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Moms Know Moms Interview: Tammia Prottsman

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ICEBREAKER:  If you could live anywhere in the world and make a good living doing whatever made you happy, where would it be, and what would you be doing?  Hmmm…well, it would definitely involve a beach with the option of traveling often to all sorts of different places.  Maybe a beach studio where I could sew—overlooking the ocean and sand.

Tell us a little bit about your blog’s name “Red Thread Love” and its significance to you.

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.”
(adapted from an ancient Chinese proverb) 
My blog started out as a way to update friends and family during our adoption process, hence the basis of the title.  But it’s really a great way to think about love and life in general…an invisible, unbreakable bond and connection between those we love.

I know that you’re a crafty mom. I’ve seen everything from clothes, to quilts, to home décor on your site. Is sewing your only creative outlet or do you have others?   Sewing is my creative outlet of choice because of the low time to completion ratio.  I enjoy knitting and crocheting (I have a granny square afghan in its final, struggling stages) and even some embroidery, but all of those things only get done in the car on road trips.  Time consuming, slooow completion.  I choose simple clothes to sew for my kids and sometimes myself, simple quilts, things that give you that “yay-I-completed-it feeling” with not a ton of invested time.  I love to thrift, too, which is a different creative, hmmm-what-could-I-do-with-that outlet.  But we live in a tiny, stuffed-to-the-gills house, so….really no need for me to bring more things home.

Your oldest daughter is learning to sew. Is this something that she gravitated toward on her own or did you encourage her?  My daughter is definitely a creative little girlie…with her specialty being creative play and funny little drawings.  My sewing machine is in the play room, so she’s definitely grown up listening to the hum of the machine.  It’s probably a combination of her interest and my hoping (and a suggestion to her grandmas to get her a machine for her birthday).  While I’d like my kids to pick their own interests, I definitely have an influence (and you bet I’m going to encourage sewing!).  I’m curious to see if my son will pick up sewing…he’s more interested in how the machine works, so you never know!

While you share some of your crafty adventures on your blog from time to time, you originally set your blog up to document your adoption journey. From the beginning of your journey until now,  how has your life and that of your family’s changed?

Enriched is the first word that pops into my head.  It has been a growing experience, most definitely, which means things have been complicated at times…and painful and confusing.  But adding this 3rd little child to our family, with a completely different heritage and life story, has been a whirlwind combined with a new kind of love I had never before experienced.

As an experienced mother prior to adoption, was there anything with regard to parenting that you felt you weren’t prepared for or anything in the experience of growing your family that you didn’t expect?

I’m a researcher and a googler and I like to be prepared.  I felt like I went into our adoption experience with my eyes wide open…I’d read so many attachment books, articles, blog posts, yahoo groups, etc.  We attended a mandatory weekend class put on by our adoption agency which discussed how attachment is affected for hurting children.  I had talked extensively with my adopted brother and sister to get their adult adoptee experience.  I was aware of and embraced the potential challenges and unknowns.

But still.

It is one thing to read and think and accept ahead of the fact, but it is another thing altogether to be living the challenge.  To be slapped in the face with feelings and emotions and challenges which come out of nowhere and leave you reeling with questions.  Just as each biological child has their own unique birth and life story, I feel like people’s experiences with adoption vary widely.  Speaking for myself, it was a somewhat confusing and where-do-I-fit feeling when I entered into motherhood with a colicky newborn.  But many/most things came easily and the fierce mama love and desire to protect was there from the beginning.  I’m realizing how perfect God planned everything from conception to pregnancy to birth to feeding  and  meeting every need of a helpless, dependent, adorable baby.  Your  own precious, miraculous baby.

It’s a whole different sort of gestation with adoption…seemingly endless paperwork and waiting and who-knows and unanswered assumptions.  Much, so much, is out of your control, and that was hard for the planning and googling side of me.  You see a face, a sweet little sober face in a picture (or a few, if you’re lucky) and after the waiting and crazy amount of miscellaneous necessary paper trail is completed, that little face is a reality and that child is placed in your arms.  It becomes one of those surreal moments, much like childbirth, where you remember many of those immediate details.  But this isn’t a newborn and this child has faced things you may never know. Most importantly that perfectly planned cycle of conception to babyhood is interrupted and broken.

While I was prepared for the attachment difficulties in my child, and knew many of the red flags to look for in her, I was completely caught off-guard by the nagging “I’m babysitting this child” feeling.  It scared me and stressed me and the words of other adoptive parents, “Don’t worry, it feels exactly the same”  kept ringing in my heart and made me feel inadequate and lacking.  Because it didn’t feel exactly the same and I felt like there was something missing and I was shocked by the grief I felt.  I strongly took on the feeling of loss my little girl was surely feeling…loss of a birth mother, several foster mothers, a country, a language, delicious food, and a culture.  I cried when our plane left Hong Kong because I somehow felt like I was intentionally leaving an important piece of my daughter behind.  The brokenness side of adoption hit me full force and I cringed every time someone said, “she’s so lucky.”

But as with many hard things, there is beauty in redemption and brokenness.  I looked at my little girl and was humbled with gratitude for her little life and her addition to our family.  Every child deserves a family and while adoption isn’t rainbows & butterflies, it’s the complexity and depth of love which stretches the heart to new depths.  It took my daughter almost one year before she called me “mama.”  A couple days ago we surprised her and showed up at her preschool.  Her reaction:  a great big breath and a loudly screamed “mama” as she flew into my arms.  We’ve come a long way in almost two years.

How have you managed the changes and adjustments?

Frequent prayers of desperation mixed with thankfulness.  Patience with myself and my daughter when things aren’t going so wonderfully smooth.  There are many behavioral challenges we deal with at home, which most people don’t see.  Things that worry my mama heart and I’m not sure I’d even notice if I didn’t have two older children.  I have been greatly encouraged by other adoptive moms who have openly shared their heart on their blogs—posts which made me vigorously nod my head with tears streaming.  Talking to my mom, my sisters, and my friends helps me process and make sense of my emotions.  But in the almost two years since our daughter has joined our family, there has been a slow and steady depth of love that has taken root and our family rhythm has been re-established and the changes and adjustments melt away into our new normal.  And life is richer.

For families considering adoption or going through the process now, what advice would you give them in preparation for the journey ahead?

I highly encourage everyone considering adoption to read, read, read.  Read everything adoption-related you can get your hands on, research attachment & bonding, and talk to as many adoptive parents as possible.  If you are adopting internationally, be aware and read up on racial identity, racism, mixed-race families and how it impacts you and your child.  Realize how important heritage is on a developing self-esteem—and how that self-esteem may be affected by a loss of heritage.  Trust and love take time to develop and deepen.  Be prepared for challenging behavior but above all, be patient.  With everyone involved.  It’s an honor and sometimes overwhelming responsibility to love and nurture a child born to someone else.  Accept that tension, remember the birth parents, and love and cherish the precious child you’ve been entrusted with.  Be prepared for a new kind of love, unique in its complexity…a depth I’m only beginning to understand.

 

Thank you Tammia!

If you’d like to learn more about Tammia or just say “Hello”, follow this link to her site Red Thread Love.

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