Monday, March 31, 2014

The Other Side

Sorry for the lack of updates.  I've had this post swirling around in my head for almost two months now, but simply haven't been able to find the time or energy to figure out exactly how to write it. You see, as an adoptive mom, it's very important to me to protect my children's stories in the best way I can. I try to be very intentional about what I do or don't share with the world. Along the way, I've made many mistakes with this, sharing too much I think, so I've gone back and forth about whether or not I should write this post at all. BUT, when it comes down to it, I've always seen this blog as a way to connect with others going through a similar journey. I've been fortunate to "meet" people who say our story has been a big part of what led them to adopt. I've also been on the other end of that where I've "stumbled" upon someone's blog and God spoke directly to my heart through their words. That being said, if what I have to say can help ease some other adoptive mama's mind and heart or make them feel less alone then it will be worth it.

There was such an intense longing with Gideon's adoption. We had been through years of infertility, lost our precious baby, and had to fight so very hard to become his mama and baba. The moment they walked him into the room, my whole world became instantly brighter. I fell head over heels in love with him long before that moment, but it was instantly intensified to a place I didn't even know existed. And that love has just continued to grow from each day going forward. He IS my heart.

This time has been, well....different. We entered into this adoption process in quite a different way. We felt God nudging our hearts when we'd only been home with Gideon for about 6 months. I thought, "NO WAY!" It is too soon! But when it came down to it, we knew that in our life, when God says GO, we would say YES! I wrestled with that choice constantly thinking that maybe Gideon didn't have enough time with just us. Maybe I didn't have enough time with just him, but we knew it was what we were supposed to do. 

When we were presented with Bishop's file, VERY QUICKLY, I felt panic, but Ryan fell instantly in love. We had 72 hours to make our decision and we took it down to the last hour. Fear was paralyzing me, but I didn't want fear to be my deciding factor. Through lots of intense prayer and talking it through with one another, we knew God was saying he was ours. Even after making that decision though it took me several months to feel a connection to him. I realize some people may read to this point and start thinking how awful of a person I must be. If you're already thinking that, I warn you to just stop reading now because it gets worse. 

I'd read stories about adoptive parents not feeling connected to their child for quite some time even after having them in their arms and to be really honest I judged them harshly. Not out loud, but in my mind I thought how terrible. How could you possibly feel that way!?

Well, let me tell you something. I was about to learn my lesson. After a VERY long wait to get all of the necessary paperwork to bring Bishop home, there was a mama bear fight that grew in me. I cried many times at the injustice of stupid paperwork being what kept me from holding my boy in my arms and getting him out of his current circumstances. I really feel that God used that time to grow my connection to him. Looking back, I am so grateful for that time. So when the big day came I was anxious to finally see his face and hold him in my arms. I couldn't wait to get there. I was nervous about what changes it would bring for all involved. I was scared of how Gideon would react. But I was excited to see his face. I was excited he would finally be ours forever. 

We walked into that room and saw him and when they placed him in my arms I felt....

nothing.

Hold on, this couldn't be right. This was a child I had fought for for almost a year. He was my son. He was Gideon's little brother. We had prayed for him and waited for this very moment for what felt like forever. How could I feel this way!?

As he cried and thrashed to try to get away from me, the stranger he was looking at with his fearful eyes, all I could think was no no no no no! This isn't right. What have we done? I didn't feel compassion or the feeling that I wanted to calm and comfort him. I wanted to hand him back to his nanny whom he obviously loved and run far far away. In the long 45 minutes it took to get him to calm down, I was frozen. I literally didn't know what to do. So I just did what I did with Gideon, hoping it would snap me back into reality so I could be what he needed in that moment. I sang Jesus Loves Me to him and held him close, but it didn't work. So, I walked him to a different room and sat down with him in my arms. I kept looking at his face, those eyes that were searching for something in mine to tell him he was going to be okay, but it wasn't there. My sweet Gideon came over and brought him his bear and rubbed his head saying the words he should've heard from his Mama, "It's okay Bishop. It's okay." I just held Gideon close and cried with Bishop. The tears were for the sweetness in my compassionate child who knew what to do when his Mama didn't, but they were also for all the times I harshly judged others for feeling exactly as I did in that very moment. 

I went through the motions from that minute forward...holding him, rocking him, feeding him, bathing him, changing him, until it was bedtime that night. It was then, with my parents and husband, that I was finally able to let it all out. I just sobbed and said what a horrible person I felt like for feeling this way. I prayed that it was just the shock of everything changing so quickly. I got on my adoption boards that I belong to and bravely put it all out there, hoping I wasn't the only one. Some of the ladies instantly added me to a Safe Haven group where I learned that about 90% of adoptive parents feel exactly like I did. A dear friend said something I will always remember..."Adoption is beautiful and it is redemption, but it is not natural so why would you expect it to feel natural. Give yourself grace."

Even after knowing I wasn't the only one to ever not love their child right away, I still felt like something was wrong with me. I mean, I didn't feel at all like this with Gideon. Well, through my social workers and other adoptive families, I learned that my experience with Gideon is actually the exception. I am so grateful for what we instantly shared. I guess I naively assumed it would be the same with Bishop.

I asked a dear friend of mine if I should write about this because, like I said, I never want to share something that could potentially be detrimental for my children to read. So, I figured I would wait. Surely in a few days, I will get to the other side of this and feel differently. I just knew that would be the case. Well, the days turned into weeks and weeks and weeks. I was still "faking it til I made it". I knew enough to know that Love is an intentional choice. Once you go through the motions long enough, surely the feelings will follow. Well, what I've learned is sometimes that takes a very long time. But that's okay. I was, immaturely, indulging in my dislike, instead of CHOOSING love regardless of his behavior. I see how this could definitely put a distaste for me in your mouth, but I'm trying to keep it real in the interest of hoping to help other mamas. Do yourself a favor and try your best to pull out of that funk as soon as you possibly can. Your kids deserve it, but so do you. And if you can't do it yourself, seek help. Contact me if you have no one else to help you. 

We have been VERY fortunate to have a few friends who have very intentionally been walking on this journey with us, literally day by day. They know there are many things they CAN'T help us with, but there are things they can do like coming over to spend a morning just carrying the burden with me, grabbing some groceries for us when they are shopping for themselves, bringing us dinner on a rough day, among other things. Having this help has been instrumental in helping me number one...remain sane and number two...pulling myself out of the yuck! So if you are not being offered this help, please ask someone for it!

Let me be clear, even through all of the trauma Bishop is experiencing (that which I will not discuss on the blog in detail) there really is nothing unlovable about him. He is funny and sweet and kind(when he wants to be). He is as deserving of my love as Gideon was from the beginning. 

We have been a family for almost two months. Things are slowly changing. I have more patience for his challenging behavior. I find myself smiling at something he has done or just his pure cuteness. I talk more lovingly about him and the sweet and funny things he does. I want to be the last face he sees on his surgery day and the first face he sees when he wakes up. I wouldn't have it any other way. I spend lots of time kissing him on his cute little cleft lips and hugging him and walking around with him strapped to me in the Ergo. We dance together and laugh together and act silly together. 

We LOVE together.

And the best part is...

I'm not faking it anymore.


27 comments:

  1. What you wrote is beautiful and from your heart. Give yourself grace, and thank you for reminding me what is important in life. I have tears running down my face.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love. Love. Love. Praying for you and your perfect family! XOXO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Keri. We really appreciate the prayers!

      Delete
  3. Love. Love. Love. Praying for you and your perfect family. XOXO

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are an amazing and strong person and mom. what you wrote is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your words.I appreciate it very much.

      Delete
  5. Thank you so much for sharing, Melissa. Want to know something? This happens with biological children, too. My experience with my second was terribly different than it was with my first. It gets easier, and those feelings fade. Blessings to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I've heard that more and more as I've opened up and shared my experience. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  6. I'm glad you shared this. I had a VERY similar experience with our first two adoptions. Our first little guy - total connection right away, really easy, not a moment that I wasn't head over heels for him. Second adoption...oh my. It took me months to get to a place of feeling love. It was so hard and I worried we would never really love each other or connect. That was almost three years ago, and now...that kid has my heart!!! Sometimes when we snuggle and he looks up at me, it's like I can feel the bond that is between us and it's incredible because we had to fight for it. Thanks for sharing - it really is good for people to know this may happen, but also that you can make it through it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Rachel. I agree that people need to hear this stuff. They need to know they're not alone.

      Delete
  7. Oh sweet Melissa.... I wish I was there to wrap you up & hug you.. You are so brave to share this.... Please know that it in no way diminishes who you are in anyone's mind.. in fact, it just confirms how special you are. Anyone could just hide it... or fake it.. but you chose to share it for the sake of other mom's going through the same thing. Definitely, allow yourself a LOT of grace... just as God does for you. For one thing... you were on such an adrenalin high for so long...starting at the beginning of your adoption of Giddy. Then in 6 short months, you never really got the chance to experience NORMAL new parenthood before you were thrown into a second process of adopting Bishop. Remember this too...even a wonderfully happy life event can be emotionally draining. Just like the let down many feel when the anticlimax hits following the wonderful wedding... many also feel the same kind of let down after the birth or adoption of a new baby... they label that "post-partum depression". Even though it doesn't happen every time...it's still a normal emotional reaction. What is so touching is this... even though you were having doubts, you sought God's will in adopting little Bishop and were obedient to the call. What a testimony that is! God knew this was going to be tough.. but He also knew YOU.. He knew how you would fight through the fear & anxiety and trust Him to make it right. He also equipped you with faith & family to help you through it. He will continue to walk with you on this journey He has called you to. I personally wanted to thank you for your openness in sharing both your adoption experience & your obvious strong faith in the Lord. God is using you to minister not only to other adopting parents...but also to friends & family who may not have the hope of the Lord that you have. God is using you to touch the lives of so many souls who otherwise would not hear the GOOD NEWS. You are His Light... Keep on shining for Him! So proud to know you...!! p.s. Sorry this post turned into a book... but you have been on my heart & I felt led to share this word of encouragement ...even before you posted this. p.s.s. We will get our several prayer chain connections going for little Bishop's upcoming surgery and for you & your whole family. Please continue to keep us updated. Ms. Dava

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow Ms Dava! Thank you! Your words are so kind and have truly touched my heart. Thank you for your constant support and encouragement! It means the world to me.

      Delete
  8. You nailed it girl. So proud to call you friend - this is so much harder than many know - this loving beyond our own feelings, this daily choosing to surrender and to act loving and drive toward healing. And you are doing it, even in the baring of your heart as you do here. You are choosing love and I'm so very proud of you. Thanks for the loving support you have been offering us - we will get through these days and come out on the other side victorious and HE will get all the glory for it! Love you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Tracy. I love you too! You have been such a support to me, always letting me vent or letting me talk something through with you. You are awesome and you are right...we WILL get through it...together! Hugs!

      Delete
  9. I just wanted to reach out and give you a cyber hug. You are NOT alone. By sharing you've helped others feel less alone. There is a way through this for the vast majority of parents, and I know you'll be one of those because you're reaching out for help and talking about it. Thank you.
    Dawn Davenport
    Host of radio show “Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption and Infertility”

    www.CreatingaFamily.org

    Facebook: Dawn.Davenport1
    Twitter: DawnDavenport1
    Google+ Dawn Davenport

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dawn. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a little note of encouragement. I so agree that it's crucial to be honest and reach out. We are meant to be in community in this life. I can't imagine doing it any other way. I will go check out your website. Always looking for new resources to help our family.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for being brave and sharing the feelings so many of us have but are embarrassed to say out loud. We have three children through adoption and each bonding experience was very different.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh Melissa! Thanks for pouring your heart out! What a beautiful post! Prayers and ((hugs)) for you!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks Amber! Can't wait for a real hug the end of this month ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. The truth needs to be said, without judgement.Many times adoptive parents are smacked in the face with this reality and no support, no idea it could be like this. Sometimes, love comes slowly....and that's ok. Thank you for sharing and putting it all out there. No judgement, just lots of prayers and kind thoughts sent your way.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for saying this... I remember my hubby haven love at first sight and I was just paralyzed inside. Nothing for a long time. I choose to Love I practiced fake it till you make it. I put off the second adoption because I just didn't want a second experience like the first. Don't you hate it when your honest with other parents and they look at you like you just said "I like worms for breakfast?" and you feel like your a failure. Well your not! I prefer real, over unrealistic adoptive stories. Yes we all clear coat our blogs but No judgement here. I love that you are being real and honest. Oh and second time around I fell instantaneously in love meanwhile hubby now understands my feelings... Huggles!

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's the reality of adoption. Although all 5 of my kiddos came to us thru the miracle of adoption, we parented 3 of them domestically since birth. I can honestly say, adopting a toddler is a whole different experience. These kiddos come with trauma, deep trauma. They are survivors, and fighters. We love them, but sometimes cannot connect to them. I understand. We have been in survival mode as a family for 3 years, since bringing home our Ben - and subsequently our Lucy. No one can begin to fathom the raw hurt, struggles and pain that adoptive children suffer. It's deep and "hard wired", as our counselor has informed us. Please know you are not alone. I feel like we should meet! I would love to speak with someone who relates to our struggles. Prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've told you before, but wanted to say it again in response to this post . . . God used you to encourage and help lead us to adoption because of your openness and honesty over the years. I can't thank you enough!

    ReplyDelete
  17. To be even a small part of how God is shaping your journey and your family is overwhelmingly humbling. Thank you for your encouragement and prayers throughout the years.

    ReplyDelete
  18. One more person to echo that it happens even when it's a 'bio' situation. And may continue over years! You have it right, though. Love is a choice, during good, bad, or ugly it is still a blessing! And even if every day has it's struggles, it has it's amazing moments too... somedays I have to look a little harder to find them, that's all. Praying for you!

    ReplyDelete