[My completely sarcastic yet overwhelmingly heartfelt account of everything from waiting to the present...and don't forget everything in between!]
I don't pride myself as a patient person. It's just not who I am. But I do try, I promise. But no matter how patient you are by nature, the adoption wait is a trying experience. You start out by keeping yourself busy -- you have to ready a nursery, choose a name, baby proof the house. Heck! You could even start shopping if you dare (I didn't. Or more truthfully, my husband didn't allow it. For good reason)! But you creep to the top of that wait list, encroaching on that "maximum wait time" you were quoted, and this psycho alternate personality starts to emerge. You sit at the computer clicking refresh on your emails all day. Stare at your phone willing it to ring. Maybe even call your case worker just to see how her day is going (didn't really happen...or maybe it did)! You plop your kids in front of the tv so they don't distract you from your habitual electronic checking (What? Just me???). You clear your schedule of anything that keeps you away from the house "just in case" it would be "the day". You might even wake up a little earlier than usual to make sure you put on some make up and do something to your hair....'cause you just never know. Don't fool yourself folks (or try to fool your husband). You were sane. Once. And then you started the adoption process. Nothing will ever be the same again!
Everything you think you will do or say while on "the call"....just throw that out the window now (unless you actually got some truth out of someone who's been there)! You normally a crier? Well, you might just hold it together. Think you're an emotionally stable person? You probably aren't. You might fall in love the moment you see your child...or truthfully, deep down inside, think they look kinda strange. You feel like you want to celebrate...until you're hit with fact after fact of their devastating story and realize -- this little child, who I am to parent, has gone through WAAAAY more hardships in these short few months (or years) than I probably will my entire life. And I am to help THEM cope? It seems impossible. It maybe will be. Without Him.
You'll want to call everyone you know....show every breathing person a picture of this little child who will someday soon (hopefully) be in your arms. And yet -- a part of you wants to keep it all to yourself. This information, this history, these photos....it's all you have! If you share it, how is it yours anymore?
The REAL Waiting
More waiting?!? You should be a PRO at this by now. The psychopath has re-buried herself and the excited expecting mama has returned. For the last several months you have been glowing, showing off your photo album of pictures (that you finally decided were okay to share, after a brief selfish period). You traveled for you first trip and savored every second with your precious child. You held them, you touched them, you kissed them, you loved them. And then you left. Your heart broke in two and you left a huge chunk if it there while you flew over the world...back home. Without your child. Miss-top-of-the-wait-list-psycho-pants didn't know NOTHING! What's waiting when you don't know what you're waiting for?? Now it feels like you are waiting for life to begin. It feels like you are waiting for your heart to start beating again. For your first breath of fresh air. You are suffocating and no one can see it. You put on a smile, unconvincing...or maybe not, and go about your day feeling numb. Until they're in your arms. It breaks my heart any time I hear of someone in this stage...begging for advice on how to get through each day. How do you stop the tears from falling? If I seem callous or give lame advice...it's not for lack of trying, I promise. I can only get so close to this subject as the mere mention of it makes my eyes well up, gets my heart racing, and makes my throat tight. Five weeks between those two trips. Those five weeks were the worst of my life. The ONLY thing that got me through that, was daily meditating on the fact that Christ did that...and SO MUCH MORE to rescue every. single. one of us. How great is our God?!?
Bringing Your Child Home
Didn't see this one coming. Not in the slightest bit. We were following God's call for our lives. We were obeying scripture. We were taking a child, without a home, without a parent unable to care for her, and we were giving her a family, a home, an education, and teaching her about Christ. And yet as our plane lifted off Ethiopian soil and became air-bound, tears fell uncontrollably as I was convinced I was the most selfish person in the world. You see, you need to understand that during our time in Ethiopia, I fell. in. LOVE. Not a day goes by that I don't think about Ethiopia. The beautiful lanscape. The kind faces. The exquisite language that sounds like poetry to me. Every single day I miss Ethiopia and long to return. I was taking my daughter away from this -- HER birth country. Did she need me...or was it I that needed her? Of course the answer is both. But at that moment I mourned her loss. I held my sleeping 6 month old against my chest and kissed her forehead as I cried myself to sleep.
There is a point in sleep deprivation that you are so weak, you feel like you won't survive another second without sleep. And when you do survive, you reach a point in which you feel like your body doesn't require any sleep to survive. During either of these states, you need help! And if you fail to get help...you may have some regrets. Admittedly I have a few, but one specific one comes to mind every time I share about the worst of the worst of sleep deprivation.
It was several months in to the up-six-times-a-night stage. My husband was working the night shift four days a week and I couldn't remember the last time I had slept for more than two hours. But I guess that's not saying much considering I couldn't remember the last time I ate either. But regardless of what I could remember -- I can tell you it had been a while. Despite the constant waking up, our daughter had been fairly easy to get BACK to sleep...given you provided her with her lifeline -- the bottle. But on one of the several occasions when that ceased to put an end to the crying, I stood up, re-swaddled, and began rocking her back and forth, and bouncing, and every other thing I could think of to get those eyes to close and for the only noise to be coming from her be a snore. After two hours of crying (for all I know it could have been 15 minutes) I remember yelling "JUST GO TO SLEEP" and then immediately bursting into tears. I just yelled at my baby...what is WRONG with me?!? But it took that humbling moment of complete insanity to shake my super-mom complex and realize the truth to what everyone close to me kept telling me -- I needed help! Just days later, my mom made the two-hour drive to let me take a nap. What can I say? She's super-mom's mom!!!
Oh this could be a post in itself, couldn't it? Unfiltered, unwanted parenting advice has been the bane of every mom's existence since the beginning of time, hasn't it? You learn early on to brush it off and be your own person. But adoptive parenting advice brought me to a whole 'nother level! To start off, you read book after book on adoptive parenting before you even get a referral. According to your social worker -- you're ready! Between obsessive research and your rock star parenting techniques with your firstborn, you figure you just might be the best of the best. But inevitably, parenting always throws you a curve ball, doesn't it?? But who do you turn to when you don't know what to do? Maybe your parents are who you seek advice from in situations like this...but you are in uncharted territory with them. Adopted children have some baggage (for a lack of a better word) that may require some sensitivity in parenting/discipline. The thing is -- you feel judged from every angle!! You ask your mama friends and they think you're being too lax: just because she's adopted doesn't mean you need to parent differently, dummy! Uh YEAH you do!!! Now who's the dummy, dummy?? You ask your adoptive mama friends and feel judged for being too harsh because she comes from a difficult place for crying out loud! (Neither of these are actual quotes from anyone, just my personal summery based on my reaction to advice I received. And yes, it probably was as ridiculous as it sounds. Sleep-deprivation + emotionally unstable + desperately seeking advice = bad.) The best advice comes from your social worker (given you have a good one). She told me to STOP ASKING FOR ADVICE. (Really, it's like googling your symptoms to a cold and determining you have cancer.) I had prepared as much as I could for such a moment and GOD had given me gut instincts for a reason. Now what did you do when your gut instinct clashes with your husband's gut instinct?
Go with your gut instinct. Call your social worker. Gosh, don't you just love her!!! (If not, call mine...she's super!)
Having Two Kids
Let me start out by apologizing to every mom in which my response to "wait until you have more than one..." was an eye roll behind your back. Or a nudge-my-husband-in-which-we-eye-roll-together-behind-your-back-because-we're-clearly-better-parents. Probably never happened...but on the off chance it did, I'm so sorry! You see? I was blinded by the one-child mentality. We had a routine, he was an easy baby, I slept, I had an extra hand...yadda yadda yadda. But now I know. And again...I'm soooo sorry! Because (for those of you who don't know) no matter how well behaved your children may be, when they begin to outnumber you...life gets a little crazy. When you're out in public it's inevitable that one of them will throw a temper tantrum, or blow through a diaper, or forget they are potty trained, or be hungry, or mess up their hair, or forgot their favorite toy/blanket, or just need to be held when you need your hands, or just want their freedom to run when you're standing next to a cliff.... It never ends. One of them gets sick and it cycles through your family of four (or five, or six, or so on) over and over and over until you forget what being healthy even feels like. You're not just entertaining and feeding children...you are stopping fights, and kissing boo boos, and giving times outs, and playing trains and tea party at the same time. And if you take the time to enjoy it -- it is truly the best thing in the world!!!