Lily Was the Valley Excerpt: Screaming

No one told us about the screaming.

In the early stages, still filling out paperwork, I thought the hard part would be simply accomplishing this thing called adoption. But paperwork proved to be nothing to the war our daughter brought into the house. Struggle personified itself in the wiry body of a screaming girl who launched a campaign to take over our world.

I had taken no courses and done little reading. My realm had been the paperwork, and I plowed through it with due diligence and left the nurture stuff to my wife. I judged myself prepared—I was hardly a candidate for a class on how to be a dad; I was not in the “clueless new parent” category—but I was mistaken.

Nothing debilitates quite like being clueless about your own cluelessness. Somehow I missed the memo that adoption difficulties often stretch for years beyond finalization. Somehow I hadn’t learned that negligible touch and scant nurture in the first year of life can affect the human brain. I had never heard the words sensory, processing, and disorder together in one sentence. I’d had no reason to think about neurotransmitters or synapses since college biology. I had not one clue that the cerebral health of our new little family member might be something I should concern myself with.

Our difficulties with paperwork and waiting would fade to nostalgia.

I never dreamed there could be significant differences in rearing adopted versus biological children, but even once those differences had walloped me over the head, I was still ignorant about what to do about them. Doors onto life-giving adoptive theory were only opened to us years later when we got involved in our second adoption. Meanwhile, our first three months of adoptive life were difficult beyond expectation—exponentially so. Those three months got seared into memory. Having been a dad three times already counted for almost nothing.

The screams were bloodcurdling. Three hours, every night. I hear them still. They could start at seven and finish at ten, or start at nine and finish at midnight. Occasionally it seemed wiser to keep her up later to tire her. In reality it only meant starting at eleven and finishing at two, so we tried it seldom. There were no days off: seven nights each week, three hours each night, like clockwork.

And being down, we decided we might as well give ourselves a swift kick: cleft palate surgery. There was no mad rush, but we’d already booked it one month after our daughter’s homecoming. Now we wouldn’t only have an inconsolable child unable to receive comfort, we would have an inconsolable child in physical pain unable to receive comfort…


So begins Chapter Three.

If I happen to be unavailable for thinking and writing on a particular week (and I’m not available this week because my parents have just arrived from Chicago for a visit!), I might stick in a short book excerpt from time to time rather than leave this space un-updated.

Hope you enjoyed it. 🙂