A Very Important Day

Let today be known as the day on which, for the very first time, my toddler, who normally doesn’t like me very much, said to me, completely unprompted:

“Mommy, love you.”

Yes, this run on sentence got its own blog post.

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I Am Letting You Down

“Why don’t we prepare parents for this reality? Why don’t we talk openly about the fact that while there is much joy in becoming a parent, caring for a young child is also grueling, sometimes depressing work? That as we gain a new life, we also lose an old one?

How do we measure our own self-worth when our new self is barely recognizable?”

Like a Mother by Angela Garbes

On February 15, 2019, my life changed forever. Truly. The rest of my life can, from this point forward, be categorized as either “before kids” or “after kids.” I am the same, but I’m not the same.

Because our children didn’t join our family until my late twenties, I’ve enjoyed many years of being the childless friend. You know, the one with Netflix waiting, a midnight phone call answered, and a drink to be had at the drop of a hat.

But all of a sudden, I’m letting you down. I forgot to deliver that thing you needed, I said the wrong thing or said nothing at all when I usually have just the right thing, and now I’m digging around the kitchen drawers for the corkscrew, which now has to be under lock and key with the other sharp objects.

Trust me, I feel worse about it than you do. Though on the surface I’ve been told I come across as cold or unfeeling, those who know me well know that I actually feel very deeply. I take things right to heart and I have a sense of responsibility to the people I care about. The way I feel love is through being needed by others; that midnight phone call or last minute drink are how I thrive. When you ask my advice, I feel so honored to be part of your think tank and get to contribute my (uncensored) opinion.

So in the midst of the most exhilarating, intimidating, exhausting, emotionally draining time in my life, I’m trying to still be everything you need, and I am failing. Because I’m also trying to be everything to my new children; to fill in all their gaps and build trust and connection and a bond that will help us survive the roughest of times, which feels like now but are actually yet to come. And the thing is, I am far from enough for anyone right now. I’m failing them, too. A spotlight has been shone on my brokenness and insecurity, at the same time that I have been forced to pull away from all of the best and most secure relationships in my life.

I mean it when I say: it physically pains me to not be there for you when you need me. I grieve the loss of my independence and pray that you will still love and appreciate what I am able to offer, even when there is less of me to go around. Because that relationship we had is the same, but not the same. Though my availability has changed, my love for you has not.

So please, forgive me when I forget. Allow me time to get back to you with no ill feelings. Schedule a phone call for after bedtime. And please…bring a bottle of wine when you come over, because I’m a new mother. My wine and my patience have definitely run out.

I’ll go start looking for that corkscrew…

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.

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!