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?

‚ÄúIt 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.‚ÄĚ

-Theodore Roosevelt

 

Bring on day 1.

A billionaire celebrity beauty pageant owner was just elected President of the United States.

That is the sentence I keep repeating to myself this afternoon as I try to wrap my mind around what all just transpired.

Josh and I will be joining hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans to rally tomorrow on behalf of women in this country. The women who believe it is not normal or okay for a man who grabs pussies and brags about trying to f*ck married without their consent to achieve the highest ranked office in the land. This loud-and-clear message of tolerance toward racism, sexism, and violence must be drowned out with something louder, more powerful.

Soon after Christmas I went for a run with my dog on a trail through downtown Austin that is fairly wooded and beside a creek. I’ve been on this trail a thousand times. It was a cold¬†day, eerily quiet from all the locals¬†still out of town¬†for the holidays. Half way down the trail we passed a man ¬†walking in the other direction. We made eye contact and I smiled¬†to him and then quickly looked away, but I could feel his gaze linger long after our acknowledgement of each other ended. His eyes wandered¬†from mine, down to the rest of my body, and then back up. ¬†I ran a few more yards to get past him, felt an all-too-familiar uneasiness in my belly, and turned my head to look behind me. He was still standing there. Staring at me. Watching me jog away. Unashamed by¬†his blatant¬†nerve.

I felt exposed, under-dressed, vulnerable, and afraid. It’s crazy how much power a person can claim over another with one look. I tried to clear my head and dismiss the interaction to enjoy my fresh air and exercise. My run ended, and I started to leisurely walk the half mile back toward my car. I turned a corner, and there he was again. Clearly loitering, waiting, expecting. The quietness of the day and emptiness of a typically bustling trail suddenly felt less like good fortune¬†and more like the beginning of a newspaper headline. My phone had died a long time ago from exposure to the¬†freezing air, and I was completely alone.

I picked up my pace again and ran quickly past the secluded area the man was lingering in. I felt his eyes on me, hot. Burning hot. My overwhelming vulnerability left me terrified and thoughts raced as I tried to explain away the fact that this bold stranger had encountered me, changed directions, and put himself back in my path to stare. Or worse. Once I felt safe again, out of his proximity, back in the presence of a few passing strangers, my fear gave way to rage.

Why can’t I go for a jog on a public trail in the middle of a crowded city in broad daylight without feeling like I am somehow in danger?

Why did I feel the familiar pressure to smile at someone who totally creeps me out just because he made eye contact with me?

Why does HE get to go out whenever he wants and feel nothing but safe?

Why does HE get to dominate our interaction with his intimidation and obvious objectification?

THERE IS A PERSON IN HERE.

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These sentiments, these feelings…They are shared. Every woman has felt this to some extent. Every person of color feels this misallocation of power¬†to a degree I will never comprehend. ¬†Immigrants feel this when venturing into¬†places where they’re made to feel unwelcome and unworthy. This is the world we live in.

As I drove home and processed some of my anger, I realized how outraged I feel that some creep on the running trail following a random young woman in spandex may have a tiny bit less reservation now that Trump is in office. That the men who have always held the majority of the power, who have never felt what it is like to be on the receiving end of objectification, who have always had their skin color working in their favor, can sleep even easier at night knowing that the rich guy on top will make sure things stay that way.

Josh and I plan to remain informed during this presidency. He is our president. It is done. We will officially become parents with Donal Trump in highest office. But we, and many others, will resist any and all attempts to normalize mistreatment of women, institutionalized racism, and all other ethically disgraceful¬†moves yet to happen. This isn’t over. And while today feels bleak and prayers feel distant and futile, tomorrow we will do what we feel to be the next right thing. We will stand for the equality and justice we so believe in. Being present in this battle feels almost as scary as surrendering to what lies ahead. While it might be ladylike to offer a smile and a nod and some silly message of optimism or submission at such a time as this, I can assure you I will not go quietly. And thank goodness I am not alone.

Bring on day 1.

p.s. I want to emphasize that my writing is an exercise in my own vulnerability. I am practicing bringing more of my whole self to the table, practicing hearing what my own voice sounds like. My writing is not about any person who may or may not agree/disagree with the things I say. It is not about shaming the voting choices of others. It is not to leave people wondering whether I accept them as a person. I do. We all agree and disagree sometimes with people we love and who love us. We should be free to do so without risk of being shamed or shunned. I dearly love people who roll their eyes at my pessimism over a Trump presidency (I am from Georgia, after all). That is a-ok. As long as we are all showing up, loving well, being honest, moving toward understanding, and speaking up for what we believe then we are all okay.

Some happy news.

I am happy to share with you all that Josh and I are in the midst¬†of the rollercoaster process of expanding our family through adoption. We officially received our “conditional acceptance” status Thursday¬†after an important interview with the adoption agency we chose.

We could not be more excited.

I am actually shedding tears of joy typing this as I think of what the fulfillment of a dream this is for both of us. Not only becoming parents, but getting the privilege of seeing¬†my husband¬†share such a special experience with a child he is helping raise is just too much for my brain and heart to process. This decision wasn’t a hard one to make. In fact, since we were practically kids we would often wonder together if one day we might get this opportunity. The wondering turned into dreaming, which turned into agreeing, which turned into planning, and here we are. It’s like it was written on our hearts since the beginning of time and it simply¬†feels right.

Our decision to pursue adoption may be surprising to some, but to us it has always been our first choice for how we want our family to grow.

There is much uncertainty for both of us in the cards this year. The chances of heartbreak are significant. The odds that we are cash poor…pretty much certain. But something we know for sure, the future is so bright.

We are going to be parents. PARENTS! AHHH. Feelings alert.

More to come. Thank you all for your amazing love and support, and especially for those who have already been celebrating with us and cheering us on as we dove in head first to this terrifying and thrilling process.

We love ya’ll.

 

 

New Year

One of my very very favorite things is spending time processing experiences with people I love. Because of this, new years is usually one of my very favorite holidays. Nothing makes me feel more connected and engaged with my people than sitting around discussing all the peaks and valleys of the past year and dreaming about the future together.

It’s truly amazing what can change in a year. This time last year Josh and I were planning a likely relocation¬†back to Atlanta in the Fall for him to help start a company with our dear friends. Well, as you can see, we are still in Austin and excited as ever to be a part of our community here. I graduated, passed my boards, and got my first job as a COTA. We travelled to Asia, California, Georgia, Big Bend, and a few places in between. We made some big decisions for our future, and put others on hold. We sacrificed some and indulged some. We grew in empathy for the marginalized, and learned more of injustice happening in our neighborhoods and community. We lived more into what we believe God is calling us to.

2016 has been wild ride. One with so much joy and grief¬†and growth and progress toward who I deeply want to become. This year has taught me so much about vulnerability and honesty, that it is always worth it to strip myself down, layer by layer, no matter what is exposed the harsh world around. I’ve come to learn that¬†the realest love is the kind you get when all the messiest parts of you are on full display, not when you’re packaged neatly with perfectly ironed-out surface. I’m coming to grips with the fact that in my nakedness, as it is showing forth, I may lose some of what I thought was love, but was really admiration. This journey I’m on is ultimately one to fully love myself as Christ loves me, and if I lose people along the way I am going to have to be okay with that.

I have come to cherish the quiet spaces, while simultaneously longing for a future full of chaos and a family Josh and I have created together. I cannot wait to create a family with that man.

This year I’m saying yes to grounding myself in daily contemplative practices, returning again and again to the truth of my own worth and God’s quiet presence in all the spaces in my life.

I’m saying yes to more honesty, vulnerability, and exploration of what all lies beneath the layers of “protection” I’ve spent my life acquiring. It all needs to go if I’m going to find myself in there somewhere.

I’m saying yes to leaning toward the painful places and the questions and the confusing stuff. Nobody gets anywhere by resisting the¬†hard stuff.

I’m saying yes to connection with the people I love. More holding hands. More phone calls and house calls.¬†If I have learned anything this year, it’s that I need my army of encouragers, truth tellers, nasty women, and bad hombres around me to remind me of who I am and where I am heading.

I saw a quote recently that said, “You are allowed to be both a¬†masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” I plan to be just those.

‚ÄúThere is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it’s enough.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē¬†Richard Rohr

 

So, welcome 2017. My heart is open to the surprises, joys, pain, frustration, and gifts you have for us. I’ll leave you all with a prayer that has been helpful for me in the last few months. May you be fully engaged in your own story as these next 365 days unfold.

The Welcoming Prayer (by Father Thomas Keating)
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

Happy New Year, friends.

Settling in

The past 4 years of intense focus on my program has taken it out of my. I woke up one day after graduation and felt like my bones were tired. My soul craved connection and mindless existence. My head was desperate for a break, and the more primitive parts of me felt utterly neglected.

I often told Josh during school that the only thing I wanted in life was a weekend of silence, by myself, in the woods. To turn off my brain and be reminded of who I was-books and lectures and group projects aside.

While I did not anticipate finding a job would take this long, the last couple months have been an unbelievable blessing. It’s been a time of deep connection with the people I love, quiet reflection, walks to the park with Henry, hour-long phone calls with long-distant friends, and slow mornings with a cup of coffee. I certainly count myself spectacularly fortunate to be afforded things like “self care” and though I feel undeserving, I am so so grateful for this season.

Josh and I took our first little trip out to West Texas to Big Bend National Park as part of my disengagement therapy. We stayed in a super off-the-grid adobe hut built by the guy who rented it out to us. Henry came with us and it felt like such a perfect weekend in the desert laying low with my 2 favorites to be around.

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Perhaps it was for eggs, perhaps it was in protest to taking anymore long trips in the coming months and settling down, perhaps it was for the companionship…in whichever case, we also got some chickens. Princess Beyonce and Nasty Woman are now part of the family, happily pecking around in the backyard while Henry anxiously looks on through the kitchen window. We call it his “chicken TV”. Nothing has made me more at peace or happier lately than putzing around the backyard, cleaning out the coop, throwing Henry’s ball for the millionth time, turning the compost pile, raking up the leaves…The little moments that add up to such contentment. Getting to invest in my own space and having autonomy over how I spend my time and energy. I know better than to take those for granted after the years of hustle I just finished.

I am so happy with the speed of our¬†life at the moment, the¬†things we are dreaming up for our future now that school is out of the way, and for the life we have built in a place we adore. I did end up finding a part-time COTA job, and began treating patients this past week. It’s going to be a long time before I feel completely confident in the job I am doing, but I’m learning to be okay with that and trust the process. We won’t be traveling for the holidays because of my work schedule,¬†so things certainly won’t be speeding up anytime soon. And I am not upset at the thought of more days ahead with my chickens, a good book, and plenty of space¬†to¬†settle into this weird new season of life. There is so much goodness in the ordinary days.