Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sometimes it hits me head on...

Ambrose is 11 months. In just under 4 weeks he'll be reaching his first birthday, a major milestone for all of us. He's growing like a weed, a plump, fast, talkative and utterly adorable weed, and oh God how I love this child!

But some days I stare at him and think "a year is just so young!" And I start to become emotional.

I wasn't sure why.

I told myself "some people wean at a year. I originally thought I'd wean at a year. I just couldn't do that." And maybe that was why I was emotional. And I told myself "some people consider him a toddler at a year. They start to parent very differently." And I told myself "some people turn around the car seats at a year, even with a higher risk of injury."

You see, even though the "One Year" milestone makes me a bit weepy for the loss of the baby age, there was something else, something lurking. Something just kept getting to me, niggling in the back of my mind that a one year old is just so, so, so little.

And then I remembered.


He was a year old when he was orphaned.

And that realization took my breath away.


Look at this child, 11 months old. Now, imagine him living in a poor nation, born to poor parents. Imagine him smaller, because food was scarce and breast milk was dwindling. Imagine him dirtier, as they didn't have running water. Imagine him without medical care, without band aids and Neosporin. Imagine him without a sound machine and night light and clean sheets. Imagine him in a small mud hut with goat droppings on the floor.

And beyond that, imagine him losing us. Having the food supply slowly run dry. Having his mother sob because she didn't have enough milk for him and he was so, so hungry. I can just take more domperidone or even run to the store for formula. I have the clean bottles here. She had nothing. And Paxton remembers her crying while trying to feed him, and he remembers the hunger. He shouldn't remember that, but children who've been through severe trauma often remember things before 12 months. Imagine Ambrose going through it. Imagine him remembering it, clearly, for the rest of his life.


Imagine Ambrose and Paxton leaving our home after our deaths, going to a new home with a family member. Imagine them trying to fit in amongst their grief. Imagine Ambrose fighting for food with a cousin. Imagine him learning to walk and crawl and smile and laugh, while at the same time learning to adjust to a new home.

Now imagine him older, walking, or toddling rather. Imagine that life is still hard, food is still scarce, but he's finally starting to make sense of it all and finally fitting in.

Now imagine these two brothers being ripped apart. Imagine Ambrose never seeing Paxton again. Imagine him going several hours away to an orphanage with several dozen children and other languages.

Imagine what that would do to a child.


Now older, now warier, imagine him alone in a crowd. Refusing food. Refusing comfort. Losing weight. Imagine him finally starting to adjust, again, just a bit, just starting to trust, and then suddenly....

There are people there who look nothing like him, possibly nothing like anyone he's ever seen before. They don't speak his language, don't understand him and can't be understood by him. They smell different. And they take him away from his third home.

Sure, they provide things. They give him a warm bed and lots of food and medical care and toys. They cuddle and sing and read to him. They help him to grow, help him to adjust yet again, help him to integrate for a 3rd time.

But really... how could you expect a fairy tale ending?

Oh, sure, the accepted mindset is that kids will be fine, and likely he will be "fine" as he grows. He'll grow and mature and live a great life.

But at the back of his mind there'll always be fear, always anxiety.

When the very fabric of your existence is built on loss, on grief, on despair, how could you ever been 100% over that?

And as much as I'd love to believe that there will ever be a time when Paxton's previous life won't in any way matter to him, won't in any way interfere with his current or future life...

I look at the tiny baby in my arms. I imagine him, so bonded to us, losing us. Being shuffled around. Being made to integrate. Losing Paxton. Losing America. Losing English. Losing the foods he loves and the culture he knows.

I imagine him going through even a tiny bit of what Paxton's been through and I realize, my God, my older son must be one of the strongest people I know because even trying to fathom it brings tears to my eyes.

In the US we worry about birth trauma and sleep training trauma and early weaning trauma and spanking trauma. We worry about things that, in the grand scheme of things, are so insignificant, and yet so specifically significant. And if such small, momentary matters can have such a great significance over one's life, then what about Paxton? What about his life? What about his trauma, so much greater than that of the vast majority of children in the US?

I do believe he will grow up alright, that he'll be a happy and successful boy, that he'll persevere.

But at the same time....

My God... how could such a tiny, teensy, innocent little child be forced to go through so much... how can we let this happen...

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