Tomorrow is the big day, and I’m so happy that we’ve stumbled back into a positive groove. I seem to forget that whenever we have an extended period in the car, we tend to hit an upswing. Something about our car talks…we get honest, we talk about challenging stuff, we bond, we laugh. I really need to drive Hope around more for longer periods of time.
Anyhoo, last night I hit my agency’s older child adoption support group that meets once a month. Participating in the group always puts me in an especially reflective mood. So here are some of the things I talked about or thought about or dreamt about…
Long adoption waits sound awful, unless yours happened at breakneck speed. There are things that I struggle with when I go to support groups. I totally get the long, long waits that many families endure as they wait for a match or a placement. It sounds painful to wait for years for the dream to come true. I go to group, and I’m asked to tell my story:
- Sent my additional agency application January 7, 2013.
- Finished PRIDE training at the beginning of April.
- Full application submitted end of April.
- Home study done in June.
- Matching starts in mid-July.
- Receive Hope’s profile as the first profile on July 30th.
- Hope and I were matched on August 29th.
- Visits in October, November and December.
- Placement on January 22, 2014 – 1 year and 2 weeks after I initiated the process.
- Finalizing on June 6 – 1 year and about 135 days after I started.
Jaws drop every time. Waiting families say how lucky I am. This kind of thing never happens. Yeah, I know.
The reality is that I thought it would take a much longer time, but it didn’t. I suppose the Holy Homeboy thought I was ready, even when I woefully thought I wasn’t. I’m not saying families who wait aren’t ready, but I have come to believe that their kids may not be ready for them. Hope is mine because we were both ready at the same time.
That said, the rate at which this process has occurred doesn’t feel enviable; it feels crazy overwhelming. It wasn’t supposed to be so fast, but it has been. I have no regrets, but OY! There was no honeymoon. There was not much time to get ready. There was just change at breakneck speed all the time. If you wish your process was faster, just know that it’s great to be speedy, but the grass isn’t necessarily greener. This process is just hard, no matter how fast or how slow. I feel like I’ve had all the experiences just crammed into a shorter period of time and that has been rough.
I didn’t think my love life would exist for a very long time. I hadn’t given up, but I just thought that whole part of my life would be put in a cryogenic state for who knows how long. Well, ha, the Holy Homebody apparently chuckled at that notion as well. Just weeks after placement and weeks before the lowest point of my whole life and of this process, He placed someone in my life for this season, and man, it’s pretty stunning and pretty awesome. And I fought him; I mean really, this was the worst time ever to meet someone and try to date, right? But dude never flinched at the messiness that surrounds me. And I finally just gave in to it. And there is a joyfulness alongside the mayhem that this process brings that was/is completely unexpected. I smile in the midst of it all a lot more thanks to this development.
I have no idea where things might go, but it’s nice to know that there’s a life out there to be living as a new single adoptive mom.
I also recognize that the all the bravado that some of us single, independent, successful gals spout about not needing anyone to take care of us is well, right now, for me, a bunch of BS. God has seen fit to break me all the way down during these last few months to really teach me that I needed someone to show me what it’s like to be taken care of by someone who can go deep during the best and the worst of times. And you know what? I’m sold. It’s decadent to just be taken care of. Like I said, I have no idea where things might go, but these last few months will be a new gold standard.
So single adoptive moms: there’s hope on the other side.
And that’s all I have to say about that <grin>.
I was wrong in my original desires to adopt a much younger child. I originally thought I wanted that 5 or 6 year old, you know, school aged but young enough that I could “handle” them. I mean really how hard could it be to raise the little one? My agency really emphasized that with older child adoption, be open to the 10 and up crowd. After looking on websites before matching started, I realized they were probably right, so I pivoted and said 8-12ish. Hope was at the very top of my age range, but she’s a perfect fit.
It’s taken me months to really buy into the neuroscience of trauma. Last month I really shifted my reading focus to explore issues of brain development and the impact of emotional and physical trauma to young children. Things clicked and I started understanding that many of Hope’s more annoying and challenging behaviors are really related to brain development. There just some developmental things that didn’t happen that need the support to develop. We have to backtrack a bit. She’ll get there; she just needs time and the environment to grow. My job isn’t to heal her; my job is to create the environment in which she can heal. Learning the difference opened a new well of patience and understanding. It’s helping me grow into becoming a therapeutic parent.
Hope is old enough and developed enough to be able to try to explain why she wants/needs/demands to do some of the things she does. I realized during the last two weeks, especially, that this is a blessing by itself.
So what does this have to do with the original plans to adopt a much younger child? Well, a much younger child wouldn’t have Hope’s self-awareness. A much younger child wouldn’t have Hope’s coping skills. I don’t think a younger child would have the words to help me understand why his/her emotional upheavals were so easily triggered. The healing struggle for us both would be so much harder. I didn’t start out with a level of patience that would work with that kind of situation.
I’m woman enough to know I couldn’t handle adopting a much younger child. Such a placement would’ve been far riskier for me, for us.
I’m glad I changed my age range, and in hindsight, I’m glad I now understand why I needed to.
I wish that I had gone to more support group meetings before placement. Maybe someone would have told me some of the things that I now share in group. Things like how my relationships with friends and family change, how tired I would be, how I should’ve stocked up on tissues, handkerchiefs, and red solo cups for all the tears and drinking. How I should’ve started anti-depressants earlier; how I might’ve avoided the event that threatened to disrupt us. How I would go through periods of anger and resentment; how contagious trauma is, how I might cause emotional harm to some folks around me just because I was so tapped out and didn’t have the support systems I desperately needed and wanted. How I needed better plans for self-care going into my placement; how to navigate Medicaid. How it was ok to be sad and happy, to laugh and to cry, to occasionally cry in my tumbler of shiraz, while sincerely wondering how I would make it.
If I had heard these things, known that it was “normal,” known that I wasn’t alone for parts of this journey, maybe things would’ve been a tiny bit different. Or maybe my outlook might’ve been different because I knew more…I don’t know. But I do know that the support group meetings earlier on might’ve helped me in some small or big way.
I now look forward to the camaraderie that comes with sharing war stories and triumphs. I try to share what I’m learning about this journey and myself.
Individual therapy keeps me on the rails. Going to talk to a therapist is just not something that a lot of Black folks do. I’ve often heard that *that* is a White folks activity; we just don’t go around telling our business like that. Well, I write a pretty transparent blog, so maybe you’ve guessed that I’m all about being willing to go to therapy. I’ve gone to therapy off and on since I was in college. I’ve often said it is one of the most delightfully selfish, narcissistic activities I could possibly engage in—paying someone to listen to me talk about my ish for an hour every week or so. My selfish reptilian brain loves going to therapy.
I realize that the investment in myself all these years has helped me muddle through this process and these last few months, especially. I also realize that it’s time to dive back in regularly, making that time and resuming that investment (of course my therapist passively hipped me to the notion that I needed to resume regular visits by saying, “So, I’ll see you in about two weeks?”). It is the safest place on earth for me to talk uncensored about my life, other than prayer. Now I do individual therapy for me, and I do it for Hope. She deserves my very best and there’s just some stuff that I need to work through in order to be able to always try to give her my best. It’s a process of pursuing improvement, just like everything else.
If I had to give some folks early in the process some advice, going to therapy to just give yourself some time and space to work on your own stuff would probably be it. It’s ok to be selfish when it comes to mental health and well-being. Invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is probably in your kid’s best interest.
So, it’s late. Actually it’s no longer Gotcha’s Eve; it’s past midnight. Hope will be my legal daughter in about 13 hours or so. That is so ridiculously crazy! I can’t wait. She’s been my daughter for months, but now we’re really all in. I’m ready to celebrate, even if I haven’t a clue what comes next. I just want to savor these special moments for a good long while.