Friday, February 6, 2009

How Do I Help Her?

When I look at pictures of Bella, her beauty catches me off guard. She has a heart shaped face and beautiful features! But deep down inside she has a hurt, she came to us with it and at times I think it is healed ...until it rears it's head again. I've said before, that I am certain Bella experienced some form of abuse/neglect before she came to us. When she came home she was just a shell of a girl. I remember the doctor saying that she thought Bella was a failure to thrive baby. Bella came to us totally shut down. Whether it was physical or mental I don't know. What ever happened in China is locked deep inside somewhere. Could it be the trauma of being abandoned at birth? I don't think that is it. I can remember trying to cuddle her and I could feel her stiffen. She would never let me hold her bottle. She would rather starve! I rocked her to sleep for over a year with out ever getting an ounce of affection from her. It was so hard for me to bond to her. I was doing all the work and getting nothing in return. I tried EVERYTHING the attachment therapist recommended, everything the play therapist recommended and we didn't get much in return. In addition, she was non verbal for a long time. I remember asking the speech therapist if Bella would ever speak. At one point when Bella was 3 she was getting speech therapy, play therapy, attachment therapy, occupational therapy and special education services. I can remember going to China to pick up John Jr. I missed Bella SO MUCH. I could not wait to get home to see her and she totally snubbed me at the airport. I remember feeling so hurt and wondering if she would ever love me. Well.......the mother warrior in me never let me give up. I did so much praying. I remember that I would receive Holy Communion in church and come back to my seat and cry. I would just pray for Bella to make some kind of break through. I also felt like an incredible failure as a parent! I would rock Bella to sleep and whisper how proud I was to be her mother and how much I loved her and she would stare blankly at the floor.
Present day.......I can't tell you exactly when Bella and I bonded as mother and daughter. But it did finally happen. Bella got a string of illnesses and through the process of caring for her when she was sick...the bonding came . Up until that point Bella had never gotten sick. She had nary a sniffle for almost 2 years. The pediatrician felt she was so stressed......still.....that her little body stayed in "fight or flight"mode and she never let her guard down! That caused her to not be sick. All of sudden I felt the difference in our relationship and she spent the next month being sick! She practically laid on my lap for a month. From that moment on......she is SO ATTACHED that she is always by my side or on my lap or in my bed sleeping on top of me. Bella is almost 5 and still loves being rocked to sleep on my lap. I can tell you that Bella loves me and John with all her being. If she steps on my toe and i say ouch....she breaks down in tears...big tears....remorseful tears. She loves me in a way that makes my heart swell. Bella is now expressive of her love for me and I believe no one has ever loved me as much as Bella. When she climbs into bed with us at night, she will stare in my face until I open my eyes and when I do she gets this huge grin on her face!
However, at 4 yrs old( almost 5 ) it is time for her to spread those tiny wings...a little. Or is it? She is having difficulty in school. Even though she is gone only 3 hours....she is struggling. Today, her teacher called to tell me that she is melting down in class and crying for me. Both teachers have been unable to quiet her down. She just wants her mommy. She doesn't want to go to school, she says she just misses me so much. How do I help her? It took 4 years to convince her I'd always be there and I feel like I'm letting her down. I asked her today what was going on and she said " why do you send me away everyday....I just want you" . My eyes filled up with water and I didn't have a good answer. I have spent years talking her through the fact that I will always be there for her. I cant stand to watch my baby suffer. The school doesn't want me to come pick her up and I don't want her feeling abandoned by me. She often wakes up crying for me in the night and when I ask what is wrong she says she doesn't want to go to school. I am so confused. She has been in pre school 6 months and I thought she would have adjusted by now. I am so tempted to just with draw her from preschool. I am struggling with this decision!


Oglesby Family said...

Wow Carol.. what a story. I don't think I knew all of it until now. I don't know the best solution for preschool.. but it does seem like she will eventually begin to realize that you are coming back every day for her.... you are not leaving her there. I think it may be easier to go through now than wait until Kindergarden and the rest.. but I'm not an expert in these matters at all.
Bella is just beautiful and I am so happy you have such a fantastic bond!!
Sometimes I forget Madison is adopted and she says "mommy I want you, I want you.. " and I'm like ok madison I'm here.. but kind of shrug it off.. your story makes me think twice.. these little girls need us and want us in a way we will never be able to understand... I just hope - like you - that I can be what she needs! Parenthood is a learning experience that's for sure!!

Jill and Rick said...

Carol, I'm so sorry that Bella is struggling with her separation. Your story of Bella sounds SO MUCH like our Allie. She will have been home four years this spring and it has literally taken her years to attach to me. We come SO FAR over the last year, but I know full well that we still have work to do. She really has done pretty well at preschool (3 hrs, 3 mornings each week), except the week after Christmas vacation was hard for her. They said that she cried for me each day. :-(

I wonder if there's any way that Bella's teachers could help reinforce the "Mommy's coming" theme. Something visual that she could see to tell her how long till mommy comes to pick her up? I don't know, just thinking out loud here. Helping her to work through it, and still reinforce to her that you love her and can't wait to pick her up, . . . We have to be so careful with our little ones that are more fragile.

It just breaks my heart that some of our children come to us with so much hurt.


Anonymous said...

Maybe try sending her to school with a picture of you saying Bella I love you and will be waiting fo ryou to come home JOANNE

PIPO said...

Hi Carol - I popped over after finding your comment at my place.

What a powerful post. I am sorry you are going through this right now. It looks like some good advice has come your way already. No matter, I understand completely how difficult this is. Like trials that came before, however, you will all get through. You're in my thoughts.

PS: I really appreciate the offer on Barbie. If you're not wanting to keep her then perhaps donate/raffle her for a cause? My girl has all she needs and I'd rather see Barbie do some 'good work' ;0)

Sharie said...

I knew Bella had some struggles early on, but I didn't know the extent of it - Thank God for bringing you all together:) Amelia and I had trouble bonding because I was back to work so soon - but it was nothing like what you've gone through.
We've had our times when going to daycare or school was bad and she would scream when I left but she usually settled down.
I still hate the thought of leaving her overnight and only do that when work requires it - She sleeps in bed with me now - which I don't like, but she needs. It makes her feel more secure - I have to lay facing her or she can't even fall asleep.
Our girls are our lives - Bella knows in her heart you will be back. I agree with the photo idea. I also gave Amelia a card with my phone number on it to keep in her bag at Chinese school when she didn't want me leaving her there. Just having that with her and knowing how to get me made her more secure.
Perhaps having one of the kids from her class over for a play date? If she's more familiar it might not be so difficult? I agree with Karen that it's easier now than it will be in Kindergarten.

Cyndi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cyndi said...

Carol, my heart goes out to you and Bella. First off, yes, her beauty is isn't just you as her Mommy. :o) I fear that Lily will be going through the same thing this fall when she goes to preschool. Here in Norway, children are put in barnehages (like daycare/preschools)at 1 yr. I get lots of looks with Lily when we are out. (she just turned 4)Even the Americans are bugging me to get her into school (which here is all day everyday). I quit everything and stayed home to bond with Lily...and it didn't come easily...but now that it is strong. Maybe Bella just isn't ready yet. Maybe she needs another 6 months at home and can start in the fall. I guess I feel these little ones have been through enough....but it is such a fine line between caving to their every whim and doing what is needed to keep their little psyches intact. I wish you the best of luck in your decision. Let me know what you decide. I am praying over the situation for you!

Teresa said...

Hi Carol.
I just visited your blog and read Bella's story. I know the school year's almost over, but I have some advice. When my Frances went through a similar experience, I gave her a little locket with my picture in it; this way I was "always with her". Another suggestion - there's a video called Baby Songs that has a song "My Mommy Comes Back" that helped both of my girls when they were little. Singing it with Bella may help her come to understand that you'll always be there for her.
I hope these ideas help!