Tag Archives: Adoptive Moms

4 Things

What are 4 things I’m grateful for in the context of adoptive parenting?

One of the questions people tend to ask folks on the cusp of becoming parents is, “Are you ready?” Usually the question is surrounded by a bit of levity, maybe even said in a joking matter with a wagging of eyebrows for effect.

I remember folks asking me and my response was always deadpan: Hell no, but I’m doing it anyway.

Of course, stepping into parenthood is beautiful and all, but it’s hard. It’s exhausting and expensive and discombobulating.

And largely wonderful, even if it is punctuated by many less wonderful experiences.

In the grand scheme of things, my parenting journey has been good. Some would even say that it has been relatively easy for a family coping with the long-term effects of trauma and grief. I don’t disagree with that, but yes, it has been challenging.

And there have been times when I felt like parenting broke me.

Since becoming a parent, I have had to have several increases in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications—so I’m now taking two meds at true therapeutic doses. I’ve had to resume intensive therapy to help deal with my own mental health during these years. I’ve survived but it’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my coping mechanisms.

There has been a lot of growth during these years for me and Hope.

So, what are the things I’m most grateful for in the context of parenting?

  • My primary care physician. Dr. G has been my doctor for 21 years. He’s rocked with me through major health challenges, weight gains and losses, cancer screenings, preventive health you name it. I remember when I had to take the form to him to give me a clean bill of health to share with my adoption agency, he was so kind to me. He and the entire staff have always been so supportive. He’s been fantastic with Hope. He’s patient and considerate. He gives sage advice and counsel without judgment.

I realized recently just how much I adore him and how he has supported Hope and I through this journey when he went out of medical leave and I legit panicked that he might not come back. Dr. G has been there rocking with us since the beginning and I’m so grateful.

  • I’m grateful for the grace Hope’s family has shown me. Every holiday we get two cards in the same envelope sent by Hope’s biological grandmother. The big card is for Hope and the little card is for me. It’s so thoughtful.

These last few years, Hope has not had a lot of contact with her family. This has been her choice. I encourage her reaching out, but I don’t push it. I understand why it hard for Hope, and I know that her reticence to maintain contact has been painful for her family. I’ve often worried that they thought it was me blocking contact; they have kindly reassured me that they know that I’m not. I try to send letters, lots of pictures and updates on how she’s doing. I feel a real pain in my heart knowing and seeing this estrangement and not being able to smooth it over. I’m a fixer, so I want it to work out.

I don’t know what the future of the relationship will be, but I’m so grateful that they have been kind to me and have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. They are wonderful people, and I’m grateful for them and what they’ve brought to my life.

  • I’m grateful for this this goofball, Yappy, and his predecessor, The Furry One.

Yappy

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The Furry One

When Hope moved in, I was doggy mom The Furry One. I’d had him since he was 8 weeks old and he was closing in on 15. Most of my truly adult life I’d had this dog.

The expansion of our dynamic duo to a trippy trio was very hard for The Furry One. He was old, delightfully grouchy and still forever my sweet baby. He passed away about 7 months after Hope’s arrival, and I was devastated.

My grief was overwhelming. For months I couldn’t look at another fluffy white dog without bursting into tears. I know my grief was magnified because Hope and I were headlong into beginning to really cope with challenging behaviors, mental health issues and more. I was also still trying to integrate my new realities with my career. I was a mess.

It took me a long time to realize that The Furry One had a long life and his last gift was his affection during a really hard transition.

About 4 months later, we got Yappy through a Craigslist ad and I’ve been hopelessly in love ever since. Yappy is seriously the cheeriest dog I’ve come across in a long time.

He is super social and affectionate. He loves people so much that I rarely take him to the dog park because all he does after his business is lap surf all the other dog owners sitting on benches. He is my constant companion, snuggle buddy and wordless cheerleader. He looks at me like I hung the moon and the stars.

Sure he has severe separation anxiety, but hey, he ADORES me unconditionally.

I’m grateful.

  • I’m grateful for my sisters. I have amazing siblings. We are close, very close. We love hard, and we try to show our love constantly in our support for one another. We each have our own ways and love languages, but we are always there for each other. My sisters have been unwavering in their support of me and Hope. They’ve listened to me cry. They’ve been there to celebrate. They’ve sent gifts. They hosted overnights. They shopped with us and for us. They’ve been the best aunties ever. We’ve always rode hard for each other, but during this chapter of our lives, it’s been amazing. And I’m grateful beyond measure.

Of course there are many, many other things for which I’m grateful. There have been so many people along the way who have touched my life, helped me be a better parent and helped me get myself together. It is more grace than I deserve. It is humbling and beautiful. So I’m sending a big thank you to the universe for so much on this journey.


More Thoughts for Newbies

Recently I stumbled over a new show Mahogany Momology, a podcast about Black motherhood!

Awww Yeah. I’m down for that.

AND these sistas had already dedicated an episode to adoption.

Super yay! New fan for sure!

MObama

via Giphy

I settled onto my elliptical this morning and listened. The show has a cool vibe. This episode on adoption left me with a lot of feels. Like, a lot of feels about all kinds of adoption stuff.

MObama

Via Giphy

I’m totally looking forward to hearing more from the show, but I found myself thinking that maybe there’s some more I could add to my own post from May, Thoughts on Being a Newbie  based on the narrative I heard and didn’t hear on the show.  Now of course, one show can’t be everything to everyone, so I respect that the episode focused on one family’s adoption story. So…yeah.

MObama

Via Giphy

Again, I’m hardly a sage, so take all of this for what it’s worth! Here’s my latest two cents to add to your considerations on the newbie experience.

  • When choosing an agency, be sure that they engage in ethical adoption practices—this is for all kinds of adoption. Research them, feel good about how they treat you, how they view the child and how they view and treat that child’s family of origin. If this feels more transactional than family building, run, don’t walk to the next agency to check them out.

Another thing to consider is whether that agency is religiously affiliated and how that shapes they way they treat members of the adoption triad. Does the agency only work with couples? Do the couples have to be straight? Do the folks like me, single parenting by choice, also have to be straight? Is there a religious litmus test as a part of the process? How do they advocate for LGBT+ older kids who need homes who are invariably harder to place (because folks don’t want to be bothered with “other”)?

What about how much time do they give birth families to make their decisions about placement? Do they apply any pressure to birth families to decide early? How are birth families treated immediately following the birth? Is there different pricing fees for children of color? Why and how do you feel about that? How are families of color treated? How are children of color treated? Do they respect the dignity of children in need of homes?

Also, does the agency offer pre/post-adoption support? Are there opportunities for counseling referrals? Support groups? Help hotlines?

Choosing an agency is one of the most important decisions that you will make in this process. Ask lots of questions and try to get as close to right as you can.

  • Learn about interstate adoption before you get deep in the process. The rules are different state by state. The delays in placement and ability to travel with a child immediately after placement are governed by these rules, or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). These compacts also dictate the relationships between states when you adopt from foster care. For example, my daughter’s home state reimburses our state for her Medicaid coverage. We never saw a break in coverage, and it’s a financial negotiation between the states. She could not move from her state to mine until that and other things were all ironed out. Our paperwork was submitted right before Christmas, so things were delayed a few weeks; right after the new year, our ICPC went through and we could begin to plan for her permanent transition to my home. This step is really important so take some time to learn about it before you are waiting on it to happen.
  • Think long and hard about an open versus closed adoption and put the child at the center of that decision. You and your feelings really shouldn’t be the priority. There I said it. You will have big feelings, super big feelings. HUGE feelings about this. Take some time to work through that and figure out what’s best for your child. Same advice goes for the birth family. Everyone needs to be on the same page here! Open adoption can look a million different ways, but please know that it is not simply a legal thing pertaining to original birth records, names, etc. I consider that a separate issue actually and actually mention it in my original newbies post.

The open vs. close question is about whether you are open to and willing to facilitate a relationship between your child and their biological family. There’s a lot of research on this (most of it pro-open), go Google it. Do your due diligence, not just for your comfort but for your child’s well-being.

Sure, it can be messy sometimes, negotiating boundaries, who gets called what, the various stages your child will experience as they grow in these relationships. I wrote about my own experience parenting Hope through an open adoption recently in The Gap. It has been challenging for numerous reasons, but I know having an open adoption is the right thing for us. We have access to medical history, which this year became exceptionally helpful, there has been reconnections that were important. Even in the challenging part, it has been an important way of Hope to have agency over how she wants to be in reunion.

I worry when the default decision is a closed adoption. There are numerous reasons for that choice, though, including safety and security of the child. But if you’ve chosen this path, be sure to center the decision on the child, not just what will be “easier” for you. It’s not about you.

  • Spend some time really learning about trauma and attachment. A lot of domestic infant adoptive parents don’t think this is an issue for their kiddos. It may not always be, but I listen to a LOT of adoptees who often talk about that missing piece. They know things even when we think they (infants) don’t. Learn about trauma, learn about attachment. Learn what kinds of things you should be doing to facilitate attachment, learn that it might not look like what you think it ought to. There are lots of great resources out there on these topics. Check out The Primal Wound and Kathryn Purvis’ work on attachment and connected parentin Don’t assume that because your baby was placed with you a few days after birth that their mother’s essence isn’t imprinted in their senses. Come one, we learn about imprinting in nature in grade school; this shouldn’t be a foreign concept. Learn about this stuff and marinate on it. You may find down the road that it explains a lot that you just couldn’t figure out.

Hope wants me to add that that the wound can heal or at least find some resolution. It doesn’t have to remain painful and that every case is unique. She also notes that if you’re honest every step of the way with your kids that it makes it easier for everyone. #sheswise #thatsmykiddo

  • Think about how you will talk about adoption (and foster care) with your child. I’ve made it a point to have an open policy on all topics in our home (which has led to some stunningly embarrassing moments, but seriously impactful moments). I want Hope to feel comfortable talking about her parents, her life experience before me, her feelings about her current relationship with her biological family, everything. If she had been an infant, I hope that I would have wanted to talk about her origin story, that adoption wouldn’t be a secret, that we would still have the open policy. I struggle when I hear about parents whose kids are beyond infant age, and they haven’t told them they were adopted. Um, what are you waiting for? #tryingnottojudge #effit #imjudging #sorrynotsorry Think about how you will share your child’s story with them and when (as early as possible).

So, I enjoyed the new podcast and I’m looking forward to checking out the previous episodes while Hope and I are on vacation this week! In the meantime, what other kinds of things do *you* think newbies should consider, know, learn? Share below and keep the discussion going!


Rested & Ready

Normally, on MLK weekend I plan some edutainment activities, but I was just struggling with my emotional responses to my daughter so much recently that I couldn’t get it together enough to plan anything. So, on the one hand I feel like I failed in my aspirational goal of being a social justice mom, but really, I got something else right this weekend.

I took care of me.

After raging like a hurricane, and giving off caustic energy for several days, I was exhausted. So, I rested. I did my workouts, planned my meals and crawled into my bed with a good book, my heated blanket and Yappy. I just tuned everything out (including Hope, other than making sure she was alive and fed) and relaxed.

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I aspire to Yappy’s self-care commitment.

I breathed.

I made tea. I online shopped and ordered myself an obscene number of new spring dresses.

I luxuriated in solitude and exhaled.

And then I was able to think about how to get us back on track. Hope is an amazing kid, and amazing kids do dumb stuff sometimes, it’s just what they do. Heck, I did it too back in the day. Of course some of Hope’s dumb stuff is informed by a history of messy stuff.

I decided I would speak my peace to Hope and put this episode behind us, though she still has some consequence time to pull during the next week.

In speaking to Hope I had to remind both of us that anger is usually informed by hurt, deep hurt. It’s easier to be pissed than it is to be sad. I was sad that she broke the rules. I was sad that she violated my trust. I was sad that she self-sabotaged. I was sad that she seemed unable to take responsibility for her behaviors. I was sad and that made me mad.

And then I hugged her and reminded her that I loved her and that I have feelings that I struggle with too. And we turned the corner emotionally, ventured out to a new international store (I bought all kinds of goodies!), went shopping, and worked out.

I’m rounding out the holiday weekend by dying my hair—a new midlife crisis habit I’m enjoying. My hair is more gray than black now and about 4 months ago, I got it in my brain that after 10 years of avoiding dye like the plague, I would dye my hair fantastically bright colors. Because my gray is resistant to color and I choose semi-permanent color, I could enjoy temporary bursts of color without long term commitment. #perfect I started with a soft pink in October and followed with a bright purple. Tonight, I dyed it teal. It will have faded some by the time my annual conference rolls around in 5 weeks, but it will still be blue and the non-conformist in me is delighted about that. #notoconformity #mylifemytermsmyhair

I hated how I felt emotionally last week…really hated it. I’m proof that when you can choose to change your mood. It’s normal for all of that emotion to build up. Therapeutic parenting is….draining. I love my daughter, and I personally don’t have any other style of parenting to compare it too other than observation of others parenting, but I gotta say, I don’t enjoy therapeutic parenting much. #realtalk #truth

It’s essential for us and especially so for my Hope, who needs more connection and more safety than your average kid. And well, there’s hardly anything I won’t do for her; I’m committed to therapeutic parenting.

I’m ready to face another week and so is Hope. Tomorrow we will work out in the evening and chatter about our day, all while hoping that the anticipated snow misses us so we can keep the regulated good times rolling.

I am rested and ready. I’m thinking that is good enough on the edutainment front for this holiday.


Narrow Range of Emotions

During all of our quality time this past weekend, I asked Hope how she was feeling emotionally these days. I got the standard issue response, “Same.”

Every time I ask Hope how she’s doing/feeling, she lets me know that nothing has really changed. The only thing emotionally that seems to have changed much over the last year or so is that Hope can actually talk about her emotions and what they feel like and what the impact they have on her looks like. I’m proud of this evolution even if she says it hasn’t had any impact on managing her emotions.

Hope says she has a very narrow range of emotions: anger ←and →sadness. She’s said that she just plays the appropriate emotions on the outside for everyone else’s benefit.

My daughter is a marvelous actress.

I scrolled through some of my favorite pictures of her on my phone—surprise pics from good gifts or a great musical performance.

“These reactions aren’t real?”

Hope tried her best to explain that a small part of her feels the emotions, but really, she just amps the reaction that she knows folks want to see. She feels sadness and anger all the time.

Then I was sad and angry, and a wee bit hurt that all those great moments we’ve had are a little tarnished because she had to fake the appropriate response.

I was sad that despite finding a home with lots of loves and 1st world comforts she’s still so sad and angry, and angry that so many people hurt her and still control her ability to live a fulfilled life.

My daughter can’t live authentically because she’s so broken that she can’t feel the full range of emotions available to her. That’s a doozy.

Trauma is such a bitch.

It’s hard enough learning to connect your body and mind through emotions and learning to harness everything, especially as a teenager. But when everything is so disconnected? I found myself really wondering how she processes other people’s emotions? Does she read them correctly? I mean, I guess she does since she tries to respond accordingly. But I have to figure that this emotional stuff is connected with her social challenges.

I believe in time, Hope will enjoy a widened emotional range; I’m hopeful.

I’m wildly emotional. We watched A Dog’s Purpose this weekend and I cried all through the dang thing. I was hugging Yappy and about the go get The Furry One’s ashes to sit with them. I laughed hard during Despicable Me 3, and I was shocked that the South Park movie was more vulgar than I remembered. My heart felt shaky from missing my 6 month old nephew when pictures of his first time in a pool came via text. Worry furrowed my brow when I heard my mom wasn’t feeling well. Empathy spilled out when I heard about Sister M’s dog being terrified of fireworks on July 4th. I felt it all. I am a big emoter, and sometimes it annoys Hope.

With such a narrow emotional range, my wide range has caused Hope to call me overdramatic on more than one occasion.

I asked Hope was AbsurdlyHotTherapist helping her explore ways to help her allow herself to feel more. I already knew the answer: there’s so much rage that has to be dealt with first that prying open the emotional landmine is secondary. She did say that going to talk about it was really helpful in letting off some steam each appointment. I’m glad.

It often feels like there is so much to juggle with Hope’s recovery. The facets feel countless, and the need to shift coping strategies is never-ending. Some mornings I lay there looking at the ceiling fan wondering what will be expected of me in parenting my daughter that day. I whisper a prayer to keep the drama to a minimum.

Beyond making sure she feeling physically safe, it’s hard prioritizing what to deal with. It’s also hard to control my own range of emotional responses. It’s hard to admit that I wish I emoted less so that I could focus on strategic management of Hope’s healing—but I’m guessing that would make me a less effective mom to her. She needs my emotion—not only as a reminder of my love but as a model for expressing emotion.

It’s all so complicated and painful.

I just hope that one day Hope will be able to smile genuine smiles; laugh real laughs, sleep with the light off, feel confident, know she’s loved and can return love in a healthy way. Until then I’ll keep playing whack-a-mole trying to help her, and just relish those moments when she appears to be authentic in her emotional expression.


A Beautiful Day

I went into Mother’s Day with some complicated feelings. I find that it helps to simply acknowledge them, make a plan and keep it moving. I’m glad I did; it made for a nice low bar that set us up for a really lovely, lovely day.

I took Yappy on a three mile walk; he was super worn out afterwards and slept most of the day as a result.

Hope and I started our day at the local UU church we’ve been attending. Rather than go hang out with the other teens, my daughter chose to sit by my side. She even wore a dress—gasp! It was flower communion, and after some gentle coaxing, she even came with me to get a blossom. I lit a candle and said a prayer for Hope’s first mother. I prayed that she was as happy and healthy and that hopefully she knows that Hope found a permanent home as is no longer without permanence. I prayed that one day a healthy reunion would be in their future.

We headed to brunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We have celebrated all major family events here—my successful dissertation defense, our finalization, and her completion of middle school, just to name a few. We both love the food choices, and I especially love the wide range of beverage offerings. She suggested we order the usual—I reminded her that it was mom’s choice and I wanted to shake things up. I have a particular fancy for fries; I ordered up truffle-Parmesan fries to start, with a yummy coffee laced, chocolaty stout for me.

I think I opened Hope’s eyes to a whole new world related to quality French fries. She raved, danced in her seat and marveled at how yummy they were. I still smile to myself about how fries made her so happy. I actually have video of her; it was awesome.

We ordered our entrees, and bickered to the enjoyment of our waitress.

I told her that I was proud to be her mother; that even in the rough times I loved her so very much. I told her that being her mom has hopefully made me a better person all together. She smiled. She thanked me for giving her a permanent home that allowed her to call a place home, allowed her to not have to start over and over, that allowed her to just have a chance. I smiled and we went back to grubbing.

Yep, I used her account to pay, because…Mother’s Day. #noshame

We headed to the bakery across the street to find something for dessert. We selected individual key lime pies with beautiful meringues to go.

We took a few hours apart. I did some shopping and hit the hookah bar for a while.

Once home, we ate our desserts, and watched TV on the couch with Yappy, who incidentally, loves when his people are together on the couch. We have a huge couch, but he loves when we are huddled up so that he can sit between us and snuggle. I love that our dog wants his family close.

She gave me her homemade Mother’s Day gifts; a beautiful friendship bracelet that I immediately put on, and a beautifully decorated sheet that required me to pull off some cotton clouds to reveal the message underneath.

It was a far more detailed expression of gratitude for adopting her, for loving her unconditionally and for giving her a good life even when she’s a pain in the butt. She apologized for not getting me something fancy, but her message reduced me to a puddle of loving tears. She complained and eventually wriggled out of the vice grip hug I enveloped her in after reading her message.

It was perfect.

I have never wanted Hope to be grateful about her adoption; I hate thinking of the things that necessitated her adoption. That said, I got her meaning—it was about us being a family, about stability, about permanence, about unconditional love, about parenting, or in our case mothering, and about normalcy.

And I am grateful for those things too.

She didn’t say thanks for being her mom; instead she thanked me for meeting her needs.  I know that meeting her needs is what I do as her mother. The language is different, but the meeting of the minds is there, and to hear that from her—I’m so proud and blessed to have been chosen for this gig.

Those moments were a beautiful capstone for the day. I could not have planned it. I could not have anticipated it.

It was a beautiful day, and I will treasure it forever.

I love you, Hope.


My 4th Mothers Day

This weekend marks my 4th observance of Mothers Day. Thinking about that makes me smile, and then I remember how complicated this holiday is for my daughter and I and my smile fades a bit.

I know that I adore Hope. I know that Hope loves me very much.

In a perfect world, we would never know each other. Hope would be feting her biological mother this weekend 3,000 miles away. They might go to their favorite restaurant. There might be a card; there would be lots of hugs and “thank you mom, you’re awesome” statements.

I would be at my own brunch with my biological children, smiling, laughing with them marveling at these little miracles that came through my body.

But this isn’t a perfect world, and Hope and I have each other, each with all our imperfections and challenges.

I think we both ponder that, even unconsciously, during this holiday. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t a solid family. It does mean that we still have to make time and space for grief.

I know that I won’t have a card waiting for me in the morning when I wake up. I made my own brunch reservation at one of our favorite restaurants. I plan to make her use her debit card (which I finance) to pay for said dinner so that at least I have the illusion of being “treated to brunch.” I figure it will also help her learn what she’s supposed to do—not necessarily for me, but in general regarding these kinds of things.

And then, I will post up at a local hookah bar, order a glass of something yummy and puff away the afternoon. This will give me some time to enjoy myself with no drama (join me if you’re in the DMV area, just drop me an email!). It will also give Hope some time with her own thoughts, which, I’m finding she needs.

During our recent trip to see some family, we acquired some pictures of her mother. I recall just watching Hope look at the pictures. During our time as a family, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading her emotions, but I couldn’t read Hope’s reaction. It was almost vacant; but I know it wasn’t vacant at all. There were and are a lot of tangled up, complicated emotions going on just under the surface. She had no desire to process it with me either.  In a nutshell, Hope’s emotional connection/reaction towards her mother is complicated and it’s very much exclusively hers at this point.

I imagine that one day Mother’s Days will be different me and Hope.  That we will have a different kind of balance between grief and celebration. We will have fun brunches and lots of smiles and lots of love. This weekend we will have those things, just tempered a bit. It’s ok. Monday will be a new day and we will have gotten through another year of this day, together.


Serenity in Short Bursts

I’ve really, really, really been focused on maintaining calm in the household for the last week.  And you know, it works. I have let Hope’s stank attitudes about various things just roll off me like water. I’ve very calmly let her know when she has crossed certain lines and what certain expectations are. The energy I would usually expend being emotional with Hope, I’ve transferred into dedicated self-care.

I’ve exercised every day. I made it to bed one night at 9:30pm. I ate healthy. I enjoyed the sunshine taking Yappy to the dog park.

It’s been a peaceful week; well kinda.

Hope told a whopper this week (she even lies like a little kid); I busted her and punished her.

I also signed Hope up for a commercial tutoring program this week.  I did not spring this on her. I told her; we went to the initial assessment last weekend.  When I told her how this would affect her weekly schedule; she lost her ish. She was furious; I just let her be, but she gave off some nasty energy with her icy silent treatments.

Through it all, I remained serene. It was all good.

And then, this morning, the third morning in which Hope dragged arse in the morning. The thought of her missing the bus (again) and cutting into my workout (me) time made me hit my limit. I mean…I just couldn’t do the calm thing again. I lit right into her.

And she was ready with full on teen attitude.

She still had attitude later at the orthodontist. And I had no serene patience for her.

I’m realizing that I did pretty good for keeping it chill for a whole week. It gave me some perspective; I had time and energy to invest in myself. I felt better. I slept better.

Trying to keep things calm around here is a good goal; there are going to be flares and I have to accept that and know that it’s normal. I mean, really my blow up with still so much less intense than usual. My try for this month is really going to be to focus on parenting with calmness. I gotta believe that Hope will benefit from it, but honestly, I am doing it for me.

I need more serenity—and it’s not about knowing the difference about change vs. no change; it’s really about me having a sense of calmness and happiness. That’s my goal. I want to be happy. Parenting is hard. I told someone it’s the greatest bait and switch that ever existed.

You have the amazing drive to procreate and/or raise a child healthily and with your values and so much goodness. That drive is all about you, really. The reality is parenting is about constant sacrifice. It often is thankless and a lot of time, it’s chaotic.

For Hope and me, it’s always had a sense of chaos, and I’m tired of it. No mas. No mas.

I am seeking serenity and happiness in this life chapter, and that means that I need to step up, breathe and exhale into this like a complicated yoga pose that requires you to clear your mind and just open your heart.

It kinda hurts so good.

This evening it is back to calmness and a focus on how long can I stay in that space.


Lonely Single Mom

Yesterday was rough.  I am traveling for the first time in months, and none of our regular sitters were available this weekend.  I was pinched and had to go with someone new.

This woman has spent the week driving me nuts.

We talked, we negotiated a 4 day/3 night job, I promised to follow up with an email outline and texts.

I thought it was all good.  Until this cuckoo bird called me yesterday, saying she had not received any of my communications and that because I apparently hadn’t sent anything, I had failed to confirm.

Oh, and her rate was her “live in” nanny rate—basically I’m paying her like Hope is an infant, needing 24 hour care, which roughly came to about $2K

Say what now?

She said, well what if Hope get sick at school and needs me to pick her up? Ok, right, but 1) we have a contact for that, 2) Hope would rather shave her head than go home from school sick and miss seeing her crush in gym class–the last class of the day and 3) unless she is projectile vomiting, I’m going to tell that nurse to put some ‘Tussin on it and send her behind back to class.

Lady, you have got to be kidding me. I cannot.

So, we renegotiate because clearly she did not understand my needs. I resend the email and text messages.

I think we’re cool.

3:34am, in all CAPS: MISS ABM, MY INTERNET HAS BEEN OUT FOR DAYS BUT NOW I GET YOUR EMAILS. I WILL BE THERE. I UNDERSTAND. THANK YOU.

Um, ok. Yes, in all caps. She yelled at me in the middle of the night.

Sigh.

Sooooo, you accused me of not sending emails, but you weren’t able to access the internet.  Yeah, this is just peachy.

At 9am, I have a conference call with the new tutor, while I’m out getting some exercise. Never mind that I think I’m going to do three loads of laundry and I haven’t started packing and my flight leaves at 1:10pm.

10am, sitter calls again because there is a discrepancy between the time I originally requested with the sitter service and the time I asked her to come.

OMG. I calmly tell her that the time I have told her, texted her, emailed her repeatedly is the only time she needs to be concerned with. Somehow she gets riled up, then I get riled up, then she threatens to quit, and I lose my ish since I’m supposed to be on a plane in a couple of hours. I start sobbing. She now claims to quit because I am crying; I just hang up because I’ve got to come up with a plan, and I don’t have another moment to spare with this bird.

She calls me back, I tear her a new one; she apologizes for like 20 minutes; I can’t get her to hang up.

Sigh.

Trip’s back on, though I’m stressed to the max and making a mental note that it’s time to hire someone privately.

She calls me and texts me twice more, including the text of a beautiful forest fire, that I guess is supposed to be inspirational…I guess.

She picks up Hope and I eventually get to Chicago.

I call Hope, and she politely tip toes around the fact that the new sitter is a cuckoo bird. I’d done everything I could all week to chat the sitter up and to seem optimistic about it, but come on…Hope is 14 if the sitter is a crackpot, then she’s going to know that the sitter is a crackpot.

Finding help and support can be so challenging for me.  I don’t have much family around anymore.  I haven’t been good about nurturing some of my pre-Hope friendships; life is so different now.  Sometimes Hope’s anxiety behaviors clearly turned folks off, and I just took steps away.  A great deal of my support comes from “staff.” The housekeeper every two weeks, the dog walker that helps to manage some of Yappy’s puppy energy and the sitter service that helps me be able to travel for work and have an evening or two a weekend a month to myself.

When I first started using the sitter service, things were great.  I was able to find some really kind, patient and compassionate young women to help me look after Hope.  I wouldn’t say they babied her, but she got a lot of attention and had fun when the sitters came.  These days, those awesome women have moved on to other things and this has resulted in us being a bit rudderless without consistent sitters. And please know, we need help.  No, make that *I* need help. It’s really crazy out here all by my lonesome.  This single mom situation is serious!

I’m also finding that our needs have dramatically changed.  For all the problems Hope and I may have, we are remarkably stable, these days. I think it time for us to look for someone who can meet our new needs, which means shuttling Hope to activities, making sure she goes to bed and takes care of the dog and brushes her teeth.  I need someone responsible, but I don’t need a live-nanny who treats Hope like an infant or a toddler.

I think the most striking thing about this episode is how limited my options feel in securing help with child care so that I can continue to do things that are required for my job. Family isn’t really an option.  Friends aren’t really an option. The sitter service is a great option, but a bit of a personality crap shoot.

This single mom feels pretty alone and kind of unsupported.  Not that the people around me are mean or intentionally unsupportive, but there aren’t people close enough to me to ask that they watch Hope for 3 or 4 days without costing me a grip.

I don’t have a village to raise this kid and that sucks.

I guess there might be some kinda village but it is nothing like I envisioned what it would be or what I now know I need for my family.

No village = mo problems.  At least it feels that way. It feels hard.

I can see how the lack of village affects me.  I wonder how the lack of a village affects Hope. I dunno.

I’m beginning to be somewhat withdrawn like Hope socially, despite my constant efforts to stay connected. I feel the sting of rejection when a band parent just ignores me, or worse, turns her shoulder to signal my exclusion from participating in a conversation. I’m actually starting to wonder if band parents are talking about me—I have no idea what they’d say?  Do I volunteer enough?  How come I don’t always sit with the parents during games (because they ignore my very presence). I also feel the lonely when I talk to my sisters over many cities and several states.  I feel it talking to my parents 100 miles away.

Single parenting a kid from a hard place is great, but my own journey has some really lonely spots. This feels like one.

Lonely parenting only adds to the stress of parenting in general.  This is tough job; you really need people around you, to lean on, to sob with, to take deep breaths with.  You need a village.

I’m hoping that I can try to build a suitable village, one that will give Hope and I the support we need.


Mama

On Christmas Eve nearly two years ago, Hope called me “mom” for the first time. It was the most precious gift I could have ever received since it was entirely her choice to call me mom instead of my given name.

I love the sound of her calling me mom. It’s become so routine, so natural now that I almost take it for granted.

And then something reminds me that mom, and other names or terms of endearment, are Hope’s little presents to me. I don’t know if she knows they are presents, but they really are.

In moments when Hope and I are really connected and things are good, she calls me mama.

On nights like tonight, when I’ve been out to a group meeting talking about this adoption journey and I call her on my way home to check in and see if she needs anything, she answers the phone excitedly, “Hi mama,” and I smile.

I know she’s excited I’m on my way home. I know she’s fine, but she missed me. I know she loves me. I know she’s been thinking about me.

I know that no matter the funky BS we may have been going through, she loves me.

Mama is music to me.

Mama reminds me that we’ll be ok.

I hope to be worthy of being called mama every day by my daughter. Most of the time I feel unworthy. Like a lot of parents I fret over whether I’m doing any of this parenting well at all or if I’m just really, really effing everything up and failing miserably.

I guess I’m doing ok. I’ve had a string of mamas this week. I’ll take that as some validation.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to earn this epic term of endearment again.

I think I can.

I think I can.


Thoughts on Mothers’ Day

Hmmm. I thought I would feel different this mother’s day. Last year was my first Mother’s Day with Hope and we were traveling. I was so happy to get a nap last year. This year has been quiet. When Hope arrived home from school on Friday I announced that we weren’t doing anything that I didn’t want to do this weekend.

Umm, yeah, it’s Mother’s Day.

I’ve been a slug since then. I’ve been exhausted the last few weeks, and we didn’t have anything planned. I’ve watched lots of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. I bought myself some gourmet popcorn that I don’t intend to share. I took hour long walks and napped on the couch with Yappy.

Today, the actual holiday, I walked 3 miles, cuddled with Yappy, changed my bedding and did 2 loads of laundry. I think I might go out to shop for a couple of new workout tops since it’s time to put away the long sleeved stuff. I may get a slurpee—that blackberry ginger ale flavor is the business. I intend to cook bratwurst for dinner this evening. I like brats with lots of mustard.

Hope has largely been held up in her room, watching YouTube videos and the Disney channel since she hasn’t had TV for a few days.

It’s been quiet, and I’ve been thinking.

I’m glad to be a mom and all that, but I wonder what Hope’s birth mother is feeling and thinking today. I imagine she misses this beautiful young woman that I’m raising. I imagine that she wonders what she looks like now. I bet she wonders how she’s doing in school; she’s doing really quite well.

I bet she wonders where Hope is and whether she’ll ever see her again.

I want her to know that even though Hope struggles with her feelings about her; I don’t judge her. I don’t pretend to understand the series of events that led to Hope becoming my daughter, but I also don’t dwell on them more than I have to, no more than is necessary to help Hope heal. I regret that she couldn’t be what Hope needed her to be or that she couldn’t protect her from a bunch of foolery, but I can’t judge her.

And I can’t judge her or say anything bad about her because I hold out hope that one day, when she is healthy and happy that she will resurface in Hope’s life. I can’t hate her because I hope that Hope will one day not be so angry and that she will learn to forgive. I know I have to model that for her.

In a perfect world, years from now, we might even be friends as we watch Hope continue her life journey.

I don’t know if that’s realistic, but I hope to live in a way that at least allows for that option one day.

So, to Hope’s birth mother, I hope that wherever you are you know that Hope is safe and sound and that her second mom wishes you a happy mother’s day.


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