Giving away pieces of your heart unconditionally is dangerous.
And painful. Very, very painful.
Mariana has such difficult behaviors. First there was the aggression–biting, hitting, pinching, punching, grabbing things roughly.
Breaking things on purpose. Destructive.
The bedwetting. Nightly. Sometimes pooping in her underwear and hiding it.
Refusal to eat anywhere except at our house. (And at first, not even at home, or at all!)
Outright fear of strangers. Refusing to go into someone else’s home, instead standing outside and screaming the entire time we would try to visit, or crying on the couch after being forcefully carried inside.
Laughing too loud, like a sitcom audience, at everything.
What could be the problem here? So much trouble functioning and performing basic daily tasks. Something is off. What? Why?
Then, the lightbulb went off.
What thing are these things all a sign of? Am I really this dense?
It has become overtly clear over the past few days.
Mariana and I are in the bedroom and she’s helping me put a diaper on baby Henry. She adores the baby and has never, ever shown any of her typical aggressive behavior towards him.
I turn around to pick up Henry’s shorts. One second, a blink. I turn back around and she is putting her mouth over his penis.
My heart sinks.
I’m not worried about Henry. One second of awkward touching he will never in his life remember.
But Mariana. Why sweetheart, what are you doing? No, don’t do that.
I am firm, serious, but gentle. She laughs too loud. I put my arm around her. I can feel her heart racing under her bony chest.
I wonder if maybe she is just being impulsive and it’s a coincidence she chose his penis. I vow to watch her more closely, and give her even more love.
Over the next few days I see her make more attempts at inappropriate touching. Only of the baby. Never sneaky, but innocently. I never leave her alone with him, and now I’m keeping a diaper and shorts glued to his chubby bum at all times.
Then I’m kissing her goodnight. She always kisses the baby goodnight too. I turn to Misha to give him a kiss, and turn back around to see that she is pushing the baby’s head into her crotch with her legs spread open and she’s laughing too loudly again.
Thank God she has on pants.
Misha covers up his head with his blanket.
I scoop up the baby and hug Mariana. She grabs me as tightly as she can. She’s squeezing me, her fingers are white. She doesn’t want to let go, but the baby is squirming and crying so I can’t lay there right now and hold her like she desperately needs. There is only one of me. Tyler is at work.
She loves playing with dolls, and coloring, and helping take care of the real baby. She loves rainbows, horses, and swimming in the pool.
And some man has ruined her for life by putting his penis in her mouth.
Imagining it happening is horrifying.
I can feel her baby soft cheek against my cheek. Her sweet little lips, she kisses first one of my cheeks and then the other, and then my lips quickly. We make eye contact for a second. Her eyes are a light brown, dancing with happiness, and she giggles while she tucks her face into my neck.
At first I am angry. What kind of person does this to an innocent child? Why? Why?
Then the next thought follows quickly behind the first angry thoughts. A person who does this used to be that innocent child who was abused. The cycle of abuse continues on.
It’s all too horrible.
What words are there for these feelings I have?
I keep smiling for the kids. I keep doing the chores, and playing with them, holding their hands, and kissing their boo-boos and acting as if nothing is wrong.
But really all I want to do is go somewhere alone and cry.
Cry for a very long time. Until my eyes swell shut, and I choke on snot, and fall asleep.
Then when I wake up with blurry eyes and a terrible headache maybe I will realize that this was all just a dream. This trouble-making little pixie bounced into my life, but she was never sexually abused. When I wake up, maybe sexual abuse will no longer exist in the world.
Unfortunately that can’t be.
My only desperate hope is that this abuse occurred in her past.
Please God, let her new foster home with the sweet older lady we talk to on Skype weekly be a safe place for them.
I will probably never be able to find out for sure, but the thought of sending her back to the abuser is unbearable.
Of course I’ve already reported it to the organization, and it will go in her file. But this is Ukraine we’re talking about. No one will care. She’s one of 100,000 orphans in Ukraine, in a country embattled in a war with Russia.
I want to tuck her under my wing forever. I want to take her to therapy. She’s nine years old and she can’t read her own name because she’s never been to school. I want to teach her to read, and write, and watch her blossom.
But I can’t do any of that, because she isn’t mine to keep. She is only mine for a season. A short period of time.
I’m not sure where to go from here.
I keep saying that, don’t I?