Thursday, October 23, 2014

Are You Failing Motherhood?

I love Jim Gaffigan. He is my version of the All-American cranky, funny Dad. Sorry Bill Cosby, I need that hint of dark and twisty humor in my All-American comic hero. I'll hit you up next time I need some pudding though. Tonight, on Facebook, I read one sentence Jim Gaffigan wrote and couldn't seem to move on! He wrote: 

"Being a father is definitely the most important thing I will fail at in my life." 

Even now, I can't seem to stop thinking about that statement. As a mother, one of my biggest fears is to fail my children, to fail parenting, to fail motherhood. In my world, parenting and motherhood are the most important and all-defining part of my life. I am a mother. I gave up my career for this. I stay home for this. I chose this above all else that I could do with my time. And, I honestly love my choice! It was perfect for me and my family. Yet, as a classic over-thinker, on rough days with my children, I somehow seem to convince myself that I've failed as a parent and as a mother. I will never be the perfect mother I envision myself being in my mind. And, just to add a bit of drama to reality, if I've failed those, I have no purpose in life, right?

  • I yelled. 
  • I was impatient. 
  • I focused more on social media and work than my children. 
  • The food I made wasn't nutritious enough, DEFINITELY wasn't organic, and lunch was 2 hours late. 
  • My daughter drank out of the toilet. Again. Gulp!
  • While I was upstairs power-tidying, I forgot my daughter was wearing big girl pants and she had an accident....ALL over. I remembered just as I looked up to see that she was standing in the doorway to my bathroom, where I was scrubbing the toilet and, ironically, fecal matter was running down her legs.
  • When my son began tapping at the dinner table, like he does ever single meal, and then slurping off the spoon, I told him to, "Just, please, be quiet. Now! Shut it!" 
  • I zoned in and out of listening to him tell me how his day at school went as we drove to his piano teacher's house. 
  • When he pushed his sister down as they were playing "superheroes," (aka: Running around the house like maniacs), instead of being kind and forgiving, I told him to be nicer to his sister instead of being a jerk. I could have handled that so much better.
  • When he came into our room after bedtime, for the fourth time, I threatened to spank his butt if I saw his face again before tomorrow morning. He was asking for extra cuddles.

Then, that mommy-guilt voice began, "I am a horrible mother! I'm failing my child!" My mind immediately envisions my children homeless, in prison, addicted to drugs, and almost every single worst case scenario that has been hiding in the deep, dark, twisty corners of my mind. They'll turn out horribly and it will be because of my faults, flaws, impatience, and parenting. I am failing motherhood. Then I read the quote:

"Being a father is definitely the most important thing I will fail at in my life." 

You know what? Being a mother is definitely the most important thing I will fail at in my life. And I WILL fail often. I WILL have days that I will cry myself to sleep. I WILL sink to my knees by my son's bed after a rough, failed day, kiss his head as he sleeps, and thank Heavenly Father for another chance tomorrow. By the time my children are grown, I will have failed so many days as a mother, I WILL lose count. Here's the thing, as long as I'm here, trying again each day to simply survive, I am a wonderful mother. Each day that I wake up, even begrudgingly willing to try again, I am a wonderful mother. Each day that I try, put my faith in Heavenly Father, and then do my very best, even if I fail, I know that I am doing exactly what I need to be doing. Because for every single item on my "fail" list, I have one (maybe two on a good day) things I am proud of on my "succeed" list. 

  • I cleaned so many messes without saying a word.
  • My kids are well-fed, wear clean clothing, and have a roof over their heads in a stable home environment.
  • My daughter has yet to die from drinking toilet water so often.
  • My son told me about the bunny that they found on the playground during recess, and I heard enough to respond, talk to him, and engage in conversation with him. He then, upon seeing that I was interested in his day (even if I was driving, listening, and planning meals), he told me about his girlfriend, Lizzy. Apparently, she noticed his new haircut and likes it. She was the only person in his class to notice. It made him feel nice. Also, he has a crush on his teacher because she has long hair, so he held the door open for her. 
  • I texted my daughter's birthmother off and on throughout the day. Maintaining that relationship is one of the best things I'll ever do for my daughter. We sent pictures and made a video for her. 
  • Libby and I read stories together. Kind of. She has story-ADHD....two pages in, she gets bored and needs to go get another one. She's 2, no worries.
  • My kids enjoyed wearing their new Halloween costumes and surprising Daddy when he got home from work.
  • My kids get hugs, kisses, and told that Mom loves them at least three times a day, tucked in each night, and see that Mom is a real person that makes mistakes and has to say sorry for yelling also.
So, I am proud to say that I often am failing motherhood in my own eyes and my own mind, sometimes on a daily basis. I am that real, flawed, makes mistakes, has to tell her kids she is sorry and will try to do better mother. My failing days give me even more determination to do better the next day; Be kinder, more patient, less distracted, and more involved in my children's lives. Even when I fail day after day, failing motherhood is the most important thing I will ever fail at in my life. There is no where else I'd rather be!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If my child is yours also.....

I recently read a beautifully written blog post, "If my child marries yours," written from one mother, speaking to another mother. Not just any random mother though, she writes specifically to the mother of the child that HER child will marry in the future. It left me so speechless and inspired within my heart that the overflow my my heart leaked out my eyes. Then, my wheels and cogs in my brain began spinning. I pray that she won't be mad that I used her post, original idea, a few phrases, and her writing style as inspiration and applied it to our adoption situation; hopefully she will feel honored and touched by my writing. I'd like to dedicate this to our son's birthmother, our daughter's entire birth family, and hopefully two more people out there that will come to be a part of our family through adoption...we already pray for you and love you!

If my child is yours also...

I just want you to know that I'm praying for you. 

I've prayed for you since the moment I knew in my heart that adoption was for me. I was 17 years old.

When I'm awake at night - feeding the baby, burping the baby, giving tylenol and ibuprofen to a feverish toddler, changing bedding covered in the entire day's meals, turning off Alvin the Betta fish's tank light- I think of you. Because chances are, you're awake also, but you're probably missing all these little things that you've allowed me to do for our child. I'm taking care of this beautiful tiny child that I love so much my heart could burst at any second, and I'm cherishing and carefully filing away every single detail into memories, as much as I possibly can, because I know that not so long ago, you felt this little heart that is beating against my chest tonight, beating against your chest.

I'm praying that you'll know how diligently I try to stand firm against the pressures to overcommit and hyper-schedule, and to completely ignore the voices that tell me I'm not doing enough, that our child isn't doing enough. I pray that you'll stand firm when ignorant, cold people judge your choice to place your child in our family, and you'll look them in the eye with your heart of gold and know that no matter what they think or say, your choice is enough, you are enough. 

I'm praying you'll have the wisdom to know when teach those around you about the beauty that adoption can be, just as I try to also. That your words will open their minds and soften their hearts, and they will leave your presence a better, kinder person because of how you taught them with such poise, love, and kindness. Their humanity will be so greatly increased because of your efforts. I pray with my entire soul that when you must walk away from those that just cannot understand your decision to place your child, you will walk away with integrity, confidence, your head held high, and a clear and firm knowledge that their words do not define you, your heart does. You won't be able to inspire and change everyone.

I'm praying that you will know how much your Heavenly Father and your Savior love you. So completely. They love every single cell in your body, they love every personality trait you have (and have given to our child), they love your pure heart, your kind heart, your bold heart, your shy heart, your angry heart, your broken heart, and your flaws. So do I. They are my favorite things about you, they make you a real person, not a plastic, perfect, fake barbie. I'm flawed and broken also. I pray you'll remember that I will most certainly make mistakes, probably often, throughout the years. Please know that I'll always wonder if I've done something not good enough when we don't hear from you. My brain and heart know you'll probably need time and space to cope and process on your rough days and weeks, but I'll always worry about you. And our relationship. I pray you'll kindly teach me how to do better and forgive my flaws, shortcomings, and mistakes as I come to you to ask forgiveness when I make mistakes.

I'm praying that, if you haven't, you will find love. I pray that when you tell that person that you once experienced an unplanned pregnancy and chose to give that child life, love, and placed them in our family, I pray that person will see the overwhelming beauty of your choice. I pray they will see the strength it took to do so, that they will see the heart break you've experienced because of it, and they will know that you deserve so much better than they will ever be able to give you. In our eyes, only the purest, most loyal, kind, forgiving, accepting, man will be worthy of you. We expect that man to treat you like a freaking Goddess. I pray that your love together brings years of commitment into your marriage, commitment that will swell with each year you're together, that you will grow to love the legacy you are creating just as much as you adore the person you're creating it with. I pray that legacy includes our child, because they are and all ways will be a part of you.

I'm praying that you take lots of pictures of the children you'll have with your spouse, that someday, when we're old, gray, and grandmothers, that we'll sit together looking at pictures of our children (yours, mine, and ours!), laughing at the memories, and pointing out where our grandchildren got their sticky-out ears, their mischievous grins, their mood eyes, and their adorable dimpled cheeks.

As Em stated, "I'm praying that Jesus will give you just enough strength each day to keep you from losing it but not so much that you forget Who that strength comes from."

I'm praying that we will be friends, but also that we'll be much closer than friends. I'm praying you'll know that "friends" is the stupidest term for what I pray our relationship is and has the potential to become. Right now, I regard you as a sister, because it is the closest definition that can define our relationship.... even then, what I feel for you doesn't have a description in existence yet. When you're having a rough day, I pray that you'll remember how much I love you, how much WE love you, and that you'll remember how important your presence is in our lives, our child's life, and our family. 

Will you pray for me also? 

I am so terrified of not living up to what I think you wanted for your child before we met. I know you wanted the best, and some days, I don't feel like I'm doing anything remotely right, let alone "the best!" I feel like I should somehow be better, perfect, and this superhuman mother. Please pray that I won't forget my own humanity and that I'll be able to remember that real people make mistakes and struggle and try again the next day. 

I also pray for our child, continually. I pray that we will know how to raise him in a way that will bring you peace, joy, and honor that decision to place him/her in our family. But chances are, your child, who is so much like you, will be just fine. And chances are, a lot of the time, you aren't. Chances are, if you're anything like me, you're very tired. And some days, you get so discouraged and miss this little one. I hear that birthmothers never heal from the loss they experience as a result of their decision. Sometimes, you cry yourself to sleep and your throat becomes tight as your arms ache for them. You grieve the millions of moments that you gave to us; first day of school, piano concerts, kissing scraped knees from learning to ride a bicycle, fighting with siblings, rocking them in the middle of the night and serenading nightmares away with lullabies. The emails, texts, and pictures we send of every "first" is bittersweet, as are the times you spend in our home (and us in yours), celebrating birthdays and holidays. As adoptive parents, we can only imagine these heart breaks you feel, but know we pray for you and do our best to feel empathy and to respect you as you need time and space to cope with your loss. I pray you'll feel how desperately I wish I could bear these burdens with you or some how have them removed from your mind and heart because of how much I love you and want for your life to be beautiful and happy. I pray that you'll know how much I love seeing you enjoying life and the beauty you create in our family with your presence. So it's you I am praying for right now, in the still darkness, with this baby fist pressed up under my chin and this sweet, sleepy breath on my ear. May you feel these prayers and love when you need them the most.

We are in this together, you and I (and the hubbies). We are building something beautiful with each onesie folded, each cuddle given, each trampoline flip contest, each slobbery "miss" (kiss) and "mooch" (smooch), each visit and Skype session, each step forward, each birthday and holiday, each email and phone call, and each time we tell our part of our adoption stories.

You don't know how much it means to me that you give your life everything you have, every single day...even on days when it's not much at all. Because our child gets that from you. And you both inspire me. Our child will fall, will make mistakes, will question where he gets his fiery spirit, her mood eyes, her quiet, shyness when meeting new people for the first time, and where they get their sheer will and courage to do hard things. There will be days when they'll just need to talk to you, to feel your strength and love. I want you to be there when our first grandchild is born; we'll celebrate together. And when they face the darkest days of their lives, it will be you, me, and our spouses, praying with every ounce of faith we have in our bodies that our child will come through this struggle with more life experience and as an even better, stronger, wiser person.

I promise to tend to these hearts with utmost care, to plant in them humility and peace and unconditional love for all people and selflessness...especially selflessness. I promise to teach them about Jesus and Heavenly Father every chance I get. And I promise to keep praying for you and to teach them to pray for you also.

I promise you that I will hug our little one tight when he's sad or lonely or scared or hurt, once for me, and once as a "temporary hug" for you until you can give them your "permanent hug" yourself next time we see you. Because someday, this little one - all grown beautiful with babies of their own - will be sad or lonely or scared. And they'll need to know how to hold their babies. Teach them. And have all these saved up hugs to give them. In that moment, BOTH of our love will matter.

But until then, I'm sitting here in the dark with this baby in my arms.

And I'm praying for you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to Handle Space in Adoption with Patience and Dignity

After agreeing to a closed adoption with our son's birthmother, we brought our little boy home, thrilled to be parents. I fully concede, I was very ignorant about many realities within the adoption community. I certainly didn't expect how much I would truly love a stranger who placed her child in my arms. Nor did I expect how often I would think about her, pray for her, wonder how she was doing, if she missed our son, how she was coping with her loss, and if she'd eventually want more contact. I prayed she would eventually; I pray that every single day of my life. That was almost seven years ago. Since then, we've learned much about adoption, parenting, and life. When we chose to adopt again, we both immediately knew we wanted a much, much more open adoption with frequent visits, phone calls, texts, emails, and a close family-type relationship with as many biological family members as possible. Our daughter was placed in our arms and we were thrilled to be welcomed into a beautiful, wonderful family.

Due to the three months we were matched with our daughter's family before she was born, we grew to love them very much. After placement, our relationship definitely changed. Emotions were raw, guilt, grief, and loss were being coped with by many of us, and it took a while for us to find our new normal. With time, we found our open adoption "sweet spot," the balance of communication and visits that was healthy and beneficial for both our family and our adoption family. Our focus in our relationship is healthy relations, which means, there have been times that some spaces has been needed for members of our adoption family to deal with trials, life changes, and strong emotions...that includes us, an adoptive family. When we moved from Idaho to Utah due to a company lay-off, unemployment, and new employment, naturally, our family needed a little space to get settled. There have also been times when LESS space and more love was called for and desperately needed. We continually communicate to know how and when times are healthy again. And because we are family; we love each other, care for each other, we support each other, and are concerned for each other. Knowing how to handle communication and space in an open adoption can be worrisome, especially when it is due to another loved one struggling. My first instinct is to swoop in, Mama Bear up (really, my maiden name is Bair), start fixing the person and situation, and leave only when everybody is healthy. Can't imagine that I'm a mother and a Registered Nurse, can you? However, that instinct can be polar opposite of truly helpful in some situations. So, I've needed to learn some ways to handle these times of separation, decreased visits and communication, and "break" with grace, love, and dignity.

1. Pray for them, constantly, frequently, and fervently. As a person of strong beliefs and faith, I believe this is the single most powerful action I can do for a member of my family, adoption or non-adoption family, when they are facing any sort of struggle or trial.

2. Respect boundaries. If you're not sure where the limits and boundaries are, ASK! If they ask for space, then give that space. There is no harm in asking for specific limits to know what would be helpful and healing and what could potentially cause more pain, harm, or grief. As we were grieving not having a relationship with my son's birthmother, a wise friend once counseled us this: "Our way of showing love TO HER is by respecting her wishes."

3. Be patient. As an RN, I love using wounds in analogies. Fresh wounds are raw, painful, can bleed, and are very sensitive. They are also prone to infection and a vast number of other complications if not treated properly before the healing process can continue. Wounds that heal poorly due to complications will always cause more pain further down the road, so allow for proper healing to take place. Understand that with time, the raw, fresh, bleeding, sensitive wound will stop bleeding, will scab over, the body will slowly begin to heal that wound from the inside out. That takes an undefined amount of time....each person heals differently. When the healing process is completed for this wound, the scar is nice and pink, and the pain, while often still present, is tolerable during daily living, normal activities can resume. Occasionally an activity might pull on that nice pink scar and cause acute pain again for a short while and some more healing might need to take place. But I'm awfully fond of scars. We call them badges of honor and courage in our home. Those scars come from deep pain that takes time to recover. So, just as if your struggling family member is recovering from a medical wound, allow them that time to heal however is best for them, and do it patiently.

4. Make sure the lines of communication are left open for them to use. That might entail leaving a message with an agency or lawyer with contact information, that might mean checking up with a friend in common to see how they are doing. That might even mean, if boundaries allow, sending a note to let them know you're thinking of them, love them, pray for them, and are here when they are ready for contact again.

5. Love and support them without pushing. Right after my husband was laid-off, we had a visit with our Livvie family. Of course, they knew what had happened. Right before they left, a card was slipped into my hands as I was enfolded in a large hug and then they slipped out. It was a simple card stating that they love us, knew that we'd been stressed and worried, and included a few pictures of all of us together. There was also a small gift card and an offer to give us a night out while they (or anybody) watched the children. It was thoughtful, unassuming, and exactly what we needed; showed love, support, and didn't feel pushy. To be fully honest, as an adoptive parent, promising stability and then being laid-off, I was terrified we had let them down, their thoughtful support was unimaginably relieving and healing. Right now, our daughter's birthmother is struggling and her entire family has asked for space. We don't know why, which is okay. We don't need to know specific details to love them. To let them know we're thinking of them even though it isn't healthy to have visits right now, we sent a small care package with photos, a hand drawn picture from our daughter, a note from us, and some goodies.

Sometimes, when our loved ones are struggling, it is so hard to just calm the tar down, put Mama bear back in her cage, think rationally, and act with dignity. Through experience, I've come to realize that when we allow ourselves to calm down, step back, look at the whole situation, and then search for the most healing approach, we are able to know what would be most helpful and what would be harmful to the situation and to the entire relationship with our children's biological families. Then, the greater question becomes: What can I do to promote healthy healing in the best way possible for them?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Grader!

Name: Andrew Justice

First Day of First Grade: August 19, 2014

Teacher: Miss Hahn

Favorite Color: Blue, Yellow, and Red

Favorite TV Show: Mickey Mouse Cartoons

Favorite Movie: Frozen and Epic

Favorite Breakfast: Cereal or Pancakes

Favorite Lunch: Ramen

Favorite Dinner: Spaghetti or Basagna

Favorite Book: Frozen (4th grade reader)

Favorite Letters: A. N. D. Y. (Mommy laughed hard)

Favorite Number: 100! It is the coolest of all the numbers!

Favorite People: Olivia, Daddy, Mommy, Grammy, Grampy, Baba, Bibi, and my cousins. I love everyone!

What do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor and a Daddy!

What else do you want to remember about today, Andy? I'm going to ALL DAY school! I'm excited for more than one recess and excited to show all my friends that I lost FOUR teeth over summer break. I'm excited to meet my new teacher and friends too. I get to start piano lessons next month and my first soccer game is THIS Saturday!

Last year's photo and questions.


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