Beneath The Tough Exterior…

Sometimes on my blog, I struggle with being open. Open, in a real honest way. It’s not that I have trouble being honest, especially when things are good, but I do sometimes have a hard time talking about hard things. And I would certainly never want to paint a negative picture of adoption; we are overjoyed with Mackenzie. It is just always easier to talk about the fun, happy things, and show the fun, happy pictures.

I love our adoption story, and I love to look at our pictures. The ones I post on here are, of course, my favorites.
I love the smiling pictures, and the ones where she is holding our hands, walking between us, and the thoughtful ones where you can see her beautiful eyes.
What the pictures don’t show, though, is the pain and the hurt that is very, very real. They don’t show the confusion and emotional stress that she is enduring. She is old enough to understand that something major is happening, but she doesn’t understand adoption.
When I look back at pictures taken three weeks ago, I see the empty and shut down look in her eyes, and I am sure that even a month from now, pictures that were taken today will look much different than the girl we will know then.

She holds herself together so tightly, and doesn’t cry when she hits her head or smashes her finger. Her coping mechanism is, instead of tears, charm. She is funny, and laughs at everything.
Even when we first got her, she was stoic and closed, quick to turn on the charm. She is so brave and courageous. I don’t think I could go through all the changes she has gone through without being a basket case.
She knows that we are “mama” and “baba,” but she has no idea that we are HER mama and baba. She is letting down her “brave Mackenzie” guard more and more each day, and there are times when we have seen some very sad crying, and she lets us hold her and comfort her.

It is our job to teach her that we will take care of her, and she doesn’t have to be funny or happy all the time. Sometimes this task seems monumental and overwhelming, but I know it will be so worth it when we see her begin to heal and grow.


  1. Me on September 3, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Joanna, you are right. I don't know what it is like to go through an adoption, but in parenthood in general, people expect you to be incredibly happy all the time, as if parenthood is the completion of your life. I have sometimes described it in such a way, but there are times that it feels like a lot of hard work, and people don't really talk about how the shiny happy side of babies and motherhood can have a polar opposite. When things calm down for you a bit, you might want to check out a book called the Mommy Myth. I don't necessarily agree with all the ideals presented in it, but it helps me to understand that lots of other mothers who whole-heartedly love their children feel like me at times. I am glad you have given a voice to your not-so-tough side for the sake of other moms and dads, and probably lots going through adoption too. We are LOVING your blog, by the way. Mackenzie is precious, and I can't wait to continue following your journey through parenthood.Nancy

  2. Girlventures on September 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Girlventures on September 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I'm glad you have a place to be open and honest, I think you and Mackenzie are a lot of like, past the hair and outfits. Also I gave you an award on my blog because you are that awesome.

  4. Grace on September 4, 2010 at 12:30 am

    i so appreciate your honesty and appreciate knowing that it's not all sunshine and lollipops. i'm anticipating some difficulty with attachment and the more first-hand accounts i read, the better prepared and more realistic i feel. i am glad that mackenzie is adjusting well and love seeing all the pictures of you!

  5. michelle on September 4, 2010 at 1:55 am

    It will take time to form that bond and trust but the journey, no matter how hard it gets, is worth it. It took months before we got to see Lexie's affectionate side. She never wanted to hug or kiss us and always wanted to do everything for herself. We think it's because she was afraid to trust us and maybe she wondered if someday more strangers would take her away again. Lexie now realizes we're mom and dad and this is her home and we aren't going anywhere so she is very loving and has really attached to us. There were many bumps in the road, but hang in there, it's a wonderful feeling when you can look into your daughter's eyes and see her love for you.

  6. Anonymous on September 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    It is so hard knowing your child is struggling and grieving and knowing you can't make the hurt just go away. I had seen your post on RQ so I knew things were tough at times, I didn't comment on there because there were lots of good responses but I did send you all good thoughts for things to get easier for all of you.Your empathy and compassion for what Mackenzie is going through right now is the most beautiful thing, it is what will get her through this. Things are difficult for her and so things are difficult for you too, her pain is yours and not being able to make it magically go away is really, really hard.Bit by bit she will feel more secure and bit by bit she will take that guard down she is an amazing person and she will get through this difficult transition.Its one step at a time, often they will be backwards but then you will have a breakthrough and go forward again. Its especially difficult because Mackenzie is going through all this at an age which can be challenging even if she had been with you all her life. You've both been thrown in the deep end and its rough.Remember you won't be the perfect parent all the time, heck if you are any of the time your way ahead of the game! Its trial and error, its misstep after misstep, its not knowing what to do, its being frustrated and then hating yourself for it, its feeling inadequate but the amazing thing is that with all our failings and inadequacies we are still enough, we are still what are children need, and those moments when you know you got it right, those moments are golden!Everything you are describing, everything that Mackenzie is going through and her way of surviving they are all so normal and its normal for it to suck big time! Hang in there, this time next year Mackenzie will be screaming her head off for the slightest of boo boos, she will be happy when she is happy not when she feels she has to be to survive, she will be secure knowing that no matter how much she tantrums, no matter what she does you are her Mama and you love her always – even on the bad days 😉

Leave a Comment