Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mother Fail

Isn't there a 'Fail' blog or something? I think I should start a new blog, "Mother Fail".

It is a tricky thing, blogging when you get back. Besides the fact that I am having an identity crisis of my own, it seems the blog will have one as well. There are so many things that I would like to write about. Since M&M are not the authors of this blog, I feel like I must guard so much of their personal information. (Ha! I am sure Steven just muttered, "Why is she so open about me on the blog then?") I am trying to figure out a way to write so that my words have meaning, but I also feel very guarded and censored as so much of what happens, just in the day to day, is probably a result of our children's very specific life experiences. I also don't want to be a rainbows and unicorns blogger now that I have my happy ending, because after a couple weeks home I really wanted to punch all of those people in the face, repeatedly.

Our trip. I don't even feel like I can write honestly about that. The main reason is that I have never been happier to come home to Los Angeles, and I don't even like Los Angeles. I felt like we were in Ethiopia for six months. That is a long story, and not as ominous as it sounds, but my opinions on our trip would be, I am sure, hugely unpopular. I was also pissed off at everyone when I got home. I thought that people should have told me just how devastating it was over there. I am not sure what I was expecting. I guess I wasn't expecting it to be that heartbreaking. Maybe I thought it would be just a little bit heartbreaking.

So, what would be helpful? What would prepare people who are about to do this? Here is the single most important thing to know, " It will be difficult". Maybe it is just me, but this has been hard, and wonderful, and awful. I certainly, also, don't want to bitch and moan about something that some people are STILL WAITING for. I just want people to know that it may be harder than they thought it would be.

Let's be specific. Things I wish that I had done before meeting my children:

1. Learned more Amharic.
2. Sat down with Steven to come up with a clear, agreed upon, method of discipline.
3. Read more detailed information about babies (i.e. What to Expect the First Year).

The first week home was amazing. Steven and I were both home with them, and well, just look at them...

Then the shit hit the fan when I got sick, and Steven went back to work. I don't remember ever feeling that sick. It was awful. I was trying to meet the needs of these two lovelies, when I could barely lift my head off of the bathroom floor. Luckily, I had help, and we muddled through.

Now they stir, and I must go. Quickly before I do, my biggest failure as a mother, (so far, who knows what today will bring) is that I cannot differentiate betweeen what is typical toddler behavior, and what is adoption related. This inability to decipher has made me a wishy-washy disciplinarian and has produced poor results. More on that later.

So, if this post wasn't hodgepodge-y enough, let me reach out here and mention that I believe, with all my heart, that daily tragedies (and I don't mean of the parenting kind) I mean of the life and death kind, could be prevented with food. Tomorrow marks the last day of Meghan's fundraising campaign for Doctors Without Borders. Please donate today, if for no other reason than that you may prevent more Ethiopian children from ending up with an inexperienced, geriatric, adoptive mother like me.


  1. "I guess I didn't think it would be THAT heartbreaking."

    I know exactly what you mean...reading about this stuff/watching it on TV/whatever is soooooooooo different from actually standing there/being there. I think these adoption trips can end up giving you a sort of PTSD. It is hard. Life changing. And then you don't get to come home, process and reset...there just isn't time now that you have to be the Mom.
    Very hard.

    Whatever you may feel now...being a consistent disciplinarian at this very moment in time will not make or break your kids. Right now, it is just about hanging in there, surviving, being with each other. Your children will mold you into the specific sort of Mother they need, but it will take them some time. Not joking. Have done this 6 times.

    Mother Fail?
    I don't believe that for one second.
    More like Perfect Mother Under Construction.

    Cyber hugs,

  2. Julie, there is NO failure in you. I know you can't see that, but we do. I had the same issue with Charlie, not knowing if he was grieving or just pitching a regular toddler fit. I beat myself up pretty hard about it, and finally stopped when I convinced myself that he is my son now, and as his mother, the choice to trust my intuition trumps my insecurity about making those choices. I just knew that I was going to discipline him too much, too soon and warp his little brain. Well, in the end, it all works out. Of course I have the most hard-headed kid ever...but he gets that from me. ;)
    Trust your gut. Make mistakes and learn from them, but don't punish you. Real mommy fails come later, and they are mostly putting the kids to bed early so you can have a glass of wine...not that I would ever do that! ;)
    Take comfort in your friends...we are all there with you, I promise.
    Your blog will find it's way, too.
    Lots of love to you, Jules.

  3. I'm sorry but I had to laugh. I could have written this all the way through including the wishy washy discipline for the very reasons you mention. I even have a post in which I mention my resentment of the rainbow blogs.

  4. as always i appreciate your honesty.
    and you WILL find your groove. trial and error, even if you guys had laid out a discipline plan before hand.

  5. Selam. We are ruined - many of us who are walking this path together. I'm happy you are now part of our club. My knees hurt, my ass feels heaving getting up from the floor, my elbows throb from my Blueberry's weight...but NOTHING, NOTHING is like the weight of having been ruined in the most IMPERFECT way from my experience in Ethiopia. So, selfishly, good to be on the same team. But the truth is, we were already, before you arrived here, home with m&M.

    Parenting - Jules, thank god kids are forgiving. And resilient. And you know what, Mark and I are still sorting out how to 'parent' 'partner with kids' and just plain 'ol cooperate with kindness. We call ourselves the perfectly imperfect parents. And we live up to that motto, daily.

    I appreciate the shout out for Plumpy'Nut. I ache - knowing what I know (yeah, not saying - it's Blueberry's stuff - but wanting to say it because IT IS WHAT MAKES ME MOVE MY GLOBAL GOOD NEIGHBOR BEHIND!).

    Thanks for checking in with all of us! Hugs to your little ones. Gotta go, Blueberry is throwing his chocolate soy covered Kix cereal all over the floor. Nice.

  6. J-

    So much of you said hit me, but I have to take Em to preschool in a sec so I don't have much thing that I MUST tell you is that some things you will NEVER know if they are adoption related or just toddler things. This is one thing that I REALLY beat myself up about for a LONG time! And it does NO GOOD! Em has been home four years (this week in fact!) and sometimes I still wonder about this! My point is, there is a LOT you will never know, get comfortable with that fact. You can't beat yourself up about it. Just keep on truckin:)

  7. This mothering thing is tough. It can be so awesome at times and at other times just plain awful. My children have been home for 1 and 2 years and I still wonder about behaviors being normal for their age versus adoption related. Truly, I don't think that ever goes away, or if it does, it must take a really long time.

    I don't think any of us can ever be adequately prepared for what you see in a developing country. Life is so beyond our worst imagination in many ways that it's just not possible. What really worries me is those who come back and seem totally unchanged by what they've seen...those that dive back into the world of materialism, seemingly without another concern.

    I think Amy said it well. No failure here, just a perfect mother under construction.

  8. I don't know if this helps, but I GET IT.
    I was in-country for 1 month (by choice) and it was the most amazing, difficult, heartbreaking, and life-affirming time I've ever experienced. I did not feel prepared for what I witnessed. But then again, can you ever be truly prepared for something like that. I left with so many thoughts & feelings. I LOVED the people. I HATED their situation. But I seemed to be much more bothered than they were.
    But enough on that.
    the bottom line is, we read your blog because of the utter & total honesty of your postings. You shouldn't write for us. You shouldn't be worried about a wildly unpopular posting. You should trust us to know this is YOUR outlet and YOUR feelings and you should be able to express them fully.
    Re: information on the kiddos. Everyone feels differently on this. I'm sure someday Sammy will be agast at posting on poo, etc. I do post a lot of pictures. I don't do naked/bath ones. I'm sure my husband wishes I didn't post so much personal stuff, but I've been told by my readers that my "full disclosure open book" writing is actually helpful to them.
    So, I guess what I'm saying is: censoring for your children is fine, but don't censor for us.
    On to parenting. Wow. Could anyone really prepare you for being shot out of a cannon without a net?? I would imagine beginning parenthood with TWO children and 1 of them a toddler is something like that. Thus far this is the hardest job I've ever had and I only have 1 one year old.
    LEAN on your local friends/family. MAKE SURE you get alone time. MAKE SURE you get alone (ie: no kids) time w/ hubby. All of this is critical to your sanity (which I'm guessing you'd like to keep intact.)

  9. The experience of Ethiopia, and the adjustment into motherhood - definitely not all rainbows and unicorns or rainbows and butterflies or rainbows and ice cream or rainbows and puppy dogs.

    Thank you for being so honest and articulate (as always).

    And, yes, please give yourself a break. I was just e-mailing a friend the other day that it's impossible to fathom parenting a second child (we have one beautiful Ethiopian son) when we struggle to achieve a minimum standard of parenting with our one toddler!

    Karen T.

  10. Jess has a fabulous point and so blunt for her! Listen to her very good advice. I will too.

    Remember Deborah Gray, high nurture, high structure.

    Hang in there. Parenthood knocks us all of our stands for awhile till we rejigger ourselves, What's tough is we have to do it with these cute little demanding confusing loud messy beings.

  11. Oh Julie, you are anything but a failure but if it's any comfort, I feel that way almost daily. And I've been doing this whole mothering thing for over a year now. It's one tough gig in normal conditions, but I know with all certainty that you will rock at it.

    Hugs and juju to all of you while you find your groove.

  12. No rainbow and unicorn comment here, but by the end of the post I exclaimed, "I love you!" and was soulfully laughing out loud.

    still laughing

    liver-of-life-expresser-of-dark-deep-thoughts-and-universal-truths-true-friend-of-man pass, pass with flying colors and a shiny locally grown organic apple


  13. Before I read even one comment I want to respond to you and say thank you for saying what you said about the travel experience. More than anything I worry about that (and holy cow is that selfish because that worry is all about me, right?). Well, the worry is about me and should I take Manny and I hate to leave Manny...etc. I would absolutely love to hear more if you are inclined, but I understand if you are not.

    As for mother fail, I know where you are coming from and it just comes with the territory. However, it's just a feel, not a reality. Mothers make mistakes, cannot be supermom all at once, especially, OMG, to two newly arrived home to you who are the ages that your children are. I know that you know this, but I just gotta say, I know you are giving them your all and they are well-loved and revered and the sun rises and sets upon them. The other day I felt like such a jerk because I lost my patience with Manny so completely (in the middle of the night, no less) and he was bawling and bawling and I was bawling. I felt horrible. And then I just gave him my most heartfelt apology with no tears from me and that was all I could do. I'm sitting there thinking I have damaged him for life with my total mother failure. I'm quite sure I fail him at times. I just start again, try to pay attention to my words and mind. Thanks for these words and I know you are a fabulous mom.

    p.s. I didn't think it was hodgey-podgey at all.

  14. I just punched myself in the face, repeatedly, for you. Writing about the most intense, heartbreaking, overwhelming stuff is too hard for me and too much of an invasion of other people's privacy. I wish you luck to the extent that you attempt it. I think it would be very therapudic for me if I could do it.

    I think the not knowing what to do with a baby is universal. For example, I told you that for days, I gave them the world's most constipating foods when I first started feeding them food. I had no idea what I was doing. I screwed up and they suffered for it, but it's a distant memory now.

    Not having brought home a toddler, I have nothing to offer, except that I'm glad that you have so many people in this forum and in real life who may be able to relate.

    It seems like a very short time that you've been home and a very lot of things to adjust to. I think it will take a while to get comfortable/stable in your new life and your changed perspectives, and I think that you are being way too hard on yourself to even contemplate words like "fail."

    Having said that, I know that none of what I think matters one bit. I'm just a big fan of you and hope that you also feel some "mother succeed" in just keeping them safe and alive in this difficult transition time.

  15. in my experience, i think mother fail IS motherhood. i know the feelings you are describing as a mother oh so well. there is nothing you want to succeed at more in your life than this. and every fiber in your being wants to do right by these little people. so much pressure! that's why we're all a bit neurotic as mom's. it's an impossible job. we will fail and it hurts so much to think of failing THEM. but we learn. from our failures and especially from them. my kids forgiveness never ceases to amaze me.

    i think i can tend to be rainbows and unicorns. i'm so glad you are not. in writing about your life, you help me to see my life more clearly. i hope ethiopia forever ruined all of us who have been and hold her children in our arms.

  16. I appreciate your honesty, Julie. I wish I were there to come over for a walk to the park (with or without you, maybe you'd want to take a shower or read a book or have some coffee by yourself). I felt very similar feelings you did about Ethiopia but always hesitated to talk about it with people because if I started, I'd get a blank-stare of "I am judging you." No fun, that blank stare. So I kept it to myself, my conflicted feelings about Abe's first home, and quietly nodded when people talked about how much they "can't wait to go back." It's not all horrible, of course. There were amazing beautiful things to experience there. But It. Is. Hard. And I'm sorry for not telling you that more (I'm guessing I, along with the others who were silent on this issue didn't want to be the Debbie-Downers in your life).

    I'm reading carefully your advice. Will check out Amharic lessons pronto. Would love to talk to you on the phone.

  17. And I'm with the other commenters: you are not failing and kids are resilient and forgiving.

  18. Funny, I remember rainbows and unicorns my first few months home. But then, J was home for about a month and I was so sick I wasn't really touching earth and these babies did a lot of sleeping and hanging around. Then suddenly for about 12 months after the boys hit 2 it was a little nightmarish but I think that part is over for now. Wow, was I meanie all through it; shameful.

    Yeah, so that's what we don't tell you. That parenting often brings on a whole new set of heart aches and sometimes it really sucks (can you even imagine doing this without a partner?). But I think it's all worth it. Unless they grow up and never call you. ;)

    I'm just trying to enjoy it all while they're still cute and still loads of laughs and still make you cry when they sing a song or make a craft.

  19. Fail shmail. I don't believe it for a minute. But I hope things feel a lot better soon. Thanks for your honest post. It is very helpful for me to get some reality into my waiting thoughts.

  20. this is how you do discipline:

    1. prevention as much as possible. Low stimulation. Get rid of almost everything. put it in storage. get rid of bric a brac, tv, most toys, kitchen supplies you don't use on a regular basis, music players, etc. it is just all too much. just get everything out of there except what you really need to use. do not have anything out and reachable that is a "no".

    2. cocoon. major cocoon. do not go out. do not see other people. do not have other people over. (as much as possible. you have to try to balance this with your needs. but for the kids low low low stimulation.)

    3. do go out for fresh air, free play, exercise in areas that are low stimulation, not playgrounds, not lots of people. some place like a huge field or the beach.

    4. reduce the no's as much as possible. control the environment as much as possible so there is not much to say no to.

    5. redirect as much as possible. do not worry about discipline and learning what is right and wrong etc. for at least a year! the goal is safety and as much peace as possible given the circumstances. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TEACHING RIGHT/WRONG ETC. right now! This is just coping time. just getting through, providing structure and security and bonding.

    6. put a mattress/futon on the floor and lie on it while the kids play. that way they have access to you and you can rest. they can hug you, touch you, play around you, but you can lay there and rest at the same time as giving them bonding.

    7. this is an extremely hard time. this is not normal. this is all adoption/loss related. high high high nurture for kids and parents. low low low low expectations for kids and parents.

    8. very clear and consistent routine and structure. have a very clear schedule/routine. it makes a huge difference even after only a day or 2. the kids then know what to expect. really calms them down.

    play and dressed and diapers
    low stim outing
    home and lunch

    water play can be very soothing. a bin of water and some small containers out in the yard.

    walks? stroller? ergo? do they find this soothing or too stimulating?

    your partner is at work already?! any way he can take more time off? this is a very traumatic time for your family. huge grief, loss, fear, etc. if he can at all take more time off he should do it. the investment of time now will pay off.

    take turns with your partner being with the kids. it is almost as hard taking care of 2 by yourself as together so take 1-2 hour shifts of taking care of the kids and getting real rest breaks. just rest and sleep on breaks. do not try to work or socialize or anything except what rejuvinates or rests you.

    reduce transtitions! transitions are the hardest times. group all of your transitions together. so if you are leaving the house/or about to have or finish a meal etc. that is a good time for your partner and you to trade off.

    this is the trenches. this is all about coping. do as little as possible except getting through it as best you can.

    it gets WAY better. first week, first month, first quarter, first half year, first year.

  21. Oh, please don't turn into a rainbows and unicorns adoption blogger...I would have to stop reading if you did...

    Since you asked what would be helpful, I'll tell you. Keep doing what you're doing. Give us as many little snippets of your life now as you feel comfortable giving. I have already learned from what you've shared. For example, you posted a video of M talking and babbling a while back, and for the very first time I understood what it was going to be like to have a toddler who doesn't speak English. I mean, I knew intellectually that that's what the situation would be, and as someone with a background in teaching ESL I felt okay with it, but seeing that video it really hit me in the gut that that might be harder than I thought it would be...

    And about the normal toddler stuff vs. adoption stuff - does it really matter? I think the response is probably the same - "I love you, but your behavior isn't really working for either of us right now." So says the lady with no kids yet, so do with that what you will.

  22. First of all, join the club. Join the long list of failures that have passed before you. We are all on the list, we're just glad to have you on it:) Second, the toddler behavior, I am convinced that all toddlers are multiple psych diagnoses balled up into one little very cute being. They are narcissistic, they are bipolar, they are ocd,etc. So with that said, I bet the majority of what you are experiencing is normal behavior with a little adoption stuff mixed in. So be firm with boundries but loving at the same time(as much as humanly possible!). will get through this. And pathetically so, you will miss it. I can't tell you why, but you will. fraserfive

  23. 1. I am convinced that all the rainbows and unicorns bloggers are either psychotic or delusional or in a big conspiracy to make all the rest of us feel like shit.
    2. Ethiopia is challenging - for some people more than others, and I don't know why. Perhaps I am callous, or something in me is broken, but I frickin' LOVED it there... didn't want to leave. But I had also been to Africa many times before - maybe the shock of the poverty had worn off? Don't know. In any event, it's hard to prepare for such a thing - so don't give yourself a hard time.
    3. There is no way to know what behavior is adoption related and what is just kid stuff. Jess's comment was right on. Just (try to) go with the flow, deal with the behavior in the moment, and later - like 20 years from now - maybe you'll get to know what it was about. But probably not. :-)

    You are doing exactly what you should be doing. Hang in there. And it seems like you have a gazillion people in your support circle, but if you want one more I would LOVE to help you and support you any way I can. Please don't hesitate to ask!!

  24. this is my quick response to discipline which others might disagree about:
    toddlers don't really need to be disciplined (yike i know others are shouting at the screen) just distract and move on. toddlerhood is about exploring everything and most of it is wrong - and yet they are supposed to be doing that - exploring - it's very difficult. Q was on a rampage for his first three years and it would not have mattered if i told him stop or no or whatever 1 million times - he would not have had the willpower to not do something. it's not easy to keep moving them around as they basically try to kill themselves, you or the dogs but really until they are three years old why worry yourself. the other thing is just keep telling them why you want them to do something. some things will take them 10 times to hear and others they will never get but it's much easier if they know why. not easy. but easier than if it makes no sense. of course, they will have to learn english:-)

    it is very very hard, but not always. little bit by little bit they will start wanting to be just like you and they will start imitating you.

    also, you may never know where their behavior comes from. Quinn had colic and then his first three years were very very very moody (no i will never blog about that - that's his business) and if he were adopted i would probably be trying to figure out why and what caused it. it more matters that they are happy/sad/frustrated - and deal with that direclty.

    lastly - the book positive discipline really helped Yancey and i get on the same page. it's for 1-3 year olds - you can read a chapter then discuss.


  25. annon. wrote some wonderful advice!

    we have a 6 year old and practically nothing in our house. low stimulation is very very good.

  26. Is it wrong that the part about wanting to punch the rainbow-and-unicorns people made me laugh hysterically?

    I think a lot of people don't post/talk about how hard it is because they worry about sounding disloyal. And we know that there are others out there reading who would kill for our problems, because at least we are moms, so there's the guilt too. But it's certainly not helpful for families to come home and feel like they are the only ones having issues - since no one else talked about it!

    Six weeks. It takes at least six weeks home before things even *begin* to settle down. The first six weeks are all about survival, really. Then three months before it starts to feel a little normal, and six months before you are in the groove.

    As for the trip - I think I had it easy on that one, since I had travelled in Africa before. It doesn't mean you don't see the heartbreak, but it doesn't shock you in the same way. And in a way it's easier to see the happiness that's there too. Having already had the life-changing experience of being in Africa, I wasn't trying to process that & becoming a mom at the same time.

    As for figuring out what's adoption related and what's "normal"... let me know when you get a handle on that. 2 years in, I still have no idea. :)

  27. My first 3 months home was a nightmare; the first 6 months rough; and the first year bumpy and stressful, and that was with just 1 adopted child. I don't think those who have gone through it can really explain how difficult it can be. Everyone thinks that won't happen to me...

    Even 2 full years later we are still making progress in attachment. I thought we were really attached and then he got sick last month, spent 2 weeks laying on me, and now is incredibly more attached; something I didn't even know was missing until we got it. I'm not sure this I will ever feel comfortable saying we are 100%.

    You are not failing! NO ONE is good at this right off the bat. NO ONE is perfect. You are doing the best you can. Each and every day you do the best you can. Some days that will be more than others... Discipline is not something you get in a day or a week or a year; it's a process that is constantly in work and just when you think you've got a handle on it, they grow and change and what once worked now doesn't. Also, until you have your children you can't have a discipline style. Each kid is different and what works well with one won't with another. My girls are night and day different and every technique that worked with Emma had to be thrown out the window with Esmé... don't get me started on Isaac!

    If you would like a recommendation, I love the Discipline Book by Dr. Sears and How to Talk So Kids will Listen, by Adele Faber. I’ve also gotten a lot of parenting and discipline support from the message boards at

  28. I have always appreciated your honesty, and this post makes me like you even more because you are real.

    No advice to give here, but some cyber hugs for sure.


  29. Those first few weeks were so l-o-n-g. I felt like the days just inched by. We were trying to figure out this new person, our new life and moving all at once. I don't think we did much "right" in terms of the adoption/attachment stuff. We stayed at our old house, my in-laws and our new house in the span of three weeks. We hung out with lots of family. I went to Target almost every day (I needed something to fill the time because the span between nap and dinner seemed soooo long). I still worry that we are somehow screwing something up (like we are going away without Turo for a night this weekend - is it too soon? will he be okay?)

    Thanks for your honesty about it all.

  30. I say have anonymous over and she can do it for you she seems to have it ALL figured out. oh wait you are not suppose to have anyone over....
    really praying for you - motherhood is hard - we all just need to stick together- and none of us have it figured out we just learn as we go. then we become grandmas forget it all and just get to spoil them.:)
    hugs and more hugs. really have missed your blog- keep being honest - we love it!
    I am sure you are a voice to 1,000s!
    Still can't wait for my world to be turned upside down- just don't want to get sick - hope you are feeling better!!!!!

  31. I have no advice - just a giant load of gratitude. If we were all more honest (in a kind way) most of us could be a) more prepared and b)feel less guilty.
    In the meantime, while you are punching the Rainbows and Unicorn people, I will be punching "Anonymous." "Anonymous" is every where, all of the time, and seems to know everything.
    Thanks again,

  32. WE MUST TALK. Sadly, we probably won't because NAPS ARE TOO SHORT.

    You're not going to believe how much better this is all going to be a month from now.

    I know that's like telling a person mid-insomnia jag that one day, oh sure, maybe not tonight, but one day they will sleep again. But you will sleep again.

    Why doesn't everybody admit how hard this all is?

    Hey, a dog just walked by me in the airport! I am in the airport, coming home from my first work trip. I've slept about 12 hours in the last three nights, and I've already been in four states today. And I still think I'm less tired than when I'm home being a Mom.

  33. A few more thoughts after FB...1) I love what Anonymous said, so much good advice, though for my kid the public places wasn't a big fact, public playgrounds were great for him, we visited at least once or twice daily in the first 3 weeks home, then after he started preschool 5 days a week, every weekend thereafter also 1-3 times daily for maybe 6-7 months? exercise was key (sorry about the dog reference, but I was a dog mama know the way active dogs are so much better behaved when they've had lots of run time? same for my spirited boy)...2) my husband (a serious world traveler though never to such a truly 3rd world country) hated ET, so much that the last few days he literally did not want to leave the hotel...he hated not being able to eat or drink lest we get sick (several people on our trip got hammered big time)...he hated the poverty punching you in the face...I hated the same things but felt much more connected spiritually to the place, though honestly it's taken an entire year and a half to even begin to feel a desire to go back someday...3) what I've never seen talked about and what I've really been wanting to write a post on the forum about is how couples react so differently to the entire process, and how much you learn about each other when trying to parent in such a stressful'd think after 16 yrs of marriage, we'd know each other, but boy were we thrown for a loop by parenting our beautiful, struggling and hurt child...angry fights and horrible words we threw at each other (and we are not fighters), not all the time of course, but when they came they were awful...this has also taken the last year and a half to work itself out.

    Julie, my hope is that you read through all these comments and get some comfort from them. You know we are pulling for you and have the utmost confidence, even if you don't, that you are and will be an amazing mother to these children, to YOUR children.

  34. My outlet was less rainbows and unicorns (because I would have shot the rare unicorn dead) and more along the lines of orangatans and loonie birds. I was crazy as a loon during those first three to 6 to...wait..I think I'm still there...months at home. Plus I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure to boot! Bye bye sweet comforting estrogen. As soon as my husband said "look, we're in battlefield conditions" I felt 15% better. I'm still working on the remaining 85%, but we're almost there. It's amazing how much better it all gets. You're fully equipped. Think of yourself as Hawkeye in MASH. I was Klinger.

  35. Thanks for keeping it real, Julie. I don't think you can properly prepare yourself for how you'll feel/what you'll see in country, no matter how much you read. I have prepared myself to expect the unexpected and to come back a different, ENRICHED person - and not just because I'll have my daughter slung on my hip.

  36. "Ending Africa's Hunger"

  37. I love you. I get it (really! i think!) and I love you, but I disagree with you. You are not failing-- you're all that much more successful because of how deeply you think and feel and share.

    Mwah. Mwah. Mwah.

  38. I don't have anything amazing to add really. I think the only reason I survived adopting a toddler was due to my experience with my newborn bio children. I think I will have to write a post about it actually. I never had because I thought people would send me through the wringer.
    Parenting is hard..but it will get better! Hold on tight!

  39. anonymous did have some lovely ideas, but odd to share the strongly put expertise without a "hello my name is." i always feel so protective of you julie! power of positive parenting by glenn latham has changed my life with my 3 year old. as it turns out, that concept of only acknowledging positive behavior and not really worrying about punative measures works in this house. i don't for a SECOND say i don't come completely unglued a few times a week. punishments happen. but i've found they only serve to make ME feel momentarily better. they don't teach my kid a damn thing.

    BTW my 3 year old Jane, has a surprise for you soon. a little present.

    no failure whatsoever. you rock.

  40. I've been parenting for over three years and still have no freakn' clue how to do it. Books just confuse me and tire me out. Just when you figure the kids out they'll start something new. I keep telling myself "she won't do this when she's 5, or 10, or 20" right? Thanks for sharing and the honesty. I try to do the same on my blog to. It's never good to offer false hope. BUT sitting there scratching our heads over how to parent ... that's sort of special, that's our dream fulfilled. I am glad to have that problem.

  41. I've tried to respond to this so many times. There is so much good advice here...
    I remember when I came home feeling like I had some PTSD. It's hard. It's still hard. But, I did love being there. Cried when we left because it felt too soon. Strange mix of emotions.
    When I got home, I remember my biggest disappointment was that I wasn't always fabulous as a mom. Not even close. I'm more ok with it now, but it was a heartbreaking realization for me. But it doesn't mean I was failing and I know you are not failing. It's HARD. But it gets easier and easier.
    I adore you. If you need anything, please let me know.
    Wish I had some wisdom to share...

  42. so much of what you said about the trip- is true for me as well... which is why I havent seemed to be able to blog....

    hang in there-
    we are all mommies under construction-
    always having to learn as we make every new decision-

    know that you are in good company ;)

  43. One more thing to everything I have already written. LOL. "What to Expect" is a horrible book. The Baby Book by William Sears is my bible. He has a great sleep book too.

  44. Oh and by the way, the perfectly discussed plan for discipline goes out the window as soon as the kids are actually there.

  45. Hello Julie and family,

    Thanks for posting. We are wishing you all well.

    My only advice/thoughts...BUNA!

    Your beautiful children are fed and loved and safe. It doesn't sound like you are a "mother fail."
    ...maybe a laundry fail?

    We are still so unfamiliar with our children, slowly things are beginning to click, soon nothing will be as familiar.

    Sending you love,
    Kim (and Jaimal and Samuel and Mia)

  46. sorry sorry sorry for sounding so know it all! Sorry if it came across as judegemental. I meant to provide concrete logistical advice because that is what I wish I had when I went through that time. That time was brutal for me so when I read your post I just wanted to HELP!!!!

    Ignore it if it is not helpful to you. I am so feeling for you and what you are going through.

    You have some great advice and different perspectives here. People are so rooting for you.

  47. Yep-I've passed most of the "read everything you can about adoption phase" and now I'm in the "read everything you can about parenting, child development and attachment" phase. If it's any help, the 2 best parenting books I've come across are Naomi Aldort's 'Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves' (and you can watch a few quick helpful video's on her website and 'Connection Parenting' by Pam Leo. She has a great 1 hour audio interview which might also help asap (

    Hang in there!

  48. I'm right there with you, and I've done this adoption thing before! It is so challenging and in the first month just SO exhausting, mentally and physically. I've been with the girls 2 months now and I just want to let you know it slowly gets get more in tune to what is going on with your child and why they are doing certain things. They start trusting you more and you get into the groove of a routine. Parenting keeps you very humble, that is for sure.

    Ethiopia is everything all at the same time, and that makes it very hard to put it into words.

  49. I just posted yesterday about my experience feeling like a "crappy mom". Being a new adoptive mom is HARD. You will survive though. It gets much better with time.

  50. Julie! I am behind the curve here, behind on blogs and all...due to my own difficulties adjusting too. We all do it, the ones who say its not hard are just lying. Or delusional. I've had 8 kids now...and each time is different and full of wondering and questions. Sometimes its easier, and sometimes its so hard you wonder if you can get through it or WHAT the heck you have done.

    And I So get it on the Ethiopia thing was just indescribable for me. Just. So. Much.

    You're doing grand. Really you are. I am at your disposal to listen, help if I can, or just give you a cheer if you need it. No kidding. I SO SO get it. All of it. And since its SO impossible to see when you are in the trenches, take it from someone who (while in a different trench) has climbed out of that one: you're doing just fantastic. Kids ARE resilient and you are already their most excellent mom. Its' not easy and its not supposed to be. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth so much. hang in there. M

  51. I get it. All of what you said. Totally get it. I have to say, and I dont intend to sound harsh, only honest, is that questioning whether behavior is "normal" or "adoption related" never ends. I think we need to just accept that we are going to be wondering that for our children's entire lives. You are not a failure. You are a mother, just doing the best she can. That's all any of us can do. Parenting is hard work. The hardest work in my opinion (if we are trying to do it right).
    And right now, you and your children are still getting to know one another. Dont be hard on yourself about discipline. Remember that they are going test you over and over again before they can build their trust in you.
    You are doing a great job.

  52. OK, I am picking up those "what to expect" books again, ramping up on my amharic and getting serious about the dicipline conversation (we've talked about talking about it several times...guess that doesn't count!). Friends told me that it is horribly heart breaking there, and I guess I thought "what did you expect", but maybe I was really thinking "it won't be THAT heartbreaking". As for the rest, just knowing that this is how you feel, is going to make it a lot less scary for me when I get there, so thank you, thank you, thank you for your insight.


  53. "just a little bit heartbreaking." Great line.

    I haven't read all your comments, but here's my take. Don't worry AT ALL about discipline right now. Just love them. Just model appropriate behavior. :) :) Yes, hard to feel like you are doing it "right"(been there, still am often), but that will work itself out in time. Takes awhile to get a feel for it, but it'll happen.

    Hang in there. You are doing an awesome, amazing job. I know it.

  54. I've come back to your post a few times and just want to say that what you're feeling (all of it) is the darker underbelly of adoption that some of us experience. Call it PTSD, post-adoption depression, reality, whatever, it can be a powerful thing.

    I was in Vietnam for two months when I adopted my son. A child who hated me and let me know it pretty much every second, and each second felt like a year in which we would never, ever attach. In a country where the poverty and day-to-day living conditions were so much more tragic than others had led me to believe ("it's so beautiful!") and all I wanted to do was come home to my beautiful life. Most importantly, two months where I convinced myself that every parenting decision I made was a mistake and that I was a complete and total failure.
    And you, you're doing it times two!

    You're not a failure. You're just a mom. It does get better.

  55. absolutely. yes. I agree especially with the sitting down with spouse to discuss discipline. We are STILL working through this after 2 and a half years. STILL. And with the dog, too.

    Breathe. A lot. Not just the regular in and out breathing either. Deep, long breaths that remind you that you are a part of something much bigger than the moment you're in and may just help you detach a bit from the situation.

    I am sending you lots of good mojo, becuz that's what I needed. Don't think of the word failure as a negative thing, btw. As cliche as it sounds, failure is how we get somewhere.

    Lots of love and support to you guys from someone whose never met you, yet thinks you're great.

  56. We just got back 10 days ago with our 2 year old daughter! Yep, it was about the first week that was dreamy and perfect...
    then, she won't eat, won't let me put her down to go to the bathroom, has a way of hitting my face when I've touched or kissed her that one too many times...
    DON'T get me wrong-I'm in love, too! One day, it will all be just fine, I know. But, I feel you. We're not failing-we're just in this unchartered territory. There've been lots of books written, but who are they kidding-there's no road map for THIS! The haunting thoughts of her beautiful and sorrowful country, the desire for her to understand how I would truly do ANYTHING for her, and the uncertainty of whether I should let it go (she's grieving) or not (she's having a terrible two moment)!
    I understand-and I'm not even as far down the road as you. I love what Amy said-we're not failing as moms-this family is just under construction.