And then it was done.

2016 that is.
I have been a mama for more than a year now.
We have had massive changes in the last year.
A new business.
A new home.
And every time you think you have a handle on something to do with mothering, the handle changes. It’s beautiful. It’s frustrating. It’s happening so very quickly.
For weeks now I have been wanting to sit down and write and then the end of the day arrives and I realise that I just want to sit down.
2016 has been a year of deep joy and deep grief.
We have had to say goodbye to family members and friends as they journey on the other side of heaven.
Looking back, I realise that the deep joy of mother hood has also meant letting go of much of what I thought I knew about me.
Before becoming a mama, we were fairly convinced that I would need to go back to work, at least part time, after 6 months. There was a possibility that maybe not, but for the most part people who know me, who love me and well, me, all thought this would be the case.
Then work possibilities opened up and I realised how anxious I was about saying yes.
The opportunity came for me to do some locum work, in the same period as a conference workshop and seeing a family for some support and I thought that this would be a great way to figure out if this is what I wanted actually – to get back into a work space. We have always said we would reassess after a year of motherhood where I was.
Despite enjoying the time with the kids, running groups and one:one I had to realise that the kick back I was getting in this space, wasn’t just about using my skills, but also the affirmation that I am skilled at being in this space. There is feedback and affirmation. There is sense of being seen. There is a sense of other purpose.
Then I got home and my little person who had been with his grandparents – it’s a mutual adoration club – reminded me that his feedback comes in other ways. It comes in being present as he develops skills. It comes in being able to be the person who creates an environment in which he can develop skills. It comes in making his world big enough, safe enough to keep testing the limits of it and yet making it smaller when he needs cuddle, couch and comfort time.
It comes when someone says to me, your son is developing assertiveness already in how you give him choices. It comes when I get feedback that there is a secure attachment that has developed here & when we see perfectly age appropriate behaviours (the fun and more trying ones) emerging.
It comes when I get to be a part of going on adventures with him and seeing an overnight shift in suddenly being able to sit through a story (rather than needing to finish the story after he has gone to bed).
Being this boy’s mama has revealed to me that as much as I love my professional space, I am in a season of loving this space more. Of being in a privileged position of being able to choose to stay in this space more.
Being this boy’s mama has meant that my choices around health and wellbeing for myself are needing to be figured out differently than before.
Being this boy’s mama at this stage in my life means that my deep satisfaction at having achieved my career aspirations just before meeting my guy doesn’t leave me feeling robbed.
Conflicted every now and then at the end of a long stretch when I am feeling unseen – but that’s not about my work space, it’s about learning to rest in a new way of being for me.
Being this boy’s mama has shown me that there are things that I feel strongly about in a way that I no longer tackle as head on as I used to, and others’ that I will. At the end the issues I tackle need to leave a mama intact for him, as well as confronting the bigger issues playing out around us. That doesn’t mean I sit down in injustice, it means I change how I have to tackle them.
This year has shown me things about myself- some wonderful surprises, some horrible reflections – that I am grateful for.
I am grateful that my husband is in a position to give me choices.
I am grateful for the extra support we have in the Manyi family. All of them.
I am grateful for the community that we are a part of. The friends and family who helped me lay foundations for what I wanted out of mothering, for permission to choose differently, for space to figure this out. For more than one friend who has reflected that the first year of motherhood means grace and space to be less visible and involved because your visibility and involvement is elsewhere and not seen publicly.
I am grateful for the murky horrible reflections that have also emerged as they help me navigate what 2017 needs to hold in it too. And grateful for the people who love me anyway, but love me enough to challenge the things that need challenging.
I am grateful for my son. For who he is revealing in me. For the fact that simply unlocking a different part of me has meant drawing different lines in the sand, determining different boundaries and making different choices.
2016 has been the best of times and the worst of times to quote Dickens.
And I am grateful.

In your eyes I see me

In my son’s eyes and through our relationship I am finding out things about myself – some just at a greater depth than what I knew existed. Some new.  Some expected, some unexpected – both affirming and areas for growth.

Last month was a month which magnified so much of all of this.

The discoveries of new.

The knowledge of what was known.

The challenging space of dealing with what was known intellectually but I was confronted with emotionally and physically.

I feel like I am still playing catch up.

Like at times, a lot of time, I need to remember that I can breathe out and not just in.

Last month saw the whole household hit with survival spaces in different ways.  The car broke down twice.  The dog spent a night at the vet.  My husband was ill.  I was ill and bed bound – something that hasn’t happened in months and months.

My son.

This was the hardest part of all.  My son was ill and just didn’t get better.

Despite the conservative alternative approaches.

Despite the modern medicine approaches.

Despite resting.  Despite everything we tried.

He just kept getting worse.  It was exhausting.  It was frustrating.  It was perplexing.

It left me feeling helpless and questioning the parenting decisions that we, I, had made around certain issues.  It left me searching for concrete answers and affirmation.

I found myself often looking into his big beautiful eyes and seeing my reflection and in doing this needing to confront my biggest, deepest fear.

My biggest fear is losing someone close to me.

During all the screenings for adoption, we were asked about out biggest fears.  My gut response is this:

‘to lose someone close to me’

I recall this fear when my mom was in hospitalised for a triple heart bypass 6 years ago.

I recognise this is in my worry when my husband used to ride a motorbike to work in wet and windy conditions and I would hear ambulance sirens from our apartment.

This past month though I had to live through it.  I have only once been able to acknowledge to a friend how afraid I was without bursting into tears.

Right now, the floods are threatening once more.  The floods are getting less though.

I am so grateful for the fact that we had doctors who picked up a rare and uncommon, but not unusual, to quote the paediatric cardiologist, illness.

I am grateful for doctors who were honest enough to say that they were concerned by the fact that my son wasn’t responding to the ‘big gun’ medication and that while the tests were all showing indications of different things, that my son wasn’t responding to the treatment of these.

I am grateful for doctors who are humble enough, professional enough to consult colleagues and talk through possibilities and options.

I am grateful that the day after the turnaround happen, our paediatrician said to me that he had gone home and was starting to feel desperate himself about what would happen next if the strategy we were employing didn’t yield a positive response.
I am grateful for nurses that were compassionate and understood that making sure my son was comfortable despite the raging, repeated temperature spikes was as important as observations and the clinical parts of their work shift.

I am grateful for friends, like Belinda, who came and helped me make my son comfortable, repeatedly.  Who in her professional role as a nurse knows things, who in my role as friend knew what I needed emotionally and physically to get through this.

I am grateful for visits and meals and prayers from many people.

Right now, I am grateful for the space to remember to breathe out even if there are still tears in this

The day my son was admitted to hospital I thought about Mary (Jesus’s mother). Elizabeth (John’s mother),  Hannah (Samuel’s mother) and committed my son to God.

My heart was at peace.

It was also aching.

After repeated days and nights of him struggling to breathe, of seeing him not responding to meds, of seeing the impact of his body trying to deal with different things (and now the peeling skin as a reminder of what his body has dealt with), of eventually feeling fobbed off with this is “just” and recognising that this was more than that, I am grateful to God for the peace that came in that commitment.

I am grateful in a weird way for a nursing sister mom who verbalised that this fear wasn’t ungrounded if we hadn’t made the decisions in managing this like did.

I am grateful for a demanding, busy, mischievous, chatty, dancing, affectionate little boy.

So, now I get to breathe out.

And remember that we have lived through this fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnitude of Just Being

3 months ago I became mother to a beautiful 5 month old baby boy.  The magnitude of this has been overwhelming some days – suddenly my life is not my own.

It was an adjustment when I got married.

This is different.

Motherhood feels different.

There are many treasured moments that belong to my boy and I, or to my guy, my boy and I and these are ours alone.

My not working for a while, at least for as long as he was alive and not with us, feels like a public thing.  It feels a like I have had to redefine where I fit in my community and social spaces.  It feels like a gift and yet one which I have had to intentionally articulate.

 

Recently I was sitting watching my little man and suddenly it struck me that his biggest joy for the afternoon was my just sitting and being with him.

He gurgles, he plays, he explores, he cuddles and he checks in in between as his agility and mobility is increasing (way too fast some days for me!).

Yet the smile and the giggle that lights up his face when he knows that I have seen him, or am simply being with him overwhelmed me that afternoon.

just be

 

Just being  was enough for him.

No, I didn’t sit there passively, we engaged and giggled and smiled and made sure that he explored in a way the allowed for discovery with reduced risk of harm.

Yes, we feed, clothe and ensure he is cared for.

His joy though came from just being.

This forced me to question how much value I place on just being.

 

Just being with God

Just being with my guy.

Just being with my son.

Just being in community with my people.

Just being.

 

Is there enough value for me in just being present with him to transition joyfully into motherhood, with the lack of sleep some nights and my world suddenly seeming to be so  much smaller?

Is there enough value for me in being his mom or do I have to own that until this point much of my own validation came from being a part of bigger conversations, being a part of a work space where I knew people’s lives were impacted practically through research and skills and being with them?

My word for 2016 was to JUST BE.

I am learning how hard this can be some days.

Yet, after an afternoon in which my almost 9 month old explorer took a horrible tumble and there was snot, blood and tears (some his and some mine after); on top of his second ever illness since us being together, I had to concede that actually this mattered more to me than I had been able to fully own:

This just being his mom.

Just being his mom is far bigger, far more joyful, far more overwhelming and far more fulfilling than I could have anticipated.

I said no to further post grad studies to explore a relationship with the man who became my husband.

I am saying yes to just being my son’s mom. Who knows where that path is going to lead us?

Just being.

 

 

 

 

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.

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,