- up at 4:45, locate contacts
- 4:49 shower
- 5:07 get dressed; rescue hair and face
- 5:25 review seminary lesson
- 5:45 wake up 3 big kids, tell them to get ready
- 5:50 wake up the kids who fell back to sleep and tell them to get ready again
- 6:00 tidy house
- 6:10 family devotional and scripture study
- 6:30- teach seminary
- 7:20 scramble to finish hair, sign school forms, find coats, wake up little boys and get them ready
- 7:35 start the school drop offs
- 7:50 sit in the car for 20 minutes until I can drop last kid off
- 8:25 get boys home, feed them
- all before 9 am, people.
You should see the rest of the day. This is why the blogging is a bit slow.
Actually, things are going very well. The first few weeks of having five children I was forgetting to eat and sat down maybe three times total in a week. I’m sitting a lot more now and eating more than enough. We are out of survival mode and into the new normal.
We’ve adjusted well. The kids are acting like siblings: playing, fighting, watching each other’s backs one minute and ratting each other out the next. It is much less a contest for attention and more of an understood groove. People know where they stand and what is expected. The honeymoon is over, and real personalities are emerging.
I’ve known Dr. Jekyll for two months; he’s a lovely individual. In the past few weeks I’ve also gotten to know Mr. Hyde on a much more intimate level. And Mr. Hyde is one manipulative, crafty, angry, nasty little poop. He is fierce, but nothing I can’t handle. After all, my own children have been pretty challenging, so I have a few insights and a few tricks from experience. I am nowhere as naive as I was with my first born, and that helps. However, my biological children are very different from my foster children.
My children are without guile; they can’t manipulate their way out of a box. My children do not find smug satisfaction in other people’s trials and consequences. They do not have it in themselves to be truly devious, and genuinely prefer it when everyone wins. They are terrible liars, and they have a healthy sense of guilt. They are beautifully, wonderfully attached to their parents and to each other. Yes, they have intense emotions and they get mad and yell and hit and try on all sorts of naughtiness as they grow and mature. They are far from perfect, which makes them very typical. I see every day how living in this world is slowly teaching them less attractive traits. Most of those unpleasant qualities are, after all, necessary survival skills. To quote the movie White Christmas, “Surely you knew everybody’s got a little larceny operating in them? Everybody’s got an angle.”
The difference is that most people gradually accumulate that cynicism and sense of self preservation. The people who gain these skills when they are still, quite literally, babies do so because they have to. Aside from the good looks, charm and brilliant minds, these children are nothing like my own.
They are more like me.
It has been an interesting period of introspection.
I had many challenges in my childhood- challenges that without a good mother would have very easily landed me in the foster care system. The situations I dealt with demanded a set of skills not generally required for children. My life was survival of the fittest, and it was a good thing that I was an expert manipulator-it meant many of my needs were met, and in the process of learning to manipulate, I learned how to recognize others who sought to manipulate me for their own gain. It was a good thing that I was a convincing liar-it got me out of very dangerous situations and saved people I loved from getting hurt. It was prudence and wisdom to be controlling- I would have been more hurt than I was if I hadn’t taken that control on the occasions when I could. That control equaled protection. If I hadn’t known how to look out for number one at all costs, it is possible that I wouldn’t even be here today.
So when I look into the sweet faces of these children and I see sparks of malevolence and cold calculation, when I stand just outside a door and observe artful cunning and a cynicism far beyond their years, I get it. Yes, it is disturbing, but I’m not afraid of it. I understand where it is coming from and why. And I can shove that learned nastiness aside and see the person behind it, and see how frightened and how angry and how desperate that little person really is.
I turned out alright because I had very good parents. I had a mother who loved me unconditionally and a dad who made it a point to make sure that I learned that I needed to choose healthier ways to deal with life, and who had very little tolerance for the ugly behaviors I relied on. That wasn’t easy either. I was in trouble a lot, and mad about it. I understand it much more clearly now that I am parenting someone a lot more like me. I am this daughter’s personal brick wall. I am the knife that slices through her web of manipulation and makes sure it doesn’t work. I am the demanding maestro who is always a few measures ahead, because I practically wrote this song, and I know where she’s going to lose her rhythm and hit the wrong notes. She has to re-learn some life skills, just as I had to, and people don’t generally change and refine their behavior unless their current behaviors aren’t getting them what they want.
I try to balance the discipline with hugs and positive moments, but sometimes I still feel mean. However, it would be neglect to be anything but this persistent. Sometimes it is a little overwhelming. At the same time, I feel uniquely equipped to take on this role. I can see the hand of God in their placement in our home. I see through these kids, because when it comes to those unfriendly qualities, I am a master.
I am sure some of you who know me on a more personal level don’t recognize these attributes in me (at least I hope not!). I try to use my powers for good, as they say, because how we utilize the skills we’ve gained is, ultimately, a choice. These children have never had anyone present the other option. You can’t choose what isn’t offered, so they really can’t choose wrong or right, good vs evil, better or worse- they can only choose what they know. My parents made sure that I saw my options and the consequences related to those options. Choices and accountability for those choices was probably the most defining lesson of my childhood, repeated over and over at each new age and stage. I was a child who was desperate for control- and these new choices didn’t bind me, they offered alternatives that ultimately freed me.
I want to clarify that I am not entirely over all of this. I’m not sure if that is possible. I still struggle at times and want to revert back to these very basic survival skills, especially the control freak behavior. I am pleased to say that most of the other stuff is buried under much more positive coping skills. I hope I can pass at least a little of this healing on while these kids are with me. They won’t be here forever, and I hope they will be blessed with the same resiliency God gave me, and that wherever the next step leads they will continue to find those better options.
I have determined that five kids really isn’t that hard.
Unless they are all crabby. Or all tired. Or all coping with major adjustments: two who’ve been removed from their homes and who are stressing over things like, “does anyone here love me best, and is any of this stuff mine?” And one who is coping with, “Holy freaking cow, these people are trying to take over my mother and do not seem to understand that she is my exclusive property! As are my toy cars! And my stroller! And my shirt that I outgrew a year ago! And EVERYTHING! Dibs! Dibs! DIBS!”
Both types of freak outs really are pretty reasonable, when you consider the enormous level of change all three are trying to wrap their heads around. I am trying to be understanding and compassionate. In the end though, it really seems to boil down to “Suck it up, buttercup! Mommy has two hands, two ears that can barely keep track of one well articulated conversation clearly, and only so much patience. Mess with me once and I’m pretty nice. Persist, and find yourself spending a lot of quality time in time out.”
I have felt like a jerk this past week, not because I am being a jerk, but because I have three small children ages four, three and eighteen months, all testing out the new boundaries at the same time. And when that happens to you, you either permit yourself to be run over by their Mac truck-like resolve, or you become
I have one kid who I refer to as The Informer. She keeps me abreast of every (and I do mean every) single thing going in the house. We have discussed what is tattling so often at this point that I have actually heard her muttering to herself as she walks through the house, “only if there’s blood or something is very hurt,” almost like a mantra to keep herself on the strait and narrow. This only works about twenty percent of the time, but that is twenty percent more than two weeks ago when she would (no joke) stand next to me viewing a situation that we were both seeing, and then turn to me to tattle on what she knows I just saw. She has also really slowed down the preemptive tattling, such as, “I think Gabe’s gonna hurt my brother”, even when Gabe is doing absolutely nothing and her baby bro isn’t even in the same room.
This is the same child who will deliberately pick a fight and do everything possible to make someone else really want to hit her, just so she can run to you and tattle when they do. Instigation is her middle name, and she can walk away smiling sweetly or sobbing with theatrical aplomb, based on what she feels the situation calls for. How do I know she’s not legitimately upset? Because I have eyes in the back of my head! Duh.
I’m not sure what to call the next kid- I can’t seem to find a succinct way to express the remarkably low tolerance for anything challenging his principles, iron clad will power, and sheer grit embodied in one size 3T kid. If you want complete candor, I should just say He’s My Kid, and inarticulateness aside, He Takes After His
Stubborn As A Mule Mother. These qualities are mostly useful, unless you are a three year old with a very age appropriate inability to filter your emotions. It is also not helpful when you choose to unleash your extraordinary doggedness on very ordinary annoyances that mete a considerably more tempered approach.
This is the kid who screamed at me for a half a mile while we were on a relaxing walk around a lake because I had the audacity to put another child in the stroller formerly known as his. This is the kid who had to have a turn, however short, being pushed (all thirty-eight pounds) in said stroller while the one year old old who moves at the pace of a distracted slug lumbered along behind us for about ten yards. Once the principle of the matter was addressed, and he had had his pithy ride, he was totally cool with having his turn over and resuming his normal three and a half year old activities.
This is also the kid who inspired me to buy a new eighty-seven cent Hotwheels car to add to the other fifty that he lugs around all day in an old ice cream bucket, because, in his mind, even the suggestion of sharing one of his very sacred cars is tantamount to blasphemy. He keeps perfect track of this new car, the blue one with the silver blower and flames painted up the hood, so whenever the one year old feels he would like to play cars as well, he can hand him the car specifically purchased for this occasion. I. Kid. You. Not.
That brings us to the little guy. This is one tenderhearted little kid. So tender, in fact, that all you have to do is look less than ecstatic in his general direction, and the head goes down to the floor, the bum goes up in the air and the tears start flowing. He literally crumples. You can cheerfully say the word no, in any context and he is upside down in an instant. Try legitimate disapproval, like, “We do not play in the potty kiddo,” and he completely falls to pieces. The good thing is that it never lasts long- the tears leave as fast as they came, and although there are moments where he is legitimately in need of a good cuddle, which he gets, I’m thinking that he has learned to use these waterworks to his advantage, so I’ve started just ignoring it and he rarely caterwauls for more than six seconds. I’m getting used to this little siren going off on regular intervals throughout my days.
Mostly, I think this guy is just sad, and sometimes angry. It is understandable. He tries to lay claim to me (at the same time as four other kids) and feels very lonely when he can’t have a mom who just loves him best of all. The other day I gave him some snuggles and hugs for a minute, and then he happily maneuvered so he was no longer in my arms and could go play. Gabe happened to walk in at that moment and ran up to me to get a hug. Out of the corner of my eye I watched this little guy observe that hug and his head dropped down to his chest, tears filled his eyes, and I have never seen such a little kid look so dejected and lost in my whole life. Gabe ran off as quickly as he came, and I tried to pick up him and cuddle him, but he just sat on my lap, clearly unsatisfied. For once he didn’t cry; he just sat in stoic silence and wouldn’t be comforted. You really can’t replace a mother.
And how about the rest of us? We’re doing pretty well. I make it through the day, and Chris picks up the pieces at night. Maggie and Jonas are lost in their worlds of school, and happy to be affectionate and helpful with the littles when they are home. Every day things get a little more cohesive. A few more weeks and it will probably feel like we’ve been doing this all along. For now, I’m just trying to keep up and enjoy whatever quiet God grants me.
Well, school started. Seminary started. We got two new kids.
And then I didn’t blog for several days because the chaos level at my house has left me a little off kilter.
It is a whirlwind around here. We have ha meetings, back to schools, registrations, and a million other things that have kept me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I think I have most of the initial appointments done, so hopefully I can sit for awhile.
Today is the first day for a week that feels slower- and in all reality, it is still a pretty full day!
We are adjusting well. I’m tired trying to get back into my early morning seminary schedule. My house is literally shutting down around eight at night now because we eat dinner and then basically fall over from exhaustion.
The kids are all doing well. Our two news (I am going to call them Kid2 (toddler little guy) and Kid1 (preschool girl) for now, out of privacy) are easing into a routine. They are very good kids, easy and compliant. They have their quirks as all kiddos do, but on a whole, these are pleasant children and we like them. That’s good, because it looks like we will have them with us for awhile.
My kids are doing alright with the change. The two little boys are vying for my attention, so I am being careful to spend extra time with Gabe and hold him a lot. He’s been running errands with me; I guess you could say I’m sacrificing my sanity for his peace of mind. Jonas and Maggie are, as always, wonderful older siblings. They will both be great parents someday. The littles have already learned to look forward to end of the school day when the fun comes back home. I look forward to it as well, since that gives me a little breathing room.
Kid2 needs a lot of cuddles. He is such a content kid, but when you hold him he just melts in to you as if this was where he wanted to be all along and he’s glad you finally noticed him. Kid1 likes to snuggle as well, but mostly she likes to talk, talk, talk! She’s a pretty funny kid and I enjoy a lot of her little commentaries on her world. The day after she arrived she held up her hand with all her fingers spread wide and said, “you get to keep me this many days, then I go back to mom.” We had to have a talk about how it was going to be lots more days than that, but she handled it well. Both kids amaze me with their ability to just roll with things and adapt. Some of it, sadly, probably indicates that things are pretty tough right now, but most of it just indicates that they are amazing.
Ever Anxiously Wait For The Starting Gun And Then When It Gets Shot Off Realize Your Shoe Laces Are Untied?
So our social worker e-mailed me. Our file is officially open for placements and in the hands of the lady who makes the calls.She said we would get a call soon. . .if we hadn’t already.
So, about a week and a half ago I had an icky little tummy bug. Then Maggie got it, and Gabe got it 2 days later, then Jonas dropped on Monday, Chris went down on Tuesday. . .and I thought- well, good. We’re all done with that.
Until I woke up at 3 am on Wednesday sicker than a dog. Yeah. So not cool. And to top it off, everyone else felt like crapola for 1 day- me, I’m on day two of feeling icky. I think I am on my way out- yesterday was horrid and today I am just weak and miserable feeling.
I am willing myself to get well before the phone rings.
Also- I bleached pretty much the entire house on Tuesday, and now I need to do that again. The last thing I want to welcome new kiddos with is a tummy bug. Yeech.
The final foster care/adoption home study inspection was completed on Wednesday. All went well and we got approved with the exception of one minor, irritating thing. Our hot water heater was set too high. I had a feeling this was going to be an issue, not just because I knew the water was pretty hot, but because we had a maintenance guy fiddling with it for two days prior, replacing the ignitor and trying to figure out why every so often we just didn’t have hot water. My excuse for not having hot water (and anything else going wrong) is always, “eh, it’s military housing,” but I still needed to have it working. After the guy left, I turned it down from very hot to just hot. It has to be between 110 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit, so while I figured that ought to do it, I still had misgivings and expected to not pass. Turns out, I was spot on.
I turned it down even more and our social worker came back the next day, took the temperature under a running faucet, and somehow our stupid hot water heater (SHWH) was HOTTER than it had been before! How that works, I’ll never understand.
We discussed the SHWH and came to the conclusion that maybe the knob that is supposed to allow you to set temperature just wasn’t working. I turned it all the way down to see if anything would happen and waited about eight hours. If it was scalding, it was broken. Turns out it was finally cool; apparently, it works when it feels like it. The only trouble was that it was registering at 111 degrees, which means if all my stars didn’t line up perfectly at the next test, it might be too cool. While they will just keep coming back and retesting until you get it right- that’s just annoying for everyone involved. I need all of my patience for my children and my job, so I can’t have a SHWH consistently using up too much of my annoyance quota or my whole world could go into a tailspin. When they say it’s all about the little things? They are so right.
So I shoved my
butter knife very grown up flat head screw driver back into the little slot in the knob, and ever so slightly turned the cutlery to about two millimeters hotter. I checked the temperature again several hours later and we’re at 117. We are getting this tested again on Tuesday, so I am going to see if I can get it closer to 125 (so my shower can last more than ten minutes), but not too close to 130. I plan to pass this next check with flying colors.
We are very, very close. I am just telling myself that we hit this week long SHWH snafu because the kids who need us don’t need us for another week, and God is timing this to perfection. That might be completely silly and not at all why, but it is keeping me from gritting my teeth over the situation.
All the paperwork is in and we are one step away from being fully licensed foster/adoptive parents. Next Wednesday morning our social worker and the licensing specialist will visit our home. They will pass judgement on how clean and safe things are, count the beds, ask a few more questions, get some signatures and as long as they are happy with what they see- they will go back to the office and walk the last steps of submitting our paperwork and completing the licensing process. We have no reason to think things won’t follow this course, so, at the very latest, we will be available for placements by September first. The soonest? ONE WEEK.
I feel kind of pregnant, only without any real sense of timing and what to expect. People want to know what to expect when they are expecting? Well, in the simplest wording- a baby. You expect an infant. Yes, we can quibble over details like boy or girl or maybe two, but when you are nine months pregnant, you expect a newborn. And that simplifies life.
We are expecting a. . .someone. Probably a girl, because we have agreed to take one girl, or siblings where one is a girl. We know we have room for one kid two years or older and space for one kid two or younger. Technically, we could have room for two infants or toddlers. So- we will get some version of that. And we know we won’t have kids over a certain age, because we have a specific range we are willing to take for the safety of our own children and realistic expectations for our family overall. We will not be having a seventeen year old. Also, no octopi, dogs or flying squirrels. We can check a few things off our list, but I’m not sure how helpful that is.
One thing that I do find kind of cool and exciting is that we have no race preference, so there are loads of possibilities there. I can remember reading back issues of National Geographic at my grandparent’s house when I was a very little girl, marveling at the magnificent beauty of all children. It didn’t matter if the child was from China or Ethiopia or even from really exotic places like Appalachia or Chicago- I was impressed. One thing every culture or country has in common is exquisite children. This made me want to grow up and adopt children from all over the world. I didn’t realize at the time quite why, but I do now. When a person recognizes the divinity of creation in another human being, it is impossible not to fall in love. I think differences have the ability to make us see that more clearly- and people either fear it or embrace it.
I do feel ill prepared materially. You see, one kid needs less stuff than two kids. And an infant has an entirely different list of needs than a three year old. Do I buy a baby carrier or dress up clothes? Bottles or forks? Diapers or panties? An infant seat, a toddler seat, a booster seat? NO IDEA. However, I could medal in shopping at Target, so I assume any major deficiencies we encounter can be dealt with swiftly.
You would think we would be pretty well stocked, but seeing as how we didn’t think we could have any more children, I did the charitable thing and gave away nearly every baby/toddler item we owned. I have always been pretty quick to pass on items that I’m not using, particularly if someone I know has a need. I have always had faith that if I gave away something I actually did still need, it would all work out anyway. I assume that goodness will return goodness and if I was ever in desperate need of an item, it would come back either through the means to purchase it or out of sheer kindness. These things will come together as needed.
The truly hard thing in all of this is that we don’t know if the person/s we are expecting will be around for a week, a month, a year or forever. The first goal of foster care is always reunification. The second goal is finding family the child can live with. The last goal is adoption. And that is a good thing! Every kid should have the chance to be with his own family, to know his roots and feel comfortable within his own culture. Families that are better is best for the whole world. I honestly can’t see myself knowing a struggling mother and not wanting to do everything in my power to help. But not all families get better. Everyone we’ve talked to has said that if you foster, eventually you will adopt. There are always kids who can’t go home.
Do you want to feel like a real dirt bag? Try reconciling your desire to adopt with the fact that you are basically saying you hope there is a kid stuck in a bad situation that will never improve. That you hope a kid’s parents fail. That you hope the circumstances are tough enough that there are no family willing or able to step up. It is hard to make peace with the fact that the only way you will get a child through this system is by other people’s hearts breaking. It isn’t as though I’m camped out at a playground stalking adorable children, mentally willing their families to fall apart. There is no need. Families fall apart in the worst ways, every single day without any help from me or anyone else who wants a child. These kids will be in the system regardless of my participation in it. I am not at fault; I just want to be the solution. I have to tell myself this almost daily, or I really do feel like a jerk.
So we are close to. . .something. Change waits around the corner and oddly enough, I’m rushing to get there. I’ve had six months to imagine every possible combination and situation and outcome, and believe me, I’ve spent
hours days ruminating. I really need everything to go well on Wednesday- if I wait much longer I may actually pop.
The journey of becoming eligible to be a foster or adoptive parent is a long one. There’s the initial paperwork, then a quick home study to make sure you aren’t living in a dumpster. Those are followed by ten weeks of three hour classes on topics like abuse and neglect, attachment and discipline. You cannot miss any of the classes for any reason. Then there is a boatload of more paperwork exploring your entire life, finger printing, FBI background checks, written details on how you spend your money and your time and more. Then there will be five more home studies where a social worker spends hours digging into the finer details of how you and every member of your household function, plus the minor inquiries about things like how hot your water heater is set and if you have childproofed all of the outlets. It is all necessary- you can’t give the precious gift of a child, especially a child who has already seen enough trauma in her life, to just anyone. These parents must be strong and gentle. Firm but kind. Mellow but determined. Positive but pragmatic. And most of all, they must be safe.
So, no pressure. Ha.
Our classes are held every Thursday evening. Every Thursday night, no matter how enjoyable or informative the class was, no matter how kind the people are, I go home and proceed to have stress dreams the entire night. They aren’t horrific nightmares, just a never ending cycle of dreams in which I am incompetent no matter how hard I am trying. I will have misplaced my homework, my keys, my child. I will try to play an instrument in a concert and realize I have no idea how. People I admire and respect walk into my home and comment on every failure, magnify every mistake, and walk out disappointed in me. I spend the entire night in a fit of being repeatedly measured and found wanting, anxiously doing my best and failing, excelling only at humiliation.
I don’t like being judged. I am acutely aware of my shortcomings without people throwing them into the spotlight. The most challenging and most important thing I have ever done is be a mother, and to have people look hard and close at my ability to succeed at that is downright terrifying. I am probably a pretty normal mother. I laugh, I play, I fix hair and dinners, I sign off on homework and change diapers. I take them to church on Sunday and remind them to mind their manners every day. My children are happy and growing into really great people. I am also very normal because sometimes I am so tired I cry myself to sleep. I’m normal because I’ve hidden in a closet so I could eat a cookie in peace. I’m normal because I’ve yelled, and I’ve snapped and I’ve apologized for yelling and snapping. I’ve begged for the opportunity to move my bowels in peace JUST ONCE while living with a toddler, called my own mother in total desperation more often than I would like to admit, and spent hours on my knees pleading for the wisdom to help a child and out of total frustration, throwing my hands up at my Father in Heaven, saying, “he’s your child too- YOU fix him!” All normal.
The classes are interesting, not just because of the content, but because you start out with a room full of people, and each week there might be a few less. In one way this is great because if you make it to the end you can get to know some people and form a support system. It is also unnerving because at any given week, you might get pulled aside by the social worker in charge and told that you didn’t qualify. There are lots of reasons to be disqualified, some stemming from an ugly past and many from sheer logistics and things just not fitting. Finances, your home, family strain, temperaments not being right, schedules being too busy and plates being too full- there are a lot of red flags that can disqualify you, and you might be a perfectly decent person, just not a good fit “at this time”. The good thing is that they tell you right away as soon as they see an issue, rather than make you jump all five million hoops and then kick you out.
Through all of this, many people will simply opt not to come back. I don’t blame them. The ten week course could be called “Informed Consent”. The topics covered are hard to hear about. Most kids don’t get into foster care without some pretty extreme strain; beyond the abuse or neglect that brought him there, the sheer emotional turmoil of being removed from his home and everything he’s ever known can cause significant issues- and those issues are hard to handle. Add special needs, extreme abuse situations and a myriad of things that can happen to a person and that information can scare a lot of people off. It is ten weeks and this in-depth not just as preparation, but so you know as close to exactly as is possible about what you are getting yourself into, so you can run the opposite direction as fast as you can if you need to. It’s fair. It’s need to know. Reality can be scary, and the wonderful vision most people have of helping someone who really needs it and making a difference in this way often glosses over the ugly details.
There is a lot of unknown and that can be hard to handle. Chris and I just know that whatever the outcome is, this is the road we are supposed to be walking down, and good will come of it one way or another. We assume we will be fostering first, and hoping that we eventually (I admit I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, ever patient am I) get matched up with some kiddo/s who don’t have the option of going back home because God meant them for our family.
It takes a lot of faith, which is something I’m trying hard to have. I’ve needed more than my fair share lately.
Chris and I have decided to try to adopt through the foster care program.
I know. WOW. I literally cannot verbalize that without feeling like a single point of light just exploded in my brain, and we made this choice several months ago.
It feels the same as saying I’m pregnant, with lots of the same “whoa, so we’re really doing this” moments, and “oh no, what if it doesn’t work out and we lose this kid?” (After three miscarriages, I am very familiar with that feeling). And then there are the golden bliss thoughts of adorable children and imagining those crystalline moments in motherhood where everything, for one morning, or one hour- or even one minute- is so breathtakingly beautiful and fulfilling- that you can absolutely do all of the hard stuff that mothering a unique and precious individual entails. Possibility is empowering.
Chris and I have spent the past several years casually tossing the idea of adoption around. Even before the hysterectomy we were well aware that another pregnancy was a bad idea. My six pregnancies have all had serious complications- three didn’t make it, and the other three were so physically debilitating that more than one doctor recommended that for my own health we call it good. Chris was always very pro-more kids, just very against ever having me pregnant again. We told ourselves- when the time is right, we can adopt- and then tucked it away, a tidy little package that we might never have opened.
When we found out I needed a hysterectomy (right on the heels of a miscarriage) I was of two minds. I understood everything I just told you, but I also hurt, knowing that incredible door of creation was closing, and that there was a definite finality to that part of my life. Frustration aside, I knew it was the right course. I can’t tell you why, precisely; I just knew. It really didn’t matter that I didn’t like it- it just mattered that it was the right choice for us.
Two weeks after my surgery, adoption was the farthest thing from my mind. I was making myself very content with the concreteness of what we had been given. I was ok. I was accepting. And honestly, I was so preoccupied with feeling like crud from the surgery that I didn’t even have a chance to mourn my now non-existent fertility. Hey, adoption was still on the table as it had always been, but it wasn’t a pressing issue at all. I didn’t need a baby to make me feel better- I was so jacked up from post surgery hormones and recovery that I didn’t even feel like I was thinking straight. I even banned myself from all life-altering decision making, because no one should do anything too crazy when you are that physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. A hysterectomy sucks the life right out of you. I had been wholly unprepared for that phenomenon and it was cruelly humbling.
I was well enough, on St. Patrick’s Day, eighteen days after my surgery, to attend a Women’s Conference at church. I love these. You get to attend a bunch of wonderful mini classes on a variety of topics and I always leave feeling stronger and better and more capable of being exactly who I want to be. I could barely sit down, still being so sore, but I was getting that spiritual boost, no matter the cost!
I walked into my first class feeling jazzed to be in the company of such excellent women and grateful to be spending time with good friends. I delicately arranged myself on the chair, a friend on one side and on the other a woman I hardly knew, but who I was familiar with from church. She mentioned that she had heard I had surgery, but didn’t know what kind. Hysterectomy, I told her, and before the word was out of my mouth, she left me positively gobsmacked when she said, “I have a six year old granddaughter in foster care who needs to be adopted.”
I cannot begin to describe the feeling that came over me at that moment. I began to cry, immediately, and I had no explanation. I felt the most profound sense of joy and direction and rightness. I felt that deeply compelling, sacred feeling that you experience the first time you hold your very own newborn child in your arms.
I felt as though a minute earlier, I had been a completely different person.
When the conference was over, I called my husband right away and explained what I had learned about this child, and many others like her and also a small portion of how I had felt. I would never, ever push my husband into something like this, and I held back how strongly I had felt because I didn’t want to pressure him in any way. He grew silent for a moment and then affirmed my feelings, saying that this really bore looking into. We talked about it at length, and decided to look into it.
I held back a few days, waiting for him to bring it up (I was really worried about putting any pressure on), but he did ask a few times if I had the information yet. I talked to several people on the phone, got a packet of info in the mail, and then sat on it for nearly a month- almost afraid to do anything with it. Chris was definitely on board with going down this path, taking the classes, doing the incredibly involved home study, the background checks, putting ourselves through an unnerving level of judgement and scrutiny, and jumping all of the other necessary hoops. We completely agreed on the ages and genders of the child or children we were looking for. We completely agreed on all of it, which for our marriage is almost unheard of. We are yin and yang, always striving for balance and cooperation, because we make each other so much better, but often stepping on each other’s egos because we don’t see eye to eye. This has improved after eleven years of marriage, but even so, being so unanimous on a decision is a rare thing for us, and typically only happens when we are dealing with the truly important choices.
During this time work was crazy for Chris. Church callings were overwhelming. I was still in a lot of pain, and riding out the hormonal and physical aftermath of a surgery with complications and ten weeks of prescribed recovery. Part of me worried that this intense desire to do this NOW was a reaction, and not a decision, but deep inside, I knew it wasn’t. What I had felt hadn’t been me. It wasn’t my reaction. It was a gift; a divine directing. All of this talk about possibly adopting later, in the future, down the road- well, later was now, and it was time to be very faithful and just start walking down that path, even if it seemed a little crazy on the heels of so much stress.
Chris and I walked into this together, knowing that we might be rejected from the system. We knew and were ok with the fact that the child mentioned at the beginning of all of this might not be ours. We kind of assumed that, actually. There are thousands of children in this system who need homes, permanent or just for a little while. We just prayed that we would learn what we needed from this journey, and that whatever child or children were meant for our family would be prepared and watched over, and that whatever was supposed to happen would happen. We gave it to God and started the journey.
This all started waaaaay back in March 2012. I’ve been sitting on it since then, telling only a few of closest friends and family members, quietly keeping my thoughts in my heart, praying and processing. So if this (and the next few posts seem like they are coming at you quickly- remember that it is nearly six months for us). This is the (mercifully) condensed version.