In January it was one full year since Wyatt joined our family stateside. He is such a joy. Truly. Adoption is such a blessing and something I daily am so thankful we chose. I’ve been reflecting a lot over the past few months about the first year home. How much Wyatt has grown and changed and healed. How much Dustin and I have grown and changed and in a lot of ways healed, too.
People ask us all the time what adoption is really like and a lot of times I just don’t have a very good answer.It’s so overwhelming. It’s so awesome. It’s so hard. Your child is a stranger to you. You are a stranger to your child. There are so.many.things that go down the first year home. So I thought I’d take a minute to answer that question from the lense of surviving the first year home. Because really looking back that’s what it felt like. Survival. Until one day it didn’t.
Obviously this is our experience and not everyone you’ve ever known who has adopted. (18 month old. International. No special needs. No other kids in the home.) Please laugh with me. I snorted laughter while writing this. Sometimes laughter is just the only way.
We had read all the books. We had taken all the classes. We had talked to all the people. We had waited all the months. We were so ready. We felt so prepared. It’s so funny to look back on. Really. Because we knew nothing.
The first six months of our existence with Wyatt had us looking something like this:
He is so cute! And he cries all the time! He never sleeps! Never! His laugh is the best! He wants to be held all time! Aw! No seriously he never wants to be put down! He won’t eat anything! Not one thing! OMG he won’t stop eating! He’s throwing up! He’s gagging! He’s choking! I feel so stressed! He hits! He’s learning to play! He’s learning to walk! This is the best! The parasite poop! It’s everywhere! All the time! He won’t stop screaming! I don’t know what he wants! He never sleeps! I feel so confused! And tired! I think he hates me! He’s so cute! He won’t stop screaming! But really he literally never wants to be put down! I want to put him down! He’s scared of everything! The tantrums! Over everything! My God! What have we done! I love him! I’m not sure I like him yet! I want to cry all the time! I want to laugh all the time! I feel so confused!
And then the outside world welcomes you home and they have no idea. Not the one. And you don’t really know either. This is exactly your first rodeo. And so everyone just circles up and tries their best. But nobody really knows what is going down on the inside of your home. No one. But you. And your walls. And the pillow you sometimes cry into and other times scream into.
And so when people start saying things like, “Aren’t you SO GLAD you missed the newborn no sleeping phase? LOL.” You find yourself physically unable to not make this face:
I’m sorry, you want to say. Have I done something to you that makes you hate me? You see we have done a lot of things since becoming parents and sleep isn’t even on any of the lists. Not one of them.
The first five weeks Wyatt was in my care he never slept more than two consecutive hours. TWO. I flew solo with him from Uganda to TN and straight fell asleep on one of my flights with him sitting wide awake on my lap. Like, I was out cold and drooling. Still to this day I have no idea how I fell asleep or for how long I was asleep or if my child got up and walked around while I was asleep. Not one idea. Once we were home it improved. And by that I mean he was sleeping like 3 hours at a time. So, no, we were not like SO GLAD we missed the newborn no sleeping phase. Like, settle down with your LOL.
And then you’ve been off the plane for approximately 72 hours and the good people start asking things like:
“So what’s your daily schedule like?”
“What’s Wyatt’s nap schedule?”
“You’re not making him nap? You know it’s really important for babies to nap, right?”
And your response is to look back at them like this:
Again, you are physically unable to make your face look any different. I don’t know how to help you with this. Because hi, I just switched CONTINENTS WITH A BABY. Did you know that day time in America is night time in Uganda? Like seriously did you know that? So what’s our daily schedule right now? To stay awake during the day. It’s really very simple at this point. Once we have that down I’ll let you know about our sacred schedule we create for ourselves.
And then you get a little bit brave and start trying to explain the kind of tantrums that go down in your house on an hourly basis, and people tell you to read their favorite parenting book, Bringing Up Bebe, and this is you:
Like, cool. I DON’T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. The insane tantrums. Over everything. All the god forsaken day long. Like this is not an exaggeration. Not even close. One time at a friends house Wyatt threw one of this kind of tantrum. After it was over, my friend looked at me bug eyed and said, “Are they always like this? Do you get any time by yourself?” And then she poured whiskey in my coffee. It was 10 a.m. Bless.
And then in the midst of all the other things, when your doctor calls and tells you that your child is still (STILL!) testing positive for the horrific parasite known as Giardia you do this:
Like you can’t even function properly after this call. If people only knew how you had stood over toilets and dry heaved over the smell of this poo. Or how many mornings you woke up to your child covered in this stuff. Or how many loads of laundry you do in one day because of it. Or how sad the screams are that come from your child because it’s so so painful. Or how you can’t really go anywhere because this stuff is uncontrollable and when it happens you need to take cover immediately.
I will never forget my child having a blowout (like next level blowout) in Walgreens one day and I didn’t know it until I had flung actual parasite poop onto the checkout counter. And I didn’t even acknowledge it. Like I just paid and walked away with a screaming baby who was dripping the worst smelling crap you have ever smelled. I watched the news for days waiting to hear of a Giardia outbreak in East Nashville.
If you have a friend who is changing the diapers of a baby with parasites go give them a hug. Seriously. It is truly something else.
And then the people want to know about things like why you don’t get a babysitter (I bet he would be fine! They say) or do the church nursery (It’s church!) or the gym child care (That would be so good for you!), and you’re like you just don’t even know my life:
It is just not that simple you want to say.
The first time Dustin walked into church after successfully leaving Wyatt in the church nursery (hi, eight months later) I almost had to excuse myself to go cry with excitement (for him and us and our church congregation who had so kindly endured his church time antics). That experience has left me so drained I’m like- I think he would be fine SO FINE at the gym child care BUT WHAT IF HE ISN’T OH MY GOD NO I CAN’T.
And when you’ve been home for a few months people start inviting you over for dinner or want to meet up for a meal and you’re like, You sure about that? Because this is us after a meal at OUR house:
I put something in the microwave for Wyatt the other day and he didn’t fall on the floor weeping uncontrollably and I thought- We have come SO FAR. Meal time was like an actual war zone. There were tantrums and choking and spitting food and gagging and throwing up and screaming and throwing food and 2 hours later we’re still sitting at the freaking table like: FINE. WE SURRENDER.
And then people try to make you feel better by saying that all of this is so normal! Because their biological kid does THE SAME EXACT THINGS! No their kid doesn’t have any known history of trauma! Yes their kid has been in their loving care since exiting the womb! But take heart! Because they are facing the same.exact.challenges.(!!!)
And then out of nowhere you start functioning like normal people for hours and then days and then weeks at a time. The screaming for all the hours of the day just ends. The tantrums simmer down. Meal times aren’t the worst times of the day. The parasites go away. You all of a sudden find yourself so obsessed with your child because once you can breathe you see just how awesome he really is. You sleep one full night here and there and feel like a real superhero. You all find your groove as a family and you’re exactly like:
And so when people would ask, How are things going?! And I was all… Do I tell them? Can they handle the truth? LOL LOL, nah… “Things are kinda hard but they’re REALLY, REALLY GREAT!” This is what I really felt like:
Now when people ask me what adoption is really like I say, “Ya know, the first six months I thought we were all going to die. But we didn’t. And now things are really fun and great. Still really hard at times but nothing like those first few months.”