June 25 – Even our therapist is depressed

We just survived vacation. Ana is home for the summer along with her four siblings. Life is challenging to say the least.

The past few days have been very hard for me because of Ana’s CONSTANT behaviors. Nothing she is doing is exceptionally bad or destructive, just constant. With nothing to focus on (like school or a hobby) she spends all of her time annoying people. Being the fine RAD specimen that she is she also takes opportunities to  increase the chaos when another child has a bad moment.

I am at the end of my rope. Yesterday we went to her weekly therapist appointment and the therapist acknowledged my feelings, repeatedly told me she believed me (most people don’t), and agreed that there are not many options for Ana. And the few options that are available are grim.

Option 1 – We keep on keeping on

Positives: Ana stays home and continues to build attachments to our family and community

Negatives: Ana stays home and continues to annoy everyone and holds our family prisoner to her behaviors. My marriage deteriorates. My children don’t want to be here.

Option 2 – Ana is placed in a residential facility

Positives: Our family is free from the reign of Ana

Negatives: The only residential centers that will take Ana with her physical disabilities and non-verbal status would crush her soul and leave her a rocking/stemming shell of a child, most likely permanently eradicating any hope of her success as a human being.

Option 3 – Someone qualified to work with Ana appears

Positives: Ana could get the one-on-one she desperately desires. I am freed up to tend to my other children’s needs.

Negatives: We’ve tried for four years to find such a person with no luck. None. Only God could send this person, most likely floating down from the sky by umbrella.

As you can see, the summer is not looking all that good for us. I really get by hour by hour. I am incredibly grateful for the good hours and pray for endurance for the bad ones.

We changed her meds a little bit to see if we can attack the problem from that angle. Hopefully, we’ll get a little relief.

Only 8 more weeks till school is back in session. God grant me the strength….`

 

May 17 – Funny Ana!

Ana comes home from school everyday with a sheet that says what she did that day and how her behavior was. Well, since her behavior has not been very good lately her teacher has chosen to leave that part of the sheet blank and just walk her out to me – personally – to share the day’s trials and tribulations.

Ana is responsible for filling out everything but the behavior section of the sheet. Since her teacher is no longer filling out the bottom portion Ana circles what she did that day and puts it directly in her folder to take home.

The other day, a particularly bad day for Ana, her teacher noticed Ana writing something on the sheet of paper so after Ana put her paper in the folder her teacher took a look to see what it said.

After bringing Ana out to the car and going over her antics for the day she said, “Make sure and read what Ana wrote on her daily sheet.”

Very curious to see what Ana wrote since she NEVER writes anything voluntarily besides her name, I pulled her daily sheet out. There at the bottom very neatly written was “Ana good.”

Nice try, Ana.

 

April 22 – I think I’m starting to GET Ana

Ana's 11th bday

Ana’s 11th bday

Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for the last few weeks. It didn’t have much to do with Ana; life just got crazy. Ana is still Ana. She is still raging daily, laughing uncontrollably, wanting desperately for our attention and doing horrendous things at dad’s and school. What has changed is me a little. I’ve always accepted Ana for who she is but for the last month or so I’ve been trying to get inside her little head some more.

It also helps that I have Baby Gabriel in the house. He and Ana are at about the same place emotionally speaking (developmentally). I remind myself hourly that Ana’s acting out for my attention is no different than Gabriel’s random crying for me to pick him up for a snuggle. It’s just that when Gabriel does it no walls are damaged and he is super darn cute. But that is not Ana’s fault. Entirely.

We celebrated Ana’s 11th birthday recently. Knowing her tendency to sabotage good times we didn’t tell her when she was having her out-to-eat birthday dinner (2 nights before her birthday) and simply surprised her with a sombrero and “Feliz Cupleanos”. I wish I could have caught her on camera. She was genuinely happy – huge smile, laughing, loving her life. That is such a rare sight!

On her actual birthday we don’t make a big fuss about it because of her discomfort with such ooey-gooey feelings. I called her teacher around 9am to give her that advice but it was too late. They had made a big deal about her birthday and paid dearly for it. After my phone call they nixed the birthday talk and she calmed down.

Once home from school I made her favorite dinner (I didn’t ask her what she wanted. I just made it) and cupcakes. We have a birthday routine in our house and Ana is comfortable with it. Nothing too big or too fancy. But very comfortable for Ana which is the goal.

Other than that I’ve been trying to see Ana’s behaviors less about combativeness and more about being in the moment and lacking self-control. Yes, she is manipulative. Yes, she loves to spread her misery, but most of the time she takes advantage of what is happening in the moment to express herself.  Kind of like Baby Gabriel does….

So the end result is less time away for Ana and more time with mommy doing chores. She dislikes the chores but she calms down quicker when she is in the room with me, so I’ll take that as a win-win.

January 8 – Ana climbed in bed with me

This is hilarious!

For most children climbing in bed with mom or dad is a natural thing to do whenever they are sad, scared or hurt. For kids with RAD, it is not. Ana has never shown an interest in sleeping in bed with us unless she needs to throw up on  me at 3:00am.

As part of attachment parenting we practice co-sleeping. Currently, we have Baby Grace and Baby Gabe in our bed.  Drew co-slept with my ex-husband and I (and then with me after the divorce) until he was about five. Hannah slept with us until about three and a half and now we are more than ready to kick Grace out – her time has come!

But Ana never wanted to sleep with us. Ever.

Last night she woke up at around midnight crying. I knew her arm had to be hurting her so I gave her pain meds and helped her back to bed. She didn’t want her bed; she wanted in ours (with the two other babies). I told her that was fine fully expecting her to last all of five minutes. Surprisingly she stayed the rest of the night.And as a bonus, she wanted to be next to me.

I didn’t get much sleep but everyone else did and Ana and I got some exquisite bonding time making it all worthwhile. That’s what coffee is for anyway.

January 5 – So frustrated!

Babies at a Chinese orphanage

Babies at a Chinese orphanage

I am so frustrated. I’m sure Ana is too, but for now I’m talking about my frustration. As I’ve mentioned before, Ana waits to be bad till I’m busy doing something with another kid. I have no idea what to do about this.

At church Ana decided to yell during the worship service so we had to leave. I’m all for natural consequences but, honestly, what can I do for that? The only consequence I could think of was bringing fire wood up to the porch since that keeps her outside where we don’t have to hear her noises.

She was able to turn bringing the firewood up the porch stairs into a huge, dramatic ordeal, complete with self-injuring. It took forty-five minutes, but eventually she got it done. But, she was mad.

She came inside just in time for a Baby Grace massive diaper blow out and while I was cleaning it up she saw the opportunity to stir the pot. She started screaming, banging her head, pinching her sisters, etc… I was wrist deep in poop and could NOT comfort Ana.

This is where I find myself all too often. I understand that Ana needs a lot of my attention, but I can’t always give her 100% of my time. I feel like we’re spinning our wheels.

December 15 – An “Aha!” moment

A playpen inside a Russian orphanage

A playpen inside a Russian orphanage

This morning at church I decided to give Ana’s helper a break so I kept her with me during Sunday school. Anticipating some problems, I put the baby in the nursery so I could focus all my attention on Ana. She got bored very quickly and started making some noises and talking to me while others were talking. I was able to shush her effectively; so effectively, she fell asleep.

So there I was with a ten year old asleep in my lap. I thought to myself this isn’t much different than having Gabe with me (four months old) except Ana is bigger and snores. Then I had my Aha! moment. It ISN’T much different at all!

I’ll go ahead and admit it. I spent most of Sunday school thinking about this and not paying attention to the teacher. At all.

I started with my newborn. I have observed with all three of my biological children that when I hold them for any length of time they fall asleep. When I hand them over to someone else they wake up. Why is that? Well, for starters, they know my smell. They also know my voice, and recently, scientists discovered they even recognize my heartbeat. Amazing!

Those are all interesting facts about babies and their mothers but it still doesn’t explain why the sleep on me almost instantly to be instantly awoken should I pass them around. I am no expert in human development, biology or any other science, but I believe they behave this way because, evolutionarily speaking, they sleep when they are safe. All those things that tell them that I am mommy also tells them that I will protect them, so they sleep.

If that is the case, that explains a lot of Ana’s weird sleeping patterns. She has trouble sleeping in new places. She falls asleep almost instantly on me or my husband only to awaken should we get up, and she requires a long time to fall asleep at night – even if she is exhausted.

So, my Aha! moment was that her falling asleep on my lap is a sign that we are becoming more attached. Instead of focusing on her acting her age and paying attention instead of sleeping, I need to encourage her sleeping on me just like I do my baby. Not only will I be eliminating a battle, I will be strengthening our bond.

Yeah! Score one for mommy.

December 10 – A doctor visit

Romanian orphan in hospital

Romanian orphan in hospital

Understandably, Ana does not like going to the doctor’s office. She has had four surgeries in her life and countless number of ER trips not to mention the plethora of specialists she sees every month. Even more than doctors she hates getting blood drawn. Since her arms are deformed blood must be drawn from her ankles and usually we have to go to the hospital to get it done since most standard doctor-office phlebotomists are not skilled in this type of blood drawing.

So.

We had to go to the endocrinologist today for her quarterly check-up. This includes blood work. Ana began getting anxious before we ever left the house. Once at the office she kept asking if they were going to take blood. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, so we really never know. She didn’t like that answer. Then the blood lady came in and announced Ana would need four vials. That is a LOT of blood for a little girl!

She lost it. I anticipated it so was able to restrain her before the self-injuring begin.

I’ve been reading Dr. Bruce Perry, one of the experts on RAD, and it has given me a new lens through which to see her behavior. My understanding of today’s ordeal is this. Basically, she has PTSD from not bonding as an infant. In situations that are stressful to her (we are all different so some situations I may find mildly stressful are super stressful to her and vice versa) her body reacts just like a Vietnam vet hearing a car backfire; she goes into fight or flight mode. For Ana, it’s usually fight. When being held down by medical personnel with a needle coming at her, Ana freaks (as many children do). The difference between Ana and other children is that her body REALLY freaks and she doesn’t have the neural pathways telling her that she is still safe since she is with Mommy.  Once her body is in freak mode it is very hard for her to come down. I really believe she has little conscience control at that point.

Now today was hard although they are used to it. There were some good things that happened despite the mega meltdown. First, she told me she was scared and showed me with her body that she was scared (we’ve been working on this a lot). To tell me and show me she first acted like a ghost (that is what she uses to say scared) and then wrapped her arms around me because we discussed ways that kids can show their mommies they are scared and hugging them and hiding on their laps is one way.

I hated that she did such a good job identifying and communicating her emotion only to have no reward – she still got poked.

Second, after the blood was drawn, she calmed down quickly for Ana. Normally, her calm down is about two to five hours. Today it was only about one hour. In the doctor’s office I rocked her and held her and helped her calm herself down by taking deep breaths. In the car I had to pull over twice because she began kicking, but after holding her a while and breathing with her she made the rest of the ride home safe. I also turned on classical music.

Since I practice Attachment Parenting I know how important a mother’s heartbeat is to an infant and their developing brains. If a mother’s heartbeat is calm it will calm an infant down since their bodies will match their mothers heart rate. The opposite is true as well. If mommy is upset and has a fast heartbeat, little baby will become upset even if there is no obvious threat.

In situations where Ana is very upset I try to hold her very close to my chest in the hopes that her body will start to mimic my heart rate. Hopefully, this will stimulate the part of her brain that didn’t develop properly as an infant in the orphanage.

So, even though the doctor visit was stressful, I believe it was a success. Baby steps, I keep telling myself. Baby steps.