You made me a mother.

A couple weeks late, but I wrote this on my baby’s birthday May 15th. I cannot believe he is a year old already. What a year.

 

My boy,

One year ago today you made your way into this world. You came barreling into our lives like the force of nature you are, with little warning, and no knowledge of the many transitions you would undergo upon arrival in your first mother’s arms. You were the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on.

Seeing another woman- strong, graceful, a force to be reckoned with- deliver you and give you life, will forever be an experience that changed your dad and I forever.

The pain of delivery could not match the pain of the choices she was forced to make leading up to your arrival and afterward. I imagine the awkward conversations with strangers asking about her due date. I imagine the sickness of the first trimester and constant reminders of what was to come. I imagine the first kick she felt and how many thousands of times she wrestled in her head over how to be able to keep you with her forever. I imagine your siblings yearning for their baby brother to hold and to love.

Your story began with a woman who made the most painful decision imaginable, knowing it would simultaneously destroy her and also serve your need to thrive in this world. She sacrificed her body for you, but also her mind-ever dwelling with you now, imagining what you may be doing in each passing moment. Are you crawling? Are you missing her? Are you happy and fed and thriving? Always wondering. Always.

Your birthday will always be a mixed bag of joy and pain for many. But you, my love, are pure sunshine.

You slept so hard those first few weeks, and then awoke like a sleeping giant, eager to conquer the world around you. You have rocked my world with your zest for life and giant grins. You are the funniest and happiest person I know, and I get way too much credit for this. You are the one who ushers joy into my life, not the other way around. While there is much to be discovered and grappled with around the circumstances of your joining our family, I will take all of the relentless giggling and silliness I can get until those days come. And when they do, I do my best to hold space for you to feel anything you may feel. I will always do my best to be whoever you need me to be. But I will never be her, and I will be grateful for each day she chooses to show up and live in the painful space with all of us for your sake. We need her, and you need her. You always will. We have a lot of work to do to figure this life out with each other, but I am so excited for the adventure we are on.

I celebrate your life today, your first mother’s choice to birth you and to allow me to mother you. It has been the honor of my life.

Thank you for the last 365 days. I have never loved so hard or grown so much. I love you, baby.

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Raising me.

Long time no see!

These days I have found myself tending to hold things a little closer to the chest, so to speak. While it hasn’t been great for my little blogging hobby, it has been a uniquely life-giving season of turning inward to be present in all of the beautiful growth happening around me. I feel a lot more protective of our little family tribe than I expected. But nothing has quite been as expected these past 11 months. Not one thing.

Physically, my boy is growing like a weed. He is so full of life and joy and opinions and desires. He will take his first steps any day now, and his first birthday party is being planned. I am in awe watching his beautiful essence emerge like a bright red poppy flower opening in the sunlight. We cannot get enough of him. He is perfect. He is a dream come true.

Parenting, though…Parenting is imperfect, and I wouldn’t dream of comparing it to things as simple and lovely as sunshine or flowers. Parenting is untidy and confusing and requires more resilience than I ever imagined. This experience has been akin to someone placing an elephant-sized mirror in my home that follows me around and forces me to look into it every moment of the day. Only I’m forced to look inside myself instead of outside. This confrontation is often as unpleasant as it is enlightening.

“Oh boy! Some anger problems you never knew about! Cool!”

“Darn , looks like you still have a huge problem with boundaries!”

“You just did the thing to Ezra that you hated growing up!”

“Insecurity! Insecurity! Insecurity!”

“You thought you had coping skills?? HAHAHAHAH!”

“You’re gonna need more therapy than you anticipated. Better take out a second mortgage”

Everything that was once kept inside is suddenly on the outside. I’m forced to come up against my values and beliefs with such intensity that I question all of it constantly. The mirror also reflects back some pretty amazing strengths that were there all along too, but of course it is so much easier to harp on the bad stuff, especially when I thought I’d already won some of those hard-fought battles over the years.

For me, this mirror is big and obtrusive and unavoidable. It is a constant invitation to receive growth or wither away in defeat at the sight of all my faults. I have to make a deliberate choice daily to persevere through the often humiliating moments so that I can come out of this experience proud of the woman and mother I became along the way. In this way, strangely, I am actually raising myself. As these big questions arise and feelings emerge and faults rear their ugliness, I have to be the one looking after my fragile inner being and making sure she has what she needs to keep going. In a season where most of my day is spent in my own head, I desperately need an advocate in there.

I have to choose each day to raise myself along with raising my son. With tenderness and fierce, protective love. I am mothering us both. And I desperately want to learn to love myself and develop patience for me the way I am with my precious boy. I want to look into the mirror of parenting with courage and tenacity and deep self-love, as I will want Ezra to do when he looks at the person reflected back at him. We both deserve it. Despite what else I may find in myself along the way, good or bad, I’m determined to walk this road showing the same kindness to myself that I want Ezra to have for himself.

I need my love as much as he needs it. That is what I am seeing to be true more each day.

 

2018

Happy New Year,  friends.

What. A. Crazy. Past. 12. Months.

On this day one year ago I would have fallen over laughing had someone told me we would have an almost 8 month old, staying home full time, and Josh would be working remotely for an Atlanta-based company. No sir. Yet, here we are. Life comes at ya fast.

I feel like the fog of new parenthood has started to lift, and the last 8 months have started to come into focus. I can see myself changing, our world changing, and our marriage changing. Though in the thick of it, all I could see was one foot in front of my face. My awareness was so primal. Getting through the next bottle, the next diaper change, the next crisis, the next sleep regression…And on and on it went. With plenty of joyful moment in between, of course. But overall, nothing but a blur.

I have learned so much about myself since becoming a mom. I see my control issues, my insecurities, and my shortcomings clearer than ever before. There were months where I felt like the absolute worst version of myself. I say all this because I know I’m not alone, and hindsight, while not 20/20 just yet, is at least coming into view. These little people unearth the best and the worst there is in all of us, and there is no denying both sides of that coin.

While my favorite thing to do in January is spend time reflecting on the year past, I have never been one for big New Years resolutions or “word for the year” commitments.  But this year feels different. I sense my locus of control shifting from outside of me to inside. I sense myself missing the routine and the leadership and structure of being employed. For years, I had the luxury of someone else directing my focus, guiding me toward growth, and providing endless opportunities for me to learn. It is time for me to learn to meet that need for myself.

I chose 2 words I want to embody in 2018. The first is participation. Now that I can see straight and feel a little less in survival mode, I feel so ready to do things again. It is shocking how quickly my desire for a full calendar went from zero to ten thousand. I had a moment of panic when my new 2018 planner arrived, and how little I had to fill in. I was so surprised at how disappointed I felt, when just a few months earlier I wanted so strongly to pull back from anything and everything in our already pared-down lives.

Here’s a healthy reminder to myself and everyone else: seasons are seasons. Embrace them, and know that they change. Sometimes faster than ever think possible.

To me, participation means putting myself out there again. Trying new things. Volunteering, Blogging. Doing things that make me feel alive and a part of something bigger than my little family unit. One of the hardest parts for me about bringing a baby home was feeling like it came with the cost of being side-lined. What I offer the world now consisted entirely of what I could offer my baby. I’m ready and excited to transition to a season where I can feel both personally fulfilled and also fulfilled in my role as Ezra’s mom. Both are so precision and important to me.

My other word for this year is gentleness. Other than the fact that “gentle” is the word I repeat more than any other with my super-strong and wild 7 month old who is obsessed with our dog’s ears, it is actually something I have not been great at this last year. The insecurities motherhood has brought out in me have, at times, created a monster. There have been shame-spirals like you wouldn’t believe, unnecessary arguments with my husband related to my own feelings of unworthiness, and certainly more than a few times where I have lost patience with the people around me. I want this year to be grounded in a sense of innate worthiness and self-love. I want to be overly-gentle with myself so that I’m able to be that toward everyone around me.

I saw a quote recently from a woman from the Humans of New York Instagram feed that has really stuck with me. She said, “people who love themselves love others. People who love themselves don’t hurt others, I think.” So simple, and so profoundly true. Loving myself is the best thing I can possibly do for my family in this season where every new stage presents new opportunities for me to either fixate on what I am lacking or embrace all the ways I have been equipped to take on the challenge.

2018, despite the fact that as I write this my entire family has the flu, I really do believe you are going to bring so much growth and goodness into our lives.

Happy New Year!

Parenthood ramblings

**Warning: Melodramatic reflections on parenthood ahead.**

Parenthood is everything, and nothing like what I expected.

It is a great contradiction.

It is lonely, with more human contact than you feel like you can handle.

It is ridiculous and hilarious, and so gravely serious and heavy.

It feels like a piece of you has been found, but other parts of you are now missing or forgotten.

I am both the heroine and the person needing saving each day.

The future is exploding with hope and anticipation, and also mourning for the sweet stages that had to be left behind to get there.

It is…in a few words…a hot mess.

 

There are so many things I have yet to figure out. Like how are these internet people wearing make up AND niceish looking clothes AND managing to take perfect photographs while doing (I assume) the same every day activities I am up to my neck in. Who is holding their children while they blow dry their perfect wavy hair?? How do they complete tasks that require two hands?? No ma’am, in my house there’s poop on our laundry room floor (I stepped in it barefoot this morning, thank you very much), I change outfits MANY times per day (shorts and t-shirts only) because of the waterfall of baby spit up that flows like Niagra, and of course exercise and balanced meals are out of the picture at the moment.

And this is all the reality WITH the most supportive friends and husband in the world.

Hot. Mess.

I’m just hoping I’m getting it right with the big things and trying to have grace for myself for everything else. An hour of peekaboo is slowly starting to feel like a productive use of my time, which seems like a win to me. So what have I learned so far? Gosh where do I even begin? Here’s a few…

  1. People find the most hilarious ways to creatively ask nosy questions about our family. Sorry strangers, you’ll have to leave the grocery store with more questions than answers about why I’m carrying around a child whose skin is twelve shades darker than mine. It’s nunya businezzz bye.
  2. Feelings of isolation and inadequacy come in waves. I ride it, feel it, acknowledge it, take a deep breath as it passes. Then I gear up for the next one.
  3. Asking for help is harder for me than I ever realized. Unfortunately, the saying about it taking a village is actually true, so I’ve had to confront this issue more than ever these last few months.
  4. So much of my insecurity and feelings of inadequacy about parenthood center around the transracial aspect of our adoption. Will I have the words to empower my son to see the innate beauty of his brown skin? Have I built enough awareness of the racism in our world to constantly confront it and allow our son to have confidence that his parents will fight for him for the rest of their lives? Will he resent us one day for participating in his placement into a family that doesn’t look like him? Will he care? Am I overthinking this? Focusing too much on race? Am I under thinking it? Not reading enough, doing enough, surrounding myself with enough people of color? There is hardly an hour that goes by these days without such questions racing through my head like one of those LED highway signs.
  5. I have not “arrived”. This was actually a confirmed theory I already held, as I was previously sensitive to people implying that moms have a higher value than other women. I certainly don’t have a higher worth or achieved any sort of ultimate enlightenment. This journey certainly is an invitation for constant growth, though. If anything, I have been exposed to how much further I have to go on this path to being the person I want to be, and there is a deep sense that the stakes are so much higher.

 

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This little person is changing me, day by day. I love every single thing about him, and couldn’t be more grateful that his life intersected mine. I’m grateful for all the things I get to learn because of him, and how the love I have for him challenges me to grow in ways I never would have otherwise.

It is highly likely that I will never be one of the put-together-looking moms who make it all look like a breeze, and I guess that’s okay. My boy is thriving, (albeit covered in spit-up) and we’re learning together how to do this thing.

 

Welcome home, baby boy

On May 15th, our son Ezra was born.

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He entered  our family through adoption 3 days later on May 18th.

The last month has been a beautiful blur, with all its sleep deprivation and captivating little smiles and hustling to make another bottle before all hell breaks loose…Parenthood is all the good and scary and endlessly exhausting things in life rolled into one tiny adorable package. It has been the wildest adventure of my life to date.

In pursuing adoption, you hear of all the many scenarios that may play out. You could wait weeks or you could wait many, many months. Some receive a call one day that a woman they’d never met just gave birth unexpectedly and she wants them to be the baby’s parents. Some spend almost the entire duration of a pregnancy developing a relationship with a birth family, struggling to find common ground and connection, trying to navigate the uncomfortable space created by all the factors at play. I tried for months to brace myself for a likely painful, arduous road leading up to meeting the child God had for us. I imagined our relationship with this other imaginary family to feel awkward and unnatural, but I couldn’t have been further from our future reality.

Miraculously, our journey to meeting our son felt more like finding a piece of myself I had been missing than trying to force a square peg into a round hole. While we only had about 2 weeks to get to know our son’s biological parents, after meeting them the first time it felt like they were kindred spirits. I marvel thinking back on the trust we were able to build in this 2 weeks, and the joy I still have when I think about this beautiful family we get to journey with in this open adoption story unfolding.

Other than the obvious gift of getting to be Ezra’s mama, the second most significant gift given to us by our son’s birth mom was getting to watch him enter the world. Prior to that day, I never wanted to let myself believe we would get that type of opportunity. I felt strongly that her labor and his birth was hers to control, and that sacred space was hers to own. I’m still in awe that she allowed us to take part in those moments, and that the first birth I’ve witnessed was Ezra’s-a perfect picture of the selfless, fierce, sacrificial love of a women one million times stronger than I’ll ever be as she brought forth life from her own body. It moved me to my core and puts tears in my eyes to this day.

I will go to bat for that woman until the end of my days, because no one will ever be able to match the level of strength and love I witnessed during that hospital stay and beyond.

Perhaps more than anything, I’m grateful that my son gets to grow up with tangible evidence that his journey into our family began in a place filled to the brim with love, respect, and mutual trust. He will see pictures of the smiles on his birth parents faces as they snapped photos of him, passed him around the room, fed him, burped him, changed him, and soaked in every last drop of his goodness possible. He will see his birth grandparents’ pride on their faces when they came to see him in the hospital. He will laugh at how uninterested his biological sister was in him, sitting on the bed eating her chips and pretending her mommy wasn’t holding another baby. He will see Josh and I, overwhelmed with hope and anticipation at the thought of getting to bring this baby home. With US! How on earth did we get so lucky?

So here we are, one month later. Still full of hope and anticipation for what’s to come for this new life who exists in our home. Filled with even more love than I thought possible. Still in awe of what took place that warm sunny day in May. We are just beginning this parenting road, with all of its bumps and turns, but I can already sense how this experience is changing me.

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Welcome home, baby. You are a precious, priceless, and beloved gift to our family. We will cherish you forever, and can’t wait to see all the gifts you bring to this world to make it a better place. You’ve already made ours so much brighter.

Insufficient Words Regarding Adoption

My go-to method of therapeutic processing (WordPress) has been totally insufficient for what these past few months have been like. I never would have thought that the adoption process would render me useless in putting words to thought. I have been in a constant state of shock and awe for months, and keep telling myself I’ll find the ability to muster up a blog post when the rawness subsides.

I think it’s here to stay, though.  So this post is my attempt to push through the wall of “I’m still so in it” in hopes of ever being able to ever use this platform to share my thoughts and experiences on this particular subject.

Many of you have expressed interest in hearing about our process, and I absolutely love how God has already used this experience to help inform and encourage the people around us. More than anyone, though, we ourselves have been taken to school.

Newsflash: Being married to an adopted person does not make one the expert on adoption. I think I can speak for Josh in also expressing that being an adopted person doesn’t even prepare you for this journey. It rips you open and challenges you in the best and worst ways, and there’s no getting around the mirror it holds up, exposing any and all inadequacies begging to be acknowledged.

Adoption is a beautiful rollercoaster of pain, loss, hope, excitement, fear, and anticipation. It is an exercise in relinquishing all perceived perceptions of control. It is a practice of choosing hope over doubt. It has been a stunning and transformative journey so far, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

One of the hardest parts of this season for me has been coming to grips with the reality that my joy, the fulfillment of my longing and heart’s desire, comes at the ultimate price. My rejoicing is matched with equal sorrow for the mother who will carry our child and bring him/her into this world. Her sacrifice and selflessness, a gift to our family, feels undeserved and beyond fathomable at times.

What I have realized is that women who place children in adoptive families do so out of the deepest love for that little life. They do so when every cell in their body tells them to go ahead and parent, despite the circumstances or potentially harmful outcome. What better picture of God’s love is there than the thought of a mother going against every ounce of her ingrained nature to part ways with her own flesh in order to possibly provide him with a better life? I can think of none. It brings me to tears to imagine myself in her shoes, because I truly don’t know if I would ever have the ability to exercise that level of selflessness. What strength…what bravery…what love.

I will never be able to adequately thank our birth mother, whoever she may be. I just pray that the joy and peace within our home will be abundant, so as to honor her and choice she made.

To birth mommies and daddies everywhere, you all are my heroes forever. I will celebrate you and be in awe of you until I breath my last breath.

Right now, we are on a waiting list of families anticipating a child. Our paperwork is finished, our home study is complete, our car-seat is installed. If you are the praying type, please include us in those prayers. I’ll tell you one thing, adoption is not for the faint of heart. And to those who have been through it, bless you.

Pushing through the pain

I have finally reached one of those benchmark points where the rubber meets the road and I am faced to decide whether I truly believe the things I claim to believe.

Am I enough within myself, despite whatever else happens outside of me?

Do I think vulnerability and putting my true self forth is worth it, no matter what heartache and rejection it brings?

Do I dare to hope to grow our little family, while in the midst of some grief for some hopes that need to be put to rest? 

(Can you tell I have been relying heavily on Brene Brown to get me through this season?)

Being a brand new OT practitioner have me in a place of constant shame-checking. I knew starting my new career would feel vulnerable, but nothing quite prepares you for being tossed out of that life raft into the waves. It is a constant battle to leave my self-doubt at the door each morning and show up for my patients as best I know how. All I can do is show up and give as much as I know how to give.

It has been 4 months since I’ve started my job. Still, each evening when I get in my car to leave work it takes me at least 5 minutes to convince myself that it’s okay to turn the car on, that I did everything I could do for the patients in my care, and that I did indeed hit the “clock out” button. I am 100% convinced that each day will be the day I get fired. After starting the car, it takes another 15 minutes or more of deep breathing to actually enter a sufficient state of calm.  I normally attempt some positive thoughts like, “You showed up today. That was hard. Good job, self.” Or. “Man, you changed adult diapers like a pro today. Nice going!” That sometimes helps, but sometimes the thoughts are whispers compared to the loud voices of shame and fear.

Adoption is a lot of the same.

Starting a relationship with an adoption agency is sort of like dating, but maybe more like the show Married At First Sight. You decide to participate, and before you know it you’re naked in front of that person and wondering how you even got here.

Months of paperwork and interviews leave you with more questions about your readiness for parenthood than conviction. You share your strengths and weaknesses and family history with strangers, never knowing at which point you would face rejection.

Josh and I will soon turn in our “profile book” which will be passed around to different expecting mothers who are considering placing their child up for adoption. Our photos and memories and family values will sit on strangers’ coffee tables to be scrutinized and picked apart for worthiness. If we are lucky, this process will end with the most vulnerable act of all-bringing a child into our family.

So as I reflect on what this season has brought, how it has challenged us. and what it looks like to keep showing up, I pray that others will be challenged to join us in this work. I will fail miserably at times (and have) and sometimes my steps toward intimacy will be met with rejection. This has been a particularly painful realization lately. But Brene often references a quote that gives me so much hope that my showing up and letting myself be seen by others is the biggest step toward achieving true love, intimacy, and the family I have been hoping and praying results in this arduous process. Pushing through the pain and exposure to get to the depth and joy have to be worth it, right?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt