Why We Don’t Celebrate Adoption Anniversaries as “Gotcha Day”

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Adoption anniversaries are widely known as “Gotcha Day”; however, my husband and I made a decision very early on in our foster care and adoption journey to not use this term when celebrating our adoption anniversaries.

Before I go any further, I do want to say that I don’t judge others who use the term “Gotcha Day”.  Not at all.  Every adoptive family is unique and chooses to celebrate or not celebrate their adoption days in their own way.  For our children’s life experiences and the reasons they came into our lives, the notion of “gotcha” has never settled right on our hearts.

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word gotcha means an unexpected usually disconcerting challenge, revelation, or catch; also:  an attempt to embarrass, expose or disgrace someone (such as a politician) with a gotcha.  Think about the times we have played a joke on people and then said, “Gotcha!”  While this word is often used with fun, the actual meaning is more serious.

“Gotcha Day” is very popular and commonly used by a lot of adoptive families.  It has also sparked debates both within and outside of the adoption community regarding the insensitivity of it and the overall meaning.  I don’t want to get into the societal views of this but I would like to explain why we have chosen not to use this phrase.

From the very start of each our children’s lives after birth, there was heartbreak and loss.  Our children were not able to live with their biological parents and it was not by choice.  Our children’s biological parents did not make a plan for adoption.  They did not set out to find a family for their babies, nor did they expect to lose them.  It is true that two of our birth mothers made the decision to voluntarily terminate their rights but we know that this decision was desperately saddening and very difficult.  To be completely correct, while they voluntarily signed, there really was not a lot of choice in the matter.

Circumstances of life led them down the path that they were forced to walk on and that path included a life without their children.  This is not a cause for celebration nor is it something to take lightly or in fun.  This is why we don’t say “Gotcha!” when referring to our children’s adoptions, nor do we say, “Happy Gotcha Day!” to others who are celebrating.

We acknowledge the anniversaries of our adoptions with a cake, a balloon and by calling it “First Name, Last Name Day”.  For example, mine would be called “Caroline Bailey Day”.  We want our children to know that the day we adopted them is so very meaningful and that they are a gift in our lives.  Honestly, each of our adoption days has been the most joyful ones in our lives, yet, my husband and I also recognize that as the years pass and we witness the unfolding of these little human’s lives, their biological parents do not get to experience this.

It’s in this recognition that joy and sadness sit side-by-side.

Having been a part of the adoption community both professionally and personally, I have witnessed so many precious moments of families whose lives have been touched by adoption.  It has been an incredible privilege to play just a small part in this.  I have also sat with biological mothers who were deeply troubled and trying to navigate life within the decision to make a plan for adoption or trying to mend the reasons their children entered into foster care.  Folks, there is nothing more humbling than this.

To listen to a grieving mother who is acknowledging that she wants to do what is best and safest for her soon-to-be-born baby or choosing to essentially give up and let her child stay with his or her foster parents or be placed in an adoptive home is by far, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in child welfare work.  While the children may be able to grow up in a safer home or with parents who can provide more opportunities in life, these biological mothers will live with this loss for the rest of their lives, and their children will as well.

Our own children’s biological mothers live with loss.  Even though we’ve tried to soften the blow a little bit and answer as many questions as we can with our children, my husband and I know that we will never replace who their biological parents are or what life would have been like for them to grow up in within their immediate family of origin.

Recognizing all of this and saying “gotcha” when it comes to adoption just doesn’t sit well in my soul.  

It never has.

I suspect it never will.

 

 

 

 

 

Fostering/Adopting a Child Who Comes from an Abusive Home {Adoption.com article}

Hello there, friends!

If you have considered fostering or adopting but you are unsure about bringing children who have experienced abuse or neglect into your home, here’s an article I wrote regarding this very topic: Fostering/Adopting a Child Who Comes from an Abusive Home

I’m away on vacation with my family for this week, but as always, if you have questions feel free to use my Contact Me page and I’ll be more than happy to respond to your queries and concerns.

Blessings,

Caroline

Dear Parent of a Sick Child {letter #5}

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I sat on my bed soaking up the silence of an empty house with the knowledge that soon the kids would be home and I would hear, “Mom! I want this!” and “Mom, he’s bugging me!”  “Mom!”  “Mom!”  “MOMMMMM!!”

Silence sure is golden when it seems so evasive these days.

But then, Dear Parent of a Sick Child, I thought of you.

The beeps of machines are the only sounds you hear.  The pacing of your own anxious feet, the hustle of nurses in and out the door, and the frenzied whispered prayers that roll off your tongue are the sounds that surround your life right now.

The sound of silence is deafening, isn’t it?

You are beginning to despise silence.  Day in and day out, you wait for a noise…any noise…that would alert your anxious heart to the awakening of your child.  Sure, you hear the occasional whimper and you engage in conversations with others, but you know these things do not equate for the joyful, full-on, beautiful noise of your child.

During the times when I’m frustrated by my four-year-old asking for “More kisses, Mommy” as I’m trying to get him to go to sleep, you are praying for your little one to wake up from the drug-induced haze of sleep.  The moments when I’ve told my eight-year-old daughter that I need some space, you have craved more time and more space with yours.  When I’ve had to get on to my ten-year-old because he decided to put off a homework assignment, the furthest thing from your mind is worrying about late schoolwork.

These things and these noises are ones that parents of well children take for granted.

You’ve heard people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  That just seems like a load of nonsense, doesn’t it?  There doesn’t seem to be any good reason that your child is struggling to survive.  It doesn’t make sense that your child has to endure the pain and hardship of a severe, life-threatening illness.  If ever you wished for silence, it would be the times when those five words were spoken to you as if you needed enlightenment or some form of justification for the unjust attack on your child’s body.

You never imagined how painfully loud silence could be until you were forced to sit in the same non-comforting hospital chair for days, months even, and you became engulfed by it.  You long to hear the heavy pitter-patter of your little one’s thick feet bouncing down the floor.  You yearn to hear the slightly off-key voice of your daughter belting out her favorite song.  You wish you could hear just one more of your son’s goofy excuses for not getting his homework done.

This.  

This sits so heavy on my heart.

The loud and painful sound of silence.

The ugly truth is that none of us are prepared for what you have been living the past few months or years.  It is hard to prepare for hell when you are living a seemingly, heavenly life, but this is what you are going through, isn’t it?  When you hear other parents complain about how loud their kids are, you just want to escape inside your own skin in order to maintain a sense of control and not lose your cool.

When the laughter of a child barrels its way in your direction, you notice it and you enjoy it, but those feelings are fleeting.  Your joy dissolves into despair as you turn to the sound of silence surrounding you while holding your child’s hand, and you go right back to whispering words like these that have become your mantra:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silencefor my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”  -Psalms 62:5-7

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Hang in there.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help or too timid to ask for prayer. Celebrate the slightest of improvements.  Never give up on the healing power of hope.  May God filter the silence with grace.

For Parents of Well Children – May we never, ever take for granted the noises of our children.

Author’s Note:  I am not a parent of a sick child, thankfully, but I was a sick child.  As an adult, I now understand what my parents went through and the trauma that still touches their lives from watching me dance within the shadow of death. I have such compassion for parents of sick children.  This is the fifth letter in my, “Dear Parent of a Sick Child Series.”  I truly hope this letter series brings a small measure of comfort for the families waiting for their children to be well.

 

To the Momma-in-Waiting on Mother’s Day

 

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To the Momma-in-Waiting for Mother’s Day,

This is a tough time, isn’t it?  Your Facebook feed is filled with pictures of smiling moms with their little ones adorning them with cards, pictures, and gifts. You “like” the pictures but in your heart, you have grown to despise them a little bit.  Not the people, of course, but the pictures.

Here’s a little glimpse of what your Mother’s Day (which always falls on a Sunday) may look like:

You grab some coffee and choke down your breakfast but you are not hungry. There’s a lump in your throat and you know why.  After trying on what seems like a bazillion different outfits, you settle on one but it still isn’t good enough.  It’s not that you look bad.  You’re just uncomfortable and the clothes have nothing to do with it.

Your husband walks in, compliments you and you sort of shrug it off.  He knows something is wrong and suggests that maybe skipping church would be okay for today.  You say, “No, it’s fine”.  In your heart, you know it’s not fine, yet you don’t want to be THAT person who skips church just because it’s Mother’s Day.

Off you go, heading towards what you know will be a less than desirable time. On the way there, you beat yourself up over the self-pity that has taken over.  At the front door, greeters welcome you with, “Happy Mother’s Day!” You nod…thinking, “Don’t they know I’m not a mother.”

The sermon, yeah, this is where it gets sticky.  Pastor goes on and on about children and motherhood.  He delivers an enthusiastic message about how God created women to be unique and that childbirth is a miracle.  You listen, sort of.

You fake a good smile when the congregation gives an ovation to the Moms in the room.  You even muster up the strength to slap your hands together but not too enthusiastically and certainly without passion.  You feel ridiculous for being bitter, especially in a church of all places.  All the time, you sink further and further into your skin.

Sweet friend, you are a Momma-in-Waiting and this day is really hard, isn’t it?

It just doesn’t make sense anymore, does it?  You are strong.  You are faithful. You’ve done everything right to prepare for having a family to call your own, but now, you’re just adrift in a lifeless sea.  People tell you, “Just trust God.”  The problem with this is you have always trusted God.  This is not a matter of trusting Him any more or any less.  It’s a matter of heartbreak, loss, and confusion.

It’s not that Mother’s Day is the only one out of the year that reminds you of a life without children.  You are reminded daily through social media, walking by the maternity sections of stores, negative pregnancy tests, grim news from the doctors, financial bills from IVF treatments, getting invitations in the mail to baby showers, and hearing that another person (among many) is expecting.  This is what is hard about infertility and what is most misunderstood about it.

You have become a captive to the bones that carry you around.  Your body is a stranger to you; betrayal of the greatest kind.  Your heart beats and blood flows but it feels like an empty vessel; a shell of what it once was.  Your thoughts won’t let you escape the narrow road that you are walking, even though you try. All this nonsense has awakened a level of sorrow that you never knew existed. Truth be told, you wouldn’t wish this upon anyone.  You never wished it upon yourself.

There’s a special place in your imagination that you frequently visit.  It has visions of pregnancy, childbirth, picking names and holding on to the living witness of love that has come into your life.  It is filled with birthdays, family pictures, giggles, and grins.  You visit if often and even though it brings you pain, it also brings you hope.  Hang on to it.

Survive for the sake of that special place.

No one else should or could tell you how to get through Mother’s Day.  Just do what you need to do.  I’m not even going to tell you what will make this day easier because I know the only thing that would make it better is for a child to look at you, wrap his little arms around you, and call you, “Mommy”.  This is a truth that churns up both devastation and fortitude.  This is something that you know all too well.

Above anything else I’ve said,

Momma-in-Waiting, on this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of you. 

3,285 days

Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of our oldest son.  It has been 3,285 days since the gavel of the Judge slammed down and our oldest son was declared as our legal and forever son; 3,285 days since I turned around and saw the tear-filled eyes of so many friends and family members watching our family become official, since I was able to fully exhale for the first time, and since all of us could truly visualize a future that included the little guy we had all fallen in love with.

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Little cutie in his adoption outfit

We were just four months shy of the two-year mark of him being in our home when our adoption was granted.  Some people have said, “Two years!  I can’t imagine not knowing what will happen for that long.”  Honestly, we feel pretty fortunate that it was only twenty months.  We know cases that have lasted a lot longer with so much more risk involved.  We don’t regret those twenty months.  Instead, we are thankful for them.

20170507_151237During the twenty months of fostering him, we grew closer, more faithful and walked in the witness of the hardship of others.  Words barely give justice for what it is like to completely put your heart out there for another little soul to whom you may or may not spend the rest of your life with.

We were not braver than others.  We just knew that we had to finish the race we had started without knowing what the finish line would look like.

It has been 3,285 days since the last time I looked in his soft, brown eyes and wondered how long I would call myself his mommy; 3,285 days since I was declared his forever mom.

Three thousand, two hundred and eighty-five days since he became our son.

Love you bigger than outer space.  Love you, forever.

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Best big brother

 

 

 

Sweet Mom, Judgy Mom, & a little bit of caffeine

20170505_150607Standing in line at Starbucks, I sparked up a conversation about coffee and children with a mom (I’ll call her Sweet Mom) of two little ones as my soon-to-be 11-yr-old son eagerly waited for his special treat of an Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  Caffeine does not negatively affect my son.  It actually helps him concentrate.  This is a part of ADHD that most people do not understand, but that is not what this post is about.

Sweet Mom looked at her little guy and said, “Grandma gives him sips of her coffee, sometimes.  He LOVES straight, black coffee!”  We both laughed a bit but as we did, I noticed a lady (I’ll call her Judgy Mom) standing at the counter and listening to our conversation.  Sweet Mom had her back to the lady and had no idea Judgy Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust at our conversation about allowing our kids to have caffeine/coffee every now and then.

The longer I stood there and watched Judgy Mom’s utter dismay at us, the more I found myself wanting to come to the defense of Sweet Mom and all of the other moms out there who are just trying to do the darn best that we can.  By the time Judgy Mom got her own caffeinated beverage, Sweet Mom swiped up her drinks, told me it was nice visiting and went about her merry way.  When the barista called my son’s name, I proudly grabbed the drink, handed it to him, and said, “Here you go, bud.  Enjoy.”

As I walked to the car, drinking my own strong little number, my imagination decided to embark on a conversation that I chose not to have with Judgy Mom (because I’m not a confront and destroy kinda girl).

Here is what I really wanted to say,

“I’m assuming by the look of disgust on your face, the rolling back of your eyes, and the shaking of your head, that you just can’t believe the nerve of some “young moms” these days allowing their kids to have a little caffeine from time-to-time.  You might think it is abusive or neglectful or just bad parenting, right?  You might wonder what on Earth we also allow our kids to have.  

Well, here’s the deal, Judgy Mom. (Okay, I wouldn’t call her that to her face.)  If you really want to see “bad moms or dads” in action, why don’t you join a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator on a home visit to investigate allegations?  I’m sure arriving at a home and finding a neglected baby in a crib whose diaper hasn’t been changed for four days would probably alarm you.

Or, how about you take a look at pictures of a blue-eyed, 4-yr-old child who was beaten so severely for not eating her dinner fast enough that the imprint of the perpetrator’s boots was left on her skin?  (Yes, this is a real situation.  I’ve seen the pictures.  I still have the images engraved in my mind and it’s been 10+ years since viewing them.)

Perhaps, you can become a CASA or other type of advocate for children so that you can learn how a lot of kids don’t eat over the weekend because there is no food in the house and their only meals come from school.  Once you do any of these things, you won’t be as tempted to roll your eyes and shake your head in disgust at two moms having a chat about the antics of slightly coffee-fueled children.

How about that?”

I know some of you might think this is a little extreme, but one thing that gets my goat more than anything is the amount of parent-shaming that exists nowadays. Perhaps, I’ve seen too much.  Maybe, working in child welfare has skewed my perception of what is a “good mom” versus a “bad mom”.  All I know is that once you truly learn what is happening to children and what some parents either do to their kids or allow their kids to go through, it is really hard to get all worked up about things like caffeine, sugar, screen time, red dye #40, or whatever other items that have become a trendy thing to frown upon.

I believe that most parents are just like my husband and me – trying to balance work, parenting, social activities, sports, spiritual development and medical needs all while raising kids to be half-way decent human beings.  There are some days where we literally eat on the go and high-five each other in passing.  There are others where we eat home cooked meals all day, stay inside and just be together.  Either way, I do believe my kids are going to be just fine and that we are doing our very best at this glorious, God-given task of raising future adults.

To Sweet Mom, whom I met at Starbucks today, your kids are precious.  Don’t worry about Grandma sneaking a sip of coffee to your little guy.  You’re doing just fine.

To Judgy Mom, I’d love to meet with you and talk about parenting over a nice, large cup of coffee.  I bet I can figure out a way to give you an outlet for your obvious concern about children.

To all the other parents out there, if you are meeting your kids’ physical, emotional, and social needs, plus working each day to raise them to be half-way decent human beings, then you are also doing just fine.

Let’s stop parent-shaming.  There are far too many issues going on with children and families to worry about a kiddo getting a little bit of caffeine.

How about that?

Don’t Let the “Bad Stories” Keep You From Adopting or Fostering {Adoption.com article}

Hello, Friends!

Did you know that May is National Foster Care Awareness Month?  I’ve said it before but I think that bringing awareness to the issues surrounding the foster care system should be a continual quest.

Recently, I wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding not letting the “bad stories” you hear keep you from foster parenting or adopting.  Let’s face it.  There are some not-so-savory stories out there about the difficulties of working within the system and caring for foster children, but there are also some wonderful stories, happy endings, and just brilliant examples of love, redemption, and determination.

You can read the article by clicking on this link:  Don’t Let the “Bad Stories” Keep You From Adopting or Fostering  I hope it helps you discern if foster parenting or adoption is the right path for you and your family.

As always, I wish you much love and many blessings,

Caroline