In her new memoir, Tina Traster chronicles adopting a Russian child whose mercurial mood swings turned out to be a common problem among orphans from the Far East.
We are driving down the New Jersey Turnpike on a raw Sunday morning in March. Julia is snuggled in her car seat asleep, her chest rising and falling gently. Her papery eyelids flutter. Finally, some peace for her. For me. For Ricky.
When Julia’s awake, she’s a constant symphony of sound. Not words, of course, but an ongoing emission of verbal fragments. Her mouth is always open. She is never pensive. She doesn’t lounge with a faraway look in her eye. Transitioning from motion to stillness requires relinquishing control, but to do so, Julia would need to fundamentally believe the world is a safe place. Something in her wiring has taught her that relaxing her defenses is dangerous. When I’m in a high state of anxiety, I fear sleep, too. Staying awake tricks me into believing I can ward off danger or control the outcome of whatever is plaguing me simply by turning the issues over in my mind a thousand times. It’s a fallacy, but that’s how you think when you believe you are alone, that the world is a quickly shifting, unreliable place where bad things happen. I know how I got there, but why does my baby behave like that?