Our adopted son took two years to adjust

With Pierre, our adopted son, the adjustment period was difficult

Lydia, 35, adopted a 6 month old baby boy. The first two years were difficult to live with, as Pierre presented with behavioral problems. By dint of patience, today he is doing well and living happily with his parents.

The first time I took Pierre in my arms, I thought my heart was going to explode because I was so moved. He looked at me with his big magnificent eyes without showing anything. I told myself he was a calm child. Our little boy was then 6 months old and he lived in an orphanage in Vietnam. Once we arrived in France, our life together began and there, I realized that things were not necessarily going to be as simple as I hoped. Of course, my husband and I knew there would be an adjustment period, but we were quickly overwhelmed by events.

Far from being peaceful, Pierre was crying almost all the time … Her incessant crying, day and night, tore my heart and exhausted me. Only one thing calmed him down, a small toy making soft music. Often he refused his bottles and, later, the baby food. The pediatrician explained to us that his growth curve remained within the norms, it was necessary to be patient and not to worry. On the other hand, my greatest pain was that he avoided my gaze and that of my husband. He was totally turning his head when we hugged him. I thought I did not know how to do it and I was very angry with myself. My husband was trying to reassure me by telling me that I had to leave time for time. My mother and my mother-in-law got involved by giving us advice and that annoyed me to the highest point. I felt like everyone knew how to take care of a child except me!

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Then some of his behaviors worried me a lot : seated, he could rock back and forth for hours if we didn’t intervene. At first glance, this swaying calmed him down because he was no longer crying. He seemed to be in a world of his own, his eyes dim.

Pierre started walking around 13 months old and that reassured me especially since he then played a little more. However, he was still crying a lot. He only calmed down in my arms and the sobs started again as soon as I wanted to put him back on the floor. Everything changed the first time I saw him bang his head against the wall. There, I really understood that he was not doing well at all. I decided to take her to see a child psychiatrist. My husband was not really convinced, but he was also very worried and he let me do it. So we took our little boy together to the shrink.

Of course, I had read plenty of books on adoption and its difficulties. But I found that Peter’s symptoms went beyond the problems of an adopted child struggling to get used to his new home. A friend of mine had suggested to me, very awkwardly, that he might be autistic. I then believed that the world was going to fall apart. I felt that I could never accept this terrible situation if it turned out to be true. And at the same time, I felt very guilty by telling myself that if he had been my biological child, I would have put up with everything! After a few sessions, the child psychiatrist told me that it was too early to make a diagnosis, but that I should not lose hope. She had already cared for adopted children and she spoke of the “abandonment syndrome” in these uprooted children. The demonstrations, she explained to me, were spectacular and could indeed be reminiscent of autism. She reassured me a little by telling me that these symptoms would gradually disappear when Pierre began to rebuild himself psychically with his new parents, us in this case. Indeed, every day, he cried a little less, but he still had difficulty meeting my eyes and that of his father.

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Nevertheless, I continued to feel like a bad mother, I felt that I had missed something in the early days of adoption. I did not live this situation very well. The worst part was the day I thought about giving up: I felt unable to continue raising him, it was surely better to find him a new family. We may not have been the parents for him. I loved him very much and I couldn’t stand him hurting himself. I felt so guilty for having had this thought, however fleeting, that I decided to undertake psychotherapy myself. I had to define my limits, my real desires and above all to calm down. My husband, who rarely expresses his emotions, objected to me that I took things too seriously and that our son would soon be better. But I was so afraid that Pierre was autistic that I didn’t know if I would have the courage to endure this ordeal. And the more I thought about this possibility, the more I blamed myself. This child, I had wanted it, so I had to assume it.

We then armed ourselves with patience because things got back to normal very slowly. I knew it was going much better the day we finally shared a real look. Pierre no longer looked away and accepted my hugs. When he started talking, around 2 years old, he stopped banging his head against the walls. On the advice of the shrink, I put him in kindergarten, part-time, when he was 3 years old. I dreaded this separation a lot and wondered how he was going to behave at school. At first he stayed in his corner and then, little by little, he went to the other children. And that’s when he stopped rocking back and forth. My son was not autistic, but he must have gone through very difficult things before his adoption and that explained his behavior. I blamed myself for a long time for having imagined, even for a single moment, parting with it. I felt cowardly for having had such thoughts. My psychotherapy helped me a lot to take control of myself and to free myself from guilt.

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Today, Pierre is 6 years old and he is full of life. He’s a little temperamental, but nothing like what we went through with him the first two years. We of course explained to him that we had adopted him and that if one day he wanted to go to Vietnam, we would be by his side. Adopting a child is a gesture of love, but it doesn’t guarantee that things will just turn out. The main thing is to keep hope when it’s more complicated than we dreamed of: our history proves it, everything can be worked out. Now we have chased away the bad memories and we are a happy and united family.

QUOTES COLLECTED BY GISELE GINSBERG

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