeated every single night. Yes, I’d still have supper on the table and the house cleaned for the most part… But gone were the days of coming home to a happy wife. Gone were the days of coming home to a cheerful greeting. These were days of him coming home to a tear stained, frustrated, hopeless wife… I couldn’t continue going on like this, and that’s when we learned he would qualify for all day preschool in the public school system due to his speech delays. I jumped at the opportunity. I never wanted to be *that mom* who counted down the days until my kids would start school… I was a homeschooling mom, so was used to my kids always being home and loved it… But that changed and I couldn’t wait for Eyob to start school and for me to get a break…
School started and I think I was the only mom in his school who was not sad. I was rejoicing. I was rejoicing the fact that I did it. I survived. I survived one and a half years of what seemed like pure hell. I was proud. Proud of myself. Proud of my family. Proud that we did it!! And now. Finally. After one and a half years. I was getting a break…
It has been two weeks since school started and I’ve learned a lot these past two weeks. I’ve realized that just because you’re following God’s call for your life, your life won’t be easy. Many people tend to think “Oh, I have God in my life. Things will go great now!” My life is living proof that it won’t. My life is living proof that following God does not equal happily ever after. Following God will sometimes make your life harder than you ever could have imagined! But… I’m so thankful for His promises like in James 1:12:
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward They will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Or 1 Peter 5:7-10
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”
I realized that through these hard times, I actually became further and further from God. Satan was using Eyob’s tantrums and Eyob’s RAD as a distraction. As a distraction from God’s hope. I had spiraled deeper and deeper into a depression forgetting that I WASN’T alone! That my Lord and Savior was there to support me. To strengthen me. To restore me!! I know that God will use these trials for His glory! He has used EVERY single trial in the past for good. He WILL do the same with this.
While things are still difficult when Eyob gets home from school and we’ve started some other issues, I’m able to be a better mom to him. I didn’t realize how dealing with fits all day every day had really effected me and pushed me further and further from being the mom I wanted to be. A day or two after Eyob started school, Mikiyas came up to me and said “Mommy? What’s wrong?” And I looked at him confused and questioned him “What do you mean? Nothing’s wrong!” And his reply stunned me. “You look different. You’re happy!” I didn’t realize how I had allowed RAD to steal my joy.
Do I regret what we did 2 years ago? Absolutely not! Has it been hard? Harder than I ever could have imagined…. I couldn’t have survived if it weren’t for God and His amazing grace! I have learned to “rejoice in confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (Romans 12:12) All this to say, do I still recommend adoption? You betcha! Adoption is amazing. Yes, adoption comes with hard trials and while I struggle with Eyob, I am thankful. Thankful that he has the ability to call me mommy. Thankful that Mikiyas is able to call me mommy. Thankful that they are in a family. Thankful that they are able to have brothers and sisters. Thankful that they are able to grow up to know God. Thankful that they are able to get good medical care. It’s truly amazing to see what all we have overcome in two years and how while our struggles still continue, we can continue to rejoice in confident hope!!
I’m not going to let RAD keep me from sharing just how important orphan care is. I’m not going to let RAD keep me from sharing about HIV adoption, because God wants us to use our adoptions to educate and to bring awareness! Am I going to keep quiet about RAD? NO. It’s something not many talk about and I feel it is important to bring that up so many others don’t feel alone like I once did…
Bringing home Mikiyas and Eyob two years ago was one of the hardest things we’ve done, but it’s been one of the best things we’ve done. I know that God is developing a great endurance in our family… “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3-5)
***If you are dealing with RAD, please know, you are NOT alone. I know how hard it is and how easy it is to want to give up. Please speak up. Don’t hold it in. Don’t feel afraid to share with someone. It is SO important to get help. For you. For your child. Don’t try to endure it all alone. If you need to talk to anyone, please feel free to email me at email@example.com
In honor of bringing them home two years ago… Here’s our homecoming video!