Aches

Here I am, on the floor of the bathroom, in the middle of the night. In desperate need of a shower, but cautious not to start the water too soon after I have shut your bedroom door. So, I write.


Tonight, you couldn’t sleep. Body writhing, twisted up in your blanket. Making some sounds I don’t instinctively understand, but am trying to learn. By the glow of the night light I rubbed your back, played a lullaby, to no avail.

With trepidation I picked you up, and I started to rock you. You peered up at me in the half-light, maybe unsure of this stranger but maybe too tired to care and welcoming the comfort. For the first time in both our lives, I felt your breathing start to steady next to my belly. One little arm still clutching your blanket tight, the other settling into a soft curve of my chest. Head nuzzling into the crook of my arm. Eyes drifting closed, so close to sleep, and then popping open again because trusting is hard.

After a few minutes, my lower back began to ache from rocking the weight of your two year old body, but I didn’t dare stop. Suddenly the lullaby finished, your eyes opened fully and you wriggled against me, ready to be laid down again.

Our moment was over. No more than a few minutes, but everything to me.


You see, my child, another mother of yours rocked you to sleep for the first time on this Earth. She knew your breath before you took your first, for it was hers also. Her body knew instinctively the meaning of the sounds you make in the night. Her back ached long before mine as she grew you in her womb, her belly getting larger each day.

And see this too, my child, the way my soul yearns for you. In the light of day I reach out, and your little hand pushes me away. My heart hurts and my eyes tear up, I want so badly to connect with you. I see glimmers in your eyes of the bond we could have, but those moments slip away like this one did. I exercise my patience.

I can never really express how much I cherish this half-asleep you, accepting my comfort and learning to trust a stranger. I would welcome my back to ache forever if it could draw the trauma from your tiny body and into mine. In the moments, days, years to come, I dream of knowing your sounds, your breath, your heart, and your mind, if you will let it be so.

Until then, I will pick you up, and I will rock you.

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The Adoption Process: Hurry Up and Wait

The adoption process, whether domestic infant, international, or foster care, can best be defined as hurry up and wait.

It involves paperwork, deadlines, urgent emails, frantic cleaning, and important phone calls. It also involves a lot (a LOT) of waiting. Much of our process has gone this way. We check our email constantly, clear our schedules as much as possible, and spend late nights surrounded by paperwork to turn things in as quickly as we can.

And then, we wait. County and agency workers are busy, and have a number of parents and children on their case loads to communicate with and make decisions about. Things are being discussed and considered behind the scenes, and that takes time. Not to mention the chaos of trying to coordinate meetings of anywhere from two to a thousand people.

Now here comes the BUT…

BUT sometimes, things move quickly and there isn’t much time to wait. For whatever reason, county workers find themselves in a situation where they need to find an adoptive family quickly, and certain families get swept up in that process. Suddenly, it’s a lot more hurry up than it is wait.

Now here comes the SO…

SO two weeks ago, we learned the names of our future children. I’ll let that sink in for a minute (it’s still sinking in over here, too).

Let me preface this by saying, at our new year’s family meeting, we chose our word of the year: SLOW. We decided to give ourselves over fully to the wait, to take things as they came, to program our schedules less so we had more time to breathe. But life doesn’t like to wait, it likes to surprise you.

Okay so, there we are, all ready to go SLOW…and we get an email from our social worker on a Thursday with the public profiles of two little boys who needed an adoptive family quickly. Although we only had a few sentences about them, we both immediately texted each other and shared that we felt there was something special about these boys, like this might be it. Within minutes we replied and told our worker to submit our home study for consideration.

On Monday, we heard that the kids’ workers would like a phone call with us and our worker. On Tuesday, we said yes, we’d love to move forward into collateral meetings. On Wednesday, we heard they wanted to move forward with us too. On Thursday, we heard they’d like the boys to visit for respite care Friday through Sunday (which is highly unorthodox…as I’ve mentioned before, you typically don’t meet your children until you are fully official and have said yes to adoption).

That all means that just eight days after reading their names for the first time, we met our boys. They slept in our home, we played, we read books, we ate meals together, we had bath time. These cherished moments that we have been anxiously awaiting for over two years were happening, right this second. By Sunday evening when we dropped them back off to their foster family, we knew that there was nothing in the world you could do or say to convince us that these two little souls were not meant to find ours. We missed them before they had unbuckled their seatbelts.

Since then, we’ve had two more follow up calls and created a tentative transition plan. We will have a few more overnight visits, and then in a few short weeks, they will move in. For good. After so much wait, it’s time to hurry up. Time to make their room a little cozier, to have their favorite foods on hand, to prepare our hearts and home for a constant presence, to catch up on sleep! To have one last late night out just the two of us before we insulate ourselves at home for a while to bond as a family, before we become Mom and Dad, forever.

This is exciting, and terrifying, and surreal. This is fun and hard. This is the craziest and best thing we will ever do. So here we go–here’s to hurry up and wait, to this gentle and wild life, to our sons.

Precipice

Suspended (in disbelief)

Teetering on the edge

Terrified to move forward

Unwilling to turn back

Water rushing…somewhere

Tides churning far below

Or waves surging from behind

Bound to take me with them

Ears ringing

Mind vibrating

Heart thumping

Arms outstretched

Step.

Cheers: One Year of Gentle Wild

Here’s to 2018. *clink*

A year ago I put together a blog to announce our foster care adoption process. I thought that maybe this would be a place for our loved ones to keep up with our journey, if they wanted to, and sharing every little thing on social media didn’t feel right. So, I created a little spot over here and we shared our news with our Christmas card message. I thought maybe we’d post a few times over the course of the year, as things moved along and we had significant news to share.

A few months in, this blog evolved into so much more. It became a safe space to share how I was really feeling and to process those feelings in writing. It is still a scrapbook of sorts, capturing our experiences so far and our hopes and dreams along the way. But it’s also a very public journal, documenting the feelings, both good and bad, that come along with this foster care adoption journey.

In December, I stepped away a bit (not just from the blog, from other social media and in-person commitments) because we had some major ups and downs in our adoption process that felt too big to sum up in a blog post. We did a lot of reflecting, working through big feelings, and making hard decisions. In the midst of it all, we took a pause from the matching process to breathe and just “be” during the already busy holiday season. We hope to be back in the matching game (and I in the blogging game) after the new year.

As I reflect on how far we’ve come and what is coming next, perhaps most meaningfully, I realized that Gentle Wild grew into something bigger than I could have imagined: a vehicle with which we can teach others what we wish we would have known. Now when I write a post, I have the goal in mind of helping readers see “the man behind the curtain” and painting a fuller picture of what this journey is like for everyone involved. You learn as I learn.

As it turns out, that’s what you needed! I’m so grateful to those of you who reached out to share how my words encouraged you, made you think, taught you something, or comforted you. Although things have been a little quieter around here this month, I still think it’s worth celebrating how far this little blog has come.

Posts21
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In all honesty, I’ve never been able to keep a blog alive for longer than a month or two (I tend to be a big picture thinker who gets a great idea and then gets bogged down in the details and gives up). But one year later, I can’t imagine giving up on my little corner of the internet. If nothing else, the numbers ignite my competitive side and fire me up to stay the course! The idea that 1,300 people found even one of my sentences worth reading blows my mind. Who knows where Gentle Wild will be in another year? 

 So, here’s to 2019, too. *clink*

Movie Review: Instant Family

Last week, Nate and I saw Instant Family with my in-laws. The film has been getting rave reviews among acquaintances in the adoption community, but poor reviews from those pesky paid critics who may or may not have any exposure to foster care adoption. 

As for us, we all enjoyed and appreciated the movie overall. Considering the storyline was based on the personal foster care adoption journey of the director’s family, the overall plot of the movie was pretty true-to-life. A couple in their late 30s/early 40s who never had biological kids becomes aware of the need for foster parents. They take the classes and get matched with a sibling group of three who was removed from their first family due to issues with drugs. Shit hits the fan as they learn how to parent for the both the first time, and parent kids with trauma backgrounds. The case goes back and forth from pre-adoption to reunification, and all the while the parents go to support groups, school events, meetings with social workers, etc. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it’s worth a watch to see how it turns out.

The characters were very relatable. The movie gave enough screen time to getting to know the many sides of each character. The fears and anxieties of the parents were presented very honestly, which I appreciated, and there was even a hilarious dinner scene where extended family members expressed their “concerns” that had us smirking. The kids were three different ages and had unique ways of coping with challenges, which gave a well-rounded perspective on how trauma impacts children.

Some of the second-circle characters did not ring a bell, however. The social workers were very heavy handed, and the support groups came off as judgmental, which have not been our experiences. But the relationship between the two social workers was hilarious, and Tig Notaro’s delivery of the one-liners was on point. After the first few scenes, I chose to take off my “accuracy glasses” and just enjoy the humor for what it was. 

Overall thoughts: go see Instant Family while it’s still in theatres, or consider renting or buying it later. We will definitely be snagging the DVD when it comes out!

Practicing Gratitude in the Adoption Process

As November draws to a close and things start to ramp up for Christmas, I find myself needing a moment to breathe. There are so many ups and downs, backs and forths in the adoption process, it’s easy to lose sight of why we did this in the first place. For all the frustration that comes with it, we have much to be grateful for.

Social Workers

I am thankful for the efforts of county and agency workers, who put in long hours and invest much of their personal time, energy, and love into some of society’s most vulnerable. I am particularly thankful for our adoption worker, who has been with us since day one and will remain on our case even after our adoption is finalized. She puts up with our incessant emailing and questioning, laughs with us, lets us cry to her when we need to, and so much more. She is our guide and helps us find our way through the dark and confusing parts of this process.

First Families

As things progress, we learn more and more about the experiences of first families who cope with the loss of children after removal or placement. Whether it is circumstances, personal decisions, health, or legality that prevented children from staying with their first families, there is love there. It may look differently than we think it should, but it is present. I have been working hard lately to take a step back and listen to the experiences of these first families and have come to respect them in new ways for the sacrifices they make and the things they have gone through. I am thankful for their perspective and their heart.

Security

We don’t have it all. We stick to a strict budget. Sometimes we have to say no to things we want to make sure we can afford things we need. But we have a roof over our heads, healthy food on the table, jobs that expect us each morning, a warm bed to sleep in each night…and these are things that many don’t have. My heart aches for the many foster children who were removed from their first families for not having such things, and for the first families who still may not have received the help they need to get these things that I often take for granted. It’s good to have a reality check sometimes and appreciate all that we are fortunate enough to have.

My Partner

I am so grateful to be on this journey with someone I love and trust. I’m thankful that Nate and I went all-in on adoption from the get-go, and haven’t given up even when it has been hard and scary. I’m glad I have someone to whisper my fears to in the dark, to run to when we get good news, and to process all these big, overwhelming fears with. I’m proud to have Nate as my partner in life and parenting.

Story

I never take lightly what I am given in confidence. I’m honored to be privy to a child’s story: what they like, what they don’t like, what they struggle with, the pain they have experienced, the progress they have made. Usually, a child doesn’t even know that we are discussing them, so their workers are choosing to share their story in the hopes it will connect with ours and lead to a match. That takes trust, and I am so grateful for that trust.


How do you find things to be grateful for in the midst of challenges?

What things are you grateful for in the foster care and adoption process?

I Could Never Say No

Person: “How did the match meeting go?”

Me: “Thanks for asking, it was really informative. But unfortunately, I don’t think we are the right fit for this child.”

Person: “Ugh, I could never, ever say no to any child.”


How would you respond?

A) Start some shit. “Well, I did kick it off with a pretty huge yes by pursuing adoption in the first place.”

B) Verbal eye roll. “Wow, you MUST be a MUCH better person than me then. I just find it SO incredibly easy to say no to children in need.”

C) Get real. Spend the next half hour delving into the complexities of a broken system and pouring out feelings of grief, shame, sadness, disappointment, and longing.

D) Say nothing.

The thing is, I could never say no either. But I have to. 

After each match meeting, we have to do something incredibly hard: picturing our life, day in and day out, forever, with that child, as best as we can with the limited information we have. How many appointments will we have throughout the week with therapists, OT, skills workers, and teachers? Will school be a struggle, or sleep, or meals, or something else, or all of the above? What things will be trauma triggers for them, and are we prepared to parent them through the healing process? Are we ready to welcome not just this child, but their birth family, whatever that may look like and whatever may come with that, intimately into our personal lives? Can we say yes to this child, now and in all of their future forms?

Then, after all of that, sometimes we have to do something even harder: we have to say no. We have to grieve the fact that for whatever reason, we weren’t enough for this child. We have to sit in the discomfort of knowing that our decision kept a child in the system a little longer. We have to send the worst email ever, cry together, and pray over this child, their birth family, their support team, and their foster family. We have to break the hearts of our friends and family by telling them this wasn’t the right fit. Then we have to rally ourselves to start all over again.

I have learned that there is much joy, hope, and excitement wrapped up in saying yes, but there is even more guilt, sadness, and disappointment wrapped up in saying no. It feels icky and wrong. It is laced with platitudes like “You have to do what’s best for you AND the child,” and “Just think, your no got them one step closer to their forever family.” It results in feeling like I was stabbed in the heart when someone says “Oh, I could never say no to any child. I don’t know how you do it.” This is how I do it. Painfully.

So please, of all the things you could say to me about this process, PLEASE don’t tell me you could never say no. Trust me, neither could I.