“Shouldn’t have been a mother”

“What would you say to an adoptive mother who still feels like God made her infertile because she shouldn’t have been a mother?” I received this message via one of my social media pages. Upon reading it, my heart dropped to my stomach with immediate empathy for the woman asking. The struggle she has with her children’s challenges directly connects to her feelings of unworthiness due to infertility. Sisters, this is such a brutal reality for many of us. I’ve faced this falsehood more than once.

It is vital to separate your infertility from any behavioral, academic, or mental health issues your children have. Children come to us from brokenness – regardless if it’s through foster care, international adoption or domestic adoption. Along the way, something broke within your child’s family of origin thus creating the need for adoption. Many children in need of adoption come from a place of trauma. This creates the need for a different way of parenting, and it can be so very heartbreaking and hard.

Add this on top of the trauma of infertility and you end up having a mix of weariness and sense of not being good enough. Infertility is just as much a spiritual and emotional battle as it is a physical one. I’ve questioned if I was equipped for this role of being a mom to three children with varying needs and difficulties.

We often feel like we weren’t meant to be a part of the motherhood conversation. And then, once we actually become moms through adoption and it doesn’t feel good, we do this thing with our minds where we venture back down that road of despair. The lies we once convinced ourselves of being true are now compounded by the one thing we thought would stop them – motherhood.

Separating infertility from the hardship of (adoptive) motherhood is complex. In every way, it takes intentionality. It takes awareness and vigilance because it’s easy for us to “go back there”. It’s far too effortless to damage ourselves with self-criticism.

But please hear me when I say this, the thoughts of not being good enough do not come from God. They just don’t. We are his jars of clay; his most precious treasure. He doesn’t tell us what we aren’t, can’t or shouldn’t be.

During those hard times when you think you shouldn’t have been a mother, let the whisperer of souls remind you of who you are and all that you were meant to be.

Today is the Day, Birth Mother

Today is the the day, Birth Mother. On this day twelve years ago, we walked out of the courtroom with our forever. But I can’t and I won’t forget that it’s also been twelve years since you last kissed him good-bye.

Sometimes, I close my eyes and imagine us back in the room where we used to visit. That stale room didn’t speak of the love flowing from it. Colorless walls didn’t paint the scene of two strangers brought together on behalf of a new, precious soul. We spent so much time in that room. Holding him, soothing him and swapping stories of life.

And then, we had to say goodbye to the room where our story took flight. One final goodbye. We embraced and exchanged well-wishes. But they didn’t serve justice to the journey we just traveled. Our road coming to an end. You held him and kissed him. Oh, the bittersweet taste of that final kiss.

Beautiful and broken all at the same time.

I don’t know what it would be like to exist in your shoes; to carry the ghost of a child you barely knew. I don’t want to imagine it but I can’t help myself. The truth is that a piece of my heart walked away with you on that day and it has never returned.

Today is the day, Birth Mother. As we ate cake and celebrated adoption, you were on my mind. You’ve never left. How could you? I don’t want you to. I don’t ever want to forget you. Because of him. Because some stories should never be erased.

The closer he gets to being an adult, the more I feel the pain; that urging to slow things down, revisit earlier years, and hang on even tighter. Even that feels selfish. For you, he’s still that clumsy little babe who cooed and giggled at the sound of our voices. Moments captured in time. Ones that never aged.

Beautiful and broken all at the same time.

Today is the day, Birth Mother. Years ago, the gavel fell and that chapter closed. But a continuation of our story emerged; one of challenges and cheer, of laughter and fear. You haven’t been here for it, of course, but in many ways your presence is still felt.

In my mind’s shadows of that old visit room.

In his laugh.

And his heart.

In his crooked smile.

And all the other things that make him delightfully who he is; who we are.

Beautiful and broken all at the same time.

This Journey We Are On

There are a lot of worries about this parenting gig. Raising kiddos who are neurologically different offers me multiple moments of worry. I know I’m not supposed to worry. I know that the Lord who knit them in their biological mothers’ wombs has already weaved the tapestry of their lives. I need to trust more; to trust this journey we are on.

Scrolling through some old pictures today, I came across this one taken by my friends at Freedom Photography back in 2013 (before the adoption of our youngest son & when I went through a dark-chocolate dyed hair phase – ha!). Looking at my kids’ tiny little faces with their scrunchy, sweet smiles greets me with great joy.

The statement on the chalkboards sends a ripple through my heart. We weren’t together at birth, but our journeys began together on those days; those laborious, wonderful moments. Those moments belong to their biological mothers. They always will.

If everything we experience is easy, I doubt we could call it a journey. Perhaps, we are meant to stumble a bit along the way so that we can learn how to rise after a fall. Or, maybe, we are meant to mess it all up so that we can know what it is to receive and offer grace. It might be that our hearts are meant to be torn apart so that we can know what it feels like when they are made whole. Maybe, the best part of the journey isn’t so much the final destination, but all the bumps, bruises, and tenderness in between.

I’m not perfect. I won’t ever be all I need to be for my children or my husband. I struggled today and probably will tomorrow. And, do you know what? That is okay. It’s going to be okay.

Pieced together by many little parts of the story – some joyful, some devastating. We are travelers in this journey, each with our own part to play.

My mom always reminds, “The right thing to do is never the easiest.”

And, goodness, this journey we are on isn’t easy, but it is so right. 

Just a Little Longer, Baby

“Just a little longer baby” This thought has been a recurrent one in my mind as my oldest on approaches adulthood. After watching a him singing a song he made (around age 4 or so), I looked at my husband, started crying and said, “I miss this. I miss the little boy he used to be. It goes by so fast.”

We put a lot of emphasis on celebrating and grieving our “last babies”. I get it. I really do. But, oh man, there is something about watching our first babies grow up. It is a slow process of grief and yet, it seemingly happens overnight.

One day, your first baby is stacking blocks to his own amusement. Laughing at all the silly jokes. Crawling into your arms. Asking to be held. In the tiny, sweet voice, you hear, “Just a little longer, Mommy”.

And then, that little boy is gone. That voice is gone. All the silly jokes are gone. The amusement at stacking blocks is gone. Time is cruel. It steals from us – carries pieces of our hearts away. You look at your first baby and think, “Just a little longer, baby.”

I used to cringe when people would tell me that “it goes by fast”. It’s easy to get annoyed by this because you are just so darn tired and busy. I also used to wonder why elder women (and men) would stare at my babies, grinning to themselves, and giggle a bit. I know now. They were going back in their minds to when their babies were young; visiting a place from long ago, a tourist in a land they cannot stay in.

And now, I’m there. I’m a tourist walking through the land of memories of my first baby. We are getting closer to him becoming an adult. Gulp. In the blink of an eye, he went from being that curly-haired, goofy little dude to a teenager just five years removed from adulthood.

It isn’t fair. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes, I feel that my heart just can’t take it. I don’t like being this kind of tourist. I don’t want to just visit that place from long ago. I’d rather move back there and do it all over again.

Just a little longer, baby.

Just a little longer.

Ramen Noodles and Trauma

A few days ago, I shared a story on my blog Facebook page (@barrentoblessed) about ramen noodles and trauma. Yes, ramen noodles and trauma. My cousin is a foster parent who recently adopted four siblings. She and her husband are also fostering the fifth sibling.

Here is the post as written by my cousin:

“Tonight, after 2.5 years of living here, my oldest son sat down at the table with this. He was about to chow down when I stopped him and asked what in the world he was doing.

He said, “I made myself dinner.”

“But it isn’t cooked. I can cook that you know.”

“Well, I wanted to eat something I used to eat a lot with my old family.”

So we sat down and I asked him to tell me about it. He said that they wouldn’t feed him due to being passed out (you can guess why) and he would have to make dinner for himself and his brothers (2 and 4 months when they came to us). He said that all the money they had would be spent on cigarettes and other fun things and so he would find change in their van and would buy Ramen packets at the store down the street (at 6!!!!).

He said he didn’t know how to boil water, so he would eat it like this. And, he actually grew to like it. So, he would break it up for his sibling, and would try to make bottles for the baby (at 6!!!!!!).

Guys. I asked him to make me some. And, I sat there beside him and crunched it down with lots of water because it’s not great…and he just started talking about how the first time I made them ramen, he wouldn’t eat it and I told him I remembered. He said it’s because it reminded him of his ramen packets and he didn’t trust me (big thoughts for 9!).

He said he isn’t sad he’s not with his “old family” (his words) anymore, but that sometimes HE LIKES TO REMEMBER HOW STRONG HE HAD TO BE.

I write this so everyone knows, trauma isn’t healed quickly (sometimes never), an adoption doesn’t erase the past or the memories, kids can change, they will change with love, and to never give up on a kid because “they are hard”. And then, I walked away in shock, in sadness, and so so so proud of how strong my baby is. He’s so wonderful. And, we love him so much.”

I ended it by saying this:

“Friends, THIS is the life experience of kids who come from hard places. THIS is living a trauma-informed life. We can’t imagine what kids from hard places have lived through. It is not just about one act of abuse or neglect, it is about living in survival mode and doing it day in and day out. It is about making sure younger siblings are also surviving, even at the expense of childhood.

Trauma infuses itself into every pore. Kids just don’t forget it. Their brains and bodies won’t let them. Those of us privileged enough (yes, I said privileged) to enter into the lives of children with hard life experiences must be willing to sit down, eat uncooked ramen noodles and listen. We must not give up.

Our kids didn’t.”

Something about this post shook people up. Before I knew it, the post took off and soon became viral – with a reach close to 18 million people, over 9,000 comments and over 160,000 shares. Good Morning America featured it on their website.

People were sharing their own stories of trauma, eating ramen noodles as children, and their experience with foster parenting kids who come from hard places. Overwhelmed. Surprised. Shocked by it all. I felt all emotions in just a short span of time.

Childhood trauma adversely affects children over a span of their lifetime. Trauma doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t healed overnight. The more we listen to children, seek to understand their stories, and connect with them in a loving way, the better they WILL heal from trauma. I believe that and science proves it.

Was it kind of neat having a “viral” post? Yes. Thrilling to be featured by Good Morning America? Absolutely.

Do you want to know what really stirred my heart, though?

Witnessing love pouring out. Reading thoughts of people seeking to understand trauma. People sharing kindness, hope and prayers for children as well as foster families.

Imagine it – a world where hurting children are met by embracing love; where every child can call home a safe space.

Just picture it. I do. This is my hope. This is my prayer.

on this day of thankfulness

On this day of thankfulness, my childhood has been on my mind. Maybe, it is because my daughter is now the age I was when I had my hysterectomy. Sometimes, I see myself in her. Curious. Strong-willed. Lover of fluffy things. Empathetic. Other times, I don’t.

Barrenness rushed in like a thief in the night. It didn’t just steal from me at that time, in that present moment. It kept stealing each and every day as I grew up. A stalker. A shadow that didn’t go away. A reminder of what was missing.

On this day of thankfulness, I’m reminded of the power of restoration. That somehow, grace had the audacity to chase me down, prove me wrong and breathe love and life into my soul.

Thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who took my physical, emotional and spiritual brokenness and flipped the script.

Lightness out of darkness.

Fruitfulness out of barrenness.

Gratitude replacing grief.

On this day of thankfulness, I am truly blessed.

Getting Caught Up in Our Own Stories

It is easy to get caught up in our own stories; stories of overcoming something seemingly so strong, so encompassing that it envelopes most of our lives. I’ve been guilty of this with my own story of barrenness. Yet, it took one moment with my child to change my thinking. My story of barrenness will never nullify my children’s stories of adoption.

“Do you know where my Mom is?” I heard this question while driving. I knew what “mom” meant. “No. I don’t but if I did, I would tell you,” I said to my child. “Oh…”. Stillness. No other questions.

As we drove to our destination, the silence was thick. My mind swirled with emotions – wanting to grill my child where this question was coming from. I didn’t, though. Instead, I filled my own head with an internal conversation. “Why does it matter? I’m “mom”. I mean, I KNOW it matters, but I matter as well, right?

Then, the thought hit me,

“Your story of barrenness is not more important than your children’s stories.”

That’s it. A huge pill to swallow. While I believe that a part of my testimony and refinement as a child of God relates directly to barrenness and that there is power in it, I also believe that the script of my life will never supersede the ones belonging to my children. I refuse to dismiss their histories, their need for knowledge, and the grief they feel now or may feel in the future. I refuse to be someone who is constantly getting caught up in my own story.

As an parent through adoption who has overcome barrenness, here are a few things I won’t forget:

  1. I won’t forget that my children have a voice. They have a right to express their feelings about adoption – regardless if it hurts my feelings or causes a measure of doubt and confusion.
  2. I won’t forget that they have histories before coming into my life. Whether that was 9-months in the womb only or a few months in other families, they still have a history that doesn’t include me.
  3. I won’t forget that they may always long for their biological parents. This truth breaks my heart – not because I’m jealous or anything like that. It breaks my heart because I love my children so much and will never know what it is like to be in their shoes.
  4. While illness and subsequent barrenness came like a rushing wind into my life and it took years to find my wings and fly with it, I won’t forget that none of this compares to the sadness and disruption that caused my children to become mine.
  5. I won’t forget that my children are not “door prizes” for infertility and barrenness. I didn’t earn them because of the hardship I endured. They are far more valuable than that and each have their own personalities and struggles. Kids are not meant to be put on pedestals like some kind of trophy – regardless of how long it took or the avenue to which they came into our lives.
  6. I won’t forget that my children are not really mine. I’m just borrowing them for this lifetime. I’ve been given the task of raising them, but honestly, they belong to the Lord. My desire for their lives will never compare to what the Lord desires for them. His will before mine. Can’t forget that.

Sure, the way the Lord weaved the tapestries of our lives with loss, joy, trauma and relief resonates with others. It may even propel people with similar stories to seek healing and resolution. This is all a truth that cannot be denied.

Still, though. When an adoptive parent (like myself) has a story full of pitfalls and long roads, it can seem like our personal narratives have greater value – like we are some kind of broken-hearted saviors for our children. This thinking can be a trap. It can fool us into believing that our struggles have more weight than the struggles of others.

As we make our way through the years (far removed from the days my children were legally declared mine), I’m becoming more fully aware that when we get caught up in our own stories, we miss the evolution and unfolding of the stories around us – sometimes even within our own families.

I don’t want to forget this.

When We Said Yes to Adoption

When we said yes to adoption, we chose YOU.

We said yes…

to laughter and tears,

to delight and heartbreak,

to gifts and losses,

to sweet words and eye-rolls,

to the past and the future,

to hardship and grace,

to love.

Happy Adoption Anniversary Day, Sweetie.

Note: Our daughter’s adoption anniversary was on Monday but due to the flu bug (YUCK) hitting our home, I’m just now getting around to posting this on the blog.

Worth Fighting For

Parenting is hard, isn’t it? There are times when you just wish you could step right into your children’s brains and figure out what the heck is going on in there. Your desire is to speak truth to them but sometimes, truth can come out not as loving as you want. If given the opportunity to ‘get it right’ and speak love, worth and truth straight to your child’s heart, I’m sure every single parent would soak that moment right up.

Last night, I unexpectedly had one of those moments. Our kiddo was absolutely NOT willing to do homework. Keep in mind, the work was due Tuesday but this kiddo just kept putting it off. (Thank goodness for a 504 plan that gives a few extra days!) My husband promptly removed the game controllers and iPad from our child.

“NOT FAIR!!” My child yelled and then jumped into bed and covered up completely from head to those sweet toes.

I sat down on the bed next to my child and repeated the words we had already said. “You will get your games back once you do your homework.”

“NO! I want them back now and then I’ll do my homework.”

“Nope, not gonna happen. You do the work first, then you get them back.”

Silence. This kiddo of mine was not backing down, but neither was I. We sat there for about two minutes in total silence. My child remained covered up from head to toe. I closed my eyes and prayed for us both.

My child broke the silence and said, “I want my stuff back.” I repeated, “Not until you get this done.” Now, by this time, I was getting a bit ruffled up in my feathers. It was getting late and I had two other kiddos calling out for food and drinks because kids suddenly become starving and dehydrated once it is bedtime (which is always a fun time).

I found myself getting extremely agitated. Then, all of a sudden, I felt this wave of peace flow over me and I had a vision/remembrance of my child as a little one frolicking around the house. I remembered the feeling of fighting for this one – not literally fighting the foster care team, but fighting for this child through prayer.

My eyes began to well up a bit with tears. I looked at my child and said,

“You are worth the fight.”

Puzzled, my child softened a bit and looked up at me.

I said, “You are worth fighting for. You are deeply loved. You are capable. I know you struggle with paying attention but I also know that you can do this. You have a purpose. You might think that Dad and I are fighting you, but we are fighting FOR you. We are not going to stand by and let you choose to fail or cheat yourself out of what you deserve and are able to do. You can get mad all you want, but you were always worth fighting for and you will always be worth fighting for. You have a choice right now. You can either stay mad, not do the work and not get your things back, or I can sit with you while you do the work. Your choice, but just know that Dad and I will always fight FOR you.”

My child sat there for a moment and then softly said, “Sit with me.” I watched as my child finished up the work and the night ended peacefully. As I got into bed, I had such a sense of calm mixed in with parental accomplishment. The choice to let go of my angst about the whole situation and speak truth and love into it was God-given grace over us both.

Jesus tells us this every single day. The Word speaks love into our lives every time we read it. We lose that feeling during times of hardship. We forget that in Christ, we are enough. We don’t visit the Cross enough to remember how He fought for us, but the Lord continues to pursue us because He sees our worth and yearns to speak love into us.


I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well
. (Psalm 139:14)

Just like we have to be reminded that we are worth fighting for, so do our children – especially when times are tough. Next time you are in a heated battle over homework or anything else that can cause conflict, take a step back, inhale a deep breath and speak love and truth into your child’s heart.

In Need of Grace

I think of this quote when parenting my kids.  It is a great reminder when I’m struggling to manage the problems and issues we often face.  I have also thought of it when considering my own actions.

Sometimes, I’m not easy to love.  I absolutely admit that I can be a bit of a grouch at times.  I can put expectations on my kids that are probably too high for their level of functioning.  My feelings get hurt, I lose my temper, and I struggle to show grace – even when I am the one who probably needs it the most.

Last week at a doctor’s appointment for a recent back injury, my doctor asked me how things are going with the kids.  I sat for a minute and thought, “Do I tell him the truth that life is hard or do I grin and say things are going fine?”  The word “fine” has become the one I use when things really aren’t that fine.  It gives a simple response to questions that I don’t want to unpack.

As much as I tried to keep it in, I couldn’t.  The tears ran down my face as I explained the issues we are having and how I have been feeling and failing, lately.  The funny thing (actually, not that funny) is when you are told “maybe tomorrow will be better”, deep down you know that it probably won’t be.  Instead of offering a rallying cry to me, my doctor let me cry.  Soon, he brought in a counselor they have on staff and she also just let me cry.  It felt good to release it.  I should probably do that more often.

Fast forward a few days from this appointment to my birthday (yes, I just turned another year older).  My children were having a rough night.  I’ve learned not to expect nights without behaviors – even on special occasions.  As I opened my gifts, one of my children handed me a letter…

Dear Mom,

Thank you for sooo much for being graceful, and loving to me and for adopting me and helping me up when I’m hurt, cheering me up when I’m sad and you love me no matter what I do.  Thank you for being my mom for the best years of my life.

Did you read that?

Graceful.

Loving.

Helping.

Cheering.

Best years of my life.

I cried as I read it and looked at my child.  Soon, this child’s eyes were welling up as I opened up my arms for a big hug.  I will hang on to this letter.  I will read it over and over again during the good times and the bad.

It is hard to explain what it is like to raise children who struggle with lots of things – mental health, academics, behavioral issues, etc.  From the outside, my kids look perfect.  Their outside appearances do not match what is going on internally.  Because of this, there are false perceptions made about all of us.

Having been down a bit from the past few weeks of challenges, I have been in need of a lot of grace.  I have wondered in desperation if I was equipped to handle the arrows aimed in my direction and at my children.  I have questioned if there will ever be a relief or a miracle or something that proves the heartaches and hardships will make sense one day.

Through a child’s words, I was offered that grace.  It spoke straight to the heart.  I was given the gift of encouragement and a glimpse into why it is so important to keep going.  I was reminded of the need to offer grace, the feeling of being loved, the importance of helping and encouragement, and that (often) we parents are our children’s entire worlds.  My child’s letter thanking me for the grace I have shown actually provided me with the grace I have searched for, lately.  What a powerful moment it was.

Although my child wrote the letter, I see God’s hand all over it.  I hear Him saying, “There you go…there you go.  See?  I told you it is worth it.  You do matter.  Your children matter.  You may not see it every day, but your children do and so do I.”  

Parents of children with extra needs, moments like the one I experienced reading my child’s letter may not come around very often.  I know this.  You know this, as well.  We find ourselves not only managing the typical antics and activities of childhood but also managing the extra stuff; the kind that yearns to siphon whatever energy or hope we have left at the end of the day.  Some days, it isn’t very much, is it?

We have to remember that we are making a difference even if we don’t see the results immediately.  We must believe that even though a miracle may not occur, our actions, stability, support, and love are miraculous to our children.  It is okay to admit our failures.  It is totally acceptable to dwell in the knowledge that we are desperate for a measure of grace on any given day.

Keep going.  Keep the faith.  Even if you think no one is noticing, remember that your children are.

So is the Lord.

Praise Him for that.