Updates for Everyone

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I have been wanting to write again all week, but the days just pass by with no in-between time to squeeze out a blog.  We are definitely feeling the exhaustion of the marathon that is parenting lots of little children, with no big ones yet to help.  I am not even thinking about February, I’m just blissfully ignorant of such things and enjoying the little kicks here and there and not having to devote too much attention to nourishing the little one just yet.  On the other hand, I couldn’t be more excited to meet our new babe.  I don’t want to leave anyone out, so today’s post is just going to be quick updates on everyone.  Youngest to oldest sound good?  Ok here we go…

Stephen is doing just dandy.  Besides a little bit of a cold he seems to have picked up from somewhere, he is his usual, hilarious self.  He has decided to be kind of clingy in the early hours of the morning; I think he caught on to my plot of getting up earlier than they do and is trying to put that to a stop.  I admit, some mornings I’m glad for the excuse to stay in bed!  But I get so much more done when I don’t… He has started using sentences this last week (with prepositions and conjunctions even!); which is terribly adorable and always surprises me when I hear it.  His three favorite activities are singing (or yelling lavishly, whichever label your prefer), baseball and running.  Yes, running.  He just likes to run laps everywhere, he will have me watch him for a few minutes until he tires out and then he’ll be so proud of himself for how fast he went.  Oh boys are fun.

Evangeline is also doing well, very much in a mothering phase.  Her baby dolls do therapy, stretches, go to the hospital, you know all that normal baby stuff.  You know you’re a special needs mama when your kids play hospital more than school.  Ahem.  I still haven’t started doing reading with her yet, although it’s painfully obvious she is rearing to go.  That’s the next thing on my school list to start – reading!  We are doing great with sign language, though.  She has over a hundred words in her vocabulary now, and we’re practicing sentences.  She’s even started using her signing throughout the day, which is awesome.  Jacob and Stephen use it a little too, but I am mostly focused on getting Evie conversational and I definitely think she will get there before the end of the year!

Jacob is also doing well; his spoken English is coming along a little more each week and he continually surprises us with how much he comprehends.  He loves to sing and read books, which is great because we do a lot of that in our house!  As far as bonding and emotional stuff goes, he is so fragile.  Any change in routine or less-than-perfectly-planned outing creates so much distress in our poor boy.  He thrives on stability and routine.  I do believe he’s attaching to us, and I think that has actually increased the behavioral difficulties we are seeing.  He’s scared of being close, so he’s pushing away.  It’s heartbreaking to watch a six year old who is so terrified of love.  It should not be this way.  But we are working so hard to bring him to a better place, and he’s come so far already.  He is such a brave young man.  Last week he was fitted for orthodics for his legs and feet, so with any luck we will be able to get him in a walker before the month is over!  You have no idea how excited this Mommy is to get him up on his feet.  It’s going to change his world, and I can’t wait to see how he reacts to finally being able to walk after years of being told that he is incapable of learning and that his legs will never work.  So many blessings we get to watch unfold, our hearts are full.

And our oldest princess, I know many of you are wondering how she is doing now.  A couple weeks ago Hope spent two days in the hospital for some concerning seizure activity.  They found a brain bleed that may have been causing it.  We are thrilled to report that the activity we saw seems to be disappearing and we are praying that the follow up CT scan on Wednesday will show a parallel improvement in her injury.  She just learned how to clap all on her own, which is something we’ve been working on and we could not be prouder of her for that accomplishment!  She is gaining strength and has almost reached a healthy weight for her height.  We discovered that she loves bath time; it’s incredibly therapeutic for her.  She usually never lets me cradle her for long, but in the water she relaxes and completely melts into my arms.  It’s such a gift to have found a bonding activity for us, we were really in need of one.  Not only is it healing for her, but for me as well.

Speaking of which… how are Mommy and Daddy holding up?  My last blog post was tough, but we had been on a downward spiral of tough for these last two weeks trying to catch our breath and recover from the unexpected hospital stay.  I’m happy to report we are all in a much better place right now.  It’s a ridiculous roller coaster of huge highs and deep lows.  There are incredible miracles going on right under our roof, and we are first hand witnesses to all of them.  It’s spectacular!  But at the same time, the spiritual warfare is crazy intense.  The emotional toll of inviting trauma into your home, like I talked here, is a really heavy load to carry.

Please know, we’re not dying over here :)  We have some pretty bad days, but we also have some really awesome ones.  Our adjustment period is not going horrendously, and it’s not going spectacularly well either.  If I had to guess, we are about the average of where a typical adoptive family is at that point – especially factoring in that we adopted older children from hard places.  This is hard work, excruciating, exhausting, intense work.  But it’s good work and it’s work that needs to be done.  I was talking to my Dad the other day and he compared it to running a marathon, you know it’s going to hurt… but once you get to mile 23, knowing beforehand doesn’t really make it hurt any less.

And I think it’s an apt comparison.  Running a marathon isn’t for everybody… but it could be for a lot more people than the ones who actually do it.  Will it hurt?  Yes… but it’s also going to be incredible when you finally cross that finish line.  One foot in front of the other, taking it one step at a time…. Or as my favorite blue fish would say: Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming :)

Honesty

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog is my honesty.  That’s why you haven’t been hearing from me lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not here, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  My 19 weeks post is awkwardly sitting there now that I’m at my 21 week mark.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Courtesy of Jill Heupel Photography

Courtesy of Jill Heupel Photography

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season.  Amen.

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