Hannah arrived home in December 1997. We’ve been a family for several years now. These journal entries share both the joys and challenges.

26 December 1998, here 13 months
For Christmas, I gave her “The First Seven Years in the Life of Hannah Olga Marie Ward,” her life book. She was appropriately pleased and appreciative. Told me that it was much better than she ever expected. She seemed especially cognizant of the info on the “birth announcement” page where I told her birth weight and height, along with her 1st year milestones i.e. walked at 11 months. She made references over and over to all of that info for several days.

4 August 1999, here 20 months
Hannah called me to her room and said, “Will you snuggle with me? Will you say another prayer with me?” In the midst of my prayer she seemed to snuffle a little bit. I said amen, hugged her, and left the room. A few minutes later she told me, “You know, the reason I cried a little bit during your prayer was because I love you so much that I don’t know how to tell you.”

21 April 2000, 29 months
We made it until 1:30 today before she had a meltdown. Previous to that she had done strong sitting, drawing a picture of spring, picking up her room, strong sitting, practicing softball, grocery shopping, lunch. After lunch, I told her to wipe of the table and she lost it. She hurled herself at me. I said, “I guess you need a big hug.” As I hugged her, she grabbed a huge handful of my hair and pulled some of it out.

14 February 2001
We’re both doing very well! How nice to write that! Hannah feels good about her and I feel good about me. She’s been working very hard on processing her grief and finding a better fit between her past and her present. And me, I’m excited about new plans and projects, and happy about the new me (or maybe it’s the old me that’s finding it’s way back!).

6 March 2001
Hannah continues to do well, with only a few minor “flare-ups” this week. Most of her unsettled moments seemed to relate to her need to be near me, with me, attention from me, affection from me. It’s as if I’ve been trying to fill an empty well for over three years now….but she still needs more. Our therapist commented that as our children begin to heal, they need to be filled with even more love, attention, and affection that is now filling the healed part of them. It’s hard on us as parents because we’re completely bonded to our children, and are getting tired of filling them up, over and over and over…

6 June 2001
I think we’ve survived the transition from end of school to summer. Transitions are hard for most of us, and especially hard for kids diagnosed with RAD (reactive attachment disorder) and post institutionalized kids. Hannah is going to various day camps this summer, but not every day. I’m going to try to work from home and have her here with me two days a week.

8 October 2001
A friend was over for dinner last night and she said, “Hannah just bubbles and is happy all the time.” What a change from 12 months ago when Hannah began her slide into her worst, most violent, wrought up, mean phase. Tonight, she sang to herself as she washed the dishes! This isn’t to say she’s all healed…will any of our children ever be…? Several nights last week, she cried about her early years, about not being born to me, and the hurt inside her.

16 October 2001
Basically, things are moving along rather normally. It’s taken Hannah and me a long time to get to this point. Just living each day. Playing Pictionary together. Watching a video together. Taking a walk. It’s very, very nice!

Written by: Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder).