Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moving From "If" To "When"

There comes a time in each of our adoptions when reality takes hold, when we let go of doubt and fear and greedily and eagerly grab hold of certainty. This may happen when a necessary document arrives, when a referral photo is stared at for the umpteenth time, when a small gift is received that fits a tiny little body that has yet to be cuddled. Prior to that moment, we adoptive parents let the wall stand tall in an attempt to protect our hearts from being broken. After all, so many things can go wrong, and our entire adoption process can come crashing down around us like a shattered plate glass window...and if you stand in front of that window you are bound to get seriously injured. Or perhaps it slowly and quietly unravels and we finally have to accept that a particular child is not coming home or we are not going to the country we had researched and prepared for all those many long hours.

What others don't understand is that using words like "if" or "maybe" is a protective mechanism. It is the equivalent of a pregnant woman not revealing her status for the first 3 months in case she has a miscarriage. When she gets to a certain point in her pregnancy, she lets out a sigh of relief and begins to share with others as she feels a certain amount of confidence that she will not lose the baby. We adoptive mommies carry around a ton of very realistic fears that stretch far beyond a bio mommy's worries of miscarriage. After all, we are dealing with government officials of two different countries...and we all know how reliable government officials are!! Hahahaha! We have a million things that can go wrong that will keep us from our prized goal, and they are all out of our control. Perhaps we try and cling to a glimmer of control by not allowing ourselves or others to make assumptions that everything will work out fine and we will indeed bring our child home. Sometimes we wait until the last minute to outfit a nursery or buy clothing, or maybe we avoid conversation when others repeatedly ask us when we are going to travel, because we don't know what is causing delays and we are fearful that even by talking about it too much we might "jinx" it.

And believe me, the single hardest moments are when you receive a new photo of your awaiting child and they have grown and changed, and you feel as if you are watching their childhood slip away right before your eyes via email. I remember receiving a new photo of Josh days before we traveled and crumbling into tears because he looked so big and sturdy, as if he was a toddler rather than the infant we knew we were bringing home. He had changed so much from his initial photo taken a few months prior, and I felt a profound sense of loss for the weeks and months that had been taken from us as we waited. This may sound silly to those who have never gone through it, but for those who have I can just imagine the nodding heads as they read this. Through these kinds of experiences we are reminded once again that loss occurs on all sides of the triad, not just on the sides of the child and the biological mother.

Today though was the moment when it happened, when in my own mind I moved from saying "if" to "when". We received some terrific news about our adoption and things are moving much faster than we anticipated. I was literally dumbfounded for a moment when I read the email early this morning, and suddenly had enough nervous energy for 10 people. Later, as I was speaking with a friend on the phone, I realized that the word "when" didn't want to lock up in my throat, and my hope had turned to certainty that I felt safer grasping on to then I had a mere 24 hours before. In such a short span of time my entire perspective changed, and I moved from doubting my faith in the process to trusting that it was really going to happen. Will this trust prove to be foolhardy? Yes, I suppose it still could...but Someone wants the girls home with us and is making it very clear that He isn't wasting any time in making sure it happens. And today, finally, I got to the stage where I will lean on that and trust it will happen. I threw "if" out the window and grabbed hold of "when" with all my heart as it flew in .

I also had another "Oh Wow, I guess that is true!" moment recently. While in Chicago my friend and I went to an Archivers scrapbooking store, where her daughters and I wandered the aisles saying at least 3,642 times "Oh...isn't this cute!!" as we looked at all the doodads and whatchamacallits. As we rounded a corner, one of my little friends said "Look at this Cindy! You'll need this soon!", and in her hand she held some Girl Scout embellishments. To say I mentally stopped dead in my tracks isn't much of a stretch, I was speechless for a moment as I processed that information...that indeed my life is about to change dramatically and I will soon be the mommy to girls, which has always scared me a bit and brought about fears of my own inadequacies and my ability to be a good role model for girls.

Growing up and even as recently as 2 or 3 years ago I never saw myself parenting girls. I am not a real "woman" in many ways...I don't wear makeup at all, perhaps twice a year, I don't wear fingernail polish, I hate doing my hair and don't even know how to really, I am not good at putting things together in terms of decorating or clothing, I am most happy in a pair of jeans and a comfy T-Shirt and that is pretty much my wardrobe 90% of the time. I am not a good cook, nor am I really interested in it. I am not "soft" or demure in my attitude or actions, but am more coarse and tough. I could care less about jewelry and wear only my wedding ring and a watch religiously. There are just a million ways in which I am not a typical beautiful, soft, gentle, organized, "womanly" kind of suburban housewife.

So here I am, standing in a store far from home looking at Girl Scout stickers and thinking to myself "Oh My....I am in BIG Trouble here, aren't I???" and a tiny amount of panic starts to set in as I contemplate a future filled with Barbie Dolls (Yuch!!!) and barretts that I don't know the first thing about how to put in hair and the color PINK everywhere!!

And just as the panic swells too far I recall a smile, tears, eyes that speak to me when words can't be translated, arms wrapped so tightly...desperately around me. And I know that for all the things I might not be, for all the things I might not be able to set a good example of, there is one thing that is the most important above and beyond all else.

They are my daughters and I am their mom.

There, I said it. For the first time. By using the word "daughters" I am claiming them as mine. Despite all my failings and all their fears, we belong to each other and will muddle through together.

And I have firmly moved from "if" to "when".


Anonymous said...

I don't know how you put your feelings into words so eloquently. You are right that your audience (at least me) was nodding right along with you as I read your whole entry (including the "panic swells" upon thinking that you won't know what to do). I keep jumping back and forth between "if" and "when." I really wish I could fully commit to "when" but I get scared of all the things out of my control.

Teresa said...

Don't worry, Barbies (yuck) and the rest don't have to be a part of your life or theirs. I am sure there are many more interesting distractions that you will find to spend your time and money on. Horses and camping sound like they would fit the bill nicely. (You can wear jeans for both and makeup would just get messy). This of course from a very like minded real woman with no makeup, jewlery, or soft nature either. :-)

Hilary Marquis said...


You are going to be a wonderful mom to your daughters just like you are to your sons. Not all girls are frou-frou pink and lace just like not all boys are dirt and football...well, maybe the dirt is ALL of them :) They are your girls, and what you may not know you call all three learn together! I know NOTHING about sports, but when my boys are old enough to start playing I'm sure I'll be intently listening to the little league coaches learning right along with them. I am so glad you've gottent to make that switch to "when", what a relief and a joy.


Lindsay said...

I was nodding my head all the way through, and then nodded even more when you wrote about nodding. In fact I may have given myself whiplash from nodding so much :)

I also smiled when you described yourself as 'not a real woman' because to be honest you could have been describing me in that paragraph. But you love your husband and kids - and I don't know how much more real it can get than that!

I'm so glad your adoption is moving forward for the girls. I remember when I first found your blog - a few months before Kenny came home - and you posted about the girls and how they weren't free. I know I felt very strongly then that you were meant to be their family and one day you would be together. I can't explain it, but I felt it. I am so happy for you that Girl Scout 'stuff' will soon be a feature in your life :)

wilisons said...

What a wonderful post! The final breakdown where that protective wall melts and we open our hearts to the children we will parent is very special. My heart is filled with happiness as I celebrate this moment of moving from "if" to "when" with you.


Ohiomom2121 said...

Dear Cindy,

You described my situation so perfectly. Like you, I have boys (we have 4, though) and am not a frou-frou mom. I have even given up on the watch, as the batteries died and I can't find the lifetime warranty that I purchased for free replacement batteries! I try practicing hair brushing on friends' daughters when we babysit, and one 5 yo announced that I do not play Barbies very well. Gotta work on that, I guess. I was never a Barbie fan as a child.

Also, our referral from Azerbaijan has gone from 5, to 6, now 7, and there seems to be little hope we will get her before late 2009, and the 2d girl referral we received has been completely lost. Hubby is increasingly unsure about continuing, and Azerbaijan keeps slipping into uncertainty over adoptions. We have watched Roza's teeth fall out and grow new ones in photos, and fear she grows ever harder to "repair" from orphanage harms.

Your posts keep me hoping and feeling like part of the adoptive community. Thank you. I will pray that your girls come home soon, and when they do, assuming they beat Roza home, I will share in your joy and follow closely how to shift from being a boys' mom to a mother of daughters! I know you blog for your family, but you are also a beacon of hope and insight to so many of us who are behind you in the adoption process.

God bless. Sherry