The first year is hard. It just is. I only have experience with older child adoption, but I imagine the first year is hard no matter what the age. There's so much to figure out and so much to overcome. It doesn't all get worked out during those first twelve months, but something wonderful happens as you round into the second year: Familiarity.
Easter was our first holiday with Amy last year. That means she has experienced an entire year of life within these four walls. It might not seem like much, but it is. The unknown causes a lot of anxiety. I sometimes try to put myself in Amy's shoes. What would it be like to move in with people you don't know and try to acclimate yourself to their way of life? I have no idea. I imagine it would be very strange, very frustrating and downright hard. But now we've experienced most of the "firsts" together. Most everything this next year gets to be a repeat. The unknowns are far fewer as we've been through one whole round together.
Out of my three girls I think Ashley had the hardest time adjusting to our home. She had been in foster care for five years and had several placements. In her mind we were just the next stop. It took her a long time to believe she was here for good. That first year with Ash was a painful one. She struggled with the unknown, still does to some extent. She does not like the unexpected. She likes to know what her day is going to look like. She enjoys looking forward to an event rather than it being sprung on her. She sometimes has a hard time breaking her routine and rolling with changes in her schedule. She just likes to know what's going on in her world.
Aren't we all a little like that? I am. After so many years of uncertainty, she appreciates the routine lifestyle she lives here with us everyday. She wakes up in a bed that belongs to her. She puts on clothes that she picked out. She feeds cats that love her. She chats with sisters who will know her for the rest of her life. She hears "I love you" from a mom who can't imagine a day without her.
What takes them from the frustrating uncertainty to the familiar routine? Time. Oh, how I wish I had an easier answer for those in the thick of a hard season. All I can offer is this: It will get better. Maybe not today, like you'd hoped, but one day you won't hardly remember what the hard part felt like. Hard to imagine? You couldn't have convinced me when I was in the midst of those difficult days.
What helped me not give up? A couple of things. One, I knew this was what God had called me to do. I wasn't in this alone, He was helping every step of the way. Two, speaking with a mom who had travelled this road ahead of me. What a blessing it was to talk with someone who knew what my days were really like. I was able to be brutally honest and pour out my heart to a mom who had walked the same road. It was such a gift to me and I will forever be in her debt.
I pray those of you who find yourself in a harder place than you anticipated, find hope in our story. I now am a mom who has walked that road and just as others helped me along the way, I would love to return the blessing.
Time. I promise, it really does heal all wounds.