Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 3

In Part 2 I shared with you that all of our big decisions had been made and some of the logic behind them. And now that we were well into the process two things had to happen: a lot of money had to be paid to people and a lot of waiting had to be done.

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Not our photo.

The waiting…. I can’t even begin to describe it. It was like impatiently waiting for something that might never happen. We knew all along that adoption was a risky business. We gathered from all we’d heard that it was possible that in the end, we’d do a lot of waiting and never get anything out of it. So the waiting sucked. And I didn’t do it well. I cried, I moaned, I impatiently bitched, and I got really sick of people asking me, “How’s the adoption!!??” with their smiley-faced good intentions. I hated it. AND I hated that I hated it. But the only thing we could do was wait.

While we were waiting, we needed around $35,000 to bring our yet unknown children home to us. We started from where we were at and by the grace of God we came up with all the money we needed. Here is how that looked for us.

  1. Save, budget and cover expenses as they come up.
  2. Take on extra jobs. I was doing photography, so I offered my services to raise funds for our adoption. Andy offered his handy- man services to friends and he made some
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    money helping people with projects.

  3. Craft Fairs! This was the start of Shabby Alpaca! I made a few things and sold them for a profit at smaller craft fairs. My mom told me about some cute alpaca things I could add to my inventory so I did that, too. I made a big poster that I displayed at all fairs saying why I was raising money and so all the profits went to our adoption.
  4. Flip a house. Andy was out of work during part of this time and his parents graciously helped us buy a house that was a total flip. Andy remodeled the whole thing and we sold it for a profit.
  5. Knowing the best and most generous people. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people gave. It was a lot. People gave and gave and gave.
  6. One major fundraiser. I hate asking people for money, so I only wanted to do it once. My friend Kristin helped me come up with the idea for a Black and White party. I put major effort and creativity into this party and it really paid off. I mailed out (really awesome) invitations that included a “can’t come but will send money” option and lots of people from out of town just sent money.

    For the party, I had everyone wear black and white clothes, all the songs had black or white in the lyrics, all the food was black and white and we even had a photo booth (my favorite touch!). We had LOTS of hands on deck for this party; many friends helped us out, so we couldn’t have done it alone. In the end, we raised almost $7000 from just that fundraiser. And as it always is with God, it was enough….

  7. So now, we’ve waited and raised funds….in the next and final installment, our children will finally be in our arms, but not without sweat, threats and tears.

 

XO,

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Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 2

Now that we had decided we would adopt internationally to add to our family, we had to decide where to adopt from. There are probably hundreds of places that you can adopt from, but we knew only about China, Russia, and Africa. Truly at the beginning of this process we were totally open to wherever God would have us adopt from.
One thing we knew all along was that “God knew”.  We knew we had to ask the questions, but we also knew that God knew where our children would be from.

We started to think about all the places where there were children who needed families and suddenly, it became totally overwhelming. We were paralyzed with indecision about where we should adopt from.

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Because we knew there was no time for fear and indecision (I had already waited 2 years, people!), we decided to decide and to decide once and for all where we were going to adopt from. Once we settled on that, Congo was actually an easy decision. Congo was our introduction to this whole international adoption thing and it just made sense. At the time adoptions began in Congo, adoption agencies were boasting (falsely) a 9 month start to finish adoption process, the US government was offering a massive tax credit for adoptive parents, and we had a Congolese connection with Andy’s sister. So, we decided: Congo.

Now that we decided, we selected our agencies (we needed two- one for the domestic side and one for the international side) and we started the whole paperwork process. I’m not going to bore you with this, suffice to say- everything you’ve heard about the paperwork involved for adoption is true. If you plan to adopt, buy yourself a new pack of pens and plan on spending many waking hours filling out paperwork. Luckily, I am organized and driven so I dove right in. For someone like me, the paperwork was a breeze. My favorite game as a child was to play “office” so this was all fun for me. I planned date nights for Andy and I to just fill out paperwork and I actually loved every minute of it.

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Once we were signed on with agencies and filling out paperwork, we knew the next thing that would happen was a whole hell of a lot of waiting. So we decided to get to know what we didn’t know. I knew of two adoptive families through my job at Compassion, so I called them up, told them we were adopting and invited ourselves over to dinner at their homes. That was one of the best things I did during our wait. These families were open and honest about adoption- the good, the amazing, the bad, and the awful and it was just what we needed to hear. Like everything in my life, I had an unrealistic set of expectations about what adoption would be like. (Honestly, this is one of the biggest struggles with prospective adoptive parents- unrealistic expectations.) So meeting with families who were 2, 3, 5 years into the process and had their children home was really helpful. It enabled us to lower the bar and set realistic standards.

We decided early on to adopt siblings instead of just one child. The cost was much lower to adopt two children at once, rather than to adopt twice, and we knew we wanted more than one child, so it was easy to just do it all at once. We figured we didn’t know what we didn’t know about just having one kid, so we dove in (Andy and I tend to do this a lot..!).

Someone told us to “get the youngest kids you can” and that is sound advise (but it doesn’t address the fact that trauma impacts the brain even in utero). But getting younger kids can make the attachment and bonding processes easier, so there is that. We figured since we wanted two kids we would need to up our age limit a bit so we would have a better chance of getting a referral sooner, so we decided any gender, two siblings under 5 years old and that was our criteria.

Now that we had the big decisions made, paperwork underway and the waiting began we needed money. And lots of it. In the next part I’ll share how we raised funds for our international adoption.

XO,

CELINA - signature

Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 1

We get a lot of questions about our adoption. From why we chose the Congo, to how much it cost to adopt. In this four- part series, I’ll be sharing about our adoption process and answering the most frequently asked questions. For those of you in the process of adopting or considering adoption, this will be interesting. For those of you stalking me (exactly zero people) this will be good information for your crazy wall and for those of you completely uninterested in this, I’m sorry. I hope Amanda posts something soon….come back 4 blogs from now. We’ll be here.

The truth is, like many good things in life, we didn’t sign up for this adventure, but adventure is what we got!

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As you know, it was after two years of trying to conceive that Andy and I finally decided we needed a new Plan A.

The main goal of Plan A was to grow our family by adding children. We figured if we couldn’t get pregnant or it took us exceptionally long (and for me 2 years was already a lifetime!), we had better start taking steps toward the goal of having kids. I want to state something clearly here because people make assumptions: my motivation for adopting was to add children to our family. There are many wonderful people whose motivation for adopting is to help children, but we are not those people. We are the people who wanted kids and adoption was our route to getting them.

Backing up in our story here: we found that if you can’t conceive your own children, there are a couple of ways to grow your family. 1. You can adopt. 2. You can pursue any number of fertility treatment options or 3. You can decide you’ll be OK without kids. Option 3 was not an option for us and while option 2 was, it just seemed to us like there was the possibility of dumping thousands of dollars into something that in the end might not work- we didn’t have an explanation for our infertility, so we couldn’t justify the expense. Adoption seemed like the best and most surefire way to add kids to our family.

Flag_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo.svgIt was about the time we decided that adoption was the route to purse that Andy’s sister was working in the Democratic Republic of Congo with an international aid organization. She had a friend from college who had just adopted three children from DRC and was keeping a blog about it. Somehow that blog made it’s way to us and both Andy and I read it. It impacted us both and got us both thinking about what was next for us.

Also, at the time I was working for Compassion International which is a non-profit dedicated to eradicating poverty in the developing world through sponsorship by assisting children and their families. Because of my work, I had some idea about life in the developing world, infant mortality, children in poverty, the orphan crisis due to AIDS, famine and other major issues our worldwide neighbors face. And so it was because of the blog and my work at Compassion, we pretty quickly decided that international adoption would be the way to go. We knew that foster care and domestic adoption were options, too, but to us (at the time) it seemed like *foster care was too unpredictable (horror stories about people loving children and then losing them) and domestic adoption was just too much of a crap shoot (horror stories about paying for all the birth mother’s costs and building a relationship with her only to have her decide to keep her baby), so nix those two. Now we are down to this: adopt internationally. (Apparently we never heard horror stories about international adoption !!???? Seems fishy….).

We knew very little about adoption, though. I knew there was paperwork involved. I knew that lots of adoptions failed and I knew that the world of international adoption was murky water.

Next: Looking into that murky water.

XO,

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*Foster Care side note. If you ask me today about adoption the very first thing I would tell you is that your best option is foster care. I was very uneducated about this and I know a lot more today. Whether you want to help kids or want to add to your family- my unsolicited advise is this- start with foster care.

Three things I’ve learned in three years as an adoptive mom

This weekend, our family celebrates our 3rd “Home-Avirsary”. What that means is that three years ago this weekend, we became a family. I traveled to Africa with my sister-in-law to pick up our kids and when we landed in Dulles, we were officially all together and finally “Home”. 32185_10200408424883191_915257598_n To me, home is where your Love is. On Andy’s first wedding ring (he’s only on his second- which is actually amazing), I inscribed the message, “Welcome Home”, because to us- being married was “home”, being together was “home”. And now the same is true for our made up celebration. Being together is like we are all finally, “Home”.

But if you’ve ever celebrated anything as wonderful as adoption, a new job,  marriage or childbirth, you know that Day 1 is nothing like what the rest of the days will be like. Day 1 is a celebration full of excitement and anticipation- the rest of the days are filled with a measure of love, anger, pain, joy, madness, excitement, frustration, celebration, elation, and any other emotion you can think of. The same is true for us.

Today, as we celebrate three years together with our adopted children, I’m sharing three lessons on being an adoptive mom that I’ve learned in those three years. Don’t get me wrong, these are not the same lessons for everyone, but they ring true to me as I look back on this time. Also, I’d like to say, I’ve learned 333333 lessons about life  and 33333333 lessons about myself in these three years, but since lots of you are come for the adoption stories, I thought I’d focus on that aspect.

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At our Three Year Home-Avirsary

Lesson 1: Parenting adopted children can not be done without support. I might even go as far as to say that “parenting any children can not be done without support”, but I said this would be about being an adoptive mom, so I’ll leave that out. Or not, I already said it, so just take my word.

One day, for whatever reason, I went to the local nail salon in my new-ish town. Next to me was seated a chatty, young and pretty girl. Having no friends in town myself, I bravely started to chat with that girl next to me. All I can say is this- thank GOD for my bravery and her

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kindness. If it wasn’t for that- this journey for us would have looked much different. God brought Amanda to me at just exactly the right time. Our friendship has led to more friendships and more support than I could have ever asked for.

I have a tendency to isolate especially when life is challenging or hard. It’s just easier for me to duke it out by myself than it is to let people in (though, that is changing with my emotional growth- thank you Brene Brown, I love you!). So when we brought our kids home and our world crumbled (see Andy and I crying hysterically on day 2 questioning whether we made a major mistake and if it wasn’t too late to return the goods), I would have been at it alone. And alone is no place to be when your world is crumbling. As much as our kids were a dream come true for us, becoming parents to children born to another rocked our world. We were in no way prepared for what that kind of life change was going to look like. But my friend Amanda knew. She not only knew the science of what our brains were going through, she knew how much our lives would change and she walked beside us every step of the way. My parents moved here just months after our kids arrived and as challenging as that was in many aspects, we couldn’t have done it without them here. 101313_0008From babysitting on date nights to doing our dishes, my parents saved our sanity. We didn’t know we’d need grandparents, friends and support groups for this journey, but God did and he sent them all just when we needed them. Whether you are going through a divorce, adopting a child or starting a diet- let me say this: you need supportive and loving friends. And your mom, you probably need your mom.

Lesson 2: Love is not the same as attachment and love is not enough. I am no expert on attachment and bonding, but my friend Amanda is. From reading books to picking her brain, I’ve learned a thing or two. The main thing I’ve learned is this: I can have enough love to save the whole world, but if my children don’t attach to me in a healthy way, love won’t help. I can say that I absolutely love my children- all of them- but I am working on bonding with one of them in particular and it is hard work. Once I am bonded, I am safe and that child can attach to me. Not like love isn’t hard, but comparatively, love is actually easy-breezy. Love= I would die for you. Attachment= you trust me to die for you. Being able to die for someone is easy. If there is a fire, I will save you even if means I die. Helping someone to trust you is not so easy. If the fire alarm goes off, all the traumatized wires in their brain go off, too, and they have no idea whether I will save them or not. Love alone does not save children from hard places. Children from hard places need love, but whatever measure of love I have to give is never going to be enough. It’s filling a bucket with a hole in it if attachment doesn’t get addressed. Love is wonderful and I thank God for His love for me which gives me a blueprint for loving others, but the brain has it’s own response to trauma and attachment and bonding are the answer that traumatized children need.

Lesson 3: It takes a year to have your first day. David Purvis said  this to me a while back and I just sat there and processed the truth of it all. Whether you are starting a job or starting a life with someone, it will be a good year before you really get the hang of what’s going on (and even then…). When we’d been home with our children a mere 8 months, I had a baby. So our ‘year’ basically started all over. Andy and I had just about made it a year with our new family when we pushed the reset on the “Your Life Completely Changed” button by having a baby and we went back without passing go or collecting our $200. Honestly (and I’ve said this before) as joyful and amazing as everything about this is- it was hell. Having a newborn, having 2 kids I barely knew and couldn’t understand half the time, and suddenly having 7 people in my house- it rocked me.

IMG_4824 2When Avett was about 1, my “first day” had been had and that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan. For that 19 months of being a new mom, I hadn’t lived at all; I had merely survived. And survival is hard and traumatic work (just ask your adopted kids..). I realize now that I was traumatized by these changes and upheaval and I realize even more so now that my response to trauma is try really damn hard to survive and if that doesn’t work- smoke. After indulging my addictions for a while, I woke up one day and realized that this response wasn’t helping either, so I stopped. I stopped everything and I just processed it all. I joined a group of people who were processing their own hard places and I duked it out in the company of sinners and saints. I processed the year, the first day, the year I spent smoking and the whole thing. I rediscovered reality and I started to live in the life I had been given. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been so, so good.

In the past three years, I’ve learned so, so much from my children, my ever-patient and loving husband, my friends, my supporters and the people who’ve stayed beside me. I wouldn’t trade this time, these lessons or this family for anything in the world. Being a mom- adoptive or otherwise is tough work.  I’ve got a lot more to learn, but I’m getting there. I’m studying attachment together with my husband and we’re continuing to build our support network. The ‘first day’ is finally done and we’re moving on…

XO,

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Facebook Posts, Christmas Cards & Real Life

Recently, I posted this photo of my family on social media. It’s a fantastic photo capturing everyone in my family wearing Warby Parker glasses and perfect smiles. It was a super fun and quick moment during dinner clean up when I said, “Quick! everyone come here and put on some glasses!”. They all obeyed and this fun and funny moment was captured forever. This photo got 40+ likes on Instagram, 100+ likes on Facebook and 21 “beautiful family/great picture” type comments. It made me feel good to share this moment and get positive feedback on it — because it was a good moment.

IMG_2206Based on the fact that I seldom post on my personal Facebook or Instagram accounts, you might surmise that all of our moments are this happy and fun. This is obviously far from my reality. I don’t post pictures of me yelling at my kids or my look of complete frustration everyday from 4-6 PM. However, the lie social media would have us believe that everyone else is living a life filled with wonderful moments where either the whole family gathers around for a selfie or we all enjoy ourselves at the pumpkin patch or on an epic hike, at a baseball game, on a vacation or at an amazing party. But that’s not the truth, is it?

The truth is this: we all have wonderful moments and we all have shit. (We also have a bunch of stuff in between wonderful and shit, but I’m not going to talk about that today.)

I’ve recently become curious (thank you Brene Brown for giving me a kind word to use as I explore my feelings) about why perusing social media makes me feel sad, annoyed, self-righteous, angry and jealous. See, sometimes when I look at Facebook and I see my friends who I know intimately and love deeply posting their best moments, I feel something like sadness but with a bit of jealousy. Of course, I click the “like” button and of course, I DO like that they are having a wonderful moment. But I also know that they have shit and something in me feels sad that we’re all just sharing our best moments. It also makes me feel like our best moments are a lie because I know we all have shit. I hate that I feel that way. Of course our wonderful moments are wonderful whether or not we have shit. And don’t get me wrong, I feel strongly that social media is not the place to air our dirty laundry, list of complaints, and vague negativity. So, if that’s not what I’m after- what is the problem?

I think I’ve realized that the problem is that we’re sharing, tweeting, liking, posting and Instagramming the best parts of our lives and when I view this from the sidelines (my phone or computer), I end up feeling that someone else’s life is made up of only wonderful and my life has both wonderful and shit. I also think I feel these emotions because we’re only getting one side of the story- when what my heart really wants and was made for is to enjoy the beautiful moments with people I love and get down and dirty into their real lives. What I really want is to share the best and worst of who I am with those I love and who I know love me- no matter what.

I recently spent some time with a friend and she shared with me that in our time apart she had spent some time on this blog. This particular friend has a very rich and full life and she is a contented person. She loves her life, herself and her family. Her husband works super hard, is home every night for dinner and because of his hard work they own an amazing house and take wonderful vacations- both alone and with their kids. In short, this friend has a lot, everything- some might say. Yet she told me that one day she was reading my blog and she broke down in tears comparing my life of my blog about retreats and vacations with friends to her own life. It was a vulnerable and shocking moment. And the truth is, it made me feel really, really bad. It made me feel bad that perhaps I am (like most) only portraying the best parts of my life when what I really want is for you to know that my struggles run deep. It made me feel bad that someone else felt sad about their life when compared to mine when what I really want for you to know that when I compare my life to yours, I come up short, too. And it made me feel bad about keeping this blog because there is only give here- me giving you my life and polished version of blog-worthy events- and no take, I don’t get any of you. I just get to put all this out there and you just sit there and read. And it made me really, really sad because the reason we started this blog was to start a neighborhood. I want to be clear that I know making me feel bad was absolutely not my friend’s intention and I really appreciated her candor with me, but it got me thinking more and more about these feelings I have regarding social media.

What I want to say is this: I have wonderful moments and I have shit. You have wonderful moments and you have shit. When I see your wonderful moments, I compare them with my shit and that isn’t fair to me or you.  I love being celebrated when I have a Facebook moment, but I also want to be known. I want to celebrate with you when you are having a Facebook moment, but I also want to know you. I know my capacity isn’t large enough for the 500-some people I am “friends” with on Facebook, so what’s the right answer?

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Christmas Card 2015 Behind the smiles was a really GRUMPY mom who ordered everyone around all morning and acted like a real jerk. Merry Christmas! Isn’t life wonderful?!!! Please also notice my neighbors RV! Road trip anyone?!?

I think I’ve decided that answer is that we can share our best with the world. We can smile and say, “Doing great!” to 95% of the people we know. We can send wonderful Christmas cards and post beautiful and fun moments on social media, but we just need to know that everyone- and I mean everyone- has wonderful and shit. We can share and celebrate the best parts of each others lives on social media, but we need a safe place in real life with real people to be real. A place to share the shit and be loved even if our life 98% of the time is nothing like the Christmas card and Instagram photos. And we need to know that almost everyone just shares one side with the whole world and what we need is a small, intimate and safe circle to share about the fights with your spouse, the thoughts and feelings we have from 4-6 PM and the truth behind every wonderful photo. I think I’ve decided that what I need is more real life moments and talks with real people to balance out all the wonderful moments I “like” on Facebook.

What do you guys think? I’d love to know your thoughts on this as I’m still wrestling!

XO,

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#blessed

I recently read somewhere that the hashtag #blessed should only be used ironically. Like a mustache. They should only be worn for irony. So the irony here is this: you know how my last post was about how getting everything I ever wanted didn’t save me? Well, I wanted to be sure that I was clear that parenting these three children does in fact, bring me joy. So I am actually #blessed. Is that ironic? It doesn’t matter because I couldn’t come up with a better title and I know my friends and family want to see pictures and videos of the kids….If you read this blog for actual content you can skip this one and call yourself #blessed for saving the five minutes it will take to read this.

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One of the greatest surprises in parenthood for me is how much our kids mirror us. They reflect back to us our attitudes, our expressions and our values. Avett recently surprised me by repeating a little expression.

In case you don’t understand baby talk, he is saying, “what the hell”. “What the hell”. I have NO idea where he heard that expression enough to be have it on repeat in his own head. But whatever. I’ll talk to Andy.

And just while were on Avett, here is a video of Avett saying “marshmallow”. I know everyone has cute videos of their kids doing cute things and we’re all biased that our kids are the funniest, cutest and best, but we’re all right.

As you know, Avett was a total surprise to us. Side note: his name is Avett, like the way you say the “a” when you are saying your ABC’s. We wanted to make his first introductions to people really hard (SUCCESS!). But it doesn’t matter because this kid wins everybody over in a matter of seconds. He says “hi” to all of our neighbors- by name, thanks everyone who gives him something by saying “thank you”, says “God bless you” to someone who sneezes and on and on the things that little kids do to win adults over and make strangers say “how cute is he!”. Anyway, the point is, after Avett was born and we gave him a name we basically made up (it’s a band name but we didn’t name him because we are huge fans of the band, though we do love them) God showed me what his name means. It means bringer of joy and with it God gave me this scripture:

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

When Avett was a tiny infant and God dropped that into my spirit, I was so amazed at the accuracy. Now that he is a child, I see even more how accurate it is. I love that this boy brings such delight to so many people. Please, please don’t get me wrong. He is a toddler and sometimes the only joy he brings me is at nap time; parenting toddlers is hard work.

Speaking of delight and hard work, Vaughn is a total delight to me. He is the kid that is hardest and easiest to parent. He knows what he wants, but sometimes its a little tough to meet his needs. However, he is the kindest and most considerate kid on the planet. He always offers a sincere apology when he has done wrong. I love his humility and I learn from him everyday. He is sensitive and inquisitive. He is an amazing soccer player and my bet is that his natural skill will take him far in life.

This is a picture of us on a bike ride. I asked him on a date anIMG_0624d we rode 7 miles together. If you can imagine, he talked the whole time. Or rather he asked questions the whole time 🙂 The main problem with Vaughn is that if he were my only child, I would have no problems at all with him. He just has a lot of energy and for a lazy person, that is a lot of work in parenting. I love one on one time with Vaughn. He gets a little lost in the crowd of three because I get overwhelmed with all I have to going on. Anyway, Vaughn really is the best. I know when Vaughn is a young man- we will be friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those loosey-goosey “I just want my kids to like me and be best friends with my kids” kind of moms. I am the mom. But I’ve learned to share power with my kids and let them be kids without penalizing every wrong-doing. But Vaughn and I both work on our relationship very intentionally in a way that is sowing seeds for years to come. Recently, I shared something personal with a group of my closest friends (which I will tell you about soon) but after I did it, Vaughn said, “Mom, that was really brave of you. I’m proud of you.” I am crying just typing his words. I will never forget them. He is an amazing boy and he will do amazing things in this life. I’m so glad God chose him to mirror things in me that need reflecting.

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Eloise Jolie…. this little rambler. She got these roller skates for her birthday and she has hardly taken them off. This little girl decides she wants to do something and suddenly it’s done. “Mom, I tied my shoes.” WHAT? I didn’t even know you wanted to learn that! “Mom, look, I pulled out my own tooth.” WHAT! You did WHAT?! Maybe this is a middle child thing? If you want it done, you just do it? I feel bad because I would have liked to have taught her something in this life. But I guess celebrating what you teach yourself to do will have to be enough…?

This girl and I are similar in ways that make it impossible to believe she is adopted sometimes. Her humor is unbelievable. Not that I’m boasting about my own sense of humor, though it is excellent, it’s just shocking how similar we are in this area. She gets adult humor. I’ve never told a joke she didn’t get. She is an excellent big sister. I LOVE how she plays with Avett. I love seeing her personality, likes, and dislikes blossom. She loves to be outside (sans shoes) and she loves to play with animals and dirt. I told her one day that she was my little nature girl and the next day she said, “you know how you said I was a natural girl?” I cracked up and so did she. She can laugh at herself, which is a quality I really appreciate in a person.

Eloise is beautiful and I tell her that often, but I want to celebrate who she is inside. She is amazing and I want her to know that more than I want her to know how beautiful she is.

So, there you have it- the joy of my life. These three miracles. I’m celebrating today the gift that they are and recognizing that although they didn’t save me, they do bring me joy. #blessed

The pregnancy I always wanted didn’t save me

Four years. We spent four years trying to get pregnant. Every last hope. Every last wish. Everything I ever wanted hinged on having children. I wanted a baby so bad.

Anyone who has struggled with infertility knows the cycle of emotions. Shame. Pain. Embarrassment. Hope. Disappointment. Hope. Disappointment. Jealousy. Shame for feeling jealous. Hope. Disappointment. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Round and round it goes.

The emotions are suffocating. And so, so lonely. Because it is such a hard thing to deal with it’s an even harder thing to talk about. Infertility is very isolating. Every time I  hear of someone who has been ‘trying to get pregnant’ I am taken back to the place of isolation. I feel those emotions again: the sadness- deep and aching and I long to say, “I get it.” But having a baby after struggling with infertility boots you from the club. Yes I can relate, but to someone struggling, my struggle isn’t that real anymore. I have what someone else is wishing and praying for. So my voice into their sadness is a quiet prayer. When I was struggling, I remember talking to people who at one time struggled with infertility who now had children and it just didn’t count. No matter what kind of hope, courage or empathy they offered me. Because when you are in the depths of this struggle it feels like there is no way out. And frankly, I didn’t want to hear that someone else made it out because I knew I might not ever get out of that hole and I didn’t want to be alone at the bottom.

Our journey into parenthood is another blog post, but I’ll tell you this: because our desire for children was without reservation, we changed our “Plan A” to adoption. We knew we wanted children and after two years of trying to get pregnant we decided we didn’t care how they came to us. For some, the adoption process is just like the infertility journey, only it is years of the same cycle of emotions +++ years of paperwork and bullshitting. For us, after two years in the adoption process we were finally cleared to go to Africa and pick up our two children (unheard of timing). The day after I bought my plane ticket to pick up our kids, I found out I was pregnant. So I was leaving for Africa in two weeks (without my husband!) and I was finally pregnant.  For us: a miracle unfolding. Only two years to adopt internationally- unheard of. Pregnant now that everything about our adoption is final- unheard of.

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Here is Eloise making our pregnancy announcement two days after our return from Africa.

And now it gets good because in nine months time I will have a complete family. A husband, two children by way of international adoption and the baby I always wished for. What more could someone in my situation want? All the prayers, hopes and dreams have come true. Which is exactly what the problem was. All of my hope was hinged on things that could be taken away from me- things of this world. None of my hope was in Christ.

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So, when Avett was about a year old, and our adopted children had been with us about 20 months, I crashed. How could everything I’ve ever wanted crush me so badly? I was depressed. Seeking old vices. Not connected with anyone. Not anchored. I KNEW I had everything I ever wanted and yet I was m.i.s.e.r.a.b.l.e. Miserable. Unhappy. And most of all guilt-laden. The baby I dreamed of for years didn’t deliver the happiness the dream promised. The children I dreamed of for years didn’t save me. And please let me be clear here: every single one of my children is perfect. I don’t say that lightly, trust me I am a realist at best a pessimist at worst. Vaughn and Eloise really don’t misbehave. Avett slept through the night right away and was always a happy and fun baby. Childbirth and pregnancy were really wonderful. I had the natural childbirth I hoped for and a healthy baby. It wasn’t my children not meeting my expectations of a perfect family. It was my expectations of a perfect family. All of the dreams I had, when they were answered didn’t satisfy me. Because now there is nothing more to hope for. I truly, really, 100% have it all. So there is nothing left: except Jesus.

To be fair here, the truth is, I can’t blame 100% of my crash on my misplaced hope. Having three kids in nine months is a real shit storm. It is not easy- and when you are in the thick of something so, so hard you actually have no idea how hard it is. All the adjustments. All the unknowns. It’s crazy town. Until you have a moments rest, you don’t know how stressed, tired, and overwhelmed you really are. And that is certainly part of what happened to me.

I love my kids and they really do make me happy, make me laugh and in many ways complete me and my picture of who God created me to be. But they aren’t the end of the story and I made them my happy ending. My happy ending is Jesus and my real happy ending is heaven with Jesus.

So what now? I’m two and a half years in. I still struggle. I still hate myself for not being happy with what others would kill for. I still don’t understand why perfection wasn’t enough. But. God. I’ve pursued the things in life that don’t satisfy: drugs, sex, money. And now I’ve pursued more things in life that don’t satisfy: pregnancy, babies, a husband, a perfect family. One of those is an ‘unhealthy’ pursuit and the other, at least socially acceptable. But guess what: only Jesus. Only Jesus can fill me up. Only Jesus is the appropriate hope for me.

I’m happy with the life I have. My kids are wonderful. My husband is amazing. But getting what I dreamed and hoped for didn’t save me. It just made me realize how much saving I needed.

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XO,

CELINA - signature