Tag Archives: adoption

accepting help with open hands

Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to fear.

Because of our daughter Aimee’s history, she has some developmental delays–enough to qualify for Early Intervention services. We’re grateful, of course, that these services are available (not only that, but licensed, caring professionals come to our home, at times we choose, and we don’t pay a dime.) But I’ve noticed something about my daughter’s therapy appointments: I tend to be tired and sad afterward.

I’ve struggled with how much of this to share, because Aimee’s story is her own to tell. My hope is to tell the truth about my experience, while protecting hers.

2012-07-07_14-01-40_245July 2012

Over and over, my husband and I have been reminded that Aimee is on her own schedule and she’ll reach milestones when she’s ready and so we try to keep faith that things will happen when the time is right. From the time she came to our home, tiny and fragile at six weeks old, to now, we’ve navigated a tricky balance between gently pushing her forward and pausing when her cues prompt us to.  When she took her first steps and pointed to the dog magnet and found her nose, we cheered a little louder and clapped a little longer than with our other children, because she had to work harder, and longer, to get there.

Still,  fear casts a shadow over whatever milestone is supposed to come next.

Fear provokes a helpless, anxious response to the big questions: Can I accept any outcome, while continuing to work for the best possible outcome? How will my daughter be treated in life? What will school be like? Will her heart be broken by careless words?

Will those careless words be mine?

photo (2)September 2012

Since we recently moved to a new state, we’ve been establishing care with a new agency, and that means meetings, assessments, and interviews. Last week we did what’s called a Routines Based Interview– a tool used to outline the activities of a typical day and find any areas of concern or potential for improvement. This sort of thing stresses me out, to be honest. It feels invasive and intimate (because it is) but at the same time I know it’s for my daughter’s good. It’s a first step for the therapists, to direct their focus.

Part of the interview was to identify our support network–all the people in our lives who interact with Aimee in some way. The last time we did one of those was in New Mexico, and let’s just say the page was full. Church, friends, neighbors, babysitters, day care, social workers, therapists, grandparents–we don’t have some of those resources here, and it takes time to build up the sort of support network we had before.

One of the interview questions was “when you lie awake at night and worry, what do you worry about?”–ironic because it caused that very thing. That’s what Early Intervention does though: it brings to light things that may not be noticed otherwise, and it’s a good thing because that’s the first step to any sort of change. And this particular exercise helped me to realize that I was carrying the burden of responsibility for making things happen.

Throughout this journey, I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not the one in control. I lay down the burden, but I’m quick to pick it up again.

20130621_122039June 2013

I spent some time with my fear: praying, journaling, airing my thoughts out loud with my husband. He has many of the same fears, and shared how he handles them. In stillness, I was able to see myself clenching my fists tightly when it came to Aimee’s care. I realized that I have some discomfort with the “special needs” label. No one wants their child to be labeled, of course, but this had more to do with my own bias. Deep down, I was angry about it.  During the foster-adoption process, there were so many unknowns that I simply started filing them away in the back of my mind. It hurts to bring things to the surface, and so I’ve been in pain, but it’s a pain with a purpose. Like childbirth.

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The next time our therapists came over, Ricky was able to stay home for the morning. He wrangled Silas while I talked to the Early Childhood Educator and Speech Language Pathologist about their findings from the interview. Together we came up with some practical, helpful ideas and a manageable plan to implement them. We all sat on our living room floor and read books, practicing pointing and naming, singing songs and laughing at Silas and Aimee’s antics. I noticed, surprised, that I felt light and hopeful. I had put the burden of Aimee’s well-being down, and opened my eyes to the people around me who are working for her good as well.

The interview served two purposes: helping us to figure out the next steps for Aimee, and helping me to let go of some toxic baggage. The first was the intended purpose, the second I’m taking as a gift. We can’t care for children well without caring for ourselves too.

IMG_6917October 2013

The mood’s been different around here since then. My energy to parent creatively has been renewed. We’ve been painting, and playing dress-up, vrooming cars around on the floor, having spontaneous dance parties, building train tracks and reading under blankets–all things I long to do with them, all things I find incredibly difficult when I’m burdened down. I find myself more like the mother I want to be, because I’ve accepted help–externally and internally.

Making myself vulnerable to outside help is a really uncomfortable process. It involves shedding light on my insecurities as a parent, and admitting that I don’t have it all together, that truthfully I’ve been struggling to find balance ever since adding a third child to our family.

It takes bravery to show up for our real, everyday lives.

I want to write on every mirror in the house: ASK FOR HELP. And when the help comes, let it in. Internalize it. Open the fists, see the good that’s all around.

20140119_155001January 2014

I’m still unpacking my fears, but I’m determined to remind myself daily that I’m part of a team. It’s not all up to me. This frees me to focus on our precious Aimee–to notice her curiosity, unique personality, progress, setbacks, and downright cuteness– and just be her mother, her advocate, her cheerleader.

So thank you, pain. Thank you, discomfort. There are beautiful things to come.

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two stories

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.

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