It's not you, it's me...

{Originally posted on hellobee, but I thought I would share it here to help explain my silence lately. And yes, you have seen those photos before.} It's hard to believe that it's been over a month since I really wrote here. It's even harder to believe that we're a whole month farther into our Family of Four... and still struggling to find our groove. Or maybe it's that we've found our groove, but it's not one I'm willing to accept quite yet.

Friends, this has been one hard transition. For everyone. Obviously, it's hard for Milo who has had his world turned upside down and backwards... but it's also much harder than expected on me, my husband, and Spencer. And it's hard to blog, and Facebook, and Instagram when it's all I can do to get us from wake-up to bedtime in one piece. (Notice that I don't say happy. Happy is a work in progress here.)

I'm struggling with how to even address this whole transition since there are so many difficult facets about it. No one wants to talk about the bad stuff, the ugly stuff, or the really hard stuff. Right? But, I feel like so many of us adoptive mamas struggle so much during the transition that I'm going to lay it all out there... Or at least some of it.

{It's about to get ugly. I'm about to admit that I think I might be failing at this mama gig.}

First, it's really, really tough to finally have your child home... the child you've jumped through hoops for, hoped for, waited for... and then realize that the waiting part was nothing. That this—this!—time is the hard part. I thought I ran a marathon while waiting?! Oh no. This is the marathon. I feel like one of those insane incredibly dedicated runners who do a marathon one day, and the next day they run a half marathon. Or a 10k. Or some significant distance. (And yes, those races do exist.) I feel like I've ended up in a situation like that... but it's becoming quite clear that this part of the journey is going to be the marathon and the two years of waiting was just the warm up. Or the first race. And ohmygoodness, I have not prepared enough.

Yes, I read all the books. I took all the classes. I've already done this once. But even as you are reading the books and answering the questions... a part of you is thinking, "But surely that won't be me!" and "But my child has been in a foster home! It's not the same!" And the first time I went down this road, it was with a baby, a nine month old. So while I prepared, and I planned... I realize that I did not prepare or plan enough. Or for the right things. The biggest worries I had are non-issues while other things that weren't even on my radar are huge.freaking.deals. And I find myself madly scrambling through the adoption books and frantically texting fellow adoptive mamas with pleas to help me solve this. And solve it I will... but it's hard. I'm sorry Milo, I wasn't as prepared as I thought.

Second, everyone expects you to be overjoyed and ecstatic because finally—finally!—your baby is home. Let's be honest here. I'm not overjoyed, or ecstatic. Oh yes, I'm oh-so-happy he's here... and very, very relieved. But mostly I'm exhausted, and a bit broken down. And frustrated since really, I should have known better. I feel ill-prepared and I'm just trying to wrap my mind around what my reality of mama to two is.

All during the wait, you memorize referral and update reports. You take in every single detail in the photos you receive. You daydream for what the future holds, and you plan for another child in your home. But nothing can prepare you for the reality of what that's actually going to be like. You think, "Oh yes... a toddler in my home, I know what that's like!" You think, "I've raised a toddler... I've got this!" You think, "18 months was my favorite age bracket! This will be perfect timing." And then the child shows up and you realize, "This is a stranger!" and "This kid has a whole personality!" and you think, "Oh my goodness... I'm not ready for this!" Here's the thing. It's kind of like bringing a completely developed person into your house. All his life there have been different rules, different schedules, different food, different language... different everything. Add in that this twenty month old has just gone through a really, really difficult transition. All that he knew was just pulled from him and he's scrambling to find solid footing.

Here, this has manifested in many ways, but two things keep bubbling to the top. Regression and Control.

The regression is not surprising because he literally needs to re-learn everything. (And he is! Quickly!) But in addition to relearning rules, schedules, etc... he's also choosing to NOT know how to do some things. One day it's walking down the stairs, one day it's walking at all. Some days he wants to be carried all day, other days he wants to sleep on top of you. Most days he chooses not to use words. Or signs. (And yes, I do realize that this is also known to be "toddler" stuff, or "I just became an older sibling" stuff... but it's different. I'm not sure how to describe it. And I think I'm not doing it justice.) So there are days that I have a 21-month old who acts like a baby... but is still as big, and heavy, and strong as a 21-month old. (The other lesson here? I did not do enough weight lifting while waiting.)

Along with the regression, there comes testing. It's almost as though I can see him thinking, "She has no idea that I wasn't allowed to do this in Korea, let's see if I can make her think I was." Whole days will go by where I just repeatedly think, "you know better than this." And, "are you serious?!" And, "nonononono!!!!" And then I feel bad, because this is what he's supposed to be doing. He's got to go through all of this to learn where his place is with us. Here. The last time I had a toddler, he had been with us for a year by that point. This toddler has just been turned upside down and backwards... He's not truly a toddler, he's a baby in many aspects. I'm sorry Milo... I know you need to find your spot here. And I know it will take time...

The control. Oh, the control. I realize that all kiddos this age battle their mamas for control. (In fact, Spencer is still battling me for control.) But this is like control on steroids. Adoptive kiddos (some, at least) have so many feelings that they just don't know how to express. So many times, it comes out as a power play. I won't go into specifics, because that's private to him, but I can tell you that our battles... battles that involve screaming, hitting, scratching, and a lot of rage (clarification: he's the one doing all that, not me)... can span hours. Hours where I can not get us out of the deadlock that we are in. I will work through my whole bag of tricks—tricks that include walking outside, distraction, "calming" hugs, and when all else fails... playing certain songs on my phone. All the while talking to him in a soothing tone. Reassuring him that I'm on his side on this, but it's not ok to do what he's doing. (Even though by twenty minutes in, I want to scream and stomp my feet like a toddler as well. And it may have happened once or twice. Not my best mama moment.)

All kiddos have moments where they lose their minds a little. My kiddo has certain triggers that make him lose his mind, and then some. (And some of his triggers are what you and I would consider teeny, tiny things.) And it sets the cycle off again. And you wonder... "Again?! We're going to do this again?!" I'm sorry Milo, I'm working on patience. Until then... the days are long. I know.

Lastly—and this is a totally selfish one—it's hard for me to go back to parenting a toddler when I've been out of that role for so long. Yes, four years apart was what I always wanted... but I have been blind-sided by how much harder I'm finding this. I don't know if it's because I have a toddler who's not really a toddler but a baby in many aspects. I'm not sure if it's because my toddler has a fair share of transition issues. I'm not sure if it's because I'm now four years older and chasing a crazy older kiddo to boot. I'm not sure if it's because one day I woke up and I went from one kiddo to two full-blown, running round, crazy kiddos. (As opposed to a kiddo and a baby.) I'm not sure what it is...but I'm really, really struggling. I know I'll get there and I'll find my groove. Maybe I'll even find time to have a coffee with a friend or get my hair done... but these days, I wonder how I got us from morning to night in one piece.

This transition, it's hard. Really, really hard. I'm not the fun, creative mama or wife I was in the past. I'm constantly falling down on responding to texts or emails from friends. And let's not even talk about the state of the laundry here, ok?! Most days find me exhausted and pulled in too many directions. I know (I hope!) that things start to fall into place... but right now, they aren't. And I know it's not them, it's me. It's hard to trade what you imagined life would be like for what your reality is now. (I'm not good at that to begin with.)

One day, I hope it will be exactly as I dreamed—or better! Until then, I'm putting one foot in front of another and getting us through. And I'm living for the brief glimpses we see of the reality I dream of. Those moments where the boys are all laughter and love with a good dose of goofiness mixed in. They are still infrequent, but when giggles outweigh the glum, I'm one happy mama... because this is what I've been waiting for.

 {You didn't actually think I'd have a whole post with no photos, did you?!}

Author's Note: I would be remiss if I didn't mention that many adoptive parents struggle with PAD: Post-Adoption Depression. While this transition is really hard on me, I know I don't suffer from PAD. If you are a fellow adoptive parent and feeling like "this" isn't the way it should be, please talk to someone. I've had several friends suffer from PAD... it's real and it's hard, but it's also something that can be overcome. It withholds the joy we've all waited for... and that's not fair. Please, please call your social worker, doctor, or even a friend or family member who can help you seek out answers and a treatment plan.