People often ask how the girls are doing. Jeff and I have long struggled with this question. Of course it’s always easiest to quickly answer that all is good. And on the surface we could get away with this 95% of the time. Now that the adoptions are finalized, I think it’s only natural to assume that we’re in the “happily ever after” phase. It makes sense. The girls FINALLY have their forever family who love and care for them. How could things be anything but good?!
The truth is, though, that the girls have a deeply ingrained history of trauma. And because of this, I’m not sure things will ever just be all good. Not to be a downer…this is just our reality.
I’ll never forget the first time I testified post adoption. We had finalized Shianne’s adoption just a week before. This was during a critical time in Chelsea and Savanna’s case as the judge was considering placing them back home with us. For those that didn’t support this plan, the prevailing argument was that we were putting Shianne’s well-being at risk by considering bringing the older girls home. The opposing attorney was questioning me pretty hard. Because of my background, I answered questions under the guise of a professional child welfare social worker. I had nothing but sound clinical judgement to support how well Shianne was doing. She had been working hard in therapy and had gotten to a point of being mentally and emotionally stable. One thing was missing though, her sisters. And as cliche as it sounds, the truth was that Shianne could never truly be whole without them.
The statements I was offering didn’t support the prevailing argument. Clinically, I was testifying to Shianne’s resilency and stability. And all of the information we had was pointing towards that “happily ever after” story for Shianne.
Then the attorney finally threw the “mom” card at me. He questioned, “so as a mom, you’re telling me that you feel 100% confident that Shianne will be just fine?!” As a mom, I knew the reality. At best, we could assume that throughout life things would be good albeit really hard. So I answered, “as a mom, I think I would be foolish to think that things will be all good. My daughter has a significant trauma history. And the reality is that she will carry this horrific truth with her through life. At any point, if not handled with care, this truth could lead to devastation and destruction. Having said this, I strongly believe that Shianne has had the chance to build resilency and develop a strong foundation. Through the difficult times that are sure to lie ahead, we will rely heavily on this foundation.” Of all my testimony over the years, I was most proud of this moment. There was no data or evidence based practice to cite. It was just the realization I had come to as a mom. And while this fed into the opposing side’s case, I think it was one of the most compelling arguments made towards bringing Chelsea and Savanna home.
Hard but good has proven to be our rythym. It’s a rhythm that I wouldn’t change. Nothing is taken for granted – from the girls or our perspective. The hard times are really hard. They stretch us beyond our comfort and force us to face just how fragile life is. They also allow us to experience how powerful love is. Each time we face the hard, we are afforded an opportunity to grow – individually and as a family. Each time we face the hard, we are given an opportunity to experience healing and grace.
While it may be easier to play it off, we usually stick to the truth. And the truth is that things are hard. With the hard comes equally as important good.
So, things are hard but good!