To the Momma-in-Waiting on Thanksgiving

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Pssst…Hey, Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you.  You’ve cooked up the most delicious dish for today.  You get compliments on it and are asked for the recipe but if truth be told, you barely remember cooking it.  Instead, your mind was focused on what this Thanksgiving Day brings to you – a whole lot of anxiety and sadness.

You meet and greet family members that you haven’t seen in a while.  They are all excited for you to meet the new little one just born into the family.  You act thrilled (and you are) but deep down, you are also absolutely devastated.  You think, “When will it be my turn?”

As the day progresses, you take a moment or two to step outside and catch your breath.  It is tricky, you know; tricky to navigate the relationships that you have, to express joy and gladness over the new little one that is in your family, and to answer the best you can when folks start asking about starting your own family.

A part of you just wants to scream – I mean, SCREAM!  If only they knew how much you wish you could actually give them an answer or how often you research infertility, treatments, doctors, adoption and anything else tangled up in your experience.  If only they knew.

Here you are on Thanksgiving.  You are told to be thankful.  You are expected to be thankful.  You feel guilty if you are not.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  While others are gleefully living their lives (or at least, it seems like it), you are stuck waiting for your life to move on.  You want to move on past this whole infertility/no baby/no pregnancy garbage.  You want to forget this whole chapter of your story was ever written, but you can’t.  Most of all, though, you just want to know that you will be a mother one day.

On this Thanksgiving Day where so many around you remind you of what they are thankful for, take time for yourself.  You don’t have to be thankful for what you are going through but it is important to notice it.  How can you not?  Even if you don’t want to remember this season of your life, your body, mind, and spirit will remember every single pain-staking decision you have had to make and every single tear you have shed.

Thanksgiving is hard, isn’t it?  If you are a believer, you know that we are to be thankful in all circumstances.  Ugh, right?  How can you be thankful for infertility?  The honest answer from this previous Momma-in-Waiting is that it is extremely difficult and maybe you won’t ever be able to be thankful for it, and that’s okay.  One day, you will recognize that you survived it.  That’s big.  That’s enough.

Pssst…Hey, Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you.  Today might be a little rough.  You’ve got this.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Tomorrow is a new day and that is something we can all be thankful for.

 

 

Nine On My Mind

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See that sweetie right there?  That’s my daughter before she came to live with us.  Her first foster mama sent us the picture after it was decided that we would be her new home.  They loved her dearly but made the decision that they could not be a long term home for her (in case she needed one), so we were called.

I remember it so vividly.  As I was sitting in the parking lot of Goodwill (which is a bit ironic), my phone rang.  I saw the number and knew it was our state’s child protection services calling.  My stomach flip-flopped a bit and I answered, “Hello?”.  The social worker on the other line explained my daughter’s situation and asked the words that so many foster families know, “Are you interested in being a placement?”

I told her that I needed to call my husband first.  We agreed to talk about it after work.  After his call, I called my mom for her advice.  Even as an adult, I knew I needed to speak to her.  Technically, we were not even on “the list” for placements but we did tell our licensing worker to keep us in mind.

Thoughts swirled through my head.  “What about our son?”  (He was only two at the time and we had just been through close to two years of fostering him before we were able to adopt.)  “How will it impact him?”  “Are we ready for another kiddo?”  “Can I handle the sleepless nights again?”  “Are we ready to not be in control and unsure of what is going to happen with this little girl’s case?”  “Can we do this?”  You get the point.  It was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

I called the social worker back and asked, “Could we have a few days to work some things out and talk about it before we make a decision?”  She said, “Of course, that is fine.”  So we did…and we said, “Yes.”

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s ninth birthday.  With each of my children’s birthdays, I relive the day they came into my life.  It’s like reliving a birth story but of course, I wasn’t there for their births.  I wasn’t around to watch them enter this big world.  I didn’t get to swaddle them up and hold them close as they cried out, “I AM HERE!”  However, I was there when social services called.  I’ve been here ever since.

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Watching my daughter grow through the years has given us much joy.  It has also come with a whole lot of challenges – some unique to adoptive families, some typical of any family raising a girl.

She’s a bit mysterious, generous, ornery, charming, super strong-willed, and creative.

She’s interested in learning about the world around her and feels every ounce of emotion that enters her mind.  If we can just teach her to harness all of these qualities, I dare think she could be a force to reckon with in the future.

I’ve had nine on my mind; nine years of watching a baby who literally arrived on my doorstep grow into a girl who makes an impression on just about everyone she meets.

Foster parenting is something that never leaves you.  The experience is surreal, emotional and so worth it.  When we began, we had no idea what would happen.  When we decided to close our license, we walked away with a wealth of knowledge, a big dose of humility, and two children who became ours through adoption.

Yes, I’ve had nine on my mind; nine years of loving and training up a daughter who just might change the world.  I know she’s changed mine.

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Happy Birthday, Sis.  Love You Forever.

 

 

Why National Adoption Month Matters

In the US, November is National Adoption Month.  The goals of this month include increasing adoption awareness on a national level and bringing attention to the needs of children who are still waiting for their permanent families.

To read more about this subject, click Why National Adoption Month Matters

November is a special month for those of us whose lives have been touched by adoption.  May we all continue to fight the good fight for children.  May we all seek wisdom in decisions that need to be made and dwell within grace in each and every moment.  Let’s never cease in our efforts to find families for children around the world.

Blessings,

Caroline

Stand Sunday {EIGHT things YOU can do to take a stand for foster children and foster parents}

 

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Next time you are at church, take a look around at the empty seats.  Imagine if those seats were filled with foster children who were being taken care of by members of the congregation.  Wouldn’t that be an awesome sight to see?

This coming up Sunday (November 12th) is “Stand Sunday”.  Stand Sunday, an initiative of Orphan Sunday and The Christian Alliance for Orphans is designated as the day where churches are asked to take a stand for foster children.  Ultimately, the goal is for there to be an abundance of appropriate foster homes to meet the diverse needs of every single child in the system.

Not everyone is able to be a foster parent, but everyone can do something to help.  There are many ways that you and your church can take a stand for foster children.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Foster care is a mission field and the church should be involved.  As a church, reach out to local child welfare agencies and request ways that you can help them out.  Do they need volunteers for special events?  Donations of certain items?  What needs could your church fill?
  2. If foster parents attend your church, offer them a “parents night out” by providing childcare.  Each state may have different processes for approval; however, this is not an impossible task to achieve and the families absolutely need it.
  3. If you are a foster parent or work in the field, ask your pastor about guest speaking.  Eek!  I know that sounds really scary but only you can provide the kind of insight needed to get the message across.  (You can do it!)
  4. Sometimes, all it takes is for people to be aware of the magnitude of an issue before they get involved.  Ask your church if it would print a little blurb about the facts, numbers, and needs of foster children in US foster care system and add it to the Sunday morning pamphlets that are distributed when people walk through the doors.  Knowledge is power!
  5. Start a meal train for new foster families.  There is nothing more chaotic than the first week or so of a new foster placement.  Often, these families become instant parents to two or more children of different ages and with varying needs.  Cooking dinner (unless you count boxed mac-n-cheese/not judging at all) is the last thing on their minds.
  6. Think about your own talents.  Are you a great photographer?  Do you have a teachable skill set?  Are you a retired teacher or coach?  If so, use your talents and experiences to tutor and mentor youth in care.
  7. Just be present.  I know that sounds a little cheesy and all but nothing feels better than knowing one is heard, loved and supported during the good days and the bad.
  8. Pray!  Seriously, Church.  Pray without ceasing for children in the system, for their biological parents, caseworkers, Judges and juvenile authorities and for the foster and relative homes who are all on the front lines of battling child abuse and neglect.

I’ve worked in child welfare for close to 17 years.  I fostered for four years, as well.  I sure wish the demand for my job did not involve child abuse and neglect.  I’ve worked with far too many kids who have said, “No one cares”.

Church, it’s time we show them we care. 

It’s time we take a stand.

That’s Just Fine with Me {perfection is not a guarantee}

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This past week was parent-teacher conference time at school!  I always look forward to meeting with teachers (not because my kids are perfect angels. Sorry to disappoint).  I look forward to it because teachers are spending nearly all day, five days per week, with my children.  They watch them interact with others, learn their quirks, discipline when required, and encourage when needed.  That’s big, people.

Yesterday’s conference started out like most other ones.  We reviewed grades, etc and then my child’s teacher asked, “How is the school year going?”  My reply went something like this, “(Child) is having a hard time.  Not wanting to do homework, lots of behavior issues, threatened to run away this week, questioned a lot about adoption…”

The teacher shoved the grade card aside and we sat and talked about my child and what is going on.  At one point, the teacher showed me an assignment that my child wrote titled, “My Favorite Person”.  She then read it to me.

Here is some of it:

“My favorite person is my parents.  They protect me.  They make sure I am safe on the streets.  They watch me when I am playing outside.  They are respectful of me.  They have manners.  They listen when I am talking to them.  They forgive me when I say sorry to them.  They don’t let me down.  They adopted me.  As you can see, I have a very good Mom and Dad.”

While the teacher was reading it, I started to cry.  Soon after, she did, too.  She said, “You’re doing a good job, Momma.”  I cannot stress enough the importance of the timing of this.  My child has been questioning a whole lot about our adoption history and I’ve had to answer some pretty tough questions.  This parent-teacher conference was not just about reading, writing, and arithmetics.  It was about life and I needed to read the words: They don’t let me down.

Some people have questioned why we chose to tell our children immediately about adoption.  (Like as soon as they were adopted – age 20 months, 14 months, and 13 months).  We knew they didn’t understand or comprehend it, but the word became a part of our language and adoption, a natural part of the make-up of our family.  My husband and I have come to realize that if we hide or mislead our children about the smallest of details of their adoption stories, then we shouldn’t expect them to trust us with any of the details.

We know that if we chose to hold tightly their adoption stories, it would have been a mistake.  Even with our openness, it is tough at times.  There is nothing like watching your child grieve for a mother that one has never met, or felt.  It is heartbreaking, deeply moving and can render one at a loss for words.

When your child spits venom at you that encompasses the full measure of grief, anger, and confusion, it does cause you to question whether you are good enough and if you have this whole adoptive parenting thing down.  After reading my child’s letter, I know that while we are not perfect, we are good enough.  Just good enough.  That’s fine with me.

Surely, we will have tougher days ahead.  Perfection was certainly not promised when we signed on the line for adoption.  It is not guaranteed for any family, regardless of how children come.  With adoption, though, I’m learning that we do have more to prove, we do have to be intentional about our efforts, and we must work hard at never letting our children down.

I’m also learning that while perfection is not a guarantee, love is.

That’s just fine with me.

My Child, There Are Better Days to Come

My child had a rough morning.  I could see it all over my darling’s body; eyes a bit wilder than usual, hair somewhat disheveled, and arms flailing with impulsive movement.  It reached a game-changing moment during a redirection.  I looked up and saw that hand, the one that often grabs mine when walking together, fly up in the air and smack hard against my skin.  Sure, it was a slap on the arm but it hurt.  It left a red mark.  It was not a “toddler testing boundaries” kind of hit.  It was meant to hurt me and it was full of pent-up angst.

First, came the shock, followed by a brief moment of anger.  Just as soon as my anger began to swell, I melted into tears; sadness took over.  My child fell back into the seat and started to cry.  I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do.  We were loaded up in the van and on our way to school but the last thing I could focus on was getting there before the bell rang.

While trying to find the right words, I heard, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  I could not believe my ears.  With the sting of my child’s hand still lingering on my arm, I said, “No, of course not”.

Soon, my child said, “I just get so mad.  I have anger issues.  I’m sorry.”  I tried to find the right words but it seems during moments like these, words can be elusive.  I offered the knowledge of “Even if someone has an issue with anger or whatever, it is still up to them to make better choices.  You have to choose to do the right thing and ask yourself, “Is this worth it?”.  I don’t know if that was good enough or if that is what my child needed to hear but it was all I could come up with at that moment.

There was a hug, followed by an apology, and a statement regarding the worry about other kids noticing my child’s tear-stained face.  “Just tell them you had a rough morning,” I said.  The van door slid open and I watched as a piece of my heart formed in the shape of a child slowly walk to the doors of the school, pause for a moment, and then look back to make sure I was still there before entering.  My kiddos know I always stay put until they enter the doors to their school.  On this morning, it was especially important for me to stay a while.

Ugh.  Of all the things that happened, the saddest and hardest part was hearing the words, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  Where does this come from?  My child has been with us since infancy and despite filling the space between us with love, this child still seems to meander carelessly somewhere between the knowledge of being adopted and the full measure of being in our family.

Sure, there’s counseling, training, and all sorts of ways to intervene.  We’ve set up boundaries, applied consequences, talked openly about adoption and biological parents, followed through with providing moments to build self-esteem and show our love, but there is still a void that is hard to fill.  When the void gets too deep, the claws come out.

My child thinks deeply and has big emotions.  This child is sensitive, inquisitive and always wants to know more and more…even when there’s not a lot more to offer.  Moments like these are tough to swallow.  Knowing how to respond is even harder, and I tend to receive the blunt end of all that emotion welled up inside a youthful body.

Being an adoptive family is a wonderful thing but it is not perfect.  It is filled with a lot of loss.  We do our best to weave the tapestry of our family with as much good as we can but there are issues.  We’d be foolish to think that everything is okay all of the time.

This is a part of adoption that others don’t see.  This is the part of parenting children with invisible special needs that are often unseen by many.  This is hard.

Even with all of the intentional efforts put into raising a well-rounded and secure child as one can raise, we still have to navigate these valleys and they are deep, my friends.  We put on a smiling face that does a good job of covering up some of the battle wounds we’ve endured.  We pretend that everything is great but sometimes, it just isn’t.

Telling an adoptive family, “Oh, kids will just do that, sometimes” is useless.  We know that kids, regardless of their histories, will do things that can break one’s heart.  We are well aware of that but there is a difference, you know.  When your child is exhibiting things that seem to carry an invisible message, it is hard but it is not impossible to manage.

I guess that is where the fortitude to keep going comes from – the awareness of possibilities covered in a glaze of hope.  Hope is found in the possibilities; hope for change, hope for better responses, hope for a recovery and hope for healing.  If it weren’t for the belief in possibilities and the endurance of hope, nothing would be gained and so much would be lost.

There will be tremendously painful moments full of emotion throughout our life as an adoptive family.  Yet, in many ways, the complex splendor of life is often found in the midst of incredibly hard times filled with blood, sweat, and tears.

My child, the one with the big emotions wrapped up in a small frame,

I love you.  I have always loved you.  I will always love you.

Nothing you have done or ever will do would cause me to not love you.

I have never regretted adopting you.  I never will.  I am yours and you are mine.

I wish I could retell your story minus all the bad stuff, but I cannot.

It must be scary to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Let Momma carry it for you.  If I could, I would swallow it up so that you never have to feel it again.

I will never be able to claim myself as your biological parent.  I know that breaks my heart and I suspect it breaks yours.

You are unique.  You have a gift to give this world, baby.  You’ll find it and when you do, hang on and hold tight.  I believe you could be a world-changer.  

You may feel broken at times but history shows us that the Lord uses broken people for mighty things.  That’s the incredible part of faith – knowing that our weakest moments can become part of our strongest testimony.

You have a place in our family.  You always will.  Don’t lose sight of that, my child.  Don’t lose sight.

My child, there are better days to come.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

-Isaiah 41:10

 

“Oh. I Wish I Had a Hysterectomy at Eleven.” {minding our tongues}

On the list of the top ten most absurd things said to me regarding infertility and having a hysterectomy at a young age is this:

Me (at the ER for kidney stones following the typical question regarding last menstrual cycle): “I had a hysterectomy when I was eleven-years-old so I do not have periods.”

Nurse: “Oh. I wish I would have had a hysterectomy at eleven.”

Um…really? Let’s break that down just a bit.

1) You wish you would have had a major surgery as a child.

2) You wish you would have been in the hospital for nearly a month.

3) You wished you would have missed nearly half of a year of school.

4) You wish you would have felt completely different from girls your own age.

5) You wish you grew up knowing you would never have biological children.

6) You wish you would have believed that your lot in life was your fault and that God was punishing you for some reason.

7) You wish you would have attended baby showers with the full pressure of grief on your heart.

8) You wish you would have cried until you could not cry anymore over what life had thrown you.

9) You wish you would have walked around with the weight of the world on your shoulders.

10) You wish you would have fought the physical, emotional and spiritual battles that encompasses infertility.

11) You wish you would have had to make the decision to be courageous enough to explore foster care and adoption.

12) You wish you had to look into your children’s eyes and try your best to explain why they did not grow in your tummy and why they are not able to grow up with their biological parents.

Don’t get me wrong.  I so appreciate nurses.  Nurses sustained me throughout the many operations and medical issues in my life (both in childhood and adulthood).  The compassion I felt from the nursing staff was incredible and even at a young age, I recognized it.   They are the front-line warriors of so many tragic endings and for that, I have great respect.

However, there have been a handful of medical professionals who have reacted oddly when learning of my surgery.  Some have questioned why the medical team felt it necessary to remove my uterus and other organs.  Others have given flighty statements like the one described above.  The bottom line is that if you do not know what to say to someone, then just either don’t say anything or say something like, “That must have been really hard for you to go through.”

I have found that people who experienced severe medical issues as children are some of the most resilient adults.  I know I may be assuming a lot and that’s okay.  Those of us who have been delivered from the brink of death get that compassion and understanding are so important to the human experience.

If you are someone who experienced a tragic medical history, you’re strong.  You got this.  You know that a select few can truly relate to what you have been through and that’s okay.

If you are someone experiencing infertility, close your heart off to the silly notions and words of others.  You know what you are going through.  You get that others don’t get it.

If you are a nurse, you have the most incredible opportunity to show love, kindness, and compassion.  Keep doing that.  Mind your words, of course, but continue to fulfill the calling on your life to tend to the hurts of so many who need you.

I do not have anger towards the nurse who said this to me, but I have never forgotten her words.  Let’s just all commit to minding our tongues.

After all, words do hurt and if given the choice, wouldn’t you want your words to heal?