Sunday, January 25, 2009

4 years since I first laid eyes on her

This is the time of year I begin to reflect on where Corazon and I have been and how far we have come (even as I contemplate how far we have left to go.) Four years ago I met Corazon for the first time. The social worker brought her up the stairs and the very first thing that came out of her four year old mouth was "I don't see no cats!!!" with as much attitude as any 4 year old going on 13 can muster. Her face was extraordinarily expressive although looking back I can see that they were all exaggerations of the faces she had seen others make. She was a whirlwind. The brief visit was a blur of Corazon chasing cats, climbing on laps, asking everyone questions and basically "holding court." By coincidence my mom was visiting us for the first time ever in New England so she even got to meet my mom, whom she greeted with "Are you the grandma?" I, of course, was charmed as well by her energy and spunk. At the time I had no idea that she had RAD.
In retrospect it seems that there was a greater plan for me/us because the ONLY three things I had said I was not comfortable accepting in a child were autism, spina bifida, and RAD. In all those cases it was because MA was notorious for not placing additional children in homes that already had one child with these challenges and I was clear that I wanted to adopt more than one child. But of course, sometimes our prayers are answered in a way that is different from what we ask for.
Those first few months were such a mix. She would be a perfect angel one moment and have a total raging, meltdown the next full of "I hate you," "your are not my mother," "don't hug me, " "you are hurting me" and "I am going to kill you." I attributed much of this to normal fears attributable to transition issues. Others, I attributed to feeling unsafe or to returning memories of previous abuse(there was a documented history of neglect but not abuse.) I initially dismissed some of the stolen items I found in her belongings as desire to take souvenirs from her previous foster home and later as things she had been deprived of that she was now stealing from her foster home. I mentioned the behaviors to her social worker who agreed that this was all normal and would dissipate as she felt safer.
A couple of weeks after her arrival I found a butter knife at the bottom of the stairs to my bedroom. (We lived on the second and third floors of my two-family home and her bedroom was on the second floor at the foot of the stairs to my bedroom.) A few days after that I awoke around 3 a.m. to her standing just inside my bedroom (I hadn't heard a thing) and when I asked what she needed she said that she thought the cat was hurt so she had followed it upstairs to my room to see. I took her back down to bed, tucked her in, stayed until she seemed to be resting (she never seemed to be sound asleep due to her hypervigilance) and went back up to bed. The next morning I found a steak knife at the foot of my bed. When I asked her about it she denied knowing anything about it (I hadn't asked about the previous incident.) I reminded her that the kitchen was off limits after bedtime and I made sure that ALL the lights were out in all the rooms/hallways including her nightlight hoping that the dark might deter any future late night wanderings. The next night, my partner, who at the time lived in the apartment downstairs (on the first floor) brought her up at around 1 a.m. to say that she had awoken to find Corazon's standing (on a stool) next to her bed less than a foot away. When questioned by both of us she had no explanation but the next morning we found yet another knife (this one from her kitchen) just under my partner's bed. When I asked her about going downstairs (I didn't mention the knife this time) she conspiratorily informed me that she couldn't tell me in front of C. but that C. had come upstairs while she was sleeping and brought her downstairs and told her to stand on the stool and watch C. sleep. Of course, by then, I knew something else was going on given that we had had our share of lies and storytelling. The other notable thing was that my daughter had left her room on the second floor at the front of the house walked the entire length of our apartment to the back door kitchen (which was closed) walked down the dark backstairs, into C.'s kitchen and all the way to the front of the first floor apartment to find C.'s bedroom. All of this was done in the dark and with no prior knowledge or access to C's apartment. She was 4 and 1/2.
These incidents coupled with her trying to strangle one of the cats ("I was giving it a hug, ") the increased lying, stealing and wandering the house at night until I installed a door alarm led me to raise multiple concerns with her social work who asked that I not raise it publicly because it might complicate the termination hearings that were still taking place in court. She stressed that therapy might help and that began our disastrous journey into play therapy and my ultimate recognition that what my daughter had was RAD.
That all started 4 years ago and while I also have many more recent memories of the progress she has made and the wonderful child she is becoming there are still moments when I flash back to that time as if it happened yesterday.
I have more I want to say about this time but it is hard to be coherent so for now I am going to stop. I have delayed posting this for so long that I need to let it go.

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