Wednesday, May 27, 2015
How Are We Doing Without Luke?
It's been more than a month since Luke left. I know people are wondering how we're doing, and the short answer is, for the most part, we're good. But I think I'm ready to share more than that now.
My biggest concern was for the little girls. I worried that Hannah and Katie would be thrown off kilter by him leaving. That they might doubt their permanence here. Not wanting Katie to be alone in the room that she'd been sharing with Luke, we moved Hannah in with her right away. This delighted both the little girls (and Brianna, too, who got her own room out of the deal!) so much that they barely noticed Luke's absence. There has been no clinginess, no regression, no sudden "issues" popping up.
We've gone out to dinner as a family again for the first time in well over a year. We've gotten out to the park and the library more. As you've probably noticed, we've started taking field trips again.
The house is quieter, although some of us have heard "phantom cries," sort of like sudden amputees experience with an itch that's not really there any more.
After the first couple weeks, where we'd run across his things in the wash, or come across something of his unexpectedly, I started to decompress enough to realize just how "off" I'd gotten, mentally. A milestone happened for me: I wore shorts again.
Now, I know this sounds ridiculous. You have to understand that last summer, I was in such a bad place emotionally that I could barely manage to shave both legs in the same day sometimes. I was depressed and overwhelmed, and I was literally hanging on to the hope of Luke starting school in the fall so we'd have some respite from the frequent screaming fits Luke was having before we got his seizures under control.
I'd gained some weight since the previous summer, and even once I bought a pair of shorts that fit me, it was just too much of an effort for me to shave above the knees. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I found myself thinking, "I guess I've gotten to the point where I'm too old for shorts."
That's how messed up my head was.
I thought my life was ending, bit by bit.
The sad thing is, things didn't get better when Luke started school. Oh, it was nice not to have therapists coming to the house 3x/week, but having to be home at 11:07 and 1:48 every day for the bus played a huge part in turning me into a hermit. Luke moving from the stroller to the heavy, awkward wheelchair was another factor. I could barely get the chair in and out of the back of my van, and often ended up with tire tracks on myself. It was too much of a bother to go anywhere with Luke, and there wasn't enough time to go anywhere without him.
With the perspective of hind sight, I think that I lost the ability to just do the next thing. I was so freaked out by the long term big picture that I couldn't just focus on the day or moment at hand. I couldn't get past the idea that I was going to be changing his diapers until I died. Maybe it sounds petty and trivial to you, but I couldn't climb out of the despair I'd slid into.
My initial relief at placing Luke with a family who accepts him the way he is and is comfortable with the level of care he requires got me through the early transition period. We got rid of the crib, high chair, and changing table right away.
As we adjusted to our new normal, 2 feelings stood out from the whirlwind of emotions. The first was guilt, of course. I'm so sorry I couldn't be the mom Luke needed! Guilt over not being the supermom people used to say that I was. Guilt that the rest of my kids all suffered while I was drowning in inadequacy. The second feeling was relief. Which made me feel even more guilty.
Gradually, more feelings surfaced. I feel sad. I feel loss. Selling the double stroller at a garage sale was like saying goodbye to the last reminder of how I thought things would be. See, the stroller was a huge purchase for us. I looked at several different ones when we decided to bring home 2 children. I kept coming back to the big, beautiful red one with the seats that could face in either direction. I thought how it would be good for attachment to have the little ones facing me while we walked. That stroller saw more trips to doctors' offices than any other sort of outing.
I really thought that Luke would thrive within our family, and that with love and nutrition and encouragement, we'd all be amazed at how fast he started walking and learned English. I thought that after some Early Intervention and one outpatient surgery, we'd have a normal, healthy little boy. And I'm sad that we didn't get that. I see other families bringing home kids in the 2-3 year old range, especially kids with limb differences like our girls, and I think, "We could have parented that child," and my heart aches a bit.
For the most part, we're fine. Things are moving on, and I'm happy with our new normal. I am free to focus on the older kids more, and enjoy the limited amount of time I have left with the teens here at home. But I wonder how long it will be before I can eat a piece of pizza without remembering all the times Luke ate my crust for me.
Birth mothers who decide they cannot parent a child are usually made out to be either saints or villains. Adoptive mothers who decide they cannot parent a child generally just get vilified. In both cases, it's far more complex than that. It's a heartbreaking choice. It's a loss. And yes, it's a chance to salvage a less than ideal situation and try to move forward in life.
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