19 October 2009

six weeks when?

I've read a lot of personal accounts of adoption. A. Lot. Talked to friends, read books, read blogs, been on forums...

"Six weeks" seems to be everyone's turning point.

Just wondering...is that six weeks together or six weeks home?

Tomorrow will be four weeks together. But it's only a week and a half home.

(It's rest time and I have decided to NOT do any work during rest times or nap times. I also try not to sleep. As much as I need it, I need time alone more. I used look forward to watching a tv show during rest times or nap times, but all my stored tv shows are now inaccessible. I need to go find them all on iTunes... Don't talk tv to me until I'm caught up, please! ;> Fortunately for you, I'm too spent to wrestle with iTunes and the calendar right now, so you get a blog post.)

Really, we're just working on post-institutional behaviours. And, very likely, pre-institutional issues. All of which (at least, all that I see now), very predictably, are related to eating (just manners) and sleeping.

Fortunately, she is attaching very, very well. (That's too big to be a part of this post. It should have a post of its own.) Given the choice I'd choose pi issues over attachment issues any day. So, for that, I am extremely grateful.

A note on language since I'm not sure I'll do the one-month post I'd planned to do and you're all interested: I started out, during our orphanage visits, speaking exclusively Russian to her. Once she was with me, I slowly added English. Now, I speak English and Russian to her--more and more English and less and less Russian.

She will lose her Russian, just as most other adopted-by-Americans-who-don't-speak-Russian do. (I can communicate in Russian, but I don't speak it.) And, really, I think the sooner that happens the better. We've got seven weeks (I think) until we go back to school. (I remind myself daily to just live today, to enjoy being home and not worry about working on things to make going to school easier. I may start working on those in another months, though...) Especially when we're out in a world that speaks Russian, Lexi speaking English will help her attachment to me. She will have Russian classes in school and may choose to re-learn it (easily) later in life. But, I'm not going to try to keep her bilingual.

I have a running list of words and phrases she uses in English, but no time to post that for you. Her receptive language is, of course, much better than her spoken language. Last night I said, "Your pajama top is under the pillow on the bed in Mama's room. Please go and get it." She did with no problem. Yes, she had context clues--we were getting ready for bed and there were only pajama bottoms. But, who says you can't use context cues? Use 'em!

Right now she has very strong, very negative reactions to people speaking Russian to her. She also has very strong, negative reactions to what is normal in this culture--the immediate, familiar endearment of "Sashenka" and people touching her--taking her hand, touching her head. Frankly, even if she didn't have a hard time with it, I would. To this American, it's too familiar. It feels invasive and presumptuous. It invades my personal space bubble--physically and emotionally.

Yes, it's the culture we're living in and we need to find a way to change us and not it while we're here. For now, when we're meeting new people I pick her up. That way, she feels more secure and they're less likely to touch her. I can turn her away from them. I introduce her only as Lexi (which perplexes many people who hear it as "Alexei", but I've decided that it's okay to perplex them) and not Alexandra. And, with friends we happen upon while out, my greeting is "Hi-please-speak-English-and-don't-touch-her." So far, friends have been responsive to that.

We also just. stay. home. as much as is possible. We do have to grocery shop, but we do it early in the mornings when the stores are empty every two weeks or so. We do need to go to the playground, but we did it on a Sunday afternoon when no one was on our school playground. We need to get out and walk and breathe--but we do it rarely, when and where we can be anonymous. It's not forever. It's just for now.

And, when I didn't do this, when a nice, nice, nice babushka who is one of our concierges was overjoyed to finally meet her and called her "Sashenka" and took her hand...that's when the sleeping issues re-surfaced. They're getting better. But, they're not as good as they were.

But whether it's around six weeks together (oh, I hope, I hope) or six weeks home that things feel more normal, I know that each day we're getting better. And really, what more could I ask?


Rachael said...

I always assumed you'd keep Lexi bilingual living in Russia, but you're so, so right about the attachment. It makes perfect sense in your situation. You're such a good mom, already.

Six weeks. Hmmm. I think our issues were different than yours, but it was a lot longer than six weeks before orphanage behaviors went away for us. That sweet little well behaved girl you met in St. Petersburg? She's not the same girl who got off the train in Moscow. I remember not wanting to take her anywhere - not for attachment concerns, but because I was AFRAID of what she might do to embarrass me - growling at people, shirking away from me if I tried to hold her hand. It was several months before that all stopped. I don't even remember how long for sure, because it was just gradual. But, I think it is so great that you have set aside all these weeks for one on one time with Lexi. I really think it will help get you there quicker. I so wish in retrospect that I had done that with Katya. I went back to work 2 weeks after she was home, since I didn't get paid leave (I should have fought for it.) Well, it all worked out in the end, but I would do some things different if done all over again.

Hang in there, Mama.

Unknown said...

Hi Kate.... It really varies with timing thing...

"A" was good at 3 weeks, and than had issues at 4 weeks through 12 weeks. Different issues with different children (and of course their past stuff). Almost 5 years home, every once in awhile, there are things that continue to pop up.

You are so on top of things with Lexi.... You decide what she needs. "A" didn't want anything to do with Russia for the first 8 months or so. She would express the hurt, meaness, lack of food, etc. then things started turning around. I think 'guilt' rushed in on her. Then I was trying to make sure she understood her feelings.

Be fluid with everything. There can be general outlines, but every child is unique, and you truly do (and will) know what is best for the two of you!

Blessings Mama!!!
Allison in NJ

ko said...

I think it is interesting, that you say she has a diversion to someone speaking Russian to her. That was Klaire and she was only 25 months. When people spoke Russian to her she got a very "sad/down" look. It wasn't until about 4 that she was ok with it. Now she likes it because it is associated with her favorite class--circus. The man that teaches it speaks Russian. I think it is wonderful that you have this time with her. I remember taking walks with Klaire and having fun just the two of us. It was so good for bonding. Thinking of you!

Debbie said...

Sounds like you're just doing well - and I too will take PI challenges over attachment ones!

Nathan wants nothing to do with the Russian language...he'll answer back in English if someone talks it to him...

I think the "Six Weeks" is TOGETHER! What a great word, eh?

Maura said...

You and Lexi sound well on your way to a great relationship. While not to minimize PI issues, I agree that I'd take those over attachment issues. You're a natural at this Mom stuff already!

D also got a sad and "blank" look when he heard Russian for his first year or so home. Our dry cleaner is Russian - but she was happy to stick to English when I asked her - and she even said, "that's right, he's an American boy now."

Dealing with any issues (sleep issues were the hardest for us) is going to take time and there really isn't a magic timetable. But you two are in a great situation with your time off and ability to keep Lexi's world small - that should make things move along more quickly. But even doing that with Danny, it took us 3 1/2 months to get past his sleep issues - he got past it when he more fully trusted us - but he was only 1. I tried not to pin my hopes on a timetable, and instead looked at his/our progress in weekly or bi-weekly intervals. That helped. But I know how hard it is not to get needed sleep! Hang in there.

Annie said...

I never heard of, or thought of "six weeks", honestly. After two years, Ilya is still homesick, and sometimes angry. Other times very affectionate and loving. Nearly always fiercely loyal to us. Surprisingly honest and trustworthy. (Where did he learn these strong values?) But his sleep issues persist.

Sergei was at home and our son from about the second day of his visit trip....always seemed as though he were ours from the beginning of time.

Kids are just different. Situations are different.

I think Ivanovo must do a beautiful job in terms of their orphanage culture. All of my children came to use with far better manners in general, including table manners, than most American children. Their little meal times at Nastya's orphanage reminded me of Montessori school - all so proper and "elegant"...nearly funny to watch small children passing the platters and drinking tea from proper teacups.

I do hate to hear of anyone losing a language, though. Especially one I gained with such pain, money and effort (and lost as quickly as an adopted three-year-old.) Seems tragic. I do understand in your case the bonding issues are very different, though. At her age the new language comes like magic.

Jim said...

I'm so glad you have the ability to spend the first three months with her creating your own world, away from the pressures of normal living.

Honestly, I don't know about a six week turning point. For us, the first real measurable change occurred at six months, when sleeping issues subsided. But I remember that things seemed to be getting better day by day until then, although it was gradual. And, I can't be completely certain that wasn't just us adjusting to her.

You're doing a great job, from what I'm reading. But please make sure you are taking care of yourself, too.

Elle said...

I always heard 6 months. Friends said after 6 months it was like a switch flipped and things were better. I expected this magical thing to happen at 6 months. When that came and nothing happened I was so upset. For us things started to change at 8 months home.

3 years later we are still dealing with some PI issues (we've only really ever had PI issues), but they are minor or at least I've gotten very used to them.

votemom said...

i haven't heard the six weeks either. and i honestly can barely remember six-weeks-home... it's such a blur.

keep doing what you are doing. follow your gut. it's all good!!

Tina in CT said...

Everything you write makes so much sense. It is so good that you have all this time off from school to spend 1:1 time together.

Hopefully when she is older and in much higher grades in school, she will want to regain her native language and that it'll be stored in the back of her brain and resurface.

Lindsay said...

Orphanage behaviours linked to ptsd and attachment won't go away in 6 weeks. I think what you do see at 6 weeks-ish, and 3 months-ish and 12 months-ish are noticeable gains in emotional security and attachment. I know I clung desperately to the 3-months-and-sleep-will-get-better mantra I heard on FRUA because I really, really, really needed the lifeline of believing that the end of the worst was in sight and bed time would not take 2+ hours of screaming fury forever. 3 months wasn't a magical fix as you know! I'd say it took 18 months, but it didn't stay really bad for all that time. She still sleeps badly, but bedtimes are no longer so adventurous.
I think what the 6 weeks (and 3 months and....) really is, is a reflection of our ability to cope, to find a routine, to get over our own shell shock and find our parenting niche. It's not that our children magically heal, or that we find the magic wand to wave to fix their issues. I think it is that our attachment grows, our emotional security deepens, our coping skills .... well, cope.

I would caution you about being too isolating. Not for Lexi, you are doing everything right, you know that. But for you. Make sure you have the adult connections too. I remember going 10 days without being in adult company once when H wasn't long home and I was desperate for some company! It's tough being single, so make sure you give yourself some mental relief too. It's ok to relax the regime now and then: you will be better for it, and therefore Lexi will be too. It's ok not to do it the perfect attachment way every time. Mental tiredness is at least as draining as physical tiredness so be kind to yourself :)

Thinking of you both - and know that, however long it takes, you will both get there.


Matt and Carla Morgan said...

I'm so thrilled that the two of you are together! I've been meaning to write, but have limited computer time these days.

I don't know about the 6-week mark. We didn't experience that!

Love the pictures you've posted of your little cutie pie.


Tammy said...

I was going to say the same thing as Lindsay about the 6 week mark. It wasn't that all of the issues or concerns went away, it was that I suddenly starting feeling like a mom. I was finally feeling more comfortable with my role and more secure in my own ability to give Zachary what he needed.

The nice thing is by the 6 week mark, you feel like you have a little history with your child. When I first got Zachary, I was PETRIFIED of doing anything wrong. I was so worried that if I made a mistake, I would cause damage to our relationship forever and, if our relationship was damaged, what did his other relationships in the future hold? This somewhat goes along with the notion of feeling more comfortable in my role as a parent but I also felt that Zachary and I had had enough good times together that even with a mistake, it wouldn't undo all the things I was already doing.

These first weeks and months are HARD! I didn't realize just how hard that first month was until after I was through with it. I'm sure I will say the same thing about the first year and it has passed.

Also, try to enjoy every minute you have right now. After my leave was up, I wondered if I had done enough and had I enjoyed our time together as much as I could have? I knew I would never again get 2 months off where it could be just me and Zachary.

On the other hand, going back to work has given us a good routine and it finally feels like we are in real life now.

BTW - for me, the 6 weeks was time that I had him, not time home.

BTW II - only you know which you need more - sleep or down time - but don't be afraid to sleep a bit too. I still nap on the weekends when Zachary goes down. You are right to put everything else on hold. We spend so much time trying to give our kids what we need that we often forget about ourselves so I'm glad you are taking some time to focus on you.

I so enjoy reading your posts about your life at home. Keep up the good work MOM!

Lea said...

Wow, it sounds like things are going very well. You are definitely doing everything right. She really needs that time with just you to connect and feel more secure.

I STILL feel as if I don't have enough personal time at times, especially recently as the husband was in Boston for 5 days. Whew, am I glad that he is back!

Loved hearing how things are going and will look forward to more pics:).

Unknown said...

What is "Sashenka"?

kate said...

Kathy-it's a "sweet name" for Sasha. Like Anya's is Anitchka or Anoushka.

Suz said...

I hate to be a downer, but I'd say 3 months was our magical turning point when life began to feel normal. That would be 3 months at home together. So if you're going by 6 weeks, I'd definitely say 6 weeks at home. And guess what? It doesn't matter if it's a toddler, newborn or 6 year old. I think it just takes that long to feel pretty much normal again.

My friends who have had their children biologically have even said it took right at 3 months before they came out of their fog and began to be normal and feel like the Mama they had just been thrust into becoming. No matter how long you have waited, once it happens it seems like it happened so fast!

You'll get there. You're doing all the things you need to survive this period. You'll probably not remember much of it, though. So if in your day to day existence you feel something is memory worthy, you'd probably better write it down!

beckyww said...

So read this - Julia home at six weeks here: http://thisreminds.me/2006/06/24/moving-on/

Same kind of stuff!

Attachment is the biggie. You're doing all the right things. xoxo

Lauri said...

I agree with the six months too... however we saw so many positive changes in the right directions each month... so it is hard to say and I would think that we had come so far, but not really see the finish line, so to speak

some PI issues remain with us.. night terrors and food security.

one day at a time

AdoptaMama said...

Ah...six weeks...a magical time for us. But so was one day, one week, two weeks, etc. From day one we just mushed together like we'd always been a family. We all needed time to get used to each other, but our girls were very well behaved, very obedient, very easy-going, completely slept through the night, appropriately ate pretty much anything, and interacted very well together and with us, so there were no issues for any of us. I know our situation was different than most as we've had no PI or attachment issues whatsoever, but it was mostly due to the way we "fit" early on, and also because the girls were lovingly cared for early on. Six months was truly the magical point, though. They were both speaking basic English and communication took a major turn for the better. LOVE the six month point! :)

Anonymous said...

Yah late to the party on this one - for some reason you stopped showing up in my bloglines - but I started counting from when we got home.