Thursday, July 26, 2012

From Africa to Normal in Seven Easy Steps

1. Come home a zombie. Survivors guilt. Inability to talk about it. Get rid of half your stuff.

2. Start talking. Realize others don't want to listen. Lose PC filter. Lose friends.

3. Isolation/ despair. Rely heavily on internet community of fellow re-intry participants.

4. Rage. Realize you need real people in your life. Try. Find self highly judgmental. Self-loathing. Pretend you are normal and buy something you don't need just to see if it helps. (It doesn't) Hate yourself for it.

5. Despondency. Go back to internet community for sanity's sake. Realize they are just as screwed up as you. Discuss partnering with an NGO in your children's village. Hit many dead ends. Experience profound loneliness even when in the presence of people. Husband leans over at night and whispers sweet nothings such as, "You are being really weird."

5b: Become slightly paranoid. (From one of aforementioned screwed up internet peeps.)

6. Find self inexplicably sobbing over the goats at the fair. Decide it is because you live in a place where 10 year olds can raise goats for fun while half the world would consider a goat a financial windfall. Find self inexplicably crying at the county fair parade. Decide it is because your new 7yo must be so confused to be at a place where you line up on the side of the road and people throw a pound of candy at you just for fun. Or maybe the ease and simplicity of living in small town America. Thank God for sunglasses and the 108 temps that make it look like sweat. Realize very few people will even notice.

7. I don't know this step. I'm hoping someone else does and can share it. Or maybe, to quote my sister (or maybe her husband), "I'm beginning to think this is what normal is supposed to be."


K said...

oh i'm so there. inexplicable crying. constant heartache. loneliness. so maybe we really do need to be neighbors. then we can at least be lonely together. i have no answers.

Micah said... other feel loneliness after adopting. I really thought I was going insane. Maybe I am! Home three months with two baby boys (9 mo and 11 mo). Plus 3 bio.

Desiree said...

you guys are not alone - Don't have a step seven as I am still lost in steps 4 5, 5b, & 6. Truth is I have been lost in those steps for 4 years, maybe it is normal.

Angie Sigl said...

I've been home with my first child (I'm 43 years old) who is 17 months for 3 months now. I have felt everything you just wrote and then some. On top of which, we've been so desperately ill on and off the entire time I wanted to check into the ER just so one doctor would take me seriously. People don't get it. They think you bought yourself a pretty baby so deal with it. I worry my child will have no friends because even my friends with kids don't seem to want to introduce them to my child at any point because we've had freaking parasites on and off the entire time.
I watch mothers come home from the hospital with their babies and the way the people respond around them and I find myself completely depressed and resentful. Our freezer broke the day before we arrived home (with all my months worth of freezer meals to get us through) My sister put out a request for meals on social media. 3 people responded (and I adore all three of them and will never forget that).

This week the dryer broke and I thought I was going to run screaming naked around the block for help. I had reached the end.

Friends, be friends. Come over with a bottle of wine and a box of tissues. Sometimes that's all we need. But come over. Call. Text. Pretend you understand. Anything.

We did not "buy a pretty child". We took out loans that will take us a long time to pay back. We can't drop everything and go out to eat or to a movie. We came home with things living inside of us that would make your skin crawl, but unless you change my adult diaper, you will not catch it. We traveled not once, but twice to a foreign country. We waited for months and months, not sleeping just hoping to see one glimpse of our kids in a photo that a kind person took while they were in Ethiopia. We lived on that. We wept and went crazy and wore ourselves out. We go to doctors and they have no clue what's wrong with us or our children so we stay up all night diagnosing ourselves.

We have children who, no matter how young, have nightmares at night that you can't explain. Who go to complete strangers rather than their mother. Who have gained 2 lbs in 6 months. We spend hours and hours learning just the right way to do their hair.

We go out to the supermarket and get wierd looks. We get unsolicited advice about our kids in public places. We get complete stranger walking up and taking photos of our kids to put on the internet because they're so cute (I mean who the heck does that? If I walked up to your white kid without your permission and did that you'd call the cops) Strangers will try to pick up my child or play with her hair. And yes we asked for it, prepared for it, wanted it and wouldn't trade it for the world. Some of us would even go back and do it again. But we are lonely and weak and we need our friends. What we have left of them.

And to my small group of friends who have been there for me, some every step of the way, and others more recently, I love you with all my heart. When two of my friends showed up the other day and told me to sit down while they cooked and played with my baby because I was too sick. I just sat there and bawled my face off. The chicken soup Erin made was the best thing I ever ate. I love you all.

Rant over. As you were sisters.:) xoxoxox

Meehan Five said...

7. Sell it all and move to Ethiopia. We'll be there in December...hopefully for good. Best of luck to you. I'm not sure I could have mastered the re-entry without this being our plan.

Wendi said...

I tried to think of something encouraging. I know it's hard. God blessed you and then asked you to bless someone else. And you did. You rock. Love ya.

Anonymous said...

So been there, three times. In time it has gotten better for me- but I am forever not the same person I used to be, and I am beyond thankful for that. I will never forget what all we take for granted here and the struggles that life is there, elsewhere. I found it most helpful to figure out how my family can make a difference in Ethiopia; we raise money for treated mosquito bed nets for the area where our daughters were born- without that I'm not sure how I would do it, the re-entry into my life part. I day dream about doing the radical; selling everything and moving this day when I close my eyes and I can still smell Africa with a longing my my heart.

Anonymous said...

So, there are lots of things that can happen next. I hope a couple of them don't happen to you. One: become overwhelmed with busy-ness (after all, the world here is still turning and you have a new addition to your family) and the busy-ness causes you to forget. You slip back into the comforts of privileged life, and you forget what you saw in Africa. Two: compassion fatigue. You read, you research, you look for ways to help. Nobody at home cares and they think you talk about Africa too much. You become overwhelmed at the work remaining and at the lack of support from everyone you know nearby. You throw up your hands. There are too many causes, too many problems. May neither of those scenarios happen to you. May you always grieve when you see hungry people. May you always grieve when you see excess here. May your heart remain vulnerable. I'm leaving for my 7th trip to Africa in a week. I miss that dust, those cooking spices, the orange fanta in glass bottles, the chanting in the churches and mosques. I want to be there long term within 5 years, but I want to do so wisely, with humility, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Bless you on your journey, and may your compassions never fail.

Megan said...

I understand this. Having lived in a third world country for five years, I've been down this road, but we're on the other side now... be thankful for the life God placed you in, and ask for His leading in how to be responsible with what He's given you. Because it's all His, whether it's a three figure salary and three cars in the driveway, or a one-room house and a bicycle. It's all His. We all have a responsibility to use our stuff and our life for His glory. Let go of the guilt. He gave you what you have to use for Him! : )


Good post.

missy roepnack said...

So in love with this post AND Sigl's reply, which made me pee my adult diaper. Wow it felt good to read this. I can totally hear Brent's voice whispering how weird you are in your ear. :) Keep the list running.