Getting Caught Up in Our Own Stories

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

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

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

Then, the thought hit me,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t want to forget this.

One of the Lucky Ones

This is the story of my dear friend, Missy and her mom, Marcia.  She’s a special person and I’m so thankful she shared her story with me, and with all of you.

Missy, Marcia, and Missy’s sweet little girls

“We are often told that we look alike.  Our eyes meet and we just smile knowing that we are the only ones in on our little secret”, explained Missy when telling her story about her experience as a child in the system.  It was about twenty-four years ago that her life took a drastic, yet remarkable turn.

From the beginning of her life, one would not consider Missy to be lucky. Her biological mother was just eighteen-years-old when she gave birth to Missy, and already had a lot on her plate as she was mothering twins when Missy was born.  Missy’s toddler and preschool years were spent with her mom having multiple boyfriends.  She actually remembers her mom changing the pictures on the wall depending on what boyfriend was visiting.  Things were rough, but got much worse when she was five-years-old.  Her mother married a man who was not the kind of father she and her siblings needed in their lives.

Physical abuse was a part of her life as young girl.  Missy remembers being beaten for trivial things such as losing the pen to the Yahtzee game.  Sometimes, she and her siblings were beaten so severely that they had to miss days of school.  Her siblings experienced sexual abuse, but Missy did not.  She is incredibly thankful for this, but carried guilt as a child knowing that her siblings were exposed to this type of horrific abuse. 

One of the worst memories Missy recalled was when her step-father tried to force her to drown her puppy for peeing on the floor.  Missy always had a genuinely compassionate love for animals, so her step-father choosing this as a punishment for both her and the pup was incredibly cruel.  Although young, Missy stood up to her step-dad, refused to drown her pup, and instead took a beating that lasted for hours.

As time went on, things got worse.  She remembers her mom being beaten beyond recognition.  Her mom would tell the children that she was going to take them and leave, but never did.  Missy suspects she was scared and had such low self-esteem that she chose to stay.

After three years of living a nightmare with her step-dad, a knock on the door occurred and child protection services removed the children.  Although in desperate need to be taken out of that environment, Missy was scared, clung onto her teddy bear, and sobbed over being taken away from her mommy.  She and her siblings moved from home to home for various reasons, and she remembers the drive to each new home being very scary.  They would arrive at a new place full of strangers and a trash bag full of their belongings. 

Enter Marcia.  Marcia was a former neighbor of Missy and happened to be at the Children’s Division office when she overheard the social worker talking about needing to find another home for the kids.  When Marcia realized that the children being talked about were the three children she fed when they were hungry, she immediately stated she wanted to take them into her home.

Even though their home was filled with children, Missy remembers feeling loved as though she was the only child there.  Marcia and her husband, Jim, welcomed her and her siblings with an incredible amount of love.  Her birth mom was never able to reunify with her children.  Missy feels as though she chose the lifestyle she was living with her step-dad over her and her siblings.  Although never legally adopted, Missy chose to change her last name to Marcia’s and Jim’s last name when she was twelve-years-old.  In their hearts, they were already adopted in love.

Being taken in and loved on made an incredible difference in the lives of Missy and her siblings.  They were given safety and nurturing.  They were given the opportunity for normalcy.  The rest of their childhoods were ones free of abuse and neglect.  Marcia and Jim are heroes and helped to changed the lives of children who desperately needed a place to call home and the love of a family.

The following is how Missy ended her story.  I’ll let her words speak for them-self:

“I have not seen my bio mom since I was taken away.  It would be easy to be mad and full of hatred for her.  I chose a long time ago to let this all go.  The pain and hate only brought me down.  Matter of fact, if I ever see her I may thank her.  My past has made me the person I am and brought my new parents and siblings into my life. “My mom” and I are very close and I know we were brought together for a reason.  As she says “we are like peas and carrots”!  I now have two beautiful girls myself and cannot imagine letting anyone hurt them.  I realize not all foster children are as lucky as me.  I was able to graduate from college, get married to a wonderful husband, get a great job, and have two beautiful babies.  I guess I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

 

Missy – I think those of us who consider you a friend are the lucky ones.  Thank you for sharing your story of how one person can change the life of a child, and for your personal resilience to rise above.  You, my dear, are an amazing woman.

Two Blog Awards

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much to Steve at Words to Love By for nominating my blog for the Traffic Raiser Blog Award and the Super Sweet Blogging Award.  The “nod” is very nice and I really do appreciate it!  The name of his blog basically says it all.  We could all use many words to LOVE by!  I encourage each of you to check it out.

I’m going to cheat a little though…hope that is okay.  Instead of nominating what would be a total of 28 blogs for these two awards, I just want to say thank you for taking a little bit of time out of your days to read my blog posts.  I also want to encourage fellow bloggers to keep up the great work of writing.  I’ve read so many wonderful blogs and continue to be inspired by people, their lives, their stories, their missions, their grief, their creativity, and their faith.

Just this week during a conversation with a co-worker, I reported that it has been really good to see how many people are “out there” in the blog world sharing their stories, encouraging each other in their faith, reaching out to the least of these, and walking towards a life that is closer to God and gratitude.  I am also amused by the wonder of creativity and ability as evidenced by the incredible writing, drawing, and photography that has crossed my path through these past few months of blogging.

Thanks again to Words to Love By for nominating me for two awards.  I sincerely appreciate it!

Blessings to all!

Writing My Story

A few years ago I felt the urge to write.  It seemed as though the Lord was telling me to write my story down; although, I had no clue how to start the process.  The last writing class I took was in 1992 or so when I was in college.  My friend knew my desire, or perhaps the Lord’s calling on my heart, to start writing so she bought me some journals.  I carried them everywhere and would write down different thoughts or words that sparked my memories or pertained to my history.  I even used my iPhone to record thoughts that came to me when writing was not possible.  Gotta love technology!

I had no idea as to where this project was going or if there was really anything important to say.  The fact is that everyone has a story.  All of us have a uniquely designed existence that is of no greater matter or significance than the other.  We are all significant in the eyes of the Lord.  I personally feel that the most inspiring stories are those told from people who come from the most humble situations.

As I started writing, it felt as though my heart and my mind were pricked.  Suddenly, there was this release of all of the captive moments, long forgotten thoughts, and stifled persuasions that I had carried around for nearly my entire life; or at least, my life after age eleven.  Words were pouring out of me that brought me to tears.

Soon, I turned to my computer to start writing.  I craved it.  Early mornings and late evenings were often accompanied by the patter of my fingertips on the keyboard as I delved into my solitary world of infertility.  I had to reach out to others during this time for feedback, their memories of my story, and just plain old support.  However, for the most part, it was me, my computer, my memories, and the Lord’s prodding.

I finished the manuscript within a few months.  Once I started writing, I could not stop until I got it all out.  I grieved for the child I was who became so ill.  I fretted for the teenager who, despite seeming and acting like every other teen girl, held within her dark glimpses of despair.  I felt the anger of a young woman in her twenties who was torn between wondering if her future career would be her “baby” or if she was ever going to have a baby to call her own.  I celebrated the woman who ran to the Lord after years of ignoring Him.  Lastly, I shed tears of joy for the foster-mother whose life was impacted for the better by the humbling refinement that is foster care and adoption.

I still have the manuscript on my computer.  I do not know where it is going or what it is supposed to be.  That is okay though.  There is great cleansing in writing one’s life story even if no one reads it.  Writing my story down has brought about a desire to continue to bring to life the words my heart feels but often my lips cannot form.  Writing my story has also revealed the incredible essence of survival, faith, mercy, grace, and hope.

I would like to share an excerpt from it if you don’t mind.  I have already inserted a few lines  from the manuscript from time to time into previous blog posts.  Even though this is just a glimpse, I welcome any comments.  I may share more as I feel the need…

I do not remember much about the week I was in the hospital prior to the doctors discovering what was ravaging my body.  My memories are more like flashing images from a movie.  I do however remember waking up at one point with my dad and a doctor looking over me.  My dad simply and courageously stated “You can always make love, but you will never be able to have children.”  Or, did he say that?  I remember hearing it, but not sure if it was said to me or about me.  Nevertheless, in my hazy mind, I tried to comprehend what he was saying.  Make love?  What does that mean?  I had not even kissed a boy yet.  Have children? It really had not crossed my mind much.  But, I heard him loud and clear.  I knew something big had happened.  This event that occurred forever changed who I was and the path my life would take.  There was not a choice – it was either my life or my organs.  Oh, the agony my parents were feeling.  What irony really…the organs with which life begins had nearly destroyed mine.  I was eleven years old, I had never had a period, and now I was forever infertile.  I had just been thrust in to the world of infertility.  Trapped in a little girl’s body was a pre-menopausal woman.

Words of My Heart

Wow.  I can’t believe that I started this blog one month ago.  I also can’t believe I waited so long to start blogging.  This month has been a phenomenal time of discovery, writing, thinking, writing, praying, writing, connecting, and of course writing.  Throughout this month I have been able to share a bit of my journey here on Earth, as well as, learn about others.  I sort of think of myself now as part of a community of women and families who have been challenged by infertility and/or ones who are in the process of stepping outside of themselves so that they can be families for foster children.

I have found myself wondering if my experience growing up would have been totally different had I been given the opportunity to share my feelings about infertility with others who could relate.  Just knowing that there were others out there experiencing a small portion of what I was dealing with would have made a huge impact in my life.  Of course, I was a young girl so the level of relatability would have been different from adults going through it.  I don’t know for sure if I would have taken the opportunity due to being an adolescent, but still, I really wished there would have been blogs around, or the Internet for that matter.

I kept my “story” inside my heart and mind for the past 29 years since my hysterectomy.  I really did not speak the words of my heart very often.  Sure, I have shared parts with close friends, family, and my husband.  I have even been asked to give my testimony to various groups, but, writing pieces of it out has brought life to my thoughts kept buried for so many years.  It has also given me a sense of gratitude for where I am now.

I read other women’s blogs about their struggles and what they are currently going through with trying to have a family.  They are discovering the road to becoming parents has taken sharp turns or completely come to a dead end.  I hear their pain in their words.  I feel it in my heart.  I wish I could assure them that some aspects of infertility may affect them for the rest of their lives, but it does not make up their whole lives.

I had to learn growing up that there was more to me than not having children, and there was more to being a woman than having children.  My children do not define me.  Pregnancy would not make me anymore female.  This was a battle I struggled with for so long that my heart aches for women going through it.  Infertility, although it has felt like it at times, is not my whole life.

I won’t lie.  I’m so thankful for my pain of barrenness being something in the past.  I’m incredibly blessed to be at this place of peace and contentment.  Yet, I never want to forget the molding, sharpening, and refining that my experience has done for me.  I remember what it was like to walk around wondering if I would ever feel normal.  There were times I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders or that I had to figure out what I was going to do about what happened to me.  I found though that the more I tried to figure it all out, the worse I felt about my circumstance.

I could not control what happened.  I could not even control what was going to happen in the future.  I could choose to grasp onto the hope that something good was bound to come from all of this.  I also began to realize that I needed to rely more on my faith in a loving Heavenly Father than the persuasions and suggestions of the world.  No one could ever really tell me how to manage it even if they tried.  So, I kept it all in.  I spoke very little of it.

Realizing that I am exactly who God created me to be is the most profound feeling of love and contentment.  I think back when I was a young girl who had been dealt a very difficult hand in life, and am amazed now at the sense of purpose I have found in it.  I am not an expert in the entire experience of infertility, but I am an expert in my own.  All of us going through the heartache of trying to have a family to call our own have varying stories of loss, hope, despair, and joy that intertwine through out our walks.  Even though the set of details might differ, the ability to relate and empathize with others has been wonderful and so needed in my life.  Bless you for the encouraging words several of you have said to me, and especially for taking the time to read the words of my heart.

Hello, World!

Hello, World!  My name is Caroline. I’m 40, married with children, and barren.  There, I said it.  I’m barren.  I’ve known nearly my entire life that I would never have children.  A devastating illness almost succeeded in taking me out of this world at the age of eleven.  The only way to save me was to remove my uterus, right Fallopian tube, and right ovary.  These organs had been ravaged by a bacterial infection – or more like invasion.  I am the youngest female known to have had a hysterectomy.  Then, at age 20 my left ovary was removed due to a cyst.

One may wonder why in the world I would consider myself to be blessed.  Well, I did not always feel this way.  Heartache, isolation, gut-wrenching grief, and confusion lurked within, behind, and around me nearly every stage of my life.  I dealt with infertility as a child, teen, and adult, but then, this funny thing started to happen.  As I drew closer to my Lord, the shadow of my surgery seemed to be just that; a shadow.  Grace was changing me.

In 2006, my husband and I became foster parents.  We fostered for about four years and were able to adopt our two foster children.  They are now 3 ½ years old and 5 ½ years old.  Many things have been revealed to me during these past few years…well, maybe the past 29 years since the surgery.  One thing I do know is that love is a miracle – pure and simple. 

Love knows no boundaries, no genetic markers, no birthing, and no bloodlines.  Love takes hold of opportunities and transforms them into beauty.

I still get the sense that there is great shame and silence with infertility.  There should not be.  Too many suffer in silence while people offer their two-cents worth on what to do about not being able to have a child.

I have gone from barren to blessed, silent to singing, and loathing to laughing.  Happiness is possible in the world of infertility.  I’m not ashamed.  I’m not desolate.

Hello, World!  I’m barren and blessed!  

I found my purpose in it and hope to share it with you through this blog.