At 3 years old, our son was considered an older child when we adopted him. When we started on the adoption journey, we had 'happy thoughts' of cuddling with our first child. We dreamed of what parenthood would be like.
Those dreams came to a crashing halt when we adopted him and we ALL went through the adjustment period. At times we were exhausted, overwhelmed, discouraged.
Thank goodness that is all a distant memory now. More than 5 years later, we are all well adjusted and thriving as a family. But it took a lot of work to get here.
Take a sneak peek at my journal I kept:
February 9 - We have our son! He is completely overstimulated, but oh so cute! He is so loving and wants to cuddle and kiss all the time. He freaked out in the bathtub and when we put him on the toilet. He fell asleep very easily.
Februay 10 - He woke up at 5am, ready to eat everything in sight. He is so hungry, poor baby! We might have a small problem. We tell him "no" and he laughs.
February 11 - Last night was rough. He didn't want to sleep but he was so tired. When I asked him if he wanted to sleep, he said yes - but I'd put him in bed and he'd completely freak out. He screamed for 2 hours straight. He finally fell asleep with us on either side of him.
February 12 - Going to sleep was difficult again tonight. He just doesn't want to go to sleep and fights it with every ounce of his being. I was holding him and he was trying to push me away but I just held him tight and talked to him in my calm voice.
February 18 - We came home a few days ago. Everyone is anxious to meet him but he is completely overstimulated with it all and wants to just sit on my lap and be shy. I know cameras flashing, people crying, strangers in his face must be a lot to process.
February 20 - He seems to be adjusting okay, except for sleeping. He screams like crazy, for hours on end, in the middle of the night. It's like he's always been with us, though. Sure, we have some issues to work through, but I'm so glad he's here.
February 22 - He slept through the night for the first time! Yeah!!
February 24 - Well, there are 3 things: the potty, sleeping, and eating. We can get 2 out of the 3 right, but never all 3. Ugh.
February 27 - Last night, I heard him crying. I went in to check on him and he was laying in the middle of the floor! I picked him up and put him back in bed, wondering what had happened. I went back to bed and told my husband and he said, "Oh, yeah, I thought I heard a thump..." What?? I never even heard it! We are EXHAUSTED!
March 1 - Being a mom is more than I imagined. It's amazing and I love every moment. But I wish we could get this sleep thing kicked. I can't believe how much he screams. He makes his body stiff, he throws his head back, and he arches his back. If that doesn't work, he'll do anything to keep himself awake - picking his nose, flopping around on his bed, calling the dog. Just go to sleep - you don't have to do this for 2 hours every night!!
March 4 - Today he purposely (hatefully) ripped a photo album and picked his lips raw. What in the world??
March 10 - I bought him new shoes today. He tried them on in the store and was so excited. When I took them off, he cried. A lot. But when we got home and he saw he still had them, he squealed! He's not used to having anything, poor thing!
March 14 - It's been one month since we've been home, a little more than that since we've gotten custody. It seems like forever. I can't believe it just seems like he's always been here. The pain of the wait is a distant memory.
March 24 - We're having potty issues. I don't get it. When we're out, he'll keep his pants dry but at home, he could care less if he wets his pants. If I ask him if he has to go, he'll scream "NO!" If I take him to the bathroom, he'll scream. But when he goes in the potty, he yells "YAY!" I am at a loss.
March 26 - Big day! He said, "I love you!"
April 4 - I am so over this sleep problem!! It is so random, one night he'll sleep through the night and the next he's up every few hours. How is he not exhausted?? I know I am!!
April 5 - Well, just when my heart was melting because he couldn't stop telling me, "I love you!", I learned he loves everything. Today after he went to the bathroom, he flushed the toilet and said, "Bye bye, kucky, I love you!" then blew kisses down the toilet.
April 6 - We are going on a weekend road trip and he threw up all over the car. Lovely. It was everywhere.
April 7 - I am exhausted. He can't sleep in this hotel.
April 9 - He didn't have a nap today and fell asleep in 6 minutes flat tonight. It's a minor miracle.
April 15 - Instead of napping in the car on longer trips, he just cries. Screams might be a better word. When he stops screaming, he remembers he should be crying and starts all over again. Ugh.
April 18 - Rough day. He was crying about everything. For example, if I asked him if he wanted a cookie, he'd say yes. I'd give him one, he'd shout "NO COOKIE!" and throw it and then cry. I'm so confused.
April 24 - He is very angry for no apparent reason. Today, he was giving me dirty looks, "flapping" his arms, kicking his feet, screaming, crying, holding his breath. I tried to hold him and tell him I love him and he tried to push me away. Once I held him for 25 minutes until he calmed down. I just told him I loved him over and over. What is going through his mind???
April 25 - He is going from cuddly to angry in 2 seconds flat. I'm at a loss.
May 3 - He finally fell asleep at 10:30 last night after quite the fight. He woke up at 7:30 this morning. I am exhausted. Why isn't he???
May 5 - Big day. I took a shower while he wasn't sleeping! I'm so brave. ha ha ha.
May 7 - We've decided to stop rocking him to sleep. It's not working. He is flip flopping like crazy in his bed. I know this is the right transition, so we'll keep trying.
May 11 - We went to Toys R Us for the first time today. Big mistake. He was way too overstimulated.
May 17 - He's been sleeping through the night with no wake ups! It's been 3 or 4 nights in a row now. Exciting!!
The rest is history.... the first 3 months were the toughest for adjustment. We worked hard on fostering a relationship with our son. And he with us. After that, our family really began to become a family. The rest of my journal talks about zoo trips, vacations, cute things he said. But those first 3 months were so important for attaching as a family. Exhausting, but important.
I'm not suggesting that the magic number is 3 months - that will be different for everyone. The key is - expect it to be worse than you think it will be. Don't expect cuddles and kisses and happily ever after. You've got to work hard for that to happen. And then you've got to work harder.