Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Four years ago my husband and I adopted a little girl from Russia through a highly-reputable agency. We had been trying to conceive for close to fourteen years, but were unsuccessful. Being quite older, that was the most time we felt we could wait, we didn’t want adoption agencies to see us more as grandparents then parents. In retrospect, though, it seems as if I was the one doing all the pushing and my husband was coming along for the ride – unwillingly.
Now that I think about it, things were changing even before the adoption, I just didn’t realize it.
Both my husband and I are professionals who met well after establishing our careers. We led very full and interesting lives; we traveled and socialized a lot. We decided to start a family when I was thirty-six and my husband was forty-five. As the years passed, we saw nothing but failure in our attempts to have a child. Finally, the handwriting on the wall was clear – my childbearing years were behind me and our only option was adoption. What I didn’t see was that my husband was not upset each time we faced a failure or loss. He would always reassure me that we were fine being just the two of us, that we had a full and loving life together. I simply wrote it off as his being loving and caring and trying to make me feel better. Now, however, I know differently.
Four years ago, the adoption agency we choose to work with informed us that there was a three-year-old girl waiting for a home. My husband said he could not come with me to Russia, as he was facing a crucial deadline at work. Instead, we made arrangements for someone from the home to fly with her and I met them at the airport. I was both exited and apprehensive about Tanya’s arrival and spent the time preparing her room and buying clothes and toys for the sweet, angelic, blond-haired little angel whose picture was already the background on my computer. My husband did not display the same kind of exuberance or emotion; I wrote it off as pre-parent jitters.
She was placed in my arms, or rather, thrown into my arms by her minder who quickly walked away. I was left holding an angry and screaming child. Thankfully, I had thought to bring along a friend who spoke Russian. She was able to calm her down. Shaken and unnerved, we brought her to my home. Tanya did not want to let go of my friend and had another breakdown when the woman was ready to leave. I tried to sooth her in a language she didn’t understand, telling her it would be all right and that she would learn to love us just as we loved her. I tried to convince myself that it would just take time and she would learn to love us. Then my husband came home.
Those first few days were grueling. She would not eat, cried continuously and refused to be held, touched or comforted. My husband stayed away as much as possible. I took Tanya to the pediatrician for her first check-up and after a harrowing work up the doctor informed me that she may have a hearing disability. He also told me that I had signed up for a tough assignment in adopting a foreign child, that it might be wise for me to consider giving her back before I got too attached to her or my home life and marriage were destroyed. Horrified, I adamantly declared that neither would happen and that I would make it work.
And I did – but at a terrible price. After many weeks, Tanya stopped crying and fighting me, but it was months before she let me hold her hand or hug her. When she started playgroup, she was disruptive and uncooperative, didn’t play with the other children and sat by herself in a corner. It was a year before this changed as well.
To make a long story short, Tanya is seven years old, does not have friends (and doesn’t want any), does not contribute in class and is unresponsive to her teachers and her classmates. And my husband wants nothing to do with her. In fact, he resents me for having disrupted our perfect life. I have given up working to care for Tanya, who did indeed have hearing loss in both ears. Her condition is genetic and we were never told.
Today, she clings to me. She has terrible anger issues and throws tantrums in which I have to stop her from hurting herself or others.
Mrs. Bluth, I am at the end of my ability to cope with this child, at the risk of losing my husband completely and I am suffering both physically and emotionally. I am at a loss as to how to proceed.
Such an absolutely sad state of affairs! My heart goes out to you and this poor little girl. As for your husband, you are probably right that he was never an active player in expanding your family from two to three, Having a child who is, in his eyes, a screaming, aggressive and uncontrollable intruder, probably upsets him tremendously, especially if he was really not in favor of your adopting a child. It’s something you wanted and you signed up for whatever came along with that package. The only party who was truthful and honest was your pediatrician who tried to warn you about the future.
Many children from foreign countries arrive here already badly damaged mentally, emotionally and physically. Many of these children have been shuffled in and out of many homes before they are adopted by idealistic, ignorant childless couples who believe whatever is told to them by the adoption agencies and the infants homes and orphanages abroad. Many adoptive parents have taken these children back to the homes, in an attempt to save their own health and families.
Tanya is undoubtedly such a child, shuffled from home to home, stranger to stranger and, very possibly, suffered at the hands of some brutal people along the way. Because she is viewed, in her home country, as a burden on the government and also as a commodity, she and those children like her will continue to suffer no matter where they end up. And the older the child, the greater the damage.
I understand you are asking me for my opinion, but I cannot give it because what you will take away will be based on my understanding of what you have experienced. And that can be as deadly as second hand smoke. All I can suggest is that if you are thinking that giving her up will heal the damage in your home – assuming that you can – I think you will find that your home life has been seriously damaged. It sounds like your husband has been living his own life while you are a “single mother.” The only thing I imagine would improve is the state of your emotional health – and that is only if you can walk away from Tanya without feelings of guilt, remorse and abandonment.
Nothing will go back to the way it was before this child entered your life, everyone and everything has changed. You will have to work hard at re-establishing your marriage, if there is still a marriage to save. You and your husband will have to seek psychological individual and couples counseling in the months and/or years to come. This has been a life-altering decision that may yield disappointing results based on the damage caused. However, to leave you with some hope, perhaps it will all work out in the end, and, with intensive counseling for Tanya, in conjunction with the aforementioned counseling for yourself and your husband, there may still be hope that a family-in-progress will emerge.