When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

September 28, 2010

September 28, 2010

Sophie's 3rd birthday (July 2005)

September 28, 2010.  Peter keeps asking why my face and eyes are red and I do my best to convince him that I’m having an allergy attack.  He and I are closer than ever now that he’s been home from school on doctor’s orders – at least for the next few days, and he’s very attuned to my feelings.  I hope he forgives the small lie.  The decision regarding our Due Process Hearing is expected September 30, two days from now, but I can’t presently afford to dwell on the possible outcomes.  Every fiber of my being is churning with despair over the latest news we’ve received from Dr. Federici, and this time Peter was not the focus.  Yes, it’s true.  We took Sophie to see him, too, a few weeks ago, because her behavior, as well as her school performance, has been gnawing at us like a festering wound.  The results of his testing are not good.  Our precious little girl – who is bright and capable in so many ways, is battling her own set of demons, psychological debris that is robbing her of the right to experience properly the simple beauty and gift of childhood.  What’s clear from neuropsychological testing is that she suffered significant trauma, though we’ll never know the forms it took, during the first 2.3 years of her life, prior to the adoption.  What’s also unavoidably clear is that the level of family stress and turmoil that she’s experienced in our home, byproducts of our efforts to redeem Peter’s heart, soul, and mind, has exacerbated the problem beyond our wildest prediction.  Our quest to reach the most obviously affected child – in our case, the one who screamed and kicked the loudest, has been more than Sophie’s fragile ego could handle.  According to Dr. Federici, she is lost, unanchored, severely depressed, melancholic, dissociative, unhappy, without empathy, and consumed with thoughts of death and dying.  A walking anxiety attack with blonde hair, brown eyes and a trumped-up bravado that belies her profound insecurities, our daughter is not the picture of psychological health.  What happened to our mischievous, precocious, funny, engaging, and emotionally connected little girl that we so often brag about?  I feel like Pat and I have been deluding ourselves into thinking she was healthy, maybe because we’ve been so overwhelmed with Peter’s crises that we had no capacity to think otherwise.  God, I could kick myself.  How could we have messed this up so profoundly?  I love Sophie with absolutely every fiber of my person.  She is an amazing child with more spunk than any one person by right should have.  When I daydream about pregnancy and birth, Sophie and Peter are the newborns I imagine delivering and cradling in my arms.  Always.  So why does it have to be so hard?  Why isn’t love enough?  I’ve had to claw and scratch to get Peter the help he needs, and still my efforts fall short.  And he has brain damage.  Measurable, quantifiable, undeniable brain damage.  I never imagined it’d be such an uphill, at times acrimonious, battle to address such unambiguous needs.  Sophie’s issues, on the other hand, are emotional and undoubtedly much more difficult to trace or treat.  It’s also a good bet we caused a fair percentage of them.  I recall those early years, when Peter would scream for hours, biting me, spitting on me, saying I smelled as he ripped wallpaper or ran his nails across leather furniture.  The days when he used to vomit at the dinner table or pull his pants down and pee on the floor on the rare occasion we had company.  Our reactions – my reactions, weren’t always textbook, they weren’t always calm, and hardly ever did they qualify for an outstanding parenting award.  Pat too has been less than perfect throughout this journey.  Already a grandfather at 62, and having suffered the deaths of his two biological sons, his stamina and optimism could use replenishing.  Sophie is a beloved it not easy child, and it seems she’s suffered the consequences of our fallibilities.  Her fragile sense of self, and the extreme insecurity caused by her uncertain but dark past deserved a Leave it to Beaver fresh start.  But we weren’t able to deliver that.  We’re not June and Ward material, and Peter in no way resembles Wally, the even-tempered big brother of the 1950s.  We’re two people who love each other and our children, who mess up all the time, lose our tempers, as well as our senses of humor and perspective, and then do our best to pick up the pieces and resume our forward quest and our commitments to each other.  I hope we have what it takes to reach her, to help our daughter heal as we’ve done with Peter.  She deserves so much, they both do.  I worry that I’m losing myself in the process, though.  I have so little that’s my own in terms of accomplishment or things for which to look forward.  I’ve given up my career, I’ve moved away from family and my closest, oldest friends, and we’ve largely become pariahs in our town because we’ve called into question the integrity and judgment of the local – and only, public school district.  This would all be okay, or at least more tolerable, if what we were doing was building our children’s characters, healing their hearts and improving their minds.  But now I’m not so sure.  Sophie, I now realize, is not secure in our home despite what I know in my heart has been my very best effort.  I guess my latest challenge, one from which I hope to gain a renewed sense of purpose, is to find that extra something inside myself so that I can improve the way I parent, and in doing so, help heal my child.  I have to admit, I never dreamed parenting would be this difficult.  I also never appreciated, despite voracious reading on the topic, how much damage a couple years in a Russian orphanage can exact on an innocent child.  What a lousy, lousy day it’s been.  As I reflect on this dreary, rainy day, a day filled with self-doubt and accusation, I recall how we finished watching Annie, as a family, just last night.  When I was eleven, I had no greater aspiration than to one day play the leading role on stage.  I begged my mother to buy me a red wig and drive me around to regional auditions in her station wagon.  Though I never realized that goal, I still cling tightly to the belief in dreams.  And so as I say goodnight to our children, both troubled, significantly, in their own ways, I kiss them and hug them tight.  I turn off their lights, one by one, and tell myself, with barely held back tears, that I do so hope the sun will come out tomorrow.



  1. For what little it’s worth – we’re none of us perfect parents. There was no manual, no instruction sheet, no sure-fire recipe for success, especially considering the conditions in which our kids began their lives, and the slow, uneven but relentless way in which those beginnings play themselves out. All we can do, all anyone can do, is provide the fierce love that only a parent can, and remember that absent us, it would be far worse. I keep reminding myself I can’t regret what I’ve done to get where I am, I can only move forward for my child as best as possible.

    Comment by Nan — September 28, 2010 @ 9:43 pm | Reply

    • Yes, moving forward is the only solution. Thanks for writing – and encouraging, Nan.

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 1, 2010 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  2. As parents, NONE of us are anywhere near perfect. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Parenting a typical child isn’t easy and parenting a special needs child is a whole different world.
    Maybe you aren’t losing yourself but becoming someone different? Careers are over rated, look how much you are doing for those kids. Some parents would just give up but you keep moving forward.

    Comment by Desiree — September 28, 2010 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

  3. You did not cause this and my guess would be that had she not been in your home, things could have very well been far worse by now. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. We are not robots who can control every single emotional response. When we are in a situation where we are forced to deal with behaviors that are so difficult that we could not begin to imagine them even in our wildest dreams, it would be abnormal to not have what are very human responses to actions that are often abhorrent. Raising these kids is incredibly hard and it sure isn’t for sissies. I know that it is very difficult for emotionally fragile children to be in a home with severely disordered kids because I have seen the results in my own home, but when we adopt these children, there is no crystal ball to show us what the future will hold. We go into it with the best intentions. There are not many people who will open their hearts and their homes to any child, let alone to children who have a high probability of having myriad social, emotional, intellectual and physical problems so cut yourself some slack here.

    I remember years ago, when I sat in our doctor’s office and told him about all the terrible parenting mistakes I thought I was making. I thought I wasn’t doing enough of this and that I was doing too much of that and that I was a horrible parent because I was exhausted and feeling frustrated and lost and guilty because I found that with these children I simply was not able to be the kind of parent I had always thought I would be, and he simply looked at me and asked, “And who do you think could do it any differently?” I realized then that maybe my responses were understandable given our situation and that most people probably wouldn’t have been able to do it much differently and that there were many people who would have done far worse, and probably would have become violent toward our kids in response to the kinds of behaviors that I was having to deal with on a daily basis.

    Something else you need to remember is that Dr. Federici does not live with Sophie. He only has a relatively small snapshot of her. You do live with her and you know that she has empathy. I know that she has empathy just from reading the things you have written about here. You know that she can be a “mischievous, precocious, funny, engaging, and emotionally connected little girl”. While I do not doubt that she does have some anxiety and depression that is not the sum total of who she is. While you can not ignore those things you also must not allow yourself to discount the importance that her place in your family will play in terms of her over all health and well being. The most important thing we can provide for these very fragile children is the security of a loving home, warts and all.

    Comment by Errin Weigel — September 29, 2010 @ 12:56 am | Reply

    • Errin – your wisdom and eloquence with words really does amaze me. Thank you so much. I hope you know how much what you say means to me. You’re an incredibly strong person – thank you again for lending me some strength. Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 1, 2010 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

  4. {{{hugs}}}

    Comment by Christine — September 29, 2010 @ 2:42 am | Reply

  5. just to say what got us through was a counselor for myself on my own alone. this counselor helped me vent and renew and also helped me with parenting and approaches and solutions. the emotional and physical damages adopted kids bring with is immense for most adoptees. believe your home and your hearts and your loving and patience [when feasible] and your SELF FORGIVENESS are all the keys. maybe keeping both kids at home for a few more years of early childhood special education with you and with in-home helpers is a wise wise timing and choice. therapies make so much better the potentials and can keep a family so busy that just home, each other and therapies are possibly a very full life, for awhile. this would be your very own special home school, where fun and swimming and lunch and meditation were the best of the best. as for mom’s own career – this may need delayed but please keep notes as to your own career plans, needs and wants. these will not be wasted if it allows you a chance to track on your own ambitions and dreams. i used to have 14-16 year old helpers who could not get real jobs yet. i had a set of 2 helpers for two 3-5 year olds at once. they played, i watched and listened and i folded and put away clean laundry. that’s all she wrote. lindalee

    Comment by lindalee soderstrom — September 29, 2010 @ 10:46 am | Reply

    • Oh lindalee, I so hear you on having that professional who is available for venting and brainstorming and supporting. My son no longer meets with his mental health worker but she is an awesome support for me! Our local crisis team has been great with debriefing as well. I’m so thankful to have local phonecalls I can make to debrief with people who get it!
      As a single mom, I came to a point last year when I realized it was either leave my job or place my child in care. I left my job and now have the added stressor of financial burdens with very little wiggle room for any extras. I totally understand the feelings behind having to leave a career behind, and how that effects us on so many levels. It’s sure a lot of work to keep a strong balance in life while raising our children who live with so many life challenges.

      Comment by Christine — September 29, 2010 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I agree. In the past, when we had taken Peter to an adoption therapist, I found her insight and just being able to vent with her – a tremendous help. We just agreed that Sophie’s play therapy would from now on involve the whole family. We need to rally, and I’m sure we will. Thank you so much for thinking of us – and for the advice. Take care – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 1, 2010 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  6. You truely inspire me to be the type of Mother that you are!!

    Hang in there we are all rooting for you and your family. I really understand the loosing yourself. I have had to realize that I am good at this parenting thing including parenting a traumatized child and make that my focus because otherwise I forget who I am other than A and S’s Mom.


    Comment by Karen — September 29, 2010 @ 10:47 am | Reply

  7. Hi Mary,

    Raising damaged, emotionally ill children is a long, hard sad process grounded in hope and requiring enormous support for the parents. I have had to over time entirely redefine the words “family,” “goals,” “tolerance,” “love,” and probably more.

    As I have written here before, our older daughter was born with emotional and learning disabilities. She is now 16 and may or may not live independently after graduating from high school – which will happen when she is 20 or 21 I would think. By way of contrast, my brother’s oldest child just entered Harvard this fall. Our younger daughter suffered from the attention we gave Katie (and the panic in our hearts about how to raise Katie.) Becky, however, was neither damaged, nor is she ill. We are blessed with that. However, our family is nothing like my own birth family, nothing like the family I envisioned raising, nothing like the family it was when the kids were both under the age of 4, nothing like the family it was for the three or four years before Katie went to a residential therapeutic school, and nothing like the family it was a year ago. It keeps changing. I have to keep changing and accepting the changes as they happen. This is difficult, exhausting, stressful, and important work. I have to find my rewards in the little things – my wife and I communicating better, Katie now making some plans for things, Becky wanting to surprise Katie at Katie’s school later this week. This is stuff that looks as if it comes naturally with more typical families. I find I have to just put those thoughts and feelings off into a corner – like placing a brick on a chair – and give my attention, love, caring, to what is here now. To what I need here now and to what the family needs here now.
    There’s always hope. When we were going through the adoption process we nearly lost hope, but our couples therapist said it was her job to keep the hope for us. She still does that from time to time.

    Comment by Christopher Duncan — September 29, 2010 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  8. no words, just hugs for you (and pat and sophie and peter).

    Comment by ani — October 2, 2010 @ 10:03 am | Reply

    • Thanks Ani. I am coming out of my sad shock. Support is a wonderful thing. Our daughter is a truly remarkable, resilient kid. I know we can reach her – its just going to be a little more difficult than I thought. Be well – and thanks again. Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 2, 2010 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

    • Hugs back – thank you 🙂

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 7, 2010 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  9. Dearest Mary,

    You’re accomplishments are too great to list. What you and Pat have done for your children is immeasurable. I am very concerned for Sophie. Her life has been both blessed and so unfair. She will be the focus of my prayers. Never doubt yourself. You give the gift of life to your children on a daily basis. No one could do more.

    Comment by Nancy Crenshaw — October 3, 2010 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  10. I have to say… I am pretty disheartened and horrified by your blog. I was a international adopted child as well. I was adopted by two amazing parents who encouraged me to believe in myself. My parents were not perfect, but wonderful for me. I was diagnosed with ADD and struggled with academics, adolescences, and adoption issues… In addition, I have worked, trained, and volunteered in several orphanages, adoption homes, and foster care around the globe. I have met so many amazing compassion adoptive parents that make me realize that adoption is an amazing gift beyond words.

    Here is what I have to say to you. Your children are not perfect. You are not perfect. All families are not perfect. If they were your biological children would you blame yourself more or less? Would you feel okay with your children if they decided to write a blog about all your mistakes, emotional issues or whatever. One day, your children could perhaps reads this blog… I hope for your sake your children do not learn how to use a computer. I think you need to join a support group for adoptive parents. I really think you need to join outlet to teach people….Consider meditation… Please believe in yourself enough to let go of the past. Love your children, believe in them, and encourage them to find their own passion. I promise it will work out….. But writing about this just sends more negativity out…

    Comment by Keesha — November 6, 2010 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

    • Keesha,

      Thank you for writing, and speaking honestly. I think I do understand how you must feel. I hope you’ve read the whole thing, and not just
      some of the entries, which are snapshots and do not portray the entire story I am wishing to convey. Most people who have read the book
      tell me how the love for our children pours through the pages. I’m sorry you can’t see it and from your perspective, I do think I see why.

      How wonderful that you are still involved in the international adoption community and that you volunteer and give back. What an inspiration.
      I wrote this book to reach out to other parents who may be struggling, like us, and to be honest about both the triumphs and challenges that
      international adoption can present, especially from countries where maternal alcohol consumption is so prominent.

      Having said that, I am taking to heart some of the advice you offered. I do indeed need to learn to just accept each day as it comes, knowing
      I am trying my best. And just so you know, both of our kids know about this book project, and have even had parts of it read to them. I would
      not do this, ever, behind their backs.

      Please write back if you feel like. And thanks again for your honesty. Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — November 10, 2010 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  11. […] September 28 […]

    Pingback by A Family Blogs About Dr. Ronald Federici… « Ronald Federici’s Blog — November 27, 2010 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  12. Just happening upon this blog, I can see where the similarities of my children and Mary’s are. We all do the best that we can with the knowledge and understanding that we have at the time. We all do our best with the feelings that we are not doing our best and at times feel like failures. Many parents of kids like this are very isolated as these kids split authority very well. Most people have absolutely no understanding into this type of child. I would only caution using pictures and real names on the internet as it is a permanent record and there are many creeps out there. I have lost five jobs due to my childrens’ behavior and being called into schools by CPS and the police. Employers automatically presume you are guilty and find reasons to get rid of you. CPS has misquoted, indicted, and chastised me without cause. I have won unemployment from work in each instance and won the CPS case to the extent that all records have been expunged and have come to the conclusion that keeping the kids home is the best for them and me. I wrote a book to educate others into what these kids are really like on a daily basis. My son spent six weeks in residential treatment only to lie to the therapist (and the therapist believed him, and this was the best center); he introverted to the extent that he was self stimulating all day long, he learned how to be much more impulsive and throw tantrums without warning and how to backtalk and question everything in order to manipulate. Being home for the past eight months and working with him has gotten rid of the tantrums and bizarre behavior he has had. The delicate balance of working with him and the other child is tough. Working Dr. Federici’s program with both children alone was nearly impossible. Try not to blame yourself. These kids are highly manipulative and creative. Follow Dr. Federici’s instructions and know that he is there for you no matter what. Never give up as you need to be stronger than your child. My last advice is that no matter what religious belief you have: pray often and have faith.

    Comment by Valle — April 4, 2011 @ 1:07 am | Reply

  13. You’re a parent and with that comes not loss of yourself but a mighty big change that makes you think you’re loosing yourself as it happens quickly. Your children know they love you by how passionate you are in their healing. It’ll show. it may not be obvious now or a year from now but you’ll see progress in the most trying of days and rejoice at the goodness you’ve brought to these kids who need you so desperately.

    Comment by sarahbutland — May 28, 2012 @ 12:57 am | Reply

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