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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Being a mama to Iryna

It's interesting how while growing up, you don't think much (or at least I didn't) about how your parents parented you...until you're out of the house. Then you might think back and be critical of various things, thinking that they should have done better in certain areas, etc. Then you become a parent. And realize that you are not perfect in YOUR parenting style. I don't know why it is, but I'm always surprised when other women tell me that they have their hard days as parents. I guess I just assume that everyone else is a fabulous parent and that I'm the only one struggling over here.

Being a parent to two special needs children is challenging. I find that I don't like to share the hard times with many people. Perhaps it's because some people aren't as supportive of adopting special needs, or, rather, they don't see why we would purposely take on children who come from difficult situations with extra needs. And we did. Twice. At one time. So, maybe I imagine that if I were to say that things are TOUGH with the twins that people will say something equivalent to "I told you so." I don't know. It shouldn't matter what other people think. I wish it didn't matter to me.

I shy away from saying much about how Iryna is doing on my blog. The main reason is because she is a difficult child. She tests me everyday. I lose my patience with her everyday. I get calls from her school, at least once a week, stating that she is hitting, spitting, pinching, kicking, and her most recent action, scratching until it draws blood. She does these things mainly to the teachers and aids, sometimes to the other students. It's embarrassing to hear about these actions of my daughter. After all, she's my daughter! I don't teach her to do these things. We don't do these things at home. And these behaviors occur when she's on the medicine that is improving her behavior. I have thought about taking a video of Iryna in the morning (pre medicine) and in the evening (when meds have worn off). She's all over the place. Screaming. Laughing hysterically. Whining. It's scary.

There are many times when I doubt myself...times where I wonder if Iryna would have been better off in that orphanage in Mariupol than here with me. She deserves a patient, understanding, long-suffering mama. When people compliment me on being a good mama to Anna or Keith, I can believe them. To Iryna? No. I feel like I fail all the time with her. This is a difficult thing to write, but, by all the tears that have fallen just in writing this post, I know that I need to put this out there. If not for anyone else, for me. I am grateful that no matter how many times I mess up, God will always forgive me. And if I have His and Iryna's forgiveness, then it will be all right in the end.


MoonDog said...

parenting in general is difficult. no one ever said this was the easy road! some days are so bad you wonder if they could get any worse! thank goodness they are tempered with good fun times or parents would go nuts! all of us would! hugs. parenting difficult kids is difficult. no two ways about it.

Mary said...

*hugs* Parenting is hard - I'm not even a parent yet, and I know that (years of nannying have taught me that if it's difficult to take care of a colicky baby 8 hours/day, then it must be astronomically more difficult to do so 24/7).

You are not a bad parent, and these behaviors are not a reflection of your parenting skills. Some of her behaviors are orphanage learned, some she was born with. In no way should you blame yourself for them. That said, it must be hard, really hard for you to have to deal with Iryna's violent behavior and to feel like you can't talk about it or people will say things like "I told you so."

I wish you were nearby so that I could give you a big hug and tell you that you are an awesome mama who is making the best of a difficult situation. Hugs!

The McEacherns said...

You're certainly not alone in your feelings! And I know you know it, but she is certainly better off with you than in an orphanage. Blessings!

Diana said...

Let the tears fall, my friend. It's hard to take off the mask and be real. But, there's also a lot of power in it. I'm proud of you for putting it out there. It's OK that you do. You already know that you are not alone in Christ, but you are also not alone among mamas.

I know this one is going to hurt, but I'm asking you to take a big, deep breath and know I'm telling you this because I'm your friend and because I love you. It's time to very seriously consider attachment. Obviously I don't know her personally and I'm not a trained professional, but what you're describing here sounds an awful lot like RAD - most likely with some PTSD mixed in there. There usually is because they are both trauma based disorders. And, they can both get really, really messy if there's prenatal alcohol exposure in there as well.

Please know I don't say that lightly, my friend. I've so BTDT x2 as well. No video footage is needed! I live it every day myself. I've also been following your story since before you adopted the kids. I've seen it many times with Iryna, including while you were in Ukraine. I just haven't felt you were ready to hear it that bluntly until now. Believe me, I would LOVE to be wrong about this. I hope I am!! Unfortunately, I don't think I am. :-(

The most important thing to remember is that if it is RAD, it isn't about you. It IS NOT a reflection on you or your parenting. It isn't your fault and nor is it hers. It just is what it is and a direct result of things that happened to her before she joined your life.

But, it can be treated. There are no magic cures and it's a long, hard road, but there is help out there and our kids can heal and make tremendous progress with the right interventions. The sooner those interventions go in place (at home, school, and in therapy) the more effective they will be.

You are ALWAYS welcome to call me and cry or scream or laugh or even just ask questions or whatever. I'm sicker than sick right now and have no voice, but give me a couple days and I'll be ready. In the meantime, you can email or text me. ((HUGS!!))

JB said...

Jill, I never comment because we don't know each other directly but I felt compelled.

You are doing such a good job. You are trying every day. Parenting is SO hard. Your daughter is so much better off with you where she can feel your families love.

I am so sorry that you are struggling emotionally right now. You really are an inspiration to others out there.

I wish I knew the right thing to say to make you feel better. But I am thinking of you and yours.

McElwain Pirates said...

"I told you so" is hardly a statement to make to a hero. And, anyone who knowingly takes on the world is a hero! Congrats Jill you are a wonderful mother to two children who had non... you aren't just a mom you are the mom you didn't have to be!

Anonymous said...

Part 1


Firstly, I agree with everything that's been said. Remember when I stayed with your family for a couple of days a couple of years back? You'd had the twins less than a year at that point. From everything you've said on your blog, and described about the orphanage, the kids had made major progress even in those few months. Remember these accomplishments, especially in those rough moments.

Second, medications are designed to change the chemical balance within the body. Remember that not everyone's body responds as predicted. Have you considered finding natural supplements that do the things that the drugs are supposed to be doing? As you know, I don't go the drug/pharmaceutical route for anything. But I remember dealing with depression and having some major sleeping problems. I took St. John's Wort for the depression that also had valerian root in it for the sleeping issues. It may not work for all, but I found great benefits in using it/them. I recall you saying within the last few weeks that the medications that Iryna is on deal with some problems while creating others. This might be a reason to explore the more natural remedies.

Considering some of these behavioral issues with Iryna, you might need to have several conversations with Tyler. These will deeply personal and I do not suggest these lightly. You are also considering another special needs adoption. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and I frankly find your taking on these children plus issues to be inspirational. But the two of you may need to honestly evaluate whether or not you are ready to take on more special needs. And if so, since I assume you've already had some talks on this, when. Maybe you need to wait a bit more. This is not to suggest you not adopt any more children. Please hear that. But if you are not to walk faster than you are able, my feeling is that you should also not take on more stress and obligation than you feel emotionally capable of. More children does bring more obligation, and you are well aware of this. There is no right answer to this line of thinking that will work for all. But you only need the right answer for your family. To further complicate this, remember the success and progress you've already had.

Anonymous said...

Part 2

I know this doesn't compare directly, but I'm in semester four of six of my doctoral coursework. Let me tell you that in the last 3 months, I've had to contemplate and reevaluate my decision to do this degree on sometimes a daily basis. So know that in these complicated choices, you are not alone. Those of us that follow your blog really want good things for you. I just say remember your dreams and know your limits. We'll all be behind your no matter what choices you and Tyler make.

Finally, regarding Iryna, what other options do you have? Clearly she is excited to go to school. And she also regularly has either a meltdown or other disciplinary issues at school. So I ask again, what other options do you have? And is this related to your move to Florida? Leaving her teacher in Ohio may have generated some unrest inside her mind that she cannot describe or explain. Can you send her to school for half days? Or can you send her two or three days to school and keep her at home for the other days? Are you able to be a volunteer in the school and work in her class? Would any of these ideas even be helpful for you/Iryna/teachers? My brain tends to seek out options so that I can decide what is best, that's why I'm thinking along these lines.

I hope I've given you some things to think about. Hopefully something you find useful is here. Please know there is no judgment going on here. I don't think I'm ready to do half the job you do and have done. What I have to tell myself every time I give a recital or even teach a lesson is to stop and take some deep, calming breaths. You'll find the right solutions. Trust yourself. And decide that you don't give a crap about someone saying "I told you so." If anyone is stupid enough to even say something like that, that person doesn't have a clue, and he/she is not worth your time. If someone is not trying to actively be part of the solution, then he/she is part of the problem, and you don't need that. You're going places and tell them to get on board or get out of your way. You're the momma, you know best for your children, and you will find the answers. Believe in yourself!


Tamara said...

((hugs)) I wish I had some great words of advice to help you right now. I just hope it helps to know you absolutely are NOT alone in this. So many times Maddie tests me, sometimes beyond what I feel I can handle. While she is no long hitting, biting and shoving at school, she continues to test...daily.
Is it possible that the medication, while it may be helping with some of the issues, is not strong enough to help her with the self-control? We ended up having to do a medication change with Maddie because the first wasn't enough. Maybe a talk with your pediatrician would be an option?
And possibly some counseling for her? While we haven't gone down that road, I know several families who have and it has worked wonders (even for children as young as Iryna).
Whatever you decide to do, know that I am praying for you...and praying for Iryna. ((hugs))

Courtney said...

{{Jill}} :)

So many times I look back on our first year or so with the boys and know that I did so many things wrong. I wish I could take them back. But I try to learn from those and I know, just like you do, that God put each of these kids in our families for a reason. He picked YOU to be Iryna's mom--no one else--because He knew you were the perfect parent for her. Not that you are a perfect parent, but you are the perfect parent for her because you love her and want to do the best you can for her. God is always with you, little one.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with Anonymous above; that adding more children with special needs may not be the best idea when you already have such a demanding child as Iryna. Your priorities and responsabilities need to be with the children you already have. Diana and Tamara seem to give you good advice too.

Rebecca said...

Your choice to take special children and to care for them gives them a much better life. Their life with you is better than any other life they could have had. You want them, and you love them. No matter what else is going on with them, they will always know that you chose them; that they were wanted and loved. Iryna may have issues that you will never be able to fix. She may never be a "normal" kid. So what? She is your kid. She is different and that's okay. The world may expect her to act a certain way, and she may not be able to. It is hard to be the mom, and it is doubly hard when your child isn't like everybody else's. You are doing your best, and so is she. You will learn and grow together. Iryna may never overcome her behavior and maybe you won't either (as in, you may never feel like you are the best parent.). But you will both get better. That's what matters. And it matters that she is yours, that you love her and you wanted her. The Lord will bear you up on wings of angels as you do your best to parent His child as best you can. And you are doing a good job. Even when it doesn't feel like it.

Melissa said...

You are doing an amazing work...Thank you for sharing!

Stephanie said...

Big Hugs Jill!!!! Parenting is hard. I'm parenting a 6 yr old who has FAE and severe ADHD and came from abuse and neglect... we are his 6th home. It's hard!!! I have the same feels as you often. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.. we all screw up.. just some are more vocal about it then others :) Those two kids of yours have come SOOO far!! Don't forget that!

Sarah C said...

You are an AMAZING mom to all three of your children! I truly admire your love and compassion. Iryna is very blessed to be in your family. I know I have told you this before, but I know I witnessed a miracle on earth as I watched your children grow and progress over the past 2 years. You are a wonderful mom. I am sorry you are feeling a lot of stress in parenting her right now. You pray to Heavenly Father and you are obedient, and he is blessing you. It is not easy to see the blessings through the trials, but he is there for you. I am here for you. You are a blessing to Iryna. Love you.

Anonymous said...

This just tells me that Iryna is supposed to be with you all the more. Don't you know that God blesses us with children that we find the most difficult so we can grow and learn. They are here to teach us even more than we are teaching them. This is why parenting is hard. We are growing in ways we never could on our own! I personally think you are amazing!