Letters from Mothers
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Jenny, 2 1/2
We were all so excited to welcome Jenny into our family that we never thought there could be any problems associated with adopting a nine-month-old child. At first, we just thought she was trying to adjust to us. Then we thought she was jealous of our five-year-old daughter, Kelly. Then we thought she was just a very "terrible two." It wasn't until my husband and I both realized that we didn't want this child living with us that we came to understand that something was very wrong.
Jenny seemed to thrive on our anger and knew at a young age how to push us to our limits. Our friends thought we were crazy, of course, because she saved this behavior only for us. One day she was so bad that I told my husband I was leaving and that when I got back, I wanted Jenny to be out of the house.
We were almost at the point of calling the adoption agency and saying it just wasn't going to work out when a friend asked if we had read about attachment disorder. We immediately started reading everything we could find on the subject and quickly realized that this was what was troubling Jenny. From our first phone conversation with Aaron Lederer of the RAD Consultancy, we knew that he and his team would be able to help. He knew exactly how we were feeling and assured us that because of Jenny's young age, it wouldn't take long before we would see a change in her behavior.
We were anxious to get started but were also afraid of the impact it would have on Kelly and our family life as we knew it. Aaron assured us that our family life would only get better-and it did. The first few weeks were trying, but now I believe that those were the most critical. The assignments the RAD counselor gave us each week were simple, but the results were phenomenal. After several weeks, Jenny began to regress, as the counselor had predicted she would. She acted like a much younger baby. She wanted to be wrapped up tightly in her blankets at bedtime and became attached to a stuffed animal that she still sleeps with. We felt that this was a turning point because every night prior to that time, she had thrown everything out of her crib and cried herself to sleep.
We continued with the weekly phone calls and assignments, and it did get easier. When we switched to biweekly phone calls after only ten weeks, I missed the counselor's encouragement and found it hard to stick with the basics, but e-mail was the next best thing.
Alltogether, it has been just over three months, which is a very short period of time when you consider the impact this will have on Jenny's entire life. Jenny has become easy to love. I know now that I can deal with her, I completely understand her, and I have the tools that I will need down the road.
We have had some ups and downs, but the good times far outweigh the bad now. When we look back at photos of the first year that Jenny was with us, it makes us so sad that we didn't realize what was wrong with her sooner. She was crying in most photos, and when she wasn't crying, she had a vacant look in her eyes and rarely looked straight at the camera. Now she is a happy girl most of the time, and a neighbor recently told me, "Jenny has a new sparkle in her eye!" She had no idea how much this meant to me!
Jenny no longer tries to push the limits because she no longer gets the attention she used to get for her negative behavior. She still cannot tolerate too much closeness, but that is getting better as well. She now likes to cuddle, especially at bedtime, and just the other night she fell asleep in Troy's arms, something that had never happened before. There is nothing better than holding a peaceful, sleeping baby!
It has been nearly six months since my work with Aaron Lederer ended. Since then, we have e-mailed a few times and had one follow-up conversation. Things are going extremely well. Jenny's behavior is now typical of her three-and-a-halfyear- old age group. She has become a very affectionate little girl and seeks out my physical touch many times every day. She likes to cuddle and even lets me hold her "like a baby" sometimes. This was never possible before. She would not allow us to hold her facing us and would cry and yell, "Ouch, you're hurting me," if we even tried. The gleam in her eye now tells us that she enjoys this closeness and the special time we spend together.
Jenny and her older sister, Kelly, now get along as well as siblings can be expected to get along. At this time last year, they could hardly stand to be in the same room. Now they play together, and it's obvious that Jenny actually looks up to Kelly and tries to be like her. Likewise, Kendal adores Jenny, and she sometimes protects her and rarely makes negative remarks about her behavior like we all used to do. Another major milestone is that Jenny likes to play by herself and often does so for what I would consider long periods of time for a child her age. She is very animated when she plays with her dolls and stuffed animals, and I have even heard her use the "favor formula" (one of Aaron Lederer's "corrective communications") with them at times!
The biggest change over the last year has been in my feelings toward Jenny. I never thought I would even like this child, let alone love her. This whole process has made me realize that I do have room in my heart for her and that I do have enough love for both her and Kendal. It has been tough, and at times I wondered if it was even worth it, but now I can't imagine life without Jenny. I believe that the things you work hardest at are the things that end up meaning the most. That doesn't mean that I love Jenny more than Kendal, but it is a different kind of love. Kendal was my first baby, my easy baby, and it was love at first sight. Jenny, on the other hand, has a special place in my heart because I had to work so hard to love her and to get her to love me.
From the first time we spoke with Aaron Lederer, we truly believed he could help. He made us feel comfortable and completely understood what we were going through. Had we never spoken with him, I am afraid to imagine where we would be now. Now we have the family we always dreamed of having.