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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Melissa is gonna be alright!

If you know me, or you have followed this blog for more than a few months then you know about my struggle with infertility, PCOS, fallopian tube failure, two ectopic pregnancies, and five female surgeries. What you may not know (or maybe you did?) is that although I have always been an outspoken advocate of adoption, and have always encouraged people to build their families through adoption, I was not always sure it was for me. I loved the idea of adoption, but I wanted to adopt in addition to having my own children . . . or so I thought.
The truth is, I never pictured myself with a newborn. I never pictured myself giving birth. Even as a young girl, then as a young lady, even when my older sister started having kids and a few years later when my friends started having babies, I just couldn't fix an image in my mind of myself with a newborn baby. I don't remember if I have ever admitted this or not. And yet, somehow, in spite of the fact that I never carried a baby for very long or in the right place, and despite the fact that I never experienced labor or a baby shower, I have never had a shortage of children in my life. I have, in fact, parented 29 children for a period of a month or longer, some for many years, and all have stayed in my heart forever.
The past year has been life changing. After years of loving and parenting other people's children and giving them back, John and I decided to open ourselves up once more but only to adoption of a "legally free" sibling group. We thought we had it all figured out and took our classes, got our license, medical exams, chased down documents on everything from our dogs to our septic tank, and began the agonizing chapter of "fostering to adopt." A phone call on March 27, 2012 changed our lives. In a brief, nearly hysterical phone conversation with the head of the foster-adopt unit at our agency, we learned that a sibling group ages 5, 2 and 1 were waiting for us.
I had really come to a point in my life where I grieved the loss of all things baby-related: car seats, onesies, and even diapers! So it was quite the irony to suddenly have three children in car seats, two in diapers, and three who very badly needed our constant attention.
We fell in love quickly but it was such a hectic time for us. I can't even remember the first few weeks because I was so exhausted. Rather than falling asleep from grief, I was collapsing from exhaustion, jerking awake to the sound of a little one crying out from her crib. I stopped counting the days between my cycles, and I stopped buying pregnancy tests every time I felt the slightest bit "off." And in the midst of all this chaos and joy, my younger sister announced her pregnancy. I can honestly say that I was happy for her. And I wasn't just happy for her, I was happy for me. I was happy for me not only because I had my babies, but because I was truly happy. I had my babies, and now she would have hers. My younger sister, who has faced her own heartache in different ways in life, was now happily married and expecting her first child. It was so different than when I saw strangers in the mall and envied their pregnancy. It was different from even seeing some of my friends having babies with ease and no planning. I was truly happy for my baby sister, knowing she would not have to deal with the pain of infertility and the frustration of feeling your body has let you down in the most basic way.
But still, I wondered how I would feel when her baby came.
Months went by and we continued to bond with our little ones, to teach them to trust us, to help them work through their fears and insecurities. And all the while, God was working on my fears and insecurities.
December came, and so did my beautiful little nephew, Isaiah. I surprised myself by wanting to drive up and see him when he was just a few days old. I took my grandmother and we made a day of it. And when I held him, he was just breathtaking. I felt little tears spring into my eyes - but not sad, angry tears. They weren't tears of jealousy or envy, they were tears of joy at his perfect little face and soft skin, tears of gratitude in knowing that God has spared my precious sister the pain of infertility. Tears of knowing that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him.
It's February and we have been told that by the end of the month, we will change from the children's foster parents to their "adoptive" parents. A date will be put on the calendar in superior court, and we will plan a party. It's really not all that different from having a baby. There is the anticipation, the joy, and the celebration of a new start. And while we were in the throes of finishing paperwork and signing forms, I noticed my body was feeling a little different. I noticed sensitivity in places that made me wonder: Am I pregnant? 
Immediately, I considered that since it happened twice before, it certainly is inside the realm of possible. But I worried that if I was in fact pregnant, it would be another loss, another tubal pregnancy. I put it out of my mind for a week, and then yesterday I was so tired, so exhausted that I had to leave work early and come home to sleep. I slept for three hours and told John about my fears. We talked about it, but I didn't obsess about it. Life is just so different now.
Today I went to work and got my period. My apologies to any guys who are reading this- I know you probably don't like to hear about these things, but you know that is the "clue" that I was reading my body's signals all wrong. But this time, unlike the eighty-nine times before, I didn't collapse in the bathroom floor in a heap of sobs and cry out to God to end my suffering. I didn't storm out of the bathroom angrily, or mutter any cuss words to the tampons. I just completed the restroom task and went back to work. I cut up with my coworkers, talked with some of our residents, worked on a grant proposal, answered some phone calls, and finished up our quarterly newsletter. And I realized the most wonderful fantastic thing has happened in my life- God has mended my broken heart! God has used my three little ones to mend my broken heart. God has really taken hold of me and I am gonna be alright!
I won't be tied to the yoke of jealousy and resentment all my life. I really will be okay. In fact, we will all be okay. Our wacky, cracked-up and put-back-together-again family is gonna be alright.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

For the Bible Tells Me So

Tonight when I was doing the bedtime ritual with Lizzie and Cole, I realized how far we have come in the past ten months. Now, ask me at a different time- like when Camden referred to me as "Woman" in the van on the way to school this morning, and I might break down and say sometimes it feels hopeless. But lately, it feels like we just might be okay. Bedtime was such a nightmare in the beginning - John and I still laugh about it. The first night the kids were "home", we expected it would be hard, but we had no idea - and for awhile it only got worse. Nighttime was horrendous, complete with inner-ear-rupturing screaming like you only hear in horror flicks. In the first two months, it took an average of three hours for Camden to stop screaming at bedtime. His screaming kept everyone else up, and needless to say, nobody got any rest. Neither of the babies had any type of nap schedule, and crankiness was an art form. We tried every trick in the book- reading stories, playing soft music, rocking in a big rocking chair, singing songs, counting sheep, "herbal" home remedies, begging, pleading, attempts at coercion, various night lights, rides in the car, all forms of stuffed animals, and of course, punishment. Nothing seemed to work. But slowly, miraculously, over a very long period of time, we developed a routine. The routine is nice.
After dinner we bathe the children, put them in their pajamas and we watch a little TV together. Most recently this is "Go, Diego, Go" which the kids all love and they especially think it is hilarious that John answers every one of Diego's questions with the wrong answer. They think John really is that stupid and that makes them howl with laughter, except for Lizzie who isn't quite sure why she is laughing, but everyone else is - so why not?
After Diego (or Go Dee Go, as Lizzie calls it) we brush our teeth. After this spectacle of spitting and foaming at the mouth and arguing about doing it without grown-up help, Cole and Lizzie have some play time in their room, where for about twenty minutes that can just cook imaginary food in the play kitchen or dress the baby dolls and feed them with play bottles. I swear my kids have a nicer (play) kitchen than I had in my first house. They certainly have a better toaster. Anyway, this is a nice, quiet time because I watch them play and remember the nights when my heart ached for them and I had no idea where they were.
Tonight of course, followed Camden's weekly therapy session which is turning into Melissa therapy as well. It seems like every week, the light comes on more and more for not just my six year old, but for me, as I realize the enormous task ahead of us, but also as I realize all the baggage my little one has to overcome. It seems like every week, I am a little more aware of all my babies have had to live through. Maybe I shared this on my blog a year ago but we finished our adoption home study at the end of October in 2011. I can honestly say that as soon as we were "approved" to adopt a sibling group, I knew they were "out there" somewhere. I could hardly sleep for thinking of them (imagine the irony/ I couldn't sleep when I should have been storing up sleep!) At night before I drifted off, I would lie awake praying for my babies and for the hands of the person who was caring for them. I prayed that someone was tucking them in, singing to them, praying for them, and loving them and telling them everything was going to be okay. I ached for them and wrote journal entries and blogs about my desperate search and longing for them to be with me.
Part of my little ones' very sad and mixed-up story is that they lived in five foster homes before coming to us. Lizzie went into foster care when she was just four months old. She learned to sit up, crawl, and walk in the home of a caregiver who was later accused of abusing children and the home was closed. In a series of therapy sessions, and over the past ten months, Camden has disclosed more and more about the different homes he lived in, and sadly, the caretaker who had my children when John and I were first "officially approved" was not caring for them appropriately. My babies were broken down, screamed at, pushed into the floor and threatened. Bedtime was a sad time, and a lonely time for them. And that just tears at my heart because all that time I was here longing for them, and I didn't know their names or where they would come from.
So sometimes during the play time just before bed, I have to hold back the tears as I think about how grateful I am to have them here now. I sit in a big pink rocking chair and watch them playing so happily - securely - safely. I delight in them and cherish these moments. Sometimes Cole puts the dollhouse mom into Handy Manny's work truck and hauls her off to "jail". Sometimes he picks up a baby doll and beats her bottom, shouting "you go to bed, bad girl!" and I wonder why he has to remember those things. But most of the time, they are just sweet and happy little ones. Lizzie looks up at her clothes hanging in the closet and says, "My dress! My shirt! My hat! My pants!" and Cole points to the letters in his name and says "There's my name, Mommy!" I am so thankful that they recognize this as their home, these are their toys, we are their parents. I cannot describe the joy that it brings me just to have them call me "Mommy," and to be so happy to see me every morning and again in the afternoon after work/school.
After a short play time, I let Cole turn off the lamp and they crawl into my lap. We sing (in this order every night):
Old MacDonald (had a horse, chicken, cow, pig and sometimes when we are in a crazy mood, dragon)
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
You are my Sunshine (and you are my Cole-bug)
I see the Moon
Skinamarinkeedinkydink (or however in the heck you spell it)
and finally . . . Jesus Loves Me
And what is really strange is that my three little ones who never attended church or heard about God's love before coming to live here have absolutely SOAKED UP our faith. Cole asks every morning "we go to church today?" and is sad and disappointed when the answer is no. The boys went from shouting out cuss words while we attempted to say a blessing before each family meal to literally arguing over which one of them gets to ask the blessing. Camden says "Thank you God for the food, Amen." and Cole-bug just says "Thank You God, Amen." but it's just the sweetest music to my ears. And although they love Old MacDonald and You are my Sunshine, the room becomes slow and still during "Jesus Loves Me." What follows is generally a conversation about God, Heaven, or Jesus. Once last week, it went like this:
"Mommy, where is Jesus' house?"
"It's in Heaven,"
"Where Porky lives?"
"Yes, Porky lives in Heaven."
"Does Porky watch Jesus?"
"I'm sure Porky loves to watch Jesus."
"I want to go to Heaven and see Porky and Jesus."
"You will one day, buddy."
"Mommy? What is "Tells me So?"
"What do you mean buddy?"
"It says, "Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. What is tells me so?"
Trying my best to explain to a three year old that the Bible teaches us about God's love through Jesus Christ, I chattered endlessly about the Bible and its simple yet profound truth. And what's even harder to explain is that this song isn't saying "Jesus loves me" because of something I did, or "Jesus loves me" because I'm good, or because I love Him, or because I read my Bible, or because I go to church, or even because I believe in Him and follow Him. The song says Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me So. It's not a feeling, it is a fact. It is as much a fact to say Jesus loves me as it is for me to tell my children how much I longed for them before they ever came to be mine. They can read in my journals or my blog and say "Mommy loved us before we even became hers. Mommy's journal tells me so!" This is a love based on blind faith and on a choice. God's love for me - not based on anything I say or do, is a simple fact repeated over and over again in the Bible. Jesus does love me - this I do know - for the Bible tells me so. He loves me in spite of my many imperfections, in spite of my past, in spite of my wildly ranging emotions, in spite of my struggles with faith. He loves me not because of anything I can do for Him. He just loves me.
And so tonight, in the middle of my nighttime ritual with my precious children, I was stopped cold in my tracks. As if I was three years old again, in blind faith, I reached out and took hold of that promise. A promise I will pass on to my children.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible Tells me so.