Saturday, May 11, 2019

'Twas the Night Before Mother's Day

Four years ago I woke up to an email from the mother of two of my sons.

I don't honestly know how she wrote it. I don't honestly know how she got out of bed that day.

Less than 24 hours later she delivered her son. My youngest son.

And as I read that email, the tears dripped down my face.

I don't think it's possible for us adoptive parents to fully put into words the complicated emotions we deal with. The deep gratitude. The awe. The sadness over loss. The awareness of the fact that we actually can't possibly know what their first moms are feeling. Going through. Thinking on a day like Mother's Day.

But that day, she wrote to me a message of gratitude. She thanked me for always sending her updates about her son. For using the name she gave him. For the decision to welcome his brother into our family, as well. For sending her pictures and gifts. For always, always assuring her that we talk about her every day. That her pictures are on our walls. That she is, and forever will be, family.

But to be honest?

I could barely read it. To think of the challenges she was going through to have to make the kind of choices she did. To even attempt to imagine the loss she feels every day. To admire her courage but know she will never see it that way.

Well, Mother's Day has never quite been the same.

It's bittersweet.

Yes, my nuggets like to celebrate me. They make me sweet pictures at school with their handprints. They plant little flowers. They hug me and call me mama and let me smooch their sweet faces.

And far away, another woman misses them. She doesn't get the kisses or the gifts tomorrow. And as my boys celebrate me, she is the one on my mind. Her pain. Her loss. Her sacrifice.

As they grow older, they have more questions. More things I need to tell them that I can't quite put into words. Ways in which I will never be quite enough. (I am ok with that, by the way. I signed on for it. I know they will always be missing a piece of who they are. Adoption, at it's very foundation, starts with loss and trauma.)

So, on Mother's Day, I tread lightly. I thank my boys for loving me. For letting me be their mama. But I get a little quieter. A little more introspective. We don't go in for large celebrations. For their sakes, we celebrate, but if it were up to me, I think I would let the complicated day pass by without much fanfare.

Holding joy and despair tenderly, gratefully, tearfully together is no easy dance and us adoptive parents do it all year long.

Mother's Day, for me, at least, just brings that dance into painful focus.

To the woman who deserves more celebration than me but who will likely let the day pass her by as well, I love you. And I promise, although I do fail mightily, I am doing my very best to love these precious children we share.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Moment of Grace

I was about twenty feet behind them, a string of boys on their bikes, following each other down the trail, my husband in the lead as I brought up the rear running as fast as my body would allow. Twelve, five and three...peddling away, smiles on their faces. No more training wheels. Moving faster than I could possibly keep up. 

The sun was dappling through the trees in that peaceful way it does in the hours before sunset. Irises in bloom, summer perennials peeking up, starting to bud, knockout roses dazzling in deep pink.

Over it all, a light breeze, a calm.

Something I could feel that went deeper than just the gorgeous weather and the moment in which no one in my house was arguing or struggling or crying or needing.

A moment of grace.

It's that feeling when the world comes deeply, but peacefully and hopefully and joyfully, into focus.

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it takes my breath away. It's as if God is shouting "wait, listen, look, remember this moment."

Remember it, because not all moments can be like this. Remember it, because so many moments are simply the ordinary. The mundane. Not necessarily ugly or lacking in beauty, but they pass us by because of that very ordinariness. They just ARE. Cooking dinner, watching that soccer game, dropping another kid at school, waving to the neighbors, mowing the lawn, riding our bikes together.

We just go through most of our days and it's fine.

But every once in awhile, we get that gift. That special warmth in a moment, that strange but clear urging to stop and drink in what's around us and be grateful. Those moments don't always come when something is going well and they don't necessarily stay away when things are challenging.

But, oh how I love them.

I am a doer. Not someone who easily stops and ponders. Not someone who spends hours gazing or dreaming. I appreciate people who do that well. But I am not one of them. Even when I try to sit in my backyard and admire the garden, I inevitably stand up and start weeding, because, well, it needs to be done. And the doing is part of the joy for me.

But I feel like for those of us like me, we need these moments to stop us dead in our tracks. To remind us that there can be purpose to slowing down. Reason in stopping. Joy in simply being.

And in that moment, even though I was sprinting and breathing hard and looking at the back end of my string of boys who were hurtling with full abandon down a bike trail, I felt like I was still. 

My soul stopped it's churning, for about 20 seconds.

And I just drank in the deep beauty and privilege of a healthy family and a beautiful neighborhood and a generous husband and a glorious spring and a blooming garden and meals on the table and a newly accomplished goal.

And oh, friends, I am so grateful. I never expect those moments and they come so infrequently.

I am amazed at their staying power, at the ability God has to use them to shore up and encourage and remind us of the possibilities and joys we can wake up to every single day, no matter what challenges lie ahead.

God, in all his grace and wisdom, knew I needed that. And I am so glad He did.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Truth About Miracles

There is a certain absence these days.

It's one of those things that you don't notice at first.

It's something that was so very present for so very long, that you can't actually imagine it not being a part of who you are.

It's this feeling...the feeling that used to take over my body as I was driving to preschool pickup. It was a cross between dread and hopefulness and stress and utter exhaustion.

If we had even made it all the way to pickup, I knew it couldn't have been a truly awful day, because those were the days I got a phone call. A request for early pickup. A warning.

But it could still have been a day that required a report.

With my first son, I didn't really know there was such a thing as a bad report from school. I think there was one time ever in his whole preschool experience where his teacher mentioned he might have done something that wasn't in perfect keeping with the rules.

But he is a firstborn, perfectionistic, rule-follower who has always been harder on himself than we could ever be. We had no idea how rare that is.

But those who get the daily reports know - they can have an affect on everything.

And when we hit February last year and hit a new low of having to make the decision to pull one of our sons from school to try to avoid an expulsion and to try to get him functionally back on track, it was at the end of months of tough reports. And phone calls. And early pickups. Of tightening chests and dread and holding my breath when I would walk in and try to glance unconcernedly at the teacher's face to try to ascertain what she was about to tell me so I could brace myself and keep the tears from falling.


After four months home, after behavioral therapy and OT and a therapist who helped him acclimate to a camp by showing up every morning for his toughest time of day, we started to see change.

And then came a successful swim season. Full of smiles and races and newly earned independence and pride. Of ribbons on his wall and following around teenage heroes. Of joy.

But that was the summer. Anyone can have a good summer.

The school year started and I held my breath.

I didn't even know I was doing it.

Each day I would  drive to pick him up. And my heart would start to pound. My stomach would clench.

What kind of day did he have? Was school going to continue to be an option? Would we be home, again, doing hours of therapy a week and panicking about what options might be open to him for kindergarten?

I think I've mentioned before the constant ticker tape that happens in the head of someone parenting a child with special challenges: Have I done enough? Is this the best med? Do we need a new kind of therapy? Is this teacher going to "get" him and stand by him? What about OT? Or CBT? Or ABA? Or diet changes? The list goes on. It's always there, scrolling through in a way that has never been true for my thoughts towards my other two kids.

And it's utterly exhausting.

But today.

Today I was driving to pick him up. I had just finished a test for my class and NAILED IT and I was feeling good. And as I approached the school, it hit me. My body felt calm. Normal. Like I was just another mom heading to pick up a fully functioning child. I didn't assume the day had been hard. I didn't wonder all morning if the phone was going to ring. I took my test, threw in a load of laundry, packed up his lunch and hopped in the car.

And when I walked in, he looked up and smiled and ran and gave me a hug. And his teacher, a substitute he hadn't planned on, came over and told me he had had a wonderful day.


That was his fifth good report this week.

Five out of five.

To some people, that's normal life.

To us, to him, that's a miracle. And it's a miracle that we have worked hard for.

You see, that's the truth about miracles. They take time and investment. They take hope and joy and failure. They take giving up and trying again. They take prayers and tears and hours upon hours of research and risk-taking. They take more than just a mom or a dad caring, they take friends and neighbors and church and teachers and swim coaches and family.

They take believing that someone has been made to be in the image of God and claiming it to be truth against all odds, against all evidence, against all experience and then gut-wrenchingly loving that truth into being.

And you know what the coolest thing is about this?

It's not just that I can be a full time student. It's not just that our house is a little calmer (and let's be honest, it's never going to be CALM, and that's ok). It's not just that my mental health is improving or that his brothers are seeing good in him or that we are all smiling more.

It's that he is proud of himself. He is happy. He is making choices that show us we can trust him and he LOVES that feeling. He is writing his name and making people drawings and notes. He is apologizing for tough days and asking God to help him grow.

Have we arrived at some perfect place that will always be good? Doubtful. Kids change. People change. There will be new challenges. He starts kindergarten this fall - the chances of that being a perfectly smooth transition are slim. But the fact that he can start kindergarten is huge. And don't even get me started on what I KNOW will be true when puberty hits for him.

But, friends, today I rejoice. I am ever so grateful for all who have come beside us as we have charted such unknown and challenging waters.

And I know some of you reading this are deep in the hard days. The days we had last winter and spring. Of hours of meltdowns and tantrums or unknowns with medical issues. Of despair and exhaustion and hopelessness.

I DO know what that feels like. Please reach out. Even to vent. Truly. I can't solve it. But I can walk it beside you.

I know our life won't stay this way forever...but I also know it feels good to be grateful and hopeful TODAY.

To rejoice in the sweet miracles we are seeing right now.