Fierce protection and the things people say

A friend recently said to me:
“I wish I could just be my daughter’s mom rather than always being seen as the adoptive mom” – she is part of a transracial family.

She is her daughter’s mom. My heart aches at the fact that people struggle with this based on the appearance or how it started. Regardless of the reasons she chose to adopt.
Then I look at my friends who are in transracial families by virtue of marriage where my paler or blonde friends have coffee skinned dark haired babies. Or my coffee skinned friends have blonde babies –simply because of the way their genes mixed to produce their beautiful kids and I wonder if they get asked the same questions at times in terms of being conspicuous.

My heart aches at the fact that we need to think through how we are going to protect our children from ignorant, uninformed or unhelpful statements. My heart is already fiercely protective of my not yet known child, whose life challenges and growing up is going to be in a family that can’t wait to have him home and yet also has to recognise that by virtue of the fact that he is adopted, he is going to have extra work to do as a part of his life story.

My fierce protection extends to wanting to say the following:

Please don’t tell me that as soon as we adopt, then we will fall pregnant: We can fall pregnant. Yes, we have publicly shared about miscarriage but that doesn’t mean we have given up hope or can’t have biological babies. The medical reality is that we can fall pregnant and there is no known reason why we can’t have biological children if we choose to – but we choosing to go the adoption route first. This has always been part of our choice for our family. When you tell me that as soon as I adopt I will fall pregnant, the unspoken message I hear isn’t encouraging – in fact it makes things awkward. Awkward because I already want to protect my child. I hear and worry that my adopted child will hear: Being adopted is a second prize plan and my bio baby is the first & that’s not something any of us would want to be – a second prize.

Our choosing adoption is part of the first prize for our family. It always has been.

Please don’t make assumptions about our fertility as potential adoptive parents – some of my friends already have bio babies and have chosen to adopt. Some of my friends can’t have bio babies and have chosen to adopt. Some of my circles chose to adopt before even considering bio babies – not because they are somewhat noble or holier or something more than other mothers – simply as this is the story that they have chosen for their families. When we make assumptions about this – people are left needing to defend & protect themselves and their children – when people choose to fall pregnant and grow their families that way, we celebrate the new life. As a prospective adoptive parent, my choices are wrapped in layers of recognising that I potentially will be a mom but that there are challenges and losses amidst the celebration of family and life – perhaps ask if there is freedom to do so rather than assume why I am doing so & if there isn’t enough depth of relationship or I haven’t volunteered why I am doing this, then maybe we aren’t in a space to want to engage around this.

Good moms and dads want to protect their children against things that aren’t helpful to their growth and give them skills to manage the challenges that are a part of life. I never want my child to think that they are my 2nd prize – regardless of whether their younger siblings arrive from my tummy or through an adoption process. We all know life shoves enough at us along the way without adding that into the mix. Please help my child never feel obligated to me – we will belong to each other – not owe each other infinite gratitude for having each other. My gratitude is to God who models adoption for me. My gratitude is for a husband who was pro-adoption before I met him and in figuring out what we wanted life to be about as a family had adoption in the picture too. My child isn’t going to be lucky to have us. We are going to be blessed to have each other.

We are excited, and planning, and dreaming, and nervous as we continue with the screening and prep process. We are aware and processing some of the challenges of parenting – we have to do this differently simply because we get asked and assessed and guided and need to think things through that some pregnant parents do but many don’t.

I am grateful for a gracious husband. He gets this right in a way I struggle with. Often.

I am having to learn to say things differently, to listen more and work out whether humour, information giving to simply choosing not to respond is the best way forward in protecting my family and future family – rather than just seeking battle always.
I am grateful for the friends who pave the way before us and for those doing this with us and for the beautifully mixed world we get to live in.

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Motherhood: Permission to have 2 plan A’s

Motherhood – such a loaded term for some people. Can we do this, do we want to do this, how should we do this?

My first experience of motherhood was the privilege of being a ‘weekend’ mom/ big sister to a little guy who was my angel. He taught me that it was possible to love someone who I hadn’t carried from his beginning with a love that is still there and that I did indeed have the capacity to make decisions that were good for him; that I had the ability to nurture and want the best for a little person that for all intents and purposes couldn’t give anything back to me really. Yet gave me something that sometimes I can’t find words for – it just was this beautiful relationship which I had as a gift (with all its ups and downs) until he got his forever family. Honestly, I struggled to understand why when we have 4 million orphans in this country why anyone would choose to have a birth baby rather than adopt one because there are babies & children waiting to be loved?

My plan A was always to create a family, Lord willing (note the ‘my plan’ in this) via adoption. It wasn’t something that I had to wrestle with, or figure out. It just made sense. I was jealous of friends who were in a place to initiate their adoption process when I knew that from a screening point of view I wasn’t in a position to offer a small person what they needed. I was jealous of friends who announced their adoptions on facebook, in community groups. I missed having my little person with me who I celebrated having a forever family (for him) and yet had to grieve that it wasn’t me.

Then I got married to a wonderful man, to a man who believes in adoption & who is wanting to adopt, but is also wanting us to birth babies, Lord willing. This is his dream. This is something that matters to him. His ‘Plan A’ for family has always included both: birth children and adopted children. What a gift of a husband I have. What a challenge to me though to consider the possibilities of birth babies as well as adopted ones? In my head adoption was the plan A. It was hard to consider anything else.

Until I had this conversation with a friend whose plan A was always to have a birth baby until she was told for physiological reasons that this wasn’t an option. I thought that she would totally endorse my position. Except she didn’t. She listened to me. She let me weep. She let me express the depth of my thoughts, and a position which I didn’t know until then that I felt so strongly about; and then she challenged me. She challenged me on the fact that God gives children as blessings. She challenged me to rethink what my wonderful man was asking; she asked me to think about whether I was in a position to honour my husband and the potential gift of a birth baby and the experiences that come with that in terms of opening up aspects of my husband that only I potentially could. She affirmed the fact that adoption was still a part of the plan.

This opened up a 6 month process of me sitting with these questions. Praying with my husband, praying alone, praying with friends. And then we fell pregnant sooner than anticipated & despite not meeting this baby on this side of heaven, discovered that actually we are “fertile” and fortunate compared to so many we know. I also discovered that actually I do want to embrace the experience of growing a small person. I do want to share this with husband.

As I write this I have the honour of being a facilitator on a weekend of equipping parents who are adopting, have adopted and considering adoption. I spent time yesterday afternoon with a little boy who has been declared eligible for adoption and who in my heart I wish we could adopt. His eligibility for adoption came through 3 months after we were married. Seeing him yesterday, in a family style home, 2 years since I last saw him, reminded me again that he is so ready for a family. And my heart is still to have a child like him be a part of ours.

I am grateful to my friend for challenging, listening, holding and responding to a space which isn’t neutral for her. It’s a space which held pain. It’s a space which provoked her needing to look at what was previously her plan A and still being able to look at me with compassion.

Today I sit knowing that motherhood is allowed to have 2 plan A’s, each plan with its own celebrations and grief. Today I sit knowing that my journey is now an “Our Journey” and that it means we both have decisions and choices. Today I sit knowing that there aren’t guarantees about how our family is going to be shaped but I do know that motherhood is allowed to have 2 plan A’s,

One week later: Things that helped, things that hindered & finding grace in grief

I have learnt, lived and experienced things this last week that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. In the midst of the heartache and disappointment there have been many reasons for gratitude. There have also been things that happened that were perhaps well meaning but really not helpful. There were things that I am not sure what they were about but have left me perplexed. They are things. Things for me work well in lists, so here goes the list.

GRATITUDE for the man I married who has loved, held, supported and shown up when nothing he can do can “fix this” right now. I have learnt that Charlie shows up in the way that matters and that he loves me more, deeper and far better than I could have hoped or imagined.

HELPFUL reflection: We need the love and support and ACKNOWLEDGMENT of our community but that much of this grief work is private as much as the journey is shared. So thank you for acknowledging our grief, for praying, for messages and for space. That is both something that I am grateful for and that was helpful. There is a part of this that is lonely and that I can’t share with others – but value them being there. Just being there.

NOT SO HELPFUL reflection:
We chose to share the joy of discovering we were pregnant, as well as the sadness of the loss. The amount of info we share around this is up to us – it hasn’t been so helpful when people have wanted details around either the pregnancy or the loss. We were clear about the reason for not meeting our little person when we announced this (a blighted ovum). Questions & responses which weren’t helpful included, and in fact were quite intrusive:

o Did the doctors do investigations as to why? Can they explain why? (No – if you want more info, perhaps use google, rather than me).

o Were you on hormone treatment? Will you be given hormones to help you fall pregnant again? (Really – this is loaded with assumptions about how we fell pregnant to start with or that there are issues – and if there are, that is obviously something personal that wasn’t shared; and if there aren’t, how do I respond graciously and honour my community who have had struggles in this without pushing into their pain. Fertility is an emotionally loaded area. Please be careful how you approach this with anyone, maybe don’t?)

o Inquiries as to how much (& whether it will be protected/ unprotected) sex we plan on having in the near future (My gut reaction to this: Why would you like to recommend a baby making position?!)

The spiritual side of things matter too. I don’t believe that things always happen for a reason, or that there is a bigger picture or obviously God wanted an extra baby in heaven – my faith in God wasn’t hinged on whether or not this baby made it to us: I was astounded at the amount of people who told me not to give up on God. It worries me that God’s faithfulness is perceived as being contingent on my circumstances – but that is another discussion. The world is messy. Life is messy. This happening is nonsensical to me, and as hard as it is is messy. God doesn’t owe me an explanation -I don’t want to get into a discussion like Job did where God had to remind him of who is who.

It has been a week today since we found out that we weren’t going to meet our small person this side of heaven. Acknowledgment of this means being sad, saying it’s hard and taking your lead from how much information we choose to share. Our medical history is ours and the way in which we are processing privately needs to be ours too.

It doesn’t matter whether this was a first time lucky conception or a hard prayed and longed for one (with or without intervention)– or whether it was an adoption that fell through. When people bond and dream of their small people, it’s a loss – REGARDLESS of how the small person was going to arrive.

HELPFUL reflection: Recognising that while we share stories I don’t want to own your story and I don’t want you to own mine. They are our individual stories of unique babies but with a shared understanding of loss. It is stressful and hard for anyone to have to listen to someone else’s outcome which is not necessarily true for the person. Thank you for the friends who shared their stories but also for those who shared the helpful parts and didn’t insert into our story what their outcome was. Our story isn’t finished yet. A parallel story to this was my younger brother getting married before me – people often asked me if it was hard for me to hope for marriage since I am the oldest and Mark got wed first – no it wasn’t hard. I was never going to marry my brother. His being married, someone else having a baby or not is not my story. It’s theirs. My cousin is going into labour (hopefully) any minute – I am excited at the hope of new life in the midst of our loss. It’s been hard but helpful, for me, to be able to weep and celebrate with her. This might not be true for anyone else.

GRACE moments: That this either owns me indefinitely or becomes a part of my story. My daily choices as I grieve and choose to process will determine this. This was a reminder again that there is a depth of pain that lacks words. It was a reminder that I don’t have to soldier on and that in the midst of this and that there is love in places and people if I am open to receiving and allowing it to be there.

This is a club that I NEVER signed up for. I resent at times the fact that I now have to be a part of this and yet I look at the amazing women in my world who are here too – some who are birth mothers and some who mothers without having given birth (or adopting) and realise that none of them did either and there are lots of clubs throughout the world that people didn’t sign up for.

In the meantime there is grace, gratitude and recognition that it’s okay to say things are sometimes more helpful than others.

This is dedicated to a baby we never met who we named Michael; who would have been born around Freedom Day (27th April). Trusting that his story will help bring greater freedom in our lives, other’s lives as well as a sense of God’s glory in the messiness of life

Was he worth the wait?

So much excitement about a wedding & so many people sending love, wishes and hopes for us!  People love to celebrate love.  I know this because my blog got more hits and views and links on the WEDDINGS, DETAILS and WHAT I AM REALLY EXCITED ABOUT than it did for any SOCIAL JUSTICE writing.  I also know this because I am closer to 40 than I am to 30 and there have been so many different reactions to the news that I am getting married. 

Reactions ranging from “he must be really special” *he is* to “ah, see, he was worth waiting for” and “Wasn’t he worth the wait?” I wouldn’t swop my Bear for anyone else.

 If I am going to be annoyed and driven crazy and love and loved, I want it to be with & by him rather than anyone else

Please re-read that before you carry on reading the next line – seriously –make sure you know that I mean it and I want to love and commit to loving him forever – on the good days, the mad days, the sad days and the deeply content days.

However to ask me if “Wasn’t he worth all the waiting?” in some ways is a trap of a question.  The way I understand it is this:

–          I wouldn’t want anyone else

–          I wouldn’t want the waiting time ever again

I shared this with a friend who waited a long time before their child was conceived – she had had the same responses from well -meaning well-wishers – “wasn’t your baby worth the wait?”  She wouldn’t swop that little person for anyone else BUT the heart-ache and grief of being single or child-less is something that neither she nor I ever want again regardless of the outcome.

Walking, talking and listening to friends who are still single – whether younger, my peers or older than me – I am mindful of the amazing gift I have been given in the man who chooses to love me – and still mindful of the chaos of the world as a single person:  of the assumptions made about the amazing men & women I know who love God, love people, are passionate about life and love and yet haven’t met their other.  Being in a relationship is hard at times; iron sharpens iron –we know this.  Being single at times was hard too.

The wait meant some odd choices of dates in perpetual hope; the wait meant that the inner part of me seeking companionship was lonely, not in solitude, in heartache and was sometimes judged when it was expressed for surely I had a life fulfilled – and I did:  I get to do work I love in a country I am passionate about on a continent that pulses a beat of challenges and craziness and creativity. It was hard not having someone to share that with.  Angry, fist raised, crying at God hard some days.

There are no guarantees about the wait just like there are no guarantees that life is necessarily easier in relationship.  I do know this.  I am grateful for a hope fulfilled in the longing for an “other” – especially for the other that I now have to do life with.  I am also grateful that the wait is over and there were moments of growth and hope and amazing adventure in it yes, but that’s not the same as the value of who I have in my life now.