No one ever said becoming a Mother was easy, and I had no delusions that it would be. But I have to say that adopting Tenley may well be the hardest thing I have ever done. I don’t mean the actual adoption- that was easy. I’m talking about the process by which my life has become a hostage to a 27 inch terrorist.
The good news about giving birth is that you know this person from the moment that they arrive on the planet and you have some clues about the gene pool in which they are swimming. They also begin their quest for domination with these cute little “wahh” cries and spend their days eating and sleeping. This is not to say that biological Mothers have it any easier, they just get a longer transition period.
The bad news about adoption is that you’ve been handed a small person who has already discovered that they have lungs, and has already begun to develop a personality which you had not a cotton pickin’ thing to do with. They also have definite needs and wants, but no good way of expressing them except by blood curdling scream.
The other half of this equation is, of course, the Mother. For some people, like my childhood friend Lauren, I imagine Motherhood came pretty easily since she contributed substantially to the rearing of her 4 younger brothers. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m in the trash compactor from Star Wars. Being a Mom just does not come easily for me. I’m an only child, so I never dealt with babies or younger siblings, all the children I ever baby sat were at least potty trained, and I’ve spent the last 13 years answering only to myself and pretty much coming & going and doing as I pleased. So a complete loss of freedom and enslavement to a creature I have no experience with and feared for years is a very abrupt change. One which I have moments of anger and resentment over, and then guilt for feeling angry and resentful. This is not to say that I didn’t ask for this, but there’s no good way to prepare for the violent upheaval of your life that a child brings.
Then there’s Tenley. There are moments when I have suspicioned that she may be a minion of the Dark Lord, but I’ll get back to you when I find out. The truth is that Ten is not a bad child, or even a difficult child, but she is a challenging kid. I had hoped for a sweet docile baby, and I got the ever-busy iron-willed Warrior Princess. She knows what she wants, and has no qualms about letting you know of her displeasure when she doesn’t get it. Her temper is quick, and she has the ability to rage for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, at 10 months Tenley has no language skills yet (probably due to the fact that she heard Cantonese for the first 9 months of her life, and now hears only English) or any reasoning skills yet; so despite the fact that you patiently explain to her that Mommy has to do dishes because she has no more clean bottles and that we can play after the dishes are done, she does not sit and quietly babble and play with her toys, instead she screams this deep guttural roar that sounds like a pissed off baby lion. The roar increases in volume the longer you refuse to acquiesce, and becomes punctuated by deep gasps of breath intake and sobs until she is dripping with sweat and choking. This cycle only stops for feeding, napping, and if you are playing with her. I would guess that this desperate need for attention comes directly from a lack of attention in her orphanage – she’s afraid that if you stop paying attention to her, you might never pay attention to her again.
On the upside, Tenley is funny as heck. She has a great smile, and a very cute giggle. After 4 weeks, she has decided that Jeff and I are important: she always looks to see where we are, and there are moments when nothing will do but that one of us holds her. We’re dealing with her tantrums and crazy behaviors better now too, because she’s started sleeping through the night – which means that we are now getting 6-10 hours of uninterrupted rest. She’s been eating cereal for the last 3 weeks, and she’ll start baby food next week – this means that she’s gained some much needed weight and I think she’s gotten taller too. Happily for us she loves the water – both the bath and the pool are favorites of hers, and the bonus is that splashing in the pool for a couple hours wears her out.
While her moods and neediness are ever changing, and her frequent angry screaming fits try my nerves, I know it will get better...and the truth is that I love her dearly and wouldn’t trade her for all the world.