Thankfully, the nighttime grieving sessions have seemingly disappeared. Johanna whimpers sometimes as we get ready for bed or naptime, but as long as I stay with her until she falls asleep, she does okay. She no longer calls out for Nainai or has extended crying times in the evenings. Those times were hard to watch, as she was obviously so sad, so I'm glad we've moved beyond those.
|She was super excited about her new outfit |
and shoes. She shouted "Johanna!"
happily when she saw them!
And then there are the meltdowns. They seem to happen if we push her too far too fast, like the one that happened after a hike last weekend. We thought getting outside in the beautiful weather would be good for her, and that it wouldn't involve dealing with other people or an overstimulating environment. The start of it was great, but we probably expected her to walk too far for too long. Even though we carried her for a lot of the hike, by the end of it, she had definitely had enough. She passed out on the ride home, and when we got out of the car and brought her inside, she lost her mind...writhing on the floor, screaming, crying, kicking the ground, hitting herself, stuffing her socks in her mouth, etc. Zack and I basically sat on the floor next to her and tried to stop her from hurting herself until she finally let us hold her about thirty minutes into the meltdown.
These types of meltdowns are not uncommon for adopted children, especially ones who were adopted at an older age like Johanna. It's part of the grieving process, combined with her body becoming dysregulated from overstimulation. She probably also has some sensory issues from lack of exposure. Throw in fear and frustration from communication difficulties, and you have a recipe for disaster that could strike at any moment! She can look like she's doing just fine in the moment, but we end up "paying for it" later, sometimes not until she gets home from an activity.
|This is her silly side!|
The term for this time period in the adoption world is "cocooning," which is exactly what it sounds like. It's the idea that it's best for your newly adopted child to stay home and limit interactions with others as much as possible for a few weeks or months. It's all about keeping things simple and not overstimulating her, while she gets more comfortable and learns who her family members are and that they are her "inner circle." Like a caterpillar in its cocoon, the hope is that when she is ready, she can go out into the world like a beautiful butterfly, confident and secure in her attachments and ready to embrace new experiences and meet new people.
She is starting to get comfortable with a few of our outings. Johanna knows that bringing Jonas to school and picking him up afterward is part of our daily routine. He likes to play with his friends out front afterward, and Johanna just stands next to me or wants to be held. But the minute all the other kids leave, she's perfectly willing to run around with Jonas! Johanna handled this week's gymnastics class okay, though she still wanted nothing to do with participating. We also went to an art class that I had signed her up for months ago, and I told the teacher and other adults in the class to basically ignore her (like avoid interacting with her). Thankfully, they were understanding and obliged. Ah, the weird requests we adoptive parents have to make! She wanted to sit in my lap (which was fine) and didn't say a word, but she seemed to have fun making the clay owl project with me. She also did okay sitting next to me watching a movie on the iPad with her headphones on at my MOPS meeting this week. We've had a few others errands that needed done this week, and since Zack was back at work, she had to come with me. She did okay, as long as I kept her close and kept others away!
|This was taken within an hour of that dreadful blood draw.|
Another interesting emotional aspect to Johanna is her reaction to pain. The other day, Johanna got nine vials of blood drawn at the pediatrician's office. It was for various things like a lead test, seeing which immunizations she still needs or needs again, etc. Her veins are super small, so it took a few pokes to find one that worked. Johanna had a few tears in her eyes, but that was it. No screaming, no crying, nothing. The nurses were amazed. They kept remarking that she was the best behaved four-year-old they had ever seen, and they couldn't believe that she didn't cry. Little did they know that this was not a good thing.
|Loving her headband and the |
Valentine's Day painting craft!
We've actually had to "teach" Johanna that it's okay to react to pain and call out for help. She's learned the word "owie," and we shower her with hugs and kisses after she gets hurt. While she still doesn't necessarily cry real tears in these instances, she at least comes to us now and tells us where her owie is and likes the attention we give as a result. She also comes and tells us if Jonas gets an owie!
This lack of emotion in response to pain might seem in direct opposition to her extreme meltdowns I described earlier. However, they are two totally separate things. One is a learned response from years of neglect and institutionalization, even if her caretakers were doing the best they could. The other is a primal reaction to being taken away from everything she knows and loves and placed in a new world where things are overstimulating and frightening. Her body doesn't know how to react, so it just goes into meltdown mode. She almost becomes a different person at that point, unrecognizable from the usually sweet and silly girl we've come to know. It's very hard to witness, and there's nothing we can do except be there for her when she's ready to come out of it.