Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Adoptive Parent?

I was recently tasked with the assignment of writing an article for Adoption.com regarding “what it takes to be an adoptive parent”.  At first, I was not quite sure what to write.  What DOES it take to be an adoptive parent?  What does it take to be any kind of parent, really?

As I thought more and more about this subject, I rested on a few themes: patience, understanding of systems, strong emotions, humor, comfort, perfection, rejection, resilience, “issues”, and the meaning of adoption in each of our lives.  Sure, some of these things may be important for any type of parenting.  The reality is that they are especially important for adoptive families.

Here’s a link to my article on this subject: Do You Have What It Takes to be an Adoptive Parent?

If you have any other ideas of what it takes to be an adoptive parent, I’d love to hear them!

Blessings,

Caroline

Hey, Pastors. It’s Time the Church Talks about Infertility.

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Hey, Pastors,

Did you know that one of out of eight couples in the US has trouble either getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy?  One out of eight.  The numbers are even bigger when you consider those struggling with it throughout the world.

While you are preaching this Sunday, count the families in your congregation.  For every eight couples present, there’s a very good chance that one of them is either infertile or has miscarried.  It is possible that your church has numerous couples who have been walking through infertility with barely speaking a word about it.

We have come so far in our history as souls walking on this Earth, yet, we still do not talk about infertility; especially in the church setting.  I’ve always wondered why.  Is it because it involves sex?  Or, maybe it’s just awkward?  Could it be that advice is hard to give and take when dealing with infertility?  I suspect it might be all of these things.

I reached out once to a big national church – like huge – with a very well-known and eloquent Pastor.  I asked them, “What are you doing for people in your congregation who are struggling with infertility?”  They told me that they refer couples/singles who are infertile to their orphan care ministry.  Okay.  That is fine but adoption is a completely different experience than infertility.  Sure, they touch each other but the experiences as whole both require full attention.  They both involve lots of tears, courage, and resilience, but, orphan care, while wonderful, does not equate caring for the infertile.

Here’s the ugly truth, though.  Infertility impacts spirituality.  Let me repeat.

INFERTILITY IMPACTS SPIRITUALITY. 

Case in point:  Several years ago, a Pastor’s wife emailed me via this blog and poured her heart out to me.  She was angry at God for not answering her prayers for pregnancy.  She was confused and felt she could not say anything out loud due to being the Pastor’s wife. Instead of turning to those within her church who know her and love her, she sought me, a complete stranger who just happens to “get it” when it comes to infertility.  I did my best to encourage her and let her know that she is free to vent to me via email anytime she needed to.  However, this is not how it should be.  Infertility should not be a secret that is kept away for fear of showing to others that none of us are spiritual warriors all of the time.

Hey, Pastors.  It’s time the church breaks open the seal of secrecy when it comes to infertility.

I grew up attending a Southern Baptist church.  The Pastor and other members of the church were warm, kind and spiritually mature (at least, that is what I thought of them). However, after my hysterectomy in 1983 (age 11), I do not recall one single person with “authority” in the church reaching out to me about what had just happened.  While they provided some support to my parents, they did not really discuss at all the impact of infertility on my life and where God was in all of it. My mom recalls that “no one asked” when referring to how she dealt with it.  Instead, our family heard lots of “She can always adopt” and “God must have a reason for this”.

I’m sorry, but this is just wrong.  While I know now that adoption was the plan for my life and I absolutely adore my children, these types of comments from other Christians did not comfort, nor did they draw me closer to the Lord.  If a wife were to lose her husband, would the church say, “She can always remarry”?  I don’t think so.

Take a look at the story of Hannah:

1 Samuel 1-15

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LordAlmighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah, he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house.  In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying,

Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk, and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 


Hannah was in anguish.  She was provoked until she wept.  Yet, she was misunderstood. Her pain was not clear until she bravely told of her grief.

Hey, Pastors.  There are a lot of Hannah’s in your congregation.  

You may not know it.  You may even be surprised by who they are, but they are there. They attend week after week.  They are some of your most dedicated volunteers, teach Sunday school classes and host small groups, pray for you and everyone else, and they are in pain.

Growing up with barrenness, I understand all too well that it can be a stinging arrow heading right into one’s heart.  It does not invite feelings of thankfulness.  It certainly does not create a sense of wholeness; physically or spiritually.  If the church is responsible for growing spiritual beings and encouraging the faithful, why does it do a good job at ignoring the infertile?  Scripture talks about it, so why doesn’t the modern-day church?

Hey, Pastors.  This is my challenge for you.  Learn about infertility.  Read my blog and the multitude of other blogs whose writers whisper their tears via the written word.  Talk to doctors who work with infertile couples.  Read and re-read the stories of barrenness in the Bible, and then, create an open dialog so that the Hannah’s (and spouses) in YOUR church can feel like they are not forgotten children of the Lord and that their church home is a soft spot to land in the midst of their struggle.

Hey, Pastors.  It’s Time the Church Talks about Infertility.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

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

The Fall-Out After a Hysterectomy {what I want others to know}

I’ve had multiple conversations with women who have undergone a hysterectomy.  While some women were like “Good Riddance!”, this is not the case for the majority of ones that I’ve spoken to.

Even though my hysterectomy occurred before I could really conceptualize the impact of it, I still had overwhelming thoughts about what had happened.  Not only was I confused by them, I couldn’t even appreciate or understood why confusion existed.

Although having a hysterectomy may be required at times and has become a bit more simple of a surgery, the emotional experience can be very difficult to navigate.  I want to help others going through a hysterectomy by sharing a few of the thoughts that I have experienced in my life.  (Please note that not everyone may feel this way)

  • “I am not female anymore.”  Believe it or not, this is a thought that can occur once someone has a hysterectomy.  The question of “What am I?” may cross a woman’s mind.
  • “I am no longer attractive to my mate.”  Yep.  Women DO struggle with this after a hysterectomy.  I used to believe that other girls/women put off a sexier or more womanly vibe that I possessed and that guys could tell.  Seem crazy to me now, but it was a truth in my life that I had to overcome.  I compensated for it; sometimes, with bad decisions and other times with the “I don’t care about any of it” attitude.
  • “I must have done something wrong.”  Shame. Guilt.  Unworthy.  Although ridiculous in many ways, these words can describe the feelings that come about after undergoing a hysterectomy.
  • “I am broken.”  Despair upon despair.  It is hard to put a word that truly gives the meaning of what women go through after a hysterectomy.  Broken seems just about right.

Often, women do not want to talk about their feelings because they are embarrassed to feel the way they do or fear they might be misunderstood.  This seems to be especially true for younger women who are faced with the onslaught of friends complaining about periods and announcing pregnancies.  Infertility is one thing but when you throw in a hysterectomy, the game changes.

For most people, these doubts and feelings will not make sense.  For many others, though, there is great emotional fall-out after a hysterectomy, and, it is one that is surprising in nature.

If you have had a hysterectomy and are struggling, please know that what you are experiencing is normal.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Allow yourself time to grieve, and know that there are others who have had shared your emotions time and again.

 

 

 

Six Things I’d Like You to Know About Adoption {adoption is not perfect}

November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the US.  It is a month when we celebrate and advocate for adoption.  Being an adoptive parent myself, I fully understand the highs and lows of it.  If you are considering building your family through adoption (especially after years of infertility), here are a few things I’d like for you to know.

  1. Even with the joys of adoption, there is sorrow.  You will find that you love your child or children so much that you grieve for their life stories.  You know that they have come to you after a tremendous amount of hardship and despair of their birth parent(s).  With adoption, comes loss.  Helping your children understand and grieve this is part of your responsibility as a parent.
  2. You won’t and can’t have all of the right words at the right time.  People may say things to you that just throw you off.  You usually find the right response hours later and after the moment is gone.  There are also questions and statements that your children will state at the most random of times.  Just be prepared to not be prepared times like this, because they will happen.
  3. Adoption doesn’t stop at the declaration of the Judge.  I’ve said it before, but in many ways, adoption is an evolutionary process.  As your children grow up, they will yearn for answers from you, and they will want to know more about their histories and birth families.  This is natural and should not be taken as a negative.  Your children love you.  They just want to know more.
  4. You will have moments when infertility still sneaks up on you.  Let me give you an example.  Recently, I spoke at an infertility conference hosted by a local church.  I had prepared what I was going to say and tried to stay on target.  About mid-way through, I found myself struggling to hold back tears.  I said, “I would not trade my kids for anyone else’s.  I just wish I would have carried them in my body.”   This statement was not planned.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  These feelings and waves of emotions will stick with you long after adoption.
  5. You have to be flexible and adaptive in your approach to parenting.  As much as family members adore and deeply loves my children, I still catch them saying things like, “You never acted like that as a child.”  Typically, the way we parent is either very similar to our parents or it can be the exact opposite (if raised in an abusive, neglectful or troubled home).  I recall being a sensitive child and just the thought of making my mother cry was enough for me to stop whatever I was doing.  I’d like to be able to parent the same way or have the same expectations of my children, but I’ve learned that I cannot and must not do this.  I’ve had to adapt and be flexible about my expectations and approach to parenting.  What works for my friends’ kids or worked for me as a child, won’t work for mine, and that’s okay.
  6. Adoption is so amazing.  There is a deep joy that dwells within you when you look at the children whom God picked for you.  It is hard to describe and a bit ironic in how you just know that your kids were meant to be yours.  Is it perfect?  No.  Does it always go smoothly?  Absolutely not.  However, it is hard to deny that adoption is an amazing and incredible experience.

In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month, we should focus not only on children and older youth in need of adoption and adoptive families but also on the authentic and honest sharing of experiences and lessons gained through adoption.

Adoption is not perfect, but my friends, neither are we.