When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

October 26, 2010

October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Picking (October 17, 2010)

October 25, 2010.  Happy Adoption Day to us!  Six years ago today, we vowed in a Russian court of law to love and cherish two orphans now and forever known as Sophia Katherine and Peter Thomas.  I think we’ve done a pretty good job honoring that pledge, if I do say so myself.  I’ve read so much about adopted kids’ struggles with identity, grief, and loss, how they so often wind up thinking they weren’t wanted by their birth parents and were merely a consolation prize, of sorts, for their adoptive parents, couples who, like us, may have dealt with infertility.  How my heart aches for these children, and how I hope ours are able to work through those doubts and realize just how much they are prized.  Sophie and Peter are my heart and soul, the reason I fight battles with impassioned zeal, when necessary, and celebrate our triumphs, big and small, with fervent enthusiasm.  They are why I constantly practice becoming the mother and role model they so fervently deserve, and why I crash, sometimes hard, from the exhaustion the effort so often produces.  But despite the hardships that litter the course, theirs are the only faces I see whenever in a quiet moment I escape into the private recesses of my own thoughts and envision a more traditional means of forming a family.  If they had been ours from conception, I like to believe life would be easier for them, and also for Pat and me, but then maybe that’s nothing more than lousy fiction and fanciful thinking.  Our children are who they are because of the myriad influences in their lives, both pre- and postnatal.  Their pasts are as fixed and unalterable as the color of their eyes and yet still we fight to help them shed the heavy cloak of their early experiences.  And that’s okay, I suppose, and certainly our obligation.  But today we celebrate not who our children were but who they are and might become, who we are together as a family, and how fortunate we are that technology, an increasingly global community, and timeless desire have brought the four of us together in a chaotically wonderful union that sustains itself through hope, determination, humor, and humility.  No one is perfect in our family, least of all me, but we are improving, individually and as a unit.  One of the great gifts that the kids – especially Peter, have given Pat and me is the desire to stretch the limits of our patience, to deepen our capacity for kindness, and to strengthen our collective will to succeed, allowing us to overcome obstacles that once seemed too formidable realistically to even broach.  Six years ago, Peter constantly screamed at me, whenever I came near or even risked establishing eye contact; otherwise, he preoccupied himself with repeating the same bit of jibberish over and over, like a scratched vinyl record.  This time four years ago, Peter was spitting on me, stealing my most cherished possessions, vomiting purposely at the dinner table, injuring himself and Sophie, sometimes without any provocation, and had no inkling how to approach or interact with other children.  Two years ago, he still didn’t trust us, his speech was nearly indecipherable, his muscles ached so badly there were days he couldn’t walk, and he was kicked out of Irish step dance, karate, tennis, and swim lessons due to behavioral concerns.  Now, at age 9, Peter is a polite and mostly happy child, he looks to us, especially me, for support and guidance, he’s healthy as a horse, finally in an appropriate school setting, has an amazing best friend, and plays soccer and participates on the swim team.  On our Adoption Day six years ago in Birobidzhan, I dreamed so many dreams for Peter, but then subsequently, as reality set in over the weeks and months that followed, I watched these dreams for my son fade into the obscure darkness of terrifying diagnoses and my own wild imagination.  How remarkable, then, to see them resurrected, not perfectly envisioned the way only dreams can be, but played out on the real stage of our lives, accomplishments fought for and won, affections systematically sought and acquired, skills always, always, a work in progress but now with a predictable, reassuring, forward momentum.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing perfect about our household, not even close.  Even Our Happy Adoption Days are difficult, especially for Sophie, a fact I used to allow myself to discount as mere coincidence.  Thanks again to Dr. Federici, I now more clearly understand that she struggles deeply with profound issues of preverbal trauma and that she misbehaves, actually sabotages this particular family celebration, not so much out of spite or ugliness, but out of fear, confusion and insecurity.  Today’s intended celebration is no exception, but given how far we’ve come with Peter, I know we can help her too.  In fact, Peter intervened directly today to protect against my growing melancholy over Sophie’s reaction to the marking of this milestone.  As she was fussing over this and that and everything in between, Peter took the time to write me a note.  It read as follows:  “Sary mommy I hope y fele beter”.  And then he drew a heart with a smiley face below the writing.  He may not know it, but my precious little boy gave me the best Happy Adoption Day gift I could ever hope to receive.



  1. Hi Mary,
    As ever your family life is lovely and difficult all at once. Which, on reflection, I think is just like everyone else’s family life – only more so.

    Comment by Christopher Duncan, M.S., M.Ed., Education Advocate — October 26, 2010 @ 8:32 am | Reply

  2. Counting blessings, milestones, and “progress” is often the best way to appreciate the “here and now” and the “where we were.” 🙂 I adore reading your posts as they are almost a ghost-writer account of my own life and I love your ability to convey your experiences with such grace. Happy Adoption Day to you, Mary! Hugs to your precious family. <3, amy

    Comment by amy dorsey — October 26, 2010 @ 8:50 am | Reply

    • Thank you so much, Amy. This blog/book project, whatever happens with it, has been such a positive, uplifting experience for me. I hope you too have time to reflect on how far you’ve brought your children, as I’ve no doubt you have. It does indeed help to step back and look at the big picture. Hugs – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 27, 2010 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  3. Peter put a heart on his note to you? Wow… I love it!:)

    Sophie sounds so much like my Ani…

    Comment by Lori — October 26, 2010 @ 9:49 am | Reply

  4. I’m sorry I forgot to send you Happy Adoption Day wishes yesterday. Ours was also yesterday. Yep, October 25, 2004 in Kaliningrad, Russia. We took custody of Duncan that evening but did not get Gabby till the following day. I hope this year brings you many more blessings. Gabby and your Peter are similar as are Duncan and your Sophie. I’m scared to take Duncan in for testing like you have with Sophie. He is also younger and “neurotypical” but he learns from & mimicks Gabby in many things. 😦 He also lives with her craziness and wildness. Blessings to you from someone who is living a very similar life.

    Comment by Laurel — October 26, 2010 @ 10:14 am | Reply

    • Wow – what a nice coincidence. I hope you had a great day. Ours was trying, as always, so we just tried again yesterday (I even made another cake . . .). I can’t give up on these guys and when they blow one moment, I try to make sure they have another chance (and soon). Its a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. I can understand your feelings re getting Duncan tested – we were terrified to take Sophie – and then, we were overwhelmed and incredibly saddened by the results, but for me, knowing is better than not knowing. Everyone is different, though, so I am sure you will make the best decision for your family. And like your son, our daughter picks up so many negative behaviors from Peter – you would think her more “typical” behaviors would rub off on him, but it just doesn’t seem to work that way! It’s so great figuring out we aren’t totally alone in the world with these kids, though, isn’t it?

      So Happy Belated Adoption Day to you, Laurel, and thanks so much for writing. Mary 🙂

      Comment by whenrainhurts — October 27, 2010 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

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