The Road Less Traveled

roadI went for a run the other night, and found myself alone on the path.  I thought, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been on a road alone.”  Growing up with what happened to me, I always felt I was walking down a different path in life.  I was a sojourner discovering a new world all to myself.  No one could relate. No one could understand.  No one could comfort. The chains of barrenness bound me to relive my regrets, my insecurities, and my unfulfilled desires over and over again.

I was on the road less traveled.

It was hard, really hard, to fully understand and accept that I would never have children through birth.  I hid my insecurities through a big smile, an adventurous spirit, busy life, and a confident persona.  Yet, beneath that chameleon-like suit, was a girl blindly walking through a tunnel without a light.

I felt forsaken by the Lord.  I had to navigate the road before fully understanding the terrain.  I had heard that the greatest of all gifts are children, and yet, there I was childless, damaged, and forgotten.  The Lord felt thousands of miles away…

Here I am now thirty years after my surgery, and infertility is spoken about, but not often understood.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by how many women, and men, struggle with similar gut-wrenching tugs on their hearts, minds, and spirits.  If only I had a “mentor” growing up, or someone who would have shared with me that barrenness would stay with me for life.  It would get harder the older I got, and it would try to siphon the joy from grand moments in life.  If only, I had someone to walk with me down the road less traveled.

My advice to anyone going through similar issues is quite simple: listen to your heart, cry when you need to, don’t let others negotiate your infertility for you, and never give up hope.

NEVER.GIVE.UP.

I didn’t walk down this road to keep my experience to myself.  Now, as a parent, I certainly don’t want to silence the songs my heart sings about grace, forgiveness, and the gift of children.  Looking back on my journey, I get a sense that it all led to this time in my life where I can speak out loud the twisted thoughts, confusing notions, and painful longings of my youth.

IMG_1517So, here I am.  I’m still walking the road that was carved out during that fateful time in September of 1983.  The difference now is that I’m no longer walking the road less traveled by myself.

I’m sharing it with a host of others who are walking alongside me.  I’m walking side-by-side with my husband who could have chosen a different path.  I’m celebrating it with family members whose lives and love have grown tremendously since the kids entered our lives.  I’m being carried by the strength of the Lord, and, I’m skipping down it holding the hands of my children.

I’m on the road less traveled, but I am no longer alone.

Related Posts:

Momma-in-Waiting

Glass Door

Dear Parent of a Sick Child

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Hello there.  How are you?  No, really…how are you?  I’m sure you are tired, worried, overwhelmed, desperately seeking normalcy, and wondering when your child will get better.  I hope my words bring you encouragement.

When I was a sick child, I remember being cared for by adults.  I remember the adults that surrounded my bedside whispering encouragement into my ears.  I remember never waking up alone in my hospital room, never wondering if I would be taken care of, and never imagining that I was not loved.

My memories are mostly like flashes from a movie screen.  These moments are frozen in time.  I knew I was in an immense amount of pain, but I don’t remember the pain or the struggle to survive.  I don’t remember my body being ravaged by infection.  I don’t remember these moments at all.

I do, however, remember the love I felt in the room.  I remember the gentle rubbing of my arms, the softness of someone holding my hand, the brushing away of my hair from my eyes, and the kisses on my face.  I remember these things.

I remember receiving cards, letters, balloons, flowers, stuffed animals, and just about anything else that would bring a smile to me.  I remember waking up with my parents there….all of the time.  Even when I was in and out of consciousness, I remember them.

I also remember my parents never showing their fear, despite being filled with it.  I remember how they showed great strength; even though their bodies wore the trappings of exhaustion.  I remember their caring hands, their patience with my recovery, and their filling-in to meet my daily needs.  I was told I was a “little trooper”, and that my will to live was stronger than any illness.  I recall my mother giving me baths in the hospital, and my dad holding my hand as often as he could.

Please, dear parent, please know that your presence is precious to your sick child. Your bravery is beautiful, and your courage is contagious.  Don’t stop fighting for your child.  Continue asking questions about treatment options.  Don’t stop whispering sweet words of hope into your child’s ears.  These words will resonate deep down in your child.

Tell your child how much you love them.  Tell your child that he or she is the bravest little one you have ever seen.  Speak stories of healing.  Tell your child that he or she is a superhero.  Give your child the hope that you are clinging to.  Pray for your child; pray over child; and ask others to join in your prayers.

Your child knows you are there.  He or she knows it, even if not awake.  Don’t forget that.  You are the most significant person in his or her life.  You matter. Please, dear parent, please know how much you mean to your sickly child.

Hang in there.  You are in a situation that you never dreamed you would be in.  You would give anything to trade positions with your baby, but you cannot.  I know how hard that must be for you.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, get some sleep.  Ask for help.  Take care of yourself.  You are a superhero.  You are a trooper.  Your will is strong.  Don’t forget these things.

 Your child needs you.

Bless you, dear parent, bless you. Thank you for striving for the best care for your child and for holding his or her hand in the middle of many sleepless nights.  Thank you for putting on the bravest face you can during this difficult time.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, what you are doing matters.  Your strength, wisdom, love, hope, courage, and your presence are the greatest gifts you can give your child.  Don’t forget that, and don’t be discouraged.  

Your child will remember your presence more than the pain.

Other posts you might like:  Mother’s Resilience 

                                           Valley of Death, Mercy of Life

                                           Dear Parent of a Sick Child (letter #2)

Journey of Infertility (my post for National Infertility Awareness Week)

Photography Credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Photography Credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Quote: Author Unknown

Apparently, this is National Infertility Awareness Week.  Who knew?  Right?  I certainly didn’t until I stumbled upon a few blogs about it.  I kinda find it funny that there is just one week to be aware of infertility.  Those of us who have experienced it, are experiencing it, or, like in my case, lived a life of it, are always keenly aware of the presence of not being able to have a biological child.

I so wish that there would have been attention given to infertility when I was a girl.  Instead, it was a hushed topic.  Some of the reasons why I never had deep discussions about it with anyone while growing up was because of my age.  I mean, what in the world do you say to an eleven-year-old who had a hysterectomy?

Most of the time people would say things like “God must have a plan for you.”  My thoughts after hearing these words often went something like this, “Why yes, I’m sure He does and it obviously doesn’t include biological children.”  Or, I was given the advice of “You can always adopt!”  Again, the thoughts behind my smile went like this, “Oh wow, thanks.  I had not thought of that before.”

Now, I know that sounds a little sarcastic.  Looking back now on my life experience and the pain of growing up infertile, I know that I kept these thoughts to myself.  I could not control what happened, but by golly, I could control how I responded to it.  I know God had a plan for my life, I just didn’t know what it was or if it included children.  Throughout the majority of my life after the surgery, I did not want other people’s advice.  This was my battle to win, my life experience to navigate, and my journey to seek the answers.

One thing that I find ironic about infertility is that it creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, but it also creates an unspoken bond with others going through it.  There have been moments where I felt I could almost read someone’s thoughts by their expressions when speaking about infertility.  I just find that to be interestingly ironic.

Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking to another adoptive parent.  She and her husband spent many years trying to get pregnant.  Although she expressed  great joy and love over her little boy, she also agreed that infertility really is a life-long process to deal with.  Missing out on having a biological child does not go away.  However, the incredible and genuinely loving experience of adoption does not go away either.

I feel like an old veteran of a battle waged many years ago whose wounds have healed and are now a source of strength to carry on.  I feel the need to encourage others, motivate others, and testify about how the Lord does work it all out.  For those of you who are just now experiencing a life different than you expected, hear me when I say this:

  • There will be times when you feel like crawling into a hole where no one can find you.
  • There will be those moments when the words of other’s will sit on you like a heavy weight.
  • God is NOT punishing you.
  • You ARE still able to be a parent; it may just take you a little longer to become one.
  • It is okay to avoid the baby departments at stores (stop beating yourself up over it.)
  • It is normal to be a little envious of your friends who are having babies…ALL at the same time (again, stop beating yourself up over it.  This is a process of healing and does not reflect on how much you love your friends.)
  • Baby showers are the worst when you can’t have one, and going into an ob/gyn’s office is miserable when you are the only non-prego chic in the room.
  • There are others who feel the same way you do.  Find them.  Seek support from them.
  • Most people really don’t know how you are feeling.  This is just a fact that you need to accept.
  • Whether you become a parent through birth or adoption, all of these hard times you are going through will seem like a blip on the radar screen compared to the lifetime of love you will be able to give and receive through parenting.  

Infertility is more than about pregnancy.  It is a sojourn into the pits and valleys of despair.  It is a path where each step taken leads to healing.  Like the quote on our family photo above, we were not separated from our children when they were born.  We had all embarked on a journey that led to each other.  Our journey together really did not end at our adoption.  We began a new one with new stories to be written, lessons to be learned, hopes to be fulfilled, and new revelations of the Lord’s presence throughout it all.

Each Time I Speak

Today I had the privilege of speaking to a class of social work students at a Christian university about foster parenting, adoption, and infertility.  I always enjoy these opportunities to share of the great calling that is foster parenting, and to give a glimpse of my own personal testimony.  It seems each time I speak, I walk away learning a bit more about myself, and about the Lord.

It was a small class, and I really do not know what each of them want to do with their education or who their target population of clients will be.  I don’t know what any of their own life stories involve, but I was thankful to see a group of young persons seeking to learn more about society and the social issues that we face.  I also recognize that they are going to learn more once they actually graduate and dive into the field, than myself, or any professor could ever teach them.

With that being said, I do believe in the power of story-telling, and not just fictional stories.  Human stories are powerful and often help the listener navigate their worlds vicariously through the stories of someone else.  Today, after speaking about the basic facts of foster parenting, and sharing some examples of both heart-break and joy, I was asked to share my personal journey.

I’ve been a guest speaker several times and have told my story of infertility and adoption multiple times.  Each time I start though, I struggle just a bit with how to begin it.  Often, I pause, take a deep breath, then start something like this….

I need to start from the beginning in order for you to understand the full story…

I begin the tale of my journey by explaining that my medical problems started to happen at the age of two years, but that no one ever suspected what would happen at the age of eleven.  I tell of being in the hospital for nearly a week in the dying process before the life-saving decision was made to perform exploratory surgery.  I talk about my hysterectomy, and at times, I catch myself off-guard about how open I am now in talking about it.

After I “break the ice” a bit with my medical history  I meander my way through the steps taken to become licensed as a foster parent up until the moment I first laid eyes on the precious baby we were charged with taking care of.  I tell of the lows (and there were many), the highs, the revelations, the humbling moments, and ultimately, the gift of adoption.  I speak of the relationship built with my son’s birth mother, and the moments where all I could do was kneel in prayer for the child I deeply loved.

I go on to talk about how our son declared we would get a baby sister about 10 days or so before we even became aware of her.  I talk about how her “case” was vastly different from my son’s, and how our children are strong-willed, ornery, and deeply loved.  The Lord’s declaration to me that my journey was never really about me in the first place is something I always share.  It is the most important piece of my story, and something that will always stand out to me as being one of the most incredible gifts through all of this.

On the drive home following my speaking engagement, I was at a place of peace and contentment with life.  I feel this way every time I am able to share my story.  I see how the Lord put all the refining and deeply painful moments together with those “mountain-top” moments in life.  I also think about the adolescent girl and young adult that I once was who barely whispered a word about what happened.  I remember that my hysterectomy was something I hid from others, was deeply ashamed of, and that caused great internal turmoil in my life.  I recall the images of myself avoiding baby departments, struggling through baby showers, and coiling up in a fetal position while weeping my way through the pain of infertility.

I am so thankful for opportunities to share my story with others.  I know others learn from my professional and personal experience.  I believe that a small dose of understanding is learned, and that some may walk away feeling moved to get involved in foster care.  I also feel that I am able to speak for those still struggling through infertility, and to share that there is always hope and goodness that happens in life even when that doesn’t seem possible.

For me though, each time I speak it out loud, I am reaffirmed of His presence throughout my life, His marking of the path that led me to my children, and His ability now to use me in ways I never imagined.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing me to a place where my story reflects Your glory.  I feel You around me Father.  I feel You working on me, and sculpting my life in ways that remind me of who You are.  I also know that You are not through with me yet, and for that, I am excited to see what You have in store.

 

My Life’s Song

Here we are in the last few days of November and the last week of National Adoption Month.  This past month I have posted something each day that I hope has inspired people to take care of children through adoption and foster care.  I’d like to share some insights I’ve learned as an adoptive parent.  Here’s the first one:

Through the adoption of my children I have learned that my life was planned and designed with great purpose.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that growing up I never really understood or appreciated the concept of a life planned in advance; especially if the plan included the heart-wrenching grief of infertility.  I did not comprehend how a loving God could or would allow infertility, even though barrenness is written about in Scripture.  I certainly never envisioned myself as a mother.  I just didn’t think it was “in the cards” for my life.

Seeking the Lord and the adoption of my children have both revealed to me that mothering was written into my life story.  My children were planned for me, and I was planned for them.  Despite the medical problem I had that resulted in being barren, I was still designed with the great purpose of motherhood by the God that created the Heavens and the Earth.

Some call it fate.  Some may say I lucked into being able to adopt.  I choose not to call it either of these things.  I call it the grace of the Lord and His Divine Plan.  I call it the presence of a living God whose works are ones of love.  I call it the pouring out of His blessings.  I call it a mission-filled and purposeful design.

Adoption really is my life’s song.  My children are the instruments.  Our experience together is the melody.  The Lord is the composer, and, from time to time, you just might catch me dancing to it.

“For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Thankfulness

Happy Thanksgiving!  Here’s my top ten list of things I’m thankful for:

  1. Grace – the Lord knows I’m a mess, but He loves me anyway.
  2. Love – my husband knows I’m a mess, but he loves me anyway.
  3. Adoption of my children – my life is much more colorful because of them.
  4. My job – I’m blessed to work for a child welfare agency that understands that our own families come before those we work with.
  5. Freedom – to get an education, to go to church, to live without fear.
  6. Salvation – Jesus chose us over His life.  What a beautiful Savior!
  7. My parents – for their support & for never allowing me to be a victim of my own set of circumstances.  I cannot imagine how painful my hysterectomy must have been on them.
  8. Revelation – the Lord has spoken His will into my life and has shown me that His plan had a purpose & for that I am so grateful for.
  9. Friendships – my friends also know I’m a mess, but they love me anyway
  10. Reading/writing & fellow bloggers – I’m so glad I stumbled onto writing.  I always knew I enjoyed it, but never realized how much of an outlet it is.  Thank you all for reading my blog, and thank you for sharing your worlds through writing your blogs.

Oh yeah, I’m also thankful for moments like these, and so many more!!

Much More

Adoption: The act of transferring parental rights and duties to someone other than the adopted person’s biological parents. (Concise Encyclopedia/Merriam Webster)

I ran across this definition of adoption when doing some research.  It seems so simple; too simple.  It doesn’t take into account the emotion, waiting, persistence, patience, grief, giving, receiving, love, and joy that travel along the way towards adoption, and it certainly doesn’t describe life held after adoption.  It is so much more than just transferring parental rights.

Adoption is hope.  It is commitment.  It is patience.  It is waiting.  It is grief.  It is joy.  It is giving.  It is love.  It is receiving.  

I gave myself away to my children before they were legally mine.  I did not wake up the morning of their adoptions and discover new-found love based on transfer of parental rights.  I dreamed of them.  I yearned for them.  I grieved for them.  My soul grasped for them.  My imagination sculpted them.  Truthfully speaking, I loved them before I even met them.

In return, I received so much more than the legal status of being called mom.  I have been given the chance to push a little harder to make the world better for them.  I have been awarded the opportunity to imprint their lives with love.  I have received living, breathing, laughing joy.

I have received those moments of feeling full well the Lord’s penmanship of my life. I see the Lord in my children’s eyes.  I feel Him in their embrace.  I hear Him in their wonder of the world.  I still remember being that girl who didn’t know when or if I would ever be healed from the pain of barrenness.  I still think about her and who she used to be.  I still grieve at times for what she went through and for the pain she carried through the years.  But then….I look at my children, feel His presence, and know full well that I am healed.

Adoption deserves so much more than a legalistic definition.  It is defined by the path that one walks – whether birth parent, adoptive parent, or adopted child.  It is shaped by the loss along the way.  It is refined by the waiting.  It is colored by the emotion and highlighted by the joy.  It is enhanced from the giving, and humbled by the receiving.  It is love in action, hope in process, and life lived in the full awareness of Him.

Yes…adoption is so much more.

The Adoption Creed

2009

Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
But still Miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,
You did not grow under my heart,
But in it.

-Fleur Conkling Heyliger

This is another well-known poem about adoption.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my prayers, hopes, dreams, tears, imagination, and heart.

The Chosen Heart

THE CHOSEN HEART

Longing for a child to love,
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew,
A part of me was meant for you.

I think how happy we will be,
Once I adopt you, and you adopt me.

I dream of all the joy you’ll bring,
Imagining even the littlest things.
The way it will feel to hold you tight
And tuck you in every night.

The drawings on the refrigerator door
And childhood toys across the floor,
The favorite stories read again and again
And hours of fun with make believe friends.

The day you took my outstretched hand
A journey ended but our love began.
Still mesmerized by your sweet face
Still warmed inside by our first embrace.

I promised to give you a happy home
And a loving family all your own.
A house you’ve now made complete 
with laughter,smiles, and tiny feet.

A parent is one who guides the way
Know I will be there every day
Rest easy as each night you sleep
A lifetime of love is yours to keep

Longing for a child to love
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew
A part of me belonged to you.

-Teri Harrison

This is another one of my favorite adoption poems.  I especially love that it speaks of the sense of belonging between parent and child, and of being meant for each other.  I know that I was meant to be the mother of my children, and they were meant to be mine.  They just traveled their way to me in different vessels!

Have a wonderful day!

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

I didn’t give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn’t give you 
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.

— Unknown

This is probably one of the most well-known poems about adoption.  It is simplistic,yet, speaks great truth in just a few words.  Have a wonderful day!