Baby Showers Are the Worst

“Baby showers are the worst.” Why would anyone say that celebrating the soon-to-be delivery of a precious little love is the worst? Who would say this?

WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH INFERTILITY

…that’s who.

It is hard to creatively describe what it feels like to walk into a baby shower knowing that you will not be able to share the same type of experience.  It may seem a bit silly, but infertility is far from a trivial issue.  It is very complex.

Before the adoption of my children, I dreaded going to baby showers.  Every time an invitation card came in the mail, I puffed out an “ugh”.  Even the act of shopping for gifts was just a big load of emotions and not pleasant.

This is how I survived baby showers:

  1. Slapped on the “so-happy-to-be-here-face” as I nervously entered the host home.
  2. If possible, I always found the pet cat or dog to pay attention to.
  3. Grazed around the snack table for as much time as possible (regardless if I was hungry).
  4. Pretended to understand the lingo of pregnancy terms (laughed on cue when others laughed even if I didn’t understand what they were talking about).
  5. Played along with the games.
  6. Oohed and awed over the gifts.
  7. Ate more food.
  8. Hugged the Mama-to-be and made a dash to my car…
  9. just in time before the tears gushed out.
  10. Gripped the steering wheel all the way home.
  11. Entered my house, went straight back to my bed, clung onto a pillow, sobbed and then felt guilty afterward for feeling that way.

Through the years, I’ve spoken to far too many women who are experiencing struggles with fertility.  Each one has affirmed that, indeed, baby showers are the worst for women who cannot get pregnant or keep a pregnancy to full term.  Each one described similar sad feelings when getting invitations in the mail, anxiety when arriving, and the struggle to play the role of a happy guest.

Here’s the hard part of all of this.  We want to be invited but we aren’t necessarily happy about going.  It’s not that we are unhappy for our friends and loved ones who are expecting.  It’s just that with each shower comes along a bitter reminder of what we cannot have.  I say “we” because even though adoption has made me a mom, I still consider myself a part of the sisterhood of broken hearts and empty wombs.

I want anyone going through the challenge of infertility to know that it is okay to dread baby showers. It’s okay to think, “baby showers are the worst”. It is normal to not want to go or to feel like an “outsider” while there.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  The road you are walking is hard enough the way it is.

If you are expecting and worried about inviting that friend of yours who has miscarried or is experiencing infertility, the most courageous thing you can do is speak with your friend about it.  Perhaps, your conversation can go something like this:

“I know you received my shower invitation and I also know that this is a really hard tine in your life right now.  I’ll understand if you do not want to come, but know that I would love for you to be there.  If you decide not to, also know that I love you and am supportive of you.  Perhaps, we can grab lunch one day and spend some time together.” 

If you friend decides not to come, please do not take it as anything other than it is – a super tough experience for someone who cannot have a baby.  Chances are that your friend will come.  Chances are also high that your friend will grieve afterward.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject for those who care for others going through it. Most of all, I hope this post confirms to persons experiencing infertility that their feelings regarding baby showers are a normal part of the journey.

Infertility is nothing short of a crapshoot.  It is just a big jumbled mess of all sorts of emotions, and even baby showers can’t escape its wrath.

Hang in there, friend.  

“I’m Helping the World”{my daughter’s 7 Billion Ones story}

For the past year or so, I’ve been involved in a movement born from the vision of a local professional photographer, Randy Bacon.  The movement, “7 Billion Ones” is fondly referred to as the “YOU Matter” movement.  Randy Bacon is the visionary behind it.

7 Billion Ones captures the stories of life and is accompanied by breathtaking portraits of the storytellers.  I shared my own life story for the project and found that not only is Randy an amazing photographer, he is also just an all-around awesome human being who values each and every person he comes in contact with.  I strongly encourage you to check out the 7 Billion Ones website.  It is powerful, humbling, and completely confirms that we are more alike than different.

The week before Christmas, my 8-yr-old daughter came up with one of the most endearing and uplifting ideas she has ever had.  I was moved by it but not completely surprised.  She has always had a generous spirit and a soft spot for homeless people.  I shared her idea with Randy and out of it, came a day that she and I will not forget.

 

7billiononesrandybaconhomelesshomelessness
Photo Credit:  Randy Bacon (www.7billionones.org)

 

Here is the link to her story:  I’m Helping the World  Please take a moment to read it.  I’m sure you will be blessed.  I know I was.  Spending the time with my daughter on that special day was simply incredible.

Children have a way of frustrating us at times, but they also have a way of amazing us.  Her act of generosity did just that, and for that, I know full well what a blessing she is in my life and the lives of others.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

7 Billion Ones {The “YOU MATTER” Movement”} Adoption.com article

About a year ago, I met with professional photographer, Randy Bacon and his wife, Shannon.  I was asked to share my story for their project, 7 Billion Ones.  Since meeting the Bacon’s, I’ve become more involved with their project.  7 Billion Ones is now a movement and it is absolutely rich with humanity.

I wrote an article for Adoption.com about this movement.  You can read it by clicking on this link:  7 Billion Ones {The “YOU MATTER” Movement”}

I am a firm believer in the truth that everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has a story that matters, and we can all learn from each other.  Whether it is substance abuse recovery, domestic violence, life-threatening illness, suicide, adoption, or any other life experience, there is always something to be learned from another person’s walk.  Sharing ourselves with the world promotes empathy, understanding, wisdom, healing, and connectedness.

Please go check out the article and stay a while on the 7 Billion Ones website!

Blessings,

Caroline

The Other Side of Sadness

There you are, sitting on a side of sadness where….

 the air is sucked out of your lungs;

your mind is forced to enter a dark place;

sorrows are whispered;

another day is wished for;

results seem to not come;

regrets are mulled over;

anger is justified;

what could have been is fantasized about;

your spirit is bored down;

pleadings go unanswered;

miracles do not seem to happen;

loneliness and despair sit side by side;

things don’t make sense;

our bodies break down;

and, you are compelled to let go; even though it is the life-changing, heart-breaking, and most pain-inducing moment of your life.

Are you sitting there, my friend?  I have been there myself.  Many others have too. Sometimes, we choose this side through our actions or lack there of.  Most of the time though, we are swept away from the other side of sadness we once lived in. Like a stranger in a foreign land, we enter into a place where we do not find comfort, and wish to leave.  This side of sadness may feel as though it will last forever.

I want you to know that there is another side of sadness, though.  It is one where….

hope dwells;

the resilience of the human spirit is witnessed over again;

beauty comes out of messes;

love is not silent;

laughter resonates;

stars are wished upon;

new life is born;

miracles are witnessed;

wind is felt;

purpose is found;

friendships are formed;

faith is grounded;

prayers are answered;

restoration happens;

and, meaning leads you to the peace that once evaded you.

The hard part of life is that we often find ourselves sitting on one side of sadness or the other.  We have not been promised a life of glorious moments, painless relationships, or perfect condition.  No….life seems, at times, to be just the opposite.

I have found, though, that memories I will choose to walk through life with are not the ones that caused strife, or physical pain.  The memories I want to hold dear towards the end of my life, whenever that will be, are moments where my senses felt alive, my mind was stirred, and my heart was over-flowing.  Yes, these are the moments that exist on the other side of sadness.

There is another side of sadness, another side of pain, and another side of having no control over some of the tragedies in our lives.  The human spirit is capable of capturing grace and joy in the darkest times; even when life is depleting.

The other side of sadness is one where love collides with life.  It is one that cannot be taken away.  It is where memories remain.  It is the side that doesn’t deteriorate or go silent, even when circumstances seem to be challenging it.  

The other side of sadness awaits for you.  It has reserved a spot with your name on it.  It will be waiting for you when you are ready.  I hope to find you on the other side of sadness soon.

 ….Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:5

Just Be

photo (55)Dear mothers and fathers, you are raising the next generation of mothers and fathers.  You have the most important job in the world, so don’t allow yourself to feel as though your role is invisible or doesn’t matter.  You are the architects of future family systems.

You are the builders laying down the foundation for generations to come.  You are the soil that roots take hold of.  You are artists who painfully work each day sculpting, refining, and creating the masterpiece that your children are.

There is no audience more important than that of children.  They watch you, they listen to you, and they move with you.  If you sway one way, they will follow.  If you give up, they may never try.  If you conquer a mountain, they will climb up after you.  If you finish the race, they will yearn to cross the finish line as well.

If you embrace faith, then let them see you live it out.  If charity makes your heart beat, then be charitable to them and in front of them.  If you value friendships, then teach them to be a good friend.  If humility is something you desire for them, then be humble.  If you know you have been captured and saved by grace, then be gracious.  If hope is all you have, then grab on to it with all of your might so that your children will recognize what it is to have a hopeful heart.

Strength can be spoken in many forms and languages; all of which children can hear, see, and feel.  There’s the strength you find yourself holding on to when holding them in the middle of another sleepless night.  There’s the strength used to put one foot in front of the other, to pick yourself up after you’ve fallen, and to cling on to when striving for a better future.  There’s also the strength needed to admit when you are wrong.

Courage is needed when learning how to let go, so let go, dear mothers and fathers.  Let go of bad habits that ruin your health and your hearts, relationships that are degrading and devaluing, and regrets that have become your bondage.  This bondage you wrap yourself up in has a generational impact, so stop it before it clings to your children, and your children’s children.

Find your voice and speak it loud.  If you favor kindness, then speak kindness loud enough for children to hear.  Speak it into the darkest of places, into the hardest of hearts, and into the lives of those who need it the most.  Soon, your children will speak it as well.

Yearn, dear mothers and fathers, yearn to make this world a better place for your children and your children’s children.  Yearn to be the dad you never had, or the mother you wish you would have had.  Yearn to be the kind of parent your children want to grow up to be.  Yearn to be their example of a life lived well.

Don’t stop believing in yourself and what you mean to the little eyes, beating hearts, and little ears that look up to you.  You don’t have to be a perfect parent, but you must be a present parent.  Don’t ever lose sight of how much you mean to your children.  You mean the world to them.  You are the world to them, so don’t forget that.

Dear mothers and fathers, parenting is the hardest job you will ever have.  It will test your limits, break your hearts, and exhaust your bodies, but don’t give up.  Be the parent you want your children to be.  Be yourself – they love who you are.  Be genuine, authentic, and comfortable with who you are so that they too will feel safe in their own skin.  Be strong and be courageous.  Just be, mothers and fathers, be the architects, builders, soil, and artists of future fathers and mothers.  Just Be.

Rest in a Restless World

I’m tired.  I’m tired of pretending that I’m not tired.  I’m tired of getting up each day and going to a job that I know exists because people abuse and neglect their children.  I’m tired of worrying about whether or not there will be enough families out there who want to take in kids who have suffered great trauma.

I’m weary.  I’m weary from trying to shield my children from the news of the day.  I’m weary from the knowledge that humans willfully damage each other, kill each other, and downplay the importance of one another.  I’m weary from the frustration that Christians often worry more about politics than people, or at least, give that impression.

I know that part of my weariness comes from the ups and downs of the human experience.  People are killing each other for their ideologies, perversions, or greed.  Children are left abandoned on the streets to suffer at the hands of evil.  Fathers are turning away from their families to seek what they perceive as greater things.  Mothers are choosing wickedness over their own worth.  People are forsaking compassion for their passions.

Weariness has been on my mind all week, and yet, I fully recognize how lucky I really have it.  I’m not a single mom working three jobs to keep food on the table.  I’m not a small child living off of scraps in a third world country.  I’m not homeless.  I’m not sick.  I’m not hungry.  I am loved.

While meditating on these things, I looked up Scripture that specifically address weariness and rest.  I know there are many more, but here are just a few that I’d like to share.

Exodus 33:14 – 

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-30 – 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

Psalm 62:1-2-

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:5-

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

John 14:27- 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

In my opinion, the last verse I am sharing is the one that turns that fading flicker in my heart into a flame.  It is the one that renews my hope for things to come, and strengthens my resolve to continue yearning for a world where compassion leads.  It causes me to strive to live a life that continues to breathe love.  It especially reminds me that in this world of chaos and confusion, the only true rest and peace in this restless world is found in the glory of the Lord.

John 16:33-

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Thank you Father for the Blessed Assurance of You.

The Lamp and the Light

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

I’m exhausted from the day.  It is not that I’m physically exhausted, but emotionally exhausted.  Our hearing was heard today to obtain custody of the precious little one who has come to live with us.  I fret over his future, and yet, I love his birth mother as she too is a child I once carried around as an infant.  My husband and I petitioned for guardianship of the baby because we love him and we love his birth mother, his grandmother, and his great-grandparents.  We are all family, and family matters.

I’m exhausted from the day.  I had to be on the witness stand to testify as to why I would be a good home for him.  I had to prove myself, my experience, my relationships, and my stability.  This is not the first time I’ve had to do this.  Being a former foster parent felt like a constant attempt to prove myself as being worthy of being a parent.  I have not cared for a single child that has come to me free of legal strings attached.  I’ve had to testify and show the courts and other powers-that-be that I am capable of providing and loving on a child with-whom I’ve already taken into my home, cared for, and loved on.  I’ve had to prove myself, and yet, the Lord already approves of me.

I’m exhausted from the day, but, I have this sense of inner peace.  I know that my God loves this precious little one more than I can ever imagine.  He commands this child’s destiny.  He has written his past, his present, and his future.  He sings over this baby, and He rejoices over his growth like a proud daddy.  The Lord, and His word are the lamp upon his feet, and the light upon his path.  Truthfully, He is the lamp upon all of our feet, and the light upon our paths.

I’m exhausted from the day, but also at peace knowing that the Lord would not set me and my family upon this path if any of this didn’t matter to Him.  I sat in the court room today at the table with sweaty palms, quick breaths, and a rolling stomach.  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and welcomed the Lord into the courtroom.  I said softly to myself, “Lord, be with me.”  Although nervous and uncertain what the Judge would think, I felt great strength knowing that God was with me.

I’m exhausted from the day, but not worn out.  I know this fight, this passion to protect, and this path has been lit by the light of the Lord, and the choice to love the way He wants us to.  I know that He is the lamp upon which my feet walk, and that each step forward may feel like it is in darkness, but not for long.  I know that He will light the way.

Custody was granted for us today.  This little babe that we love is with us for now at least.  Custody may be temporary, and I may not know what the future holds for him or for his place in our family, but I know who holds his future.  I know to trust the Lamp that will guide the child’s feet, and the Light that will brighten his path.

I know in the depths of my being that the Lord loves this precious baby more than I could ever imagine or fathom…now that is something that refreshes my soul.

Majesty (my attempt at a poem)

While driving the new little one to the doctor the other day, my mind started to wander a bit about the place I’m at in life.  I’m 41-years-old, and am raising very young children.  I thought about some of my friends my age who are starting to watch their children prepare for high school graduation, or drive a car, or even start their careers, and all I could think of is how my life is about half-way over and I’m just now in the beginning years of raising a family!

The realization that I will be rearing my children well into my mid-to-late 50’s is quite humbling, and a little concerning.  I get told I look young for my age, and most days I can keep up with the kids, but I cannot escape the years that have already been behind me, nor can I escape the years ahead.  I find it easy sometimes to think about what I could be doing in the last half of my life.  Preparing for retirement, traveling, down-sizing to a great little loft downtown, etc…are all things that have crossed my mind.

Just as soon as my mind starts to walk down that path of “what if”, I quickly come back to the reality of what my life is at this moment, and what the Lord has given me.  Below is little poem I jotted down after thinking all of this through.  It was laid on my heart, and although I’m not a poet or even that skilled at writing poetry, it serves the purpose of speaking out loud my contentment with the life I have.

Majesty

I’ll probably never climb a mountain or swim in the deepest sea.

I’ll never build a mansion or have my name lit up on a marquee.

I probably won’t explore a jungle or fly off into the galaxy, but the Lord, my Father, has proven Himself time and again to me.

I may not ever paint a masterpiece or solve a great mystery.

I won’t carry around many riches nor discover what the eye has yet to see.

I won’t be known for perfection and struggle at times with humility, but when I think of my Lord, my Father, how great You are, my heart screams Majesty.

Thinking of all I will not do or things that won’t happen for me, all I have to do is think of You  – Abba Father, Daddy, Lord – and my heart screams Majesty!

New Year’s Road

Taken with my iphone as I rode my bike in a 150 mile ride.

This past year was one full of discovery for me.  Through blogging, I have been reminded that everyone truly has a story to tell.  We are all story-tellers in our own ways.  Art, in its purest form, also speaks volumes of insight and revelations about the world we are living in.  Some speak through poetic ramblings and short-stories.  For others, the lens of a camera captures images that their eyes first took notice of.  Each photograph tells a story.  Writing really has become my therapeutic release, my story-teller, my window to the world, my humbling remembrance of how blessed I am, and an extension of the yearning to live out my faith in Christ.

I continue to learn that  parenting is an art form.  Like most artists, parents don’t just figure it out with one stroke of a brush.  Mistakes are made, and often, we are our own worst critics,  Parenting is also something that love and passion is poured into.  I have yet to meet an artist who is not passionate about his or her masterpieces.  Children are the masterpiece that we are always working on, and for that, I am grateful for “do-overs”, grace, and the simplistic forgiveness of children.

Throughout this year,I have been made keenly aware of the tightrope we all walk when it comes to protecting children in our own backyards, and around the world.  Not to sound cliché, but they really are our greatest resource for the future.  Through this blog, I have been able to express my deepest desires for my children, and for others as well.  I have also been able to connect to the child I once was.

I began this road of writing because I felt I had a story to tell.  I felt I needed to speak of infertility.  I knew there were others out there suffering from the sadness that comes when the desire for children is not fulfilled.  I also felt that my story of barrenness includes the incredible journey that is adoptive parenting.  I may stray from time to time from the topic of infertility with the posts I write, but it is never too far from my thoughts and my heart.  I am deeply compassionate about others who continue to search for answers, and who live daily with the unfulfilled longing for children.  I hope my words will encourage each of them to believe in joyful beginnings and happy endings.

I am not sure what the Lord has in store for the road I will walk in 2013.  Will I be inspired to venture into other areas of writing?  Will there be heartbreak and heart-joy in this next year?  Will some doors open while others shut?  There is no way to tell what is destined to happen, but my faith in the Script-Writer of our lives is greater than the unknowns of the future.

May this New Year’s Road lead you all to delightful discoveries, faith-building experiences, and life-affirming moments that bless your sojourn in the world.

Give You the World – (re-posted with relevance)

The post I wrote earlier titled Yearning for Change was out of anger and anguish over what happened this past weekend in Connecticut.  It was also out of frustration as a professional in the field of social work who knows that those most often affected by cuts in budget are children and families.  After writing it, I was gently reminded that true change really does start at home.  Fathers and Mothers need to love their children.  Grandparents should, if possible, wrap their love around their families and provide support.  Parents should be building their children up, instead of tearing them down.  Parents just need to be parents.

I decided to re-post a piece I wrote for my children back in June.  Children are always on my mind – not just my children, but children of the world.  No child should ever go to bed wondering if he or she matters to this world.  Earlier in the week, I prayed to the Lord and cried out, “What are we doing to Your children, Father?!?”  I realized, though, that He who holds the stars, also holds our children.

This piece I wrote about in the post linked below is not just for my children, but for yours as well.  After this week, my desire penned months ago seems to have even more relevance.  If you wish, click on the link and read it.  Blessings to you and yours!

GIVE YOU THE WORLD