Tag Archives: Christianity

Find the Thing that Keeps You Going

I don’t talk a lot about religion and faith in this space. I’m transparent about being a woman of faith, but I am not one for proselytizing, and I cringe when I think about how religious narratives run through adoption in ways that are not ok.

I was raised Christian, Baptist specifically. I grew up very active in church. My faith was always strong but my views on Christianity and organized religion in general have always been a bit rebellious. I don’t like the perversions of faith, I loathe how religion is often weaponized, how it is used to marginalize and oppress, the intolerance that usually comes along for the ride.

I’ve always, and I mean always since in elementary school, been curious about other religions, other ways of knowing, other faith orientations and how people come to explain the world around them. Consequently, though I identify as Christian, my beliefs are quite a bit more expansive than that. When Hope and I left the church that declined to have public adoption blessings of older adoptees, landing with the Unitarian Church made a lot of sense.

Even with that, I tend to find it confining sometimes so I’m more of a drop in kind of congregant.

Some things that have never budged: my love of gospel and my ability and willingness to pray without ceasing.

As an adult, there have been about 5 episodes when life kept me on my knees either literally or emotionally. The last big episodes were when I found out I would never have biological children and the first year of my and Hope’s life together.

The grief I felt after being plunged into infertility still gnaws at me. It still stings even as I have entered peri-menopause. It was a betrayal of body and of what I thought was faith promise. I did everything I was supposed to do and my body *still* wasn’t worth ish. My prayers were so angry, furious, accusatory and grief stricken. And then I got back to focusing on the moment that really should have overshadowed the loss of my fertility—the fact that the health issue *only* left me infertile. The original prognosis for my health issue was terrifying; the surgeon told my parents he had not seen anything like what he had found and told them to get ready for the worst. A couple of days later a second surgeon, heavily pregnant, burst into my room, my mom sitting by my bed and shouted that the pathology reports were clear and I was going to be ok. The tears that flowed…I still am reduced to tears thinking about that moment. It took me a long time to shift my focus to that moment because I focused so much on my loss.

I focused on the loss and not the life extension.

The reminder grounds me, even as I still wrestle with my grief years later. There’s a song that takes me there and was so instrumental in me getting to that shift, Byron Cage’s I Will Bless the Lord. That part when he sings, “You don’t know cause you weren’t there when God snatched me out of the enemy’s hand…”

That part.

My life was spared; the price was infertility and while it still feels like a high price, this song reminds me of how much I want to live. I play it anytime I need to get right, especially in those moments of deep depression when it’s hard to pray.

The other recent period was the first year of placement/adoption for me and Hope. I knew it would be difficult, but I really, really had no idea how difficult. When I tell you I prayed all the time and for everything and to any deity…whew.

I was parenting a kid who had more issues than Newsweek. I was alone. No one in my life really understood what home life was like. I was judged a lot. I didn’t have a lot of support in large part because people have such warped perceptions of older child adoption. I exacerbated the isolation by writing about the lack of support, which seemed to make people in my life take sides—they didn’t take my side because I was being mean. So few people asked whether I was ok, why I was writing the things I wrote, what support that I needed that I low key still hold some resentments about it, but that’s another story for another day.

I joke about it now, but there were legit times when it was so difficult to navigate the emotional landmines inherent in adoption that I found myself sitting on a stool in my tub in my bathroom with the curtain drawn, the door closed, sobbing, eating chocolate cake and feeling like I could not possibly do this another day. It wasn’t unusual for me to lay in bed in the wee hours of the morning, looking at the ceiling fan praying for relief and strength to carry on.

I feel like I was a shadow of myself. Alone, with a daughter who needed me in ways that I could barely wrap my head around. I was just trying to get it together, constantly. Songs like this one got me through. #letgoandletgod

My point in this post isn’t to try to convert anyone to anything other than figuring out what you need to give you the umph to get through another day. For me, music, prayer and meditation did it in the worst of times. I’ve certainly added coping mechanisms along the way (a good therapist, anti-depressants among other things). But something about a good gospel song gets me together.

This life thing isn’t easy sometimes and finding emotional energy to build you up can be so hard at times. Figure out what works for you, what fits with your faith orientation (shout out to the atheists and agnostics as well, much love to you). Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a prayer, a book and glass of wine. Find what recharges you, even if it’s just a quick spark and lean into it. This isn’t just about infertility or adoption; this is about life. And for many, this time of year life feels…even more difficult. Figure out what lifts you and do that.

I tell HAPs all the time to get a therapist, some drugs and some serious coping skills before they bring a child home. I’m serious about that too. Folks have sent me messages about whether that’s really necessary…yeah, it is. Do it, it will help you be the best parent you can be and kids need that. Recognizing and reckoning with your own stuff better situates you to deal with someone else’s.

So that’s it. That’s the post, lean into what keeps you going, what reminds you of the joy of living, what gives you the energy to go another day.


Visitation Reflections

It’s hard to believe that two weeks have passed and Hope’s visit with me has ended.  We’ve both got mixed emotions about this next part of our journey—waiting for paperwork.   She needs time to say goodbye, and I need time to “dissertate” and get the rest of our support team set up.  It’s a lot.  The therapists I’ve reached out to haven’t returned my calls.  There’s some additional room decorating that needs to happen.  And let’s not forget that I’ve got a mess of work to catch up on—including one journal article that needs to be revised in less than a week so I can meet the next deadline.

Hope and I have finally, in the last few days, settled into a delightful kind of normal.  There’s a comfort with each other; there are really challenging moments but we’re in a good place as we head back to the West Coast.  The last 4 days have been delightfully—gasp!—fun.  They’ve been a mom and her daughter just kicking it.   So, here’s my lessons/observations/whatever as I reflect on the last couple of weeks.

10.  Lots of things are just not that serious.

Sometimes Hope plays in the floor like she is a 5 year old.  Truth be told, I hate it, but really, I love hearing her giggle more than I hate it.  She’s laying in the floor, playing with the dog, she’s giggling, she’s being a kid.  She’s being a kid.

I want her to be a kid.  So, I just need to chillax and let some things just go.  It’s really not that serious.

There are way more parking lots in this life than in my previous single with no kid life.  I realize that I have a lot of single girl hang ups about food and space and exercise and clothes and… you name it.  In two weeks, I’ve learned I need to go into parking lot rehab.  Most of it is really just not that serious.

9. Timing is everything.

I’m growing accustomed to living my life in 20-30 minute increments.  Hope does not do well with sudden changes.  Sudden change equals life upheaval; so we need to avoid all of that.  Having been childless the ability to change my mind at a moment’s notice never affected anyone else.  I can’t live like that now.  In fact, I need to announce what the next day’s schedule is, remind her and set timers.  I never thought that my adoption registry for my upcoming shower would include a timer, but yeah, I need timers all over the place.

I use them to have a timekeeper for electronic screen time (in addition to parental apps).  I use them to say we need to be dressed to leave by a certain time.  I use them for everything!  Life is much more manageable with the timers.  Thank you Jesus for timers.

8. Speaking of Jesus…

I am Christian, but I’m not, nor have I ever been particularly preachy or proselytizing of my faith.  I don’t hide it, but for the most part, it’s one of the areas of my life that I tend to not talk about with folks other than close family and friends.   I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my mountains with Hope is my insistence that we go to church.  I don’t have an expectation that she necessarily join or that she even get *saved.*  I hope she comes to those choices, but they are choices.  Despite becoming a believer at 7 and being raised in the Baptist church, I can’t say I took my faith as bedrock until the last 10, maybe 15 years of my life.  And even then, I identify as a progressive, liberal Christian and ideologically, I am increasingly finding it hard to fit and to find a place where I fit.  The current Christian landscape in the US is kinda creepy to me.

Anyhoo, Hope asked me about being saved and baptism and just some basic theological questions that at her age I took for granted because I had always been around the Christian church.  I was delighted by her questions because I could explain things with ease and confidence and the moment lived up to visions I’d had in my head about spending time with my daughter through this particular lens.

Church was great (you know when that message is really YOUR message—yeah, today was that sermon) and I cried because I was just so happy with my life—the ups, the downs, this amazing kid sitting next to me and the blind and nearly deaf dog we have at home.

I don’t know if Christianity is for everyone; I know that I do my own thing and have found a church that works for me.  I will say that whatever your faith, this adoption thing is a beast and I know that you have to lean into whatever it is you believe in.  You will need to lean in hard, dang near perpendicular!  The grounding in something beyond yourself, something supernatural, is necessary.   One of the things the speaker reminded the congregation about this morning:  faith is not grown on the best days; it’s grown on the worst.   If you’re traveling this path, you need to believe in something.   Jesus happens to be my homeboy; he might be a good homeboy for you too.

And that’s pretty much my annual quota of religious proselytizing.   <shrug>

7.  Mountains are worth the effort.

The great Dr. Seuss 10pm bedtime standoff from last week was clearly our turning point.  OMG!!  I am still so proud of myself for standing my ground, clicking the lights and hunkering down in that power struggle.  I’m most proud that once she caved and went to bed that I was able to go in, kiss her good night and tell her I loved her.  We haven’t had a serious bedtime issue or major meltdown since.

I’m a natural stubborn debater.  I like to be right.   I like to win.  I’m reminded with Hope that the need for humble grace after having won is really what makes you hit the summit of the mountain.  It’s not about winning the power struggle, it’s about loving after the struggle is over.

6. Physical touch is healing.

Hope has some issues with being touched in certain ways.  Fortunately she can’t seem to get enough of hugs.  I hug her and kiss her forehead 50 times during the course of a day, even when she is being a real pill.  Midweek she just really started spontaneously hugging me on her own.  We held hands in church.  She kisses my cheek.  This physical affection is so meaningful for both of us.  It heals what’s ailing us, even if it’s a temporary salvo right now.  I’m going to miss hugging her for the next couple of weeks.  The Furry One is going to get hugged a lot more as a result.   We humans need physical touch.

5.  I’m a little worried about going back to work. 

For the first time in years, my focus is completely devoted to something else in my life.  This new identity business is really a BFD!  I’ve got a mess of stuff going on and I know that people will have the same expectations of me as they did before, but 1) I don’t really have a desire to work the way I did pre-Hope, at least not right now; 2) I don’t care about being defined by my professional identity right now.  I know it will all shake out in time.  I’m near the top of my own personal professional game right now.  I have a job that I love; one that I thought I’d have a hard time walking away from ever.  Today, well, hmmmm, I could.

I guess like I have to figure out what Hope’s and my normal will be, normal will also have to be redefined in my professional life too.

4.  This culture undermines parents. 

I can only imagine and apologize for some of the utterly silly things I may have said to the folks around me who are parents over the years.  Please forgive me. It really is pervasive though.

In the last two weeks I have had folks attempt to shame me for some of the early decisions I’ve made concerning how I intend to raise my daughter.

Do you think it’s wise to force her to go to church?

She really should have a cell phone; I don’t think you’re being realistic, everyone’s doing it.

Oh hot chocolate?  You know, she would probably be fine with decaf coffee.

Oh, this is the light stuff.  Everyone has an opinion, but so few bother to filter them or think about how they affect conversations that should happen at home.  Most things are innocuous, but, ugh…let’s just say, I had no idea how challenging this culture is with respect to raising a kid.  In my happily single, childless haze, I just had no idea that my big mouthed ideas should probably be left to myself.

Noted.

3. Kathryn Purvis is changing my life.

About a month ago, I finally picked up Purvis’ book The Connected Child.  I’m still wondering why no one at my agency recommended this book to me as I was wading the paperwork.  A few chapters in and it just made sense.  I tried to use it to help educate my family about things to expect with Hope.  There’s a great website (http://empoweredtoconnect.org/) and a Youtube channel with short videos as well.  I’ve got to practice the techniques more diligently, but Purvis’ work is extraordinary and will have a meaningful impact on me and Hope.

I’ve read several books and scanned a dozen more on adoption and older child adoption topics; The Connected Child seemed to provide me one stop shopping for information and resources.

2. I’m still in paperwork hell.

All I want for Christmas is Hope.

Whether Hope and I get each other for Christmas is dependent on the ICPC paperwork being completed in the next 15 calendar days, 11 business days.

Waiting still sucks.

1. Happiness is a by-product.

Last week Hope told Grammy that my job was to make her happy.  Grammy corrected her and told her that my job was to make sure was safe, had what she needed and loved her in healthy affirming ways.  The result of my doing these things is her being happy.  This was a great lesson.  Lots of people chase happiness, but don’t chase given their life meaning.  The latter is what ultimately will bring you much closer to your desired state.

Hope coming into my life has made me very, very happy.

Tomorrow I head back East for a long day of travel and possibly several weeks of waiting.  It’s all good though, I’m happy!


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