To myself.

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Dear me,

I see you there. Tired eyes, dirty hair. There’s spit up next to you on the sheets and spit up on your pajamas and spit up on every last unseen surfaces as well come to think of it. You’re trying so hard. You worry so much.

I see you holding that tiny 8 pound frame, wondering how on earth you got here and who exactly decided you could manage another life other than your own. I hear your thoughts, cloudy from the alarmingly low amount of sleep you’re operating on, while this new life life still requiring the most thoughtful and attentive decisions you’ve ever had to make. Each moment a battle between fear and hope. Between adoration and resentment. Between what your gut says and what the everyone else may say. How do you raise a baby? You didn’t think you had a clue.

The transition to motherhood feels like your house burned down with all your belongings inside, but no one notices. They talk about your new house, how perfect you must feel in it. They gush at beautiful this space is, and yes it is so very beautiful. You will settle in. But right now, though, you feel deeply displaced and forgotten and have no earthly clue where the light switches are or how to work the new appliances. You wonder, “where am I?” and “does anyone see what’s been lost?”

You’re going to look for answers. Like to why he cries from 5-8 every night. When should you start solids? What bottle is best? What kind of formula makes his brain develop? Are we doing enough tummy time? Is he happy? Is he healthy? Is he okay? Are we okay?

You ask and ask. You click around parenting sites and turn each page with desperation, trusting anyone or everyone else to have the key to unlock the secrets to mastery over this great new challenge and allow you to shine as a perfect mother. You convince yourself the answer exists everywhere except for inside yourself. You are not to be trusted. You’re just a freshman. A rookie. Learning the ropes that seasoned mothers and fathers are obviously navigating with ease. The difficulty you feel is nothing more than a sign that something is off. Something must be wrong. You feel like you need all the information in the world, but know deep down it won’t be enough to settle the deep pangs of self-doubt.

But dear self, things are as they should be. It’s meant to be hard and feel awkward. These moments of pain mixed with joy are but bricks laid in your beautiful path you’re carving for you and your son. The people who told you Motherhood changes you in an instant were wrong. It changes you over moments and hours spent gazing into the eyes of a baby you’re learning to adore and finding your new identity amidst a chaotic shift in your foundation. It changes you as you approach hurdle after hurdle, sleep-regression after effing sleep-regression, and come out the other side still alive somehow. You feel powerless, and you are supposed to be powerless. There is a slow death of self, and a rising of new self happening. It is powerful, and empowering if you allow it to be.

Maybe hearing parenthood is an endless struggle doesn’t help much right now. But I want so badly to be able to tell you, in your weariest state, to find what you need within yourself. You will be tempted day in and day out to look elsewhere for every answer. Trust me when I say that many of them don’t exist outside of you. No one else will offer you the level of reassurance you crave that you and Ezra are securely attached. No one will understand why or how his witching hour happens. No one will know better than you when Ezra needs to see a doctor, when he needs to switch formulas, or when his bed time should be. Practice listening to your inner voice. She has a lot to say.

Trusting yourself has always been a struggle, but now is the time to practice. Hone it. Listen to yourself. Believe you are equipped. Dare to exercise your intuition, allowing your gut to guide you. The decisions you will make based on someone else’s advice will leave you so anxious so often. They mean well, and advice can sometimes be so useful. But they never know the whole picture of your family. How can they? But you do.

It’s a cruel joke that the world plays on women. We are conditioned to believe our intuition is toxic and then left to navigate parenthood without such a powerful tool at our disposal.

That feeling of mastery, at least over the next 2 years, won’t come. The learning and unlearning never ends, and with each new week comes new challenges. The constant, though, is you. Your ability to rise to the occasion, to bring your strength and knowledge to the table, to show up with love and dignity and belief in yourself. You are cut out for this. Believe this now, and save yourself months of anxious toiling. Stop asking of others what they will never be able to do: to validate your ability to be a mother to that baby. That is your work to do, not theirs. And the validation does not come through perfection, but through acknowledging and accepting your deep imperfection.

I am proud of the work you are doing. My eyes fill with tears when I imagine the vulnerability you live in right now. It is so painfully beautiful. I don’t miss it, but I am so grateful for that time of having my entire heart ripped open and life turned sideways as we made room for our Ezra. He is doing fine. You are doing fine. You will all be fine. Trust me.

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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