Monday, May 23, 2011

The Next Level

Zinashi's sleep is better at night time, and getting better for naptime, very slowly. At the beginning I was pretending that I didn't know what caused this sleep regression, but the truth is that I suspected something and didn't want to jump the gun and say that was definitely it. I still can't say that's it for certain, since I don't live inside my daughter's mind, but I can say the it probably was it. And that's that Jarod got sick, and it set off all kinds of alarm bells for her. Look, when your child's trauma involves watching someone get sick and die, it makes all kinds of sense that when one of her beloved new people gets sick, she's going to freak right out. And she did, and it mostly showed up in her sleep. This is how she tips us off that she's not okay: by fighting as hard as she can to not fall asleep.

I find that people outside of the adoption parenting world, and sometimes people inside it (who are probably in denial--which is okay, because I am sometimes in denial) like to give us alternate reasons for Zinashi's sleep difficulties. As much as some of those are true to a certain extent, I would argue that the root of the issue is her history of trauma. Yes, she may be the kind of kid who doesn't want to miss anything. Yes, she is constantly either going through a growth spurt (an inch a month, people) or making a developmental leap (suddenly we have grasped pronouns). Yes, she is a night owl. But I've come across all those personality and growth circumstances in my work as a nanny, and have never had a kid fight sleep so hard. I'm not an alarmist first-time parent; I'm just a realist who has worked with a lot of kids and knows the difference between a normal range of sleep preferences and a response to something deeper. Zinashi's is a response to something deeper. End of discussion.

Well, except that it's the beginning of the discussion. A lot of families I've talked to were able to work through their sleep issues as their attachment with their children deepened; I thought this might be the case for us, but we are meeting all our attachment milestones beautifully and this issue still persists. I'd love to just "give it more time" or "relax a little bit," but my daughter deserves better than that. She deserves to be able to sleep better and to feel better. She deserves a life in which she has a fighting chance at letting go of the fear that grips her, the one that says that these people that she loves might suddenly be gone. I don't mean to harp on this all the time, but I think that people forget sometimes, because she is such a joyful and funny little person, that she lost absolutely everything dear to her. And in one case, she watched what was dear to her walk away and leave her behind. We cannot ignore this, and we cannot pretend that it will just get easier with time, that every time something happens, she won't be gripped with fear anew because we've hugged her enough or made sure that she knows we love her.

So we're taking this to the professionals. We can't undo what happened to her, but our hope is that we can help her to feel a little more comfortable and a little less afraid, that she won't suddenly be faced with sleep and be terrified to go there. We want to be able to reach that deep level where her fear lives and soften it somehow, blur the edges, make it less present in the moments that she needs most to just relax and let go. We'll be seeing two people, a holistic chiropractor and a therapist that specializes in play therapy. We'll let you know how it goes.


  1. You are an awesome Mom, doing what your sweet girl needs!! I agree, lots of Adoptive Parents are in denial... sometimes I want to be too but I choose not to for my son's sake!

    I'm proud of you!! Zinashi deserves all you can offer and all that the specialists can too! :)

  2. I am extremely proud of you. Seriously. Zinashi deserves peace and you should fight for her. That's your job as a mama and you're pretty much kicking ass at it.

  3. I agree with the others above - good for you for knowing your "mom-intuition" and trusting yourself to do the right thing for your daughter. I hope Zinashi's sleep issues can really get resolved and give you all some rest and peace soon! I love your blog - thanks for sharing it all with us - the good, bad, and in-between. I really like how you come across as honest and real and not just someone writing to entertain. :) Keep it up!

  4. I always laugh at the "not wanting to miss a thing" comments. Understatement of the world people- but NOT for the reasons you think. It is all about SURVIVAL. And I disagree on the sleep will come with attachment... He got more...'comfortable' and 'stable' as time went on.... but secure attachment didn't begin to seep until real sleep happened. And looking back it makes sense. I really hope for good things for you guys.

    Ya- sickness can be a trigger. I'll never forget the look of terror on his face when I fell to the ground doubled over in overdramatic pain style after stubbing my toe. It scared the everloving stuff out of him.

  5. So thankful Zinashi has a mother who is so beautifully in tune with her, who sees her, who hears her and who acts on what is there.

    Makes sense that people might assume she's "fine!" because she's so hilarious and awesome ... but it makes a lot MORE sense that she has a deep place of pain inside her that, despite outward appearances to others, is always present with her. And may need some outside help to ameliorate, soften, heal. You are going after that assistance on not one, but two fronts -- way to go!

    One of the therapists at the clinic where I used to go (here in Chicago) specialized in play therapy for children who were adopted; they made great strides in their time with her.

    Cheering you all on!

  6. I'm not an adoptive parent, so I can't relate that way... but, I'm a stepmom to a girl who went through a lot this past summer with her mom. All I can say is that getting her to a psychologist is the best decision we have ever made. Sometimes I come across someone who acts like it's unnecessary or even bad for her, but she is making leaps and bounds of progress and I know it's the help she needed. Best of luck! Don't let others make you doubt yourself, you do know what she needs.

  7. Are you all just perfect or what? The support you give through your comments is so valuable to me. You make me feel a little less tired. Thank you.


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