The Bittersweet in THE CALL

Last week we got the call.  If you are an adoptive parent, who has waited, or is waiting you will know EXACTLY what I mean by THE CALL.

The call to say that our wait was over.

The call to say that we can meet and bring home a small person to raise as if he was born unto us, as if he is our own.

The call to say that everything we have been intentionally reading, listening, discussing and praying into is about to be made real.

In the Christian calendar, we are in Advent. A season of waiting and of hope.

My guy asked me last week what I wanted for Christmas.  I didn’t really want anything other than for our small person to be home. I said so- in fact I even suggested he call the social workers and put it out there ;)!

The next day we got the call.

Our personal waiting was over.

It’s been a bittersweet time of choosing adoption.

I have always wanted to adopt. I have always thought that this makes sense in terms of growing families.

I have also wondered what happens to mothers who choose not to raise their children post-delivery for whatever reason (whether through relinquishing their children for adoption or abandonment).

I have wrestled with the fact that we are on a register waiting for a child whose birth mother would have had to release him – however that looked for her, as well as him for her.

Not out of pity, but simply as I have had to release a child, not born unto me, but one that I cared for deeply into the adoption process and it was one of the most bittersweet moments of my world – I was over the moon excited that he had a family which was going to be fully his.

I was devastated that I couldn’t be it.

This week I have reflected on the journey to tomorrow and all it has held.

From my guy and I debating whether to go the adoption route first or the birth babies first.

I have had moments of intense grief for a birth mom who was carrying a baby to term but would not see him grow.

I have had intense gratitude and frustration at the fact that this baby is going to be cared for by others between his birth mom and coming to us.

I have been sad for the ‘others’ who care for, look after, love and celebrate children knowing that they will have to say goodbye.

I have had days where it felt okay and days where it felt awful and like it was never going to be real that we would get the call.

It’s bittersweet.

The sweetness of meeting him tomorrow doesn’t change the preceding part of his story, or ours.

The sweetness of meeting him does change how we engage with the world.

The sweetness of him is a reminder that he has a birth mom who has her own story and who we can honour in how we engage with him in our new family of 3, regardless of the story, for she is his birth mom.

The sweetness of him is a reminder that there are spaces which are sacred and the journey into parenthood is one of them.

We are excited to meet our boy.

We are overwhelmed and (beautifully) normal in our nervous anticipation of the pending changes in our worlds.

I can’t wait to meet him. To hold him. To snuggle and feed him. To watch him grow.

I can’t wait to see my guy in his role as father, protector and guide.

New ways of being are going to be unlocked.

This is scary exciting.

It’s bittersweet.

p.s. My guy didn’t call the social worker.  That was just how the story all happened J

Advertisements

Enlarging hearts

Enlarging hearts

For the past 3 weeks I have struggled to sit down and focus on writing a blog for someone on practical attachment strategies.  I am excited about this field.  I am passionate about this field.  Yet, I struggled.

It was only when journaling that I realised I didn’t want to be writing this for people, I wanted to be doing this with our own child.

A friend asked me recently how the wait was going.

I told her it was getting longer.

I had said that some mornings I wake up and think ‘it’s one day closer to THE day’, but my heart is wanting to start counting hours and not the days anymore.

The nappies are waiting for a body to be wrapped around.

The bottles are waiting to be used.

Our community is waiting for an excited & (I am anticipating!) overwhelmed, this is it message.

We are sitting with an increased awareness of the absence of the next person who is going to be a part of our family.

‘Your heart is enlarging and it’s a stretch and it’s a sweet pain’ was her response.

Oh.

I want to stamp my feet and ask how long will this continue.

Me – the planner, who for the last 5 years had been able to vision for the year ahead – even if the details weren’t fully known, there was some sense of this is where I was headed.

Now, we know that we will be parents to a small person.

We just have no concrete timelines.

Yesterday, a friend said to me you are in a long labour.

It’s not just about being pregnant anymore.

It’s about waiting to see that face for the first time.

In person.

It’s about meeting this small person who we are going to be honoured to parent.

I sighed a deep breath out.

Our hearts are enlarging.

Our hearts are enlarging and as much as we are relishing the late lie-ins and the spontaneous meals in the park, or walks, or doing what we feel like when we feel like, there is an increasing awareness that someone is not with us.

Our hearts are enlarging and we appreciate the well-meant ‘enjoy the season’, ‘make the most of each other’ and all the other comments, but I am struggling with the challenge in this season without any fixed timelines.

There is a real tension of being fully aware of the joy in the present (and there is much!) but the longing for what we are waiting for too.

Sometimes this longing is painful.

I knew that this would be a waiting thing.  I don’t enjoy waiting things generally.  I am someone who gets up and makes things happen.

And in this I can’t.

I can pray.

I can cry when it gets too much.

It helps – I guess like it has for many mothers whose pregnancies or labours have felt indefinite at times!

I can share this with safe people.

I can respond with ease when people ask how the wait is going.  It was liberating this past week to say to a friend who is on her own adoption journey, that the ‘enjoy just the two of you’ are getting frustrating. We really do enjoy just the two of us, but we are ready for it to be three of us too.

We have been dreaming of parenting through adoption since before we got married.

In December we decided to start our process in the first part of this year.

In April we had our first adoption screening interview.

Our hearts are being enlarged.

We wait.

[p.s. I  finally did finish the other blog – Head over to the heartmamablog.co.za for more info :)] 

The Wait

Post #worldadoptionday conversations

Monday was our 2nd wedding anniversary.  I can’t believe that it’s been 24 months to the day since we chose each other – to dream and do life with, but also to wrestle the rough edges off of the other and to see healing come in the parts that only heal in relationship.  It was also a day for me that I thought would be a good day to get the CALL despite knowing that it wasn’t likely to happen.  It’s okay to dream dreams too.

We are in the waiting season familiar to most adoptive parents known as waiting for THE CALL.

The call that only comes from our social workers when there is a child who we potentially could be the right match for.

The call that only comes once there is no chance of things not being possible.

The call that social workers for the child, birth mom and prospective parents are working towards and yet no one can talk about anything with the prospective parents until the time is right for the call.

The call that means there is a wait.

A wait while you start to nest (and wash nappies) and prepare for a child who you aren’t sure about in terms of preferences, sizes or sleeping habits.  (On receiving the call some of this is clarified a little, but how many of us on paper reveal the fullness of who we are in person).

A wait in which dreams of babies and bedrooms and nappies and what will our future small look like happen.

I catch myself occasionally looking around at people and wondering whether our small grow up with your build, or your eyes, or your skin tone?  I know that it won’t be mine, so I am curious to discover what the unique blend of birth/ first parents has created.

A wait in which I wish for, and am grateful for, our immediate circles of family and friends being mindful of the bitter-sweetness of the adoption process so that when our small arrives, their immediate world is one which honours the duality of space from before as well as the now and the looking ahead.

A wait in which grandparents are picking up books and learning from adult transracial adoptees what it means to be adopted and asking questions around this in order to better love their next grandchild.

IMG_20151108_201056

A wait in which future cousins and children in our community are asking questions or figuring things out about the future arrival.

A wait in which friends have been excited for us and asking questions.

A wait which until this week felt helpful in transitioning.  Helpful in preparing us as a couple to be pressing into the space of us.  Until this week when it was a lot of just us and now we are increasingly becoming aware of the space that we have created and are waiting for the small one to be the next one of us.

A wait in which I pray our small person comes home sooner rather than later so that the gap, grief and loss between saying farewell to a birth family and hello to the adoptive family isn’t longer than it absolutely needs to be.

A wait in which my heart is beginning to labour more.  Another adopted mom said to me:

We were always excited for our children to come home, but then one day the excitement turned to a yearning.

When she first said this to me, the excitement resonated.

Today the yearning is.

We wait.

In anticipation

The Big Wait.  The Paper Pregnant with no deadline.  No timeline.  Just hope.  Lots of it.

Hope and an awareness that in the background to our story unfolding, others are happening.

One with social workers, acting on our behalf to make sure that our profile is out there for prospective matches.

One with social workers wanting to see children permanently placed with the right families for them.

Reams of paperwork we completed on file being accessed as is needed to confirm and explore possibilities.

A child, whose story we don’t know yet, having to cope with hard goodbyes and temporary hellos until we have the privilege of parenting him.

A birth mom, who may or may not still be around this child – I have no idea of her story but she is an important part of ours, not just as the birth mom of our small but as our family grows in the years ahead.

Our community.

Our community anticipating with us, praying with us, holding open hearts and dreams with us.

Our community blessing us with practical gifts.

Blessing us with a celebration and gathering of family and friends to welcome us to first time parenthood together with a shower and a braai  – my guy is an important part of this all.

Our community getting frustrated for us in the wait – more than us most days!

Our community embracing our process and while not seeing my belly grow, are making space anyway in our worlds for our future child.

Us.

Us talking about the things we are excited about and the things we are nervous about.

Us dreaming what we would like the new rhythm  in our family to be like.

Us talking about working mom, part time working mom or full time mommy space for a season.

Us talking to our families and friends about our feelings in this process.

Us accompanied by my sister in law to an adoption conference (in which she became an us as she pressed in to aspects of adoption)

Me.

Me waking up and thinking about what and how to arrange the second room.

Me reflecting on the professional things my brain knows and needing to work these through with a professional of my own in anticipation.

Me remembering the fear & grief of losing pregnancies and knowing that this is a definite thing.

Me recognising that I am not going to have all the answers and get this right every time and that showing up consistently to try and figure things out is what matters.

Ultimately God.

Walking this journey is teaching me more about faith – we hope for things that we do not yet see to quote Hebrews 11:1.   It’s confidence of what is coming. It’s assurance of what I don’t see. It’s the conviction of knowing this and preparing to do the things that need doing.

In anticipation.

IN TRANSIT

In transit

The waiting areas in airports.  The in between space of starting a journey and arriving at the destination.  The part that I often associate with getting stiff, bored, needing a book or a distraction, with starting to think about what will happen when I get there.

In my immediate family of my guy and I, we are in a waiting space for a specific outcome, the timelines of which are totally out of our hands.

In my extended family, we are waiting for answers to prayer, for relocations, for hopes to be fulfilled.

In my friendship circle, we are waiting for new life to be born, for friends and their life partners to discover each other. For visas, for work permits, for jobs, for change.

In my country, we are waiting for changes long hoped for to be seen, for healing, for people to be allowed to dream again.

Rather than being surrounded by final destinations, I feel like I am surrounded by in transit processes.

Then I am reminded of journeys taken in the past – the ones in which I embraced the transit part as opposed to those in which I wanted to keep asking ‘are we there yet’?  Regardless of how much I asked, I couldn’t make things happen faster.

The journey that was an overnight flight and looking after my co-traveller’s 6 month old baby so that she could stretch, go to the loo and have an uninterrupted nap actually was one of my favourites.

The journey through to Mozambique on the back of an open, uncovered bakkie (in an unseasonal hailstorm) with a lifelong friend making memories for a lifetime, which was then followed by a bus trip in Mozambique (in which the bus broke down), followed by an unplanned plane trip to Swaziland (we got a lift in a plane – yes, you read that right!) followed by a mini bus taxi trip home to South Africa from Swaziland, squished into the back corner.

The journey of moving back to Cape Town which involved a road trip down to KZN, along the Wild Coast, the Garden Route with my guy.

In all of these experiences, which were in transit, there was frustration at points, anger, and an unwavering hope that this was a part of the story, a getting to know my inner and outer world better.  The only way in which this happened was through a sense of surrender to something more than me and my plans and thinking of what would make things perfect.

On Friday morning, at the end of a commitment rather than motivation based run, I was reminded that I can make plans, but God determines the steps (Proverbs 16:9).  I can do all I can, but I can’t control uncontrollable variables, like understanding, or misunderstanding, or timelines that aren’t mine to set, or always know exactly what direction the steps are going to take.  So, the run abruptly stopped, and I remembered:

It’s about SURRENDER.

Surrender to the fact that actually the journey along the way is a part of the story.

Surrender to the fact that in my one specific context, I am choosing to trust God.

Surrender to knowing that regardless of my plans, there is a bigger picture with steps in it – sometimes steps of character, or relationship, or a picture that I wouldn’t have thought to paint myself.

In transit.

Adoption – before the child arrives – stuff.

I am not an expert in this.  I am in this.  This being our journey towards hearing that we are approved as adoptive parents and waiting to meet our small person. Along the way we have been asked by some people to voice what is helpful in terms of support and then an even more amazing question has been posed to me:

“and please tell me what isn’t helpful – we don’t know how to navigate this, so make a list, write a blog please.”

According to my Facebook feed there are a lot of do and don’t lists out there. Around adoption. Around marriage. Around singleness. Around *insert the most recent one YOU read here*.  Some of them are helpful and some of them have frustrated lots of my friends. Here are my suggestions, rather than directives, discovered in collaboration with other moms.

Yip. I did what any modern day mother to be does and sourced some input from adoptive moms on Facebook (as well as in person). I hope this honours what the moms shared with me.

DISCLAIMER: “One size never fits all!” so different people will have different needs.  I am writing this, not just for me, but with other’s input – who are not me.  Out of relationship, in your space, with me, or someone like me, this needs to be figured out!

I guess that would be my starting point:  What is your relationship to me and what will it be to my child?   Out of this relationship space, with any new mom& dad, I would suggest that the following things are helpful:

  • QUESTIONS & CURIOUSITY: ASK! Think about what you are asking though – one mom asked that people think about how they are asking as well as why they are asking.  If it’s clumsy curiosity that can be navigated VS wanting to tell a potential adoptive parent how or why they should or shouldn’t do this.  Part of why the adoption screening process is intense is to allow for things to be thought through and for parents to be prepared.
  • JOIN ADOPTION SUPPORT groups: If you are on Facebook you can access these. It was noted that it can get tiresome having to answer questions around the details. Joining a support group on social media helps you process with us, as well as being a resource for you in terms of details and dynamics. It also shows us how much you are interested in and are wanting to support the journey!
  • BE EXCITED with us – like you would for any prospective parent. Pregnant tummies and boobs don’t grow, but the process is intense in different ways as shifts, preparation, screenings and decisions are being made.

It’s helpful when people are excited with rather than simply judging the process or the potential outcome. Hearts are growing and making space for another human- some days these are more fragile than others, and so while not hormonally driven, we still need to work out how to honour them.  Our process might seem intense to you, but it’s about making sure that our future children get matched as well as possible with their future parents.  It’s about having healthy parents – much like your scans and screenings and nutrition, in hope and faith, help grow a healthy tummy baby – our prep process helps grow healthy families.

(P.s. Not all babies raised by their birth moms turn out uncomplicated, so adopted children may or may not either! “Children have glitches sometimes” to quote a child I work with: part of a good adoption prep process explores and prepares parents for these possibilities).

  • Being EXCITED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE CHILD who is coming: Regardless of the reason why people have chosen to grow their family through adoption, whether it started by choice or infertility, a family is about to grow.

It’s hard for people who have struggled through an infertility journey to have to listen to well-intended comments that they will now fall pregnant.  There might be lots of anecdotal stories to this effect, but this can offer intense frustration rather than hope for people who are excited about one child and people are already talking about another.

In chatting to someone about adoption, and how we can fall pregnant but are choosing this, the nearest they had which they could relate to was that once they had given up on a 2nd child and got a puppy, pregnancy followed soon after. so not really like us but this was well intended and meant to be a shared understanding. Instead it was a bit perplexing. The longing for a child yes – we both related to that but our choice in this wasn’t heard nor was the sad irony of comparing an adopted child to a puppy which wasn’t worth pressing into at the time – however, my social filters were 😉

  • BABY SHOWERS: This might seem tricky as the due date isn’t quite as obvious as it is for a birth mom, but actually this is one rite of passage for most parents these days.  It’s a way of acknowledging a shift (both in budget for most of us and identity for all of us!) on a journey to becoming parents. I was at a baby shower for a friend whose own story to growing her family had lots of pain and heartache in it initially – the baby shower however was one of the most joyous community oriented, celebratory events I have ever witnessed! Never mind the abundant gifts, the abundant support for this couple is what was overwhelmingly clear.  Practical preparations (guest lists and so on) for the shower had started as soon as these friends were officially approved for adoption. The final dates and logistics were confirmed once they got the call.  Other friends had their showers once their small person arrived. There are ways to make these things work.
  • ACKNOWLEDGING STARTING POINTS: Our children’s starting point won’t be with us and while this is important to acknowledge, it is also important that we recognise that in this, adoptive parents miss out on the early days spent getting to know small people in the same way as a birth mom who has kept her baby does. This doesn’t mean that adoptive moms aren’t real moms –  See below for clarification!

Adjustment, planning to be available in terms of meals and babysitting, as well as recognising that our kids need to attach to us AFTER they have attached to others matters.  This attachment process might make us seem nit-picky or super aware of being the person who baths and feeds and does the majority of the cuddling – this is all an important part of our initial story.  Starting points also include our child’s starting (birth story) – different families have different views on how much is shared around this.

Different families may do this differently – this is another relationship space which needs to be figured out!

  • THE BIRTH MOM/ TUMMY MOM/ REAL MOM thing: The government paperwork refers to adopted children as ‘being yours as if born unto you’.    That makes adopted moms A REAL mom.  The birth mom still needs to be honoured too – regardless of her story.  It helps our children deal with their two stories:  pre-adoption and post-adoption to know that there is space in our worlds for us and their birth mom.
  • If you are a person who PRAYS, PRAY for us. Pray for us in the process. Pray for us in the waiting.  Pray for our child – wherever they are.  Pray for their birth mother and carers who will be saying goodbye at different stages in their story, before we get to meet them.  Pray for our families and communities to as they prepare to welcome a new person.

Finally to paraphrase one mom 🙂

‘Stop asking when the child is coming – when we know,

we PROMISE you will know too!’

The waiting season is a hard one for many reasons  with no idea of when the due date will be.  In this time some of us are able to carry on with work and life things as they are until we get the long awaited call.  For some of us, plans need to be put in place in preparation for the call.  I know I am one of them as my work involves processes with children and I don’t get to just stop these – so while I have work timelines I don’t have much else just yet!  This isn’t craziness – it’s preparing for the next season.

We can’t wait for the official thumbs up call.

We can’t wait for the call to say there is a referral.

Thank you for waiting with us.

Between I will and I do….the “baby” question

Getting married at this stage of my life has its definite advantages. There is much of what I wanted to achieve and do that has been done.  It also comes with its own challenges.  Challenges that one would expect like learning to let go of some independence, learning what inter-dependence looks like and figuring out how to share my space naturally with another, appreciating that when God says two are better than one and a cord of three isn’t easily broken, that the bonding of this cord happens as things are resolved (this means wrestling, stand offs, choices and inevitable conflict at times). Challenges as families shift in their understanding of each other and the way that we are involved in each other’s lives.

It also means that we learn to trust another’s involvement in our lives and our life choices:  not because the other is the “boss of me” but because the other actually cares about me and wants me to be a good “boss of me”.

One of the hardest things for me, especially as we have made choices not to live together, not to sleep together and are doing our courtship the “old school” Christian way of preparing for marriage- there is lots of anticipating and excitement, but also recognising that our first year of marriage may have lots of ‘refining moments’– is the fact the people frequently feel the need to tell me to hurry up and have babies because I am getting on…. (Open private speech bubble: It’s hard not want to ask you what you know about my ovaries or my fiancé’s reproductive capacity in these conversations: Close private speech bubble)

Thank you for believing that I will make a good mom.

Thank you for being interested in our lives.

And now I am going to thank you for trusting that this is something that my fiancé and I have spoken about; have prayed about; have made choices about too.  A wise friend said to me when I voiced my frustration:  There isn’t only one way of having babies nowadays – and there are no guarantees regardless of age or planning or how much of a good parent one may potentially be. My Ouma had her last child at the age of 44, AFTER a mastectomy and a bout with breast cancer.  He is perfectly healthy.  Yes, the risks are there.  Yes, it may be harder but it also may be easier for me than for some of my other friends who have done EVERYTHING right – they eat well, they keep their body fat at the optimal percentage, they exercise, they LOVE children and they have a supportive community around them and yet, I know their heartaches and things just not happening despite trying for months at the optimal age. Not just one friend – numerous friends! There are no guarantees in any of this.

It has been hard to know how to respond when the day we got engaged people started telling me I needed to start trying; or asking how long we planned on waiting because….well, you know, Lex, you are old; or going to an appointment with the lady doctor and being told to go home and make a baby now because the egg was in the perfect place according to the scan (She got asked to behave!).  It’s hard when I know that people don’t mean this badly. 

We would like to walk down the aisle first.  We would like to be in a position, where as a self-employed person, I don’t need to work for 3 months and we will be financially comfortable.  We would like to have memories of us 2 before we make memories of us 3 or us 4.  We also know that we want to choose a baby –regardless of whether we ‘make a bio-baby’ or not.

In the midst of all the pending changes, the last thing my heart, my brain and my body can cope with is the idea of being a mom on top of this all.  Yes, there are risks. We are risking joining 2 lives.  We are risking making decisions around careers and homes and futures as a couple.  We are risking giving up individual adventures to have a joint adventure.  Allow us to risk this well before we risk together with the life of another little person.  We want to risk for and with them. We want to love them well – more than well.

Just give us a little bit of time to get there!