Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To Sum It Up

Saw a friend they other day that I never really see anymore (I haven't been to the gym in like a year!). We were just crossing paths briefly and she asked me how the transition home had been and I said it had actually been pretty hard. She smiled, a little confused, and said, "Really, because it seems from the outside looking in that it has been wonderful and smooth." (the lie of Facebook) It has been wonderful, amazing, right, but smooth, easy? Not at all.

She said, "If you could give me 3 words to sum it all up, what would they be?"

Stumped me. It can't really be summed up in three words. Mostly because all three words that jumped to my mind were negative sounding words, and this has not at all been a negative experience.

I have said this before, and I will say it again. This has been hard. Crazy hard sometimes. But it has ALWAYS been so GOOD. GOOD. Great even.

So, my three words are these:
1. Exhaustion
2. Grief
3. Isolation

Now you might wonder how these things are any different from having a biological child. Every mother to a newborn is exhausted. There is (at least for me) always a grief when things change. Most new moms go into a bit of a hibernating mode so you are typically isolated for a time (though my hibernating mode was typically over by the time I got out of the hospital). I had three kids already - didn't I know to expect that these things would happen?

Well, yes, I did, but not these things on steroids multiplied times a million. I don't really talk about this stuff much outside of my adoption community (except to my closest peeps), because frankly people just don't get it. You get such lovely comments like, "Well you are the one that chose to do this, so don't complain about it." or "Why do they have to be treated different than other kids - just let them cry, or send them to nursery and let someone else deal with them for a while." It is fine that people who haven't walked this process don't get it, they don't have to, but I also don't have to listen to their comments :-)

So, exhaustion. The actual process of adoption if grueling. I was pregnant for like 2 years! It is grueling physically because try as you may, you can't help but be consumed by the waiting for your child. Emotionally - it takes a huge toll on you. The longing, the waiting. Then you are referred this little child who is on the other side of the world and the feelings of powerlessness are consuming. They are often sick with little medical care, and you can't even be there to hold them. You get to go and spend a week with them, and then you have to leave them again to wait for the powers that be to go through your paperwork again and pray that all is in order so the process doesn't become even longer. All the while your child sits in an orphanage (even the nicest orphanage is still an orphanage), and you pray that they are growing, being fed, being held, etc. Emotional exhaustion.

Then they come home and they don't sleep - they are sick, you have a million dr. appt's, ER visits, and they take a million vials of blood and some things come up positive. They scream in terror and you are no comfort to them - you are a stranger who has taken them from the one place and the people that they know. They are up all night, throwing up, pushing you away. Sometimes you have a honeymoon period where it seems like all is going well...we never had that. She screamed from the moment she saw us walk into the transition home. We got some smiles, but lots of screaming. She was up every 45 minutes for what felt like the first months of forever.

While there is still some of this going on, it has gotten better for now. Though I expect we will re-visit this as anniversaries of certain things come up. Exhaustion.

Grief. I grieved my family changing with every biological child I had. I grieved going back to the baby stage (I am not a baby person). I did have some of that grief when we brought her home. Some of that "life would be pretty easy right now if we hadn't just brought a baby into the family", but that isn't the type of grief I am talking about. I did grieve, but I grieved for her. Also for her birthmother who had become a name that was daily on my lips in prayer and became my sister in heart though she will probably never know that.

Grief for my sweet daughter though. Every time I was up all night rocking her while she screamed and turned her head away from me, I cried out for healing for her little heart. I begged for the grief and fear inside her to turn into trust. I cried that I didn't get the first 6 months of her life. I cried for the things she would never get back, a family, a culture, an amazing country. On the day she was baptized I cried that her birth mom couldn't be there to see it. I grieved for the looks our family got, though she is still too young to see the stares - even the curious, smiling stares can still be invasive. I was prepared for that for our family, and hopefully will be prepared to help her walk through however that will feel to her when she gets old enough to realize. I grieve when she screams out in pure fear and terror at something that should be no big deal and wonder if there is trauma that causes that response. Some shadow in her brief past that causes that fear. There is a lot of grief in adoption.

Isolation. I think this one was the hardest because it felt personal. I knew we would cocoon for as long as we needed to to make our daughter feel comfortable and attached to us. I knew we would withdraw from the world for a while. I prepared and talked to the friends around me and felt comfortable doing that. We cocooned the best we could (as in I have 3 other kids, came home February 10 and had to be at my daughter's V-day party on February 14!). We did withdraw from much of our daily life and nested in our home trying to make things as calm as we could for her so she could get to know us and feel safe with us. I expected and wanted all that to happen. We had some people in our lives that loved us so well. Brought food, called almost daily to check on me. Came over at nap times or after bed to sit and talk with me, just let me cry on the phone or on their shoulder, take my other kids to play or watch them while I went to the 10th dr. appt of the week. But we also had people in our life that just dropped off the face of the earth. People that didn't seem to have the patience to wait out our intentional withdrawal from the social scene and just moved on. That felt very isolating, but also very freeing. Cocooning is a choice you make and we knew that going into adoption. We knew that we would have people fall out of our lives because of the choice we made, and we were OK with that.

So, it has been hard. Hard for me, hard for my marriage, hard for my other kids (though they are so crazy in love with her and have been from day 1). But oh my word, the good. The joy. It is so good. I would not go back and change any of it. Knowing that it was going to be hard, I would not not do it again. I would do it again right (though we aren't and may never I don't know).

I finally got around to reading Kisses from Katie and one of the things that I loved about that book was when she talked about the time right after she moved to Uganda. She talked about the absolute joy and peace she had every day, knowing she was making the right decision, knowing that God had put her right there, and then at night she would break down with loneliness, fear. She wondered which was how she was really feeling. How could she be so depressed and fearful at night, when during the day she KNEW that what she was doing was exactly what she was supposed to be doing. Then she realized that both are true. She was BOTH overjoyed and overwhelmed, both peaceful and frightened.

How can something be so VERY HARD, but also so VERY GOOD? I am not sure I understood this until I went through this process.

We have come a long way in 10 months for sure, and still have a long way to go. So thankful. 


  1. Cortney, your heart is beautiful as always. I am thankful yours is Ribka's family, and that you have continually shared your honest story. Such an encouragement!

  2. Such a great blog. You guys are amazing people, and what you are doing is such a perfect example of the love of Christ. Peace and Love to you kids!

  3. This is a very helpful post. We just got on the waitlist, and I am learning what to prepare for, and that sometimes, you just can't prepare.

    Praying for beautiful days filled with less grief and more peace.