Thursday, April 05, 2012

Being Held and Holding

I thought that I might not post this week, and take a break for Holy Week, but it seems I need to.  Sometimes I don't really know why, but events happen, and I feel a nudge, so here I am writing when I should be sleeping.

The past couple of weeks has been a period where adoption has re-entered my life in unexpected ways. I've had late night phone calls, emails, and visits with folks who adoption has touched. As time has passed and we move further down the road from our last and final adoption, we have begun to move towards other things.  11 years spent deeply entrenched in the international adoption community, getting fingerprinted and background checked and scrutinized, yearning for a child...waiting for a child...traveling for a child...then building a relationship with a child...well, it is been a pretty exhausting decade and I am ready to shift the focus to the middle and high school years.

I am discovering though, that it may never truly be something we can leave behind.

There are a couple of amazing women who I have been in prayer for, and talking to over the past couple of weeks.  One is adopting a 14 year old boy from Russia, and her circumstances are so similar to ours with the girls.  How I know just what a challenge this is and will be for her! How deeply I respect her commitment, her faith, her wisdom...and her willingness to enter this with her heart open, and her mind sharp.  She is not denying how difficult it will be, she is just willing to do it in spite of it.  That's courage.

Another mom is extraordinary by any standards, she is a Rock Star who is enduring criticism for how they are building their family and how God has decided to time the placement of children in their family.  No matter how thick skinned we try to become, the loneliness of knowing you are being mocked or called plain old "nuts" hurts, and leaves you with very few places to turn.  Friends prove that they may not really be the friends you thought they were, support systems can collapse as others question your judgment, and there are moments when it is really, really hard and you know an unspoken "I told you so..." is just on the tip of someone's tongue.

It seems there is always some comment thrown out that stings, usually from someone with little experience and even less compassion.  Things are said that would most likely never be said to a pregnant mommy.  Comments are thoughtlessly flung:

1)  Why would you want to adopt a kid so old?  Aren't they all totally messed up?
2)  Don't you think you already have your hands full enough?  Why do you need another one?
3)  I could never love a child that wasn't "mine", there are too many things you don't know.
4)  How can you adopt a kid who doesn't look like you?
5)  Was he thrown in the trash?
6)  Why do you all think you have to go overseas when there are plenty of kids here who need homes.
7)  I'd never spend that much money to get a kid.
8)  He'll come home and totally mess up your life, you are making a big mistake.
9)  You'll find yourself in the poor house!
10) Aren't you afraid they'll never really love you?

That's just the tip of the iceberg.  I have been subjected to much worse over the years, and I am sure so have my friends mentioned above.

But then, thankfully, there are those who God sends, the ones who offer a hand, a shoulder, a place to commiserate and practice snappy retorts that you know you'll never use in real life but sure feel good to try out.  My dear friend Jill has been one of those who allows me to fling the obnoxious "I wish I had thought of that then" comment way after the fact.  There are those who we have met in "real life" and others who are virtual companions on the journey. We have Mentor Mommies and real life true blue friends, and they save us.

While we have certainly had our share of naysayers over the course of the past 11 years, we have been "Love Bombed" over and over again in profoundly moving ways.  When I have felt the most vulnerable, there has always been someone there to gently hold me, either virtually or in the flesh.  I shake my head in humble gratitude for those who have supported our every move, and showed it in numerous ways.  Why have we been bathed in so much goodness and love?  I have no idea, none at all.  We are not remarkable, we are not special, in fact we are pretty darned bland and boring by others' standards!  Yet repeatedly, God reaches out through these very, very special folks that weave through our lives.

The world sees the plight of the abandoned child, it is filled with compassion for the heart of the birth mother, but rarely does the world ache for the plight of the adoptive parents who are seen as somehow less important, less in need of support, less a victim.  Believe me, while I am not one who buys into victim-ology, there are times when adoptive parents' souls are completely, utterly broken as they are victim of systems that ignore them, hurt children who understandably lash out, and friends who abandon them.

We adoptive parents are the ones who pick up the pieces for our children and try to Krazy Glue it all back together.  We bear the brunt of the anger and pain of our children.  We suffer from being considered somewhat irrelevant by the world as we foster, love, and cry out for our children...some of whom may never carry our name, but will always cradle our heart in their tiny hands.  We sometimes travel thousands of miles, both literally and figuratively, only to be brushed aside by governments, social workers...and yes, even the wounded child we so desperately want to offer hope to.

As the past couple of days we see Josh suddenly collapsing into insecurity once again as he obsesses over losing our dog, Sunny, and as he experiences mini-meltdowns we are reminded of the ongoing need to be held...and to be the ones holding.  As Kenny struggles continually just to spell simple words like "fraction" and "world" as he did today, or spends 2 hours preparing to be liturgist at church just so he can enunciate clearly or even remember how to read those words that just don't want to "stick", we realize our need to be held...and to hold.  As Angela asked me last week "Mama, do you think my birth mom ever even thinks about me at all?", I am reminded of our need to be held, and to hold.  The healing continues, and sometimes it is damn hard.

But, thankfully, someone always does come along to hold, someone always does come along to extend love in surprising ways that cause tears to spring forth.  This week God reminded us that though it is hard, we are not alone...we were held anonymously and concretely, and it renewed hope on multiple levels.

I try to hold others virtually, and with one of the moms mentioned above I will be able to hold...and laugh...and maybe even real life next week when I travel to Memphis for work at a homeschool show and God places us in close enough proximity to meet in person at just the right time.  There, for one evening, at least one adoptive mom will not be alone with her concerns and  fears.  She will be be able to be honest and not feel judged, she will be able to feel companionship with someone who has walked her path and made it through, she will hopefully be encouraged and her heart will be considered for just one night.

And someday, no doubt, she'll be the one "holding" someone else.

Thank you, God, for every single person who has helped us along the way, in both big and small ways.  Thank you for the long conversations hashing over the same old concerns, thank you for the encouragement, thank you for the breaks and babysitting, thank you for the financial help without which we wouldn't even have our daughters and would not be able to meet some important needs, thank you for the softened hearts of neighbors who at first voiced how nuts we were and yet even this week had a little Easter surprise for the kids.  Thank you, God, for the moms along the way who helped me feel less alone, who prayed for us, who continue to care.  Thank you for the most extraordinary church family who have helped with everything from magazines to lessons to emailed suggestions to a hand on my shoulder when they didn't even know I needed it.  Thank you for allowing me once in awhile to be the one doing the holding, for the opportunity to occasionally be there for others...for it is far too little in return for what we have received.

And as Dominick and I watched the kids playing on the swings at the park this evening as darkness began to descend, we heard their laughter and spoke quietly of just how beautiful each is to us.  Not a single day goes by, and this is not hyperbole, when we don't marvel at all we have been given, and how very, very blessed we are to parent these specific five children.  Sure, it may be in between the exasperation and frustration, but the gratitude remains.

When it gets hard, its still the best.
When it hurts, its still the best.
When I'm stumped, its still the best.
When I feel alone, its still the best.

May every adoptive mom and dad out there have their needs met, may they be held when they hurt, may they find a place where they can be honest and not judged.  And as many parents who have waited a very long time for their children to come home finally have hope, may their dreams finally come true.


Kimberly said...

Sweet merciful lord, why do you always bring me to tears! I can't wait to see you NEXT week! Wow! And I'm not really a crier in real life but we shall see....hahaha. God is certainly using you and your family in big ways and I am just one of hundreds of people who are very thankful for you, your truth and your wisdom. Life is so fulfilling when we are working according to His plan and all for His glory!

This is such a great post! I might have to share it again! :)

joybird223 said...

Cindy, Our son, Zhenya, is 23. We adopted him at 15 in 2005. I am also a birth mother of two wonderful daughters. I can tell you there is no difference in the way we love all three of our children.

Thank you for your honesty. I cried as I read your words. I get it! I do! Zhenya has many special needs and behavior issues. But he also has so much compassion and love to give others. We consider him a gift.

My husband and I have found ourselves almost in a state of isolation for the past six months. We still continue our lives with our family as best we can, but the judgement and lack of understanding from even those I considered my closest friends has really knocked me down. I am so thankful for the other adoptive parents God has put in our lives. Their support and encouragement, and God's grace is slowly bringing us out of the isolation.

God bless you and your beautiful family! Brenda

Anne Birdsong said...

Hi Cindy, I'm Anne, from Life on the Funny Farm (and before, Bringing Borya Home). What a beautiful post!
I always see you on Lori's blog/FB, but I don't think we've ever connected. I was hoping to "follow" your blog, but I don't see a join button.

Amy said...

Friend of Kim's -- fellow adoptive mama. Beautifully written. In fact, you are JUST what another friend of mine (adoptive mama facing many obstacles on adoption #2) needs.

Yvonne said...

Hi Cindy,

I beleive you wrote that post for me...

Thank you for showing me who is my support structure even though it has all seemed to fall apart during this adoption. My best friend forwarded your post to me as this week has been extrememly difficult.

BTW, You and I talked when I was adopting my little Elina from Bulgaria thru TOL.

Thank you,