Monday, June 25, 2012

support

First, Nate & I would say the support we have received has been amazing. We are so blessed. I recently read this blog post by adoptive mom, Jen Hatmaker (thanks to another Colombian adoptive-mom-to-be, Leigh Anne!) and could appreciate her point of view and the comedy :) Not all of the points apply to us, but could be helpful for anyone who may know other adoptive families as well! Here is most of the post:

Supporting Families Before the Airport

Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays.

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.

2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category,
where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)

3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb,
but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died.

4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.”
What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.

5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained.
See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately.

Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:

1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases.
We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy CafĂ© and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde.

2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day.

4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see
Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits.

Supporting Families After the Airport

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.)

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair.

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries.

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because
this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from.

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better.

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport.
Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days.

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag.

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart.

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that
this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process.

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine.

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here.

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy.

Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week.

Thank you for being the village. You are so important.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

promises to our children..

In no way do I want to claim that I know anything about parenthood. I am fully aware that there are things I would say now (like "I will never do that!" or "I am going to make sure my kids always...") that when real life happens, I will live the complete opposite. I will learn what is reality and give up on some of the desires for my children- because I cant tell them how to live their lives and I will have to accept that (some day).
But I still want goals, I still want to be held accountable for certain life lessons. So I have compiled a few things to start with- I may fail at encouraging every item on here, but I at least want to say I tried :)

1. I pray you know what a personal relationship with Jesus means.
I don't want you to feel like you have to be a Christian because I am a Christian. I can't make you want to follow Christ. Being a Christian should not be about what you should and shouldn't do. Being a Christian means that you are in awe of what He did and is doing, and WANT to serve Him. When you love someone- you want to do things that would make them happy and don't want to do things that would make them sad. I pray that you will see the glory of God and how much He loves you. I pray you will feel the peace of the holy spirit, and the peace that comes when you give your life to Him.
2. We want to say "yes" as much as possible.   
We would give you the world if we could. We want to give you freedom and encourage you to explore and learn from experiences!  However, we will need to say "no" sometimes. You do need guidelines and structure yet too (and daddy just cant afford to buy you every toy under the sun). Even grown ups have to tell ourselves "no"- life doesn't go as smooth if you just say "yes" all the time.
3. Never be ashamed of who you are.
God made you just the way you are on purpose, and has put you just where you are meant to be. Never think the topic of your adoption (or any other topic that is important to you) is off limits. There may be things about your story that are/will be sad and painful, but you should never be ashamed of it. Your story defines who you are and helps you grow in the direction you need to!
4. We will always be proud of you and love you!
Even if I don't share your passions, we don't look the same, have the same personality- we are still a family. Families are not based on looks or hobbies, but on love. 
I promise to support you in everything you do to better yourself, everything you do to help yourself grow, everything you need to do to help define who you are. We love that every day you will be a gift to our family, and we will never take that for granted. 
5. Enjoy the present.
Good things are happening right now. If you keep looking to the next best thing, you will keep missing it. Life happens so fast. You can have goals and look forward to important milestones, but just make sure to enjoy those who are around you right now.
6. Be a friend to everyone.
You will always need a friend to laugh and find comfort with. Find a core few that you can feel especially close and connected with, but don't lose contact with others. Friends will disappoint and reject you, but if you learn the power of forgiveness you will be able to experience so much more in life. There are so many out there who just need someone to be their friend, if only for a few minutes- it is likely that you will get more out of that experience than they will.   
7. Work hard & dream big dreams.
Even if you fail. You can learn much more from failure than you can from success, so don't be afraid to fail miserably. Give everything you do your best shot (a lesson I learned from my parents: you only have to do it once if you do it right the first time!) . It is not about money, it is about learning discipline and proving to yourself you can do anything you set your mind to.
8. Try to have a positive attitude and be quick to laugh
Your life will never go as planned, You will disagree with how things are handled. But things could always be worse. Being positive, no matter what the circumstances, means that you aren't giving up. Encourage the people around you, there are many who need it.
Laughter is life's best medicine. It is important to take things seriously when need be, but so many things can drastically improve with just a simple smile :)  
9. Be your own person.
You are here to be you. You have many people who want the best for you: us, your birth family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. We all will have things we want you to do, but ultimately your life is up to you to live. Finding out who you are and living life in a way that is meaningful to you, is important. Don't spend your life trying to make all of us happy, we will be happy if you are happy!
10. We are trying our best.
We know we will make mistakes, raise our voices, be quick to judge, or lack patience. Hopefully we will be able to tell you that we are sorry, and you will be willing to forgive us.
We have learned some of life's hard lessons so we hope you listen to some of the things we have to say. But some day you will find out that mommy and daddy aren't quite the superheros you thought we were- but that is ok, because we keep trying to do better.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We will not be discouraged

Recently it was confirmed by our agency that delays on our estimated wait may be in our future.

It was explained to us that in a recent news story, a reporter in Colombia interviewed families who accused ICBF (the agency in Colombia that oversees adoptions) of taking their kids away from them and putting them up for international adoption. While ICBF will not comment on individual cases due to confidentiality reasons, we have been informed that all investigations in these accusations show that ICBF did not remove any children from families in an in-ethical manner (children were likely removed from their homes without their parents consent due to neglect, for example). Other accusations against adoption houses were also made, however all of the adoption houses that Bethany works with have been investigated and have passed all inspections.

Due to the spotlight that ICBF has been under however, they are not taking any chances. They are being extra cautious by having multiple people review paperwork and asking for more clarifications or updated documents that normal. This slows everyone down. We don't know how much this would affect our overall wait time, but have to be thankful that ICBF is being cautious. We want to make sure that every child who is put up for adoption, and who is adopted, is done so for the right reasons. We are meant to be the last resort, and as odd as it sounds: we want it to be that way (ask me to elaborate more some time if that does not make sense). We aren't adopting internationally in order to steal someone else's child, we aren't adopting because it is "easy" and we have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at anyone who will give us a child. We have good intentions, and want our children to know that while the world is not perfect, we tried to do it right!

It is comforting to know that God didn't have to change His plan because of this "news".  These "delays" did not alter His plan. He knows the time, and part of having faith and trusting in Him means that we will follow him through the ups and the downs! Yes, waiting hurts- in fact, I think that sometimes my heart literally aches, and sometimes I have pimples that I want to give names such as "unknown wait time" or "finances".
But what hurts the most about waiting (other than our own desires to hold this child in our arms)? Knowing that there are children, and right now one in particular, that does not have a mommy to rock them to sleep, or a daddy to read with them, parents to wipe away the tears and give that firm foundation that they will always be there and will always love them...

The overall story: things may take longer than expected, they might not. And we are ok with it.