I wrote this in September of 2012, when our daughter was four months old and in the thick of a difficult, sensitive stage. It was new ground for all of us, and I found myself struggling not only with her specific needs but also with being a parent of three children (two of them eighteen months apart…challenging after a four-year gap between the first two). Since then, the “other story” has continued to manifest itself in beautiful and surprising ways, and I’m so grateful to have recorded some of the hard things so we can remember the journey as it continues. I’m re-posting it here in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month. No two adoption stories are the same, but here is a part of ours.
Open your eyes to the bigger story.
Because there are always two stories. There’s the one that is right in front of your face. The one that seems inevitable. The one you don’t have to try very hard to see.
The other story hides: under a crying, scrunched up face, under your heavy sighs as you bounce and rock, under the way you try to not feel anything because you’re getting bone-tired weary of the rollercoaster. This is never-ending, you think in those moments.
But it’s not. It will pass. See how she smiles when she’s on her tummy, reaches her hands out to bright, colorful objects, stares at the turquoise wall you painted together a few weeks before she came? Things do change, but it’s so slow that you can’t see it until afterward.
So look back, and see. Remember when she slept twenty hours a day, and you had to wake her up to eat? When she was never happy, never calm, unless she was asleep? And now she smiles at people. You play with her, for goodness’ sake! She doesn’t awake with a start, not every time. Remember when Silas was always in her face, and you had to guard her from his curious, not quite gentle ways? Look at him now, how he pats her on the back and brings her bottle.
There is a hole in your heart, and so you feel it. You’re grieving the loss of things that every baby and every mother should experience, in a perfect world. It aches to think about that, but there it is. The stubborn, lingering rescue fantasy is rightly breaking. There is a redemption story here, but it’s mixed in with unfamiliar emotions you’re struggling to name.
It’s not any of the stories that swirled around in your mind before. It’s so real, so right now that you kind of want to sabotage it because it’s scary as hell. Every day you have to lay down that fear, or it will eat you alive. You didn’t know what a mirror this would be, but here it is.
Right now, this story is mostly about humility, and accepting help, and family. You don’t do this on your own; neither does she. It’s a story about burdens, and dividing the load. It’s a story about a different kind of love, and it will be a story about more than that, too. We have much to learn.
So don’t worry about things like bonding and visits and all the what-ifs. Just do the little things. Maybe she’ll eat some banana again today, perhaps not cry when you do floor play time. Maybe you’ll bite your tongue and count to ten when Silas is head-butting your legs while you make dinner. Maybe you’ll take time to just lay with him while he takes his nap, to kiss his unruly little head. Maybe you’ll listen carefully to Nicky while he talks about school, and maybe you’ll notice again how Ricky’s coming into his own as a father in a whole new way and smile with gratefulness for all of it.
These are the little things that make up a bigger story.