Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Home For 6 Months: Moving, Struggling, and Settling In

 Our new view.

We moved... we made it... we're alive still... even if just barely.  Well, we're actually doing much better now, but this move was HARD.  Not only were we put though the ringer with our buyers (don't get me started!) but such a major life event, right after joining a new family, was crazy-hard on Hallie.  She went from being the new family darling, who was settling in and happily bouncing around her new home, to feeling lost in the busyness of packing and unsure of where she stood.  Every box we packed left her wondering what was happening and no amount of explaining could help her understand or ease her underlying worries.

It's common for adopted children to regress to their orphanage behaviors when going through stressful times... and Hallie was no exception.  In her previous life, at the orphanage, things were painfully difficult for the children at "the bottom" so there was some major motivation to make sure someone else was always below you in the hierarchy of your peers.  Hallie's uncertainty brought out some regressive behaviors that were tough to live with.  It can be majorly challenging to get along with a sibling that continuously tattles on you, even when you're not really doing anything wrong, or when they smugly gloat after receiving any and every little thing, including any show of attention or affection, or when they work to make sure someone is always excluded from the play.  I could see how this was difficult for the other kids, but I would still get crazy frustrated with them for not being more patient.  There is nothing like yelling at your kids because you are tired of contention.  Oh the irony.  It was just hard all around.

Although I could reason why Hallie was acting this way, it was still so utterly maddening to have to deal with during an already stressful time.  Moving a family of eight is enough work to be considered a full time job... and with a hard deadline, I had no choice but to keep packing up, box after box, even though I could see it was starting to have a negative impact on Hallie.  I kept questioning the timing of our move and Ryan and I had frequent conversations about just pulling the plug on our move.  But even though, logically, it seemed like the worst possible timing, Ryan and I kept feeling like it was what we needed to do.  Through all of this, I knew Hallie needed reassurance, but it was getting more and more difficult to give it to her when I knew she would turn around and throw my affection into her siblings faces, creating problems and causing bitterness.

The honest, painful, truth is that, to varying degrees, we were all beginning to resent Hallie... or more accurately, Hallie's behavior, but it was becoming harder and harder to separate the two.  The more Hallie sensed any frustration, the more she used unproductive means to try to achieve "favorite" status.  Of course I knew that Hallie was coming from a place of devastating hurt and loss and what she needed most was my time, love, and affection, and I had just spent ten long months yearning to give these things to her, but circumstances were making them so darn difficult to provide or to even want to provide!  I felt terrible about that.  The combination of the stress of our move and the intensity of Hallie's neediness overwhelmed me.  I was really not my best self and guilty feelings consumed me as I could see that we were in a deep downward spiral.

We made the move, but then there was still unpacking to do, so things didn't get much better.  If anything, they got worse... two days after we made the move, I started to feel sick but just kept pushing forward, trying to get things settled. (Burnout is real!)  It wasn't until after feeling terrible for two weeks that I finally made time to see the doctor and found out that I had been fighting a nasty strep infection.  A few days after starting antibiotics, I began to feel like a functioning human again and things continued to look up once we achieved a degree of functionality in our unpacking just before Hallie's upcoming surgery.

Much to my surprise, Hallie's surgery was the event that really pulled us out of our tailspin.  Hallie has thoroughly enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.  And the fact that Hallie's pain was now visible made it easier for her siblings to be sympathetic and more patient.  The surgery and body cast have been hard for Hallie in different ways, (another blog post for another day) but they put an abrupt end to the negative behavior patterns that we had been battling.  We still have a lot of work to do in the bonding department.  We're realizing that it is just going to take a lot more time and effort than it did with Jordan.  There is a whole lot more negative life experience to have to work through.  Hallie still regresses some when she is feeling insecure, and I'm sure she'll continue to struggle with this until she gets to a place of complete understanding that our love for her is unconditional.  I pray every day that we'll get there soon!