Thursday, December 20, 2012

Adoption and Birth Order - the Dirty Secret No One Tells You...

For those who jump into the wide-world of adoption, you quickly learn there are many "rules" spoken and unspoken. One of those is to adopt "in birth order," a topic that I have written about before (here and here).  This is a rule we've never followed. Our first adoption was two "middles" and our next was a new oldest child (a big no-no per the rules...).  Interestingly, when we considered adopting again, we both felt pretty strongly that we did want to adopt within birth order. More specifically, we wanted to adopt younger than our youngest (i.e. younger than Ally). This is the choice that gets a big "thumbs up" according to the rules.

However, we know our family and we knew this would not be a guaranty of sunshine an roses, but we felt it was the right move for a few reasons. We also knew it would be tough on Ally. She's enjoyed being the youngest of the house (and the boss...) for a solid 6 years. If we had a baby, that would be an adjustment too. But adding in a full-fledged KID - a kid only 11 months younger than her - is much, much different than a squalling infant that doesn't threaten her so directly.  Yet, we were optimistic. Ally has been very excited to be a big sister and constantly asked about Jhon.  We hoped they would be close the way Abi and Hana are.  I had high hopes for their first meeting.

But it was a rough start.

Complicating matters was my month in Colombia. Ally's a mommy's girl and it was very hard for her for me to be away for so long. I think that at least a small part of her (and maybe not so small...) blamed Jhon for this extended absence. These feelings seemed to come to a head upon my return. Further complicating matters was that within an hour of being home, Ally threw up and suffered a nasty stomach bug for days. How much was physical and how much emotional? I still don't know. But she was sad and angry and hurt and wanted nothing to do with her little brother - a little brother that wanted very badly to play with her. Consequently, she barely spoke to him or acknowledged him for over a week. She was not mean to him (we wouldn't allow that), but she deftly avoided him.

I will be honest - I was baffled. For all my preparations, I did not expect Ally to take it quite so hard. She has always been so go-with-the-flow with our (somewhat unusual) family. She was only 18 months old when Abi and Hana came home - she's never known anything but this way of life.  She was so excited for another brother! And, after all, we were adopting IN birth order - that must count for something right? Even if she wasn't the "baby" anymore...?

And yet, I was seeing evidence of actual trauma in her behavior. It scared me. I didn't know how to reassure her. I didn't know how to "fix" it. I reached out to a couple of adoption-friends, who, of course, had no magic pill. :)  So I did all I knew how to do. I loved on her, encouraged her to open up a bit to Jhon, and waited.

And, as quickly as it came, it passed.

Tuesday afternoon, she came home from school and the sad look was finally gone. Before I knew it, she and Jhon were running in circles around the house playing some form of tag, giggling. Yesterday at lunch, Jhon told me that he was waiting for Ally to come home so she could play with him. :)  I know this won't be the last of their disagreements.  They are likely to have some doozie-fights over the years.  And yet, my fear is gone.

Long road though it may be, they are family. 
And both are my babies. :)

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