Thoughts before preschool

Arie's hand feels big in mine lately. His whole body is growing, of course, but it's the feel of his hot little fingers and palm in mine that I notice the most. It used to be a baby hand, small, soft, and mostly limp in mine. Passive.

Now, when he reaches up for comfort in a shy moment or safety before a busy street, I notice how much farther into the space between my thumb and pointer his fingers reach. He hold tight, mostly. A firm grasp, a preview into the handshake he'll one day extend to others as a man. He also wiggles and squirms, pulling away from my grasp when he wants to explore. More and more I am letting go: learning to trust, push boundaries... and hope to God he doesn't knock over that mountainous display of wine bottles at the grocery store.

He is growing socially, too. I remember last summer watching him on the playground as other kids would run up to play. "You wanna play?" They'd ask. He would stare blankly in return, then his eyes would dart me, anxious for rescue. Last weekend my sister got married and we spent time with her new extended family setting up for the wedding. In contrast, immediately upon meeting a new little cousin, Arie's eyes little up and he grabbed the boy's hand and exclaiming, "LET'S RUN!"
Family picture at my sister's wedding last weekend.
In two weeks he starts preschool. He's excited. He's ready. I can't wait to see how he'll grow! New friends, new experiences, new knowledge. Lately he's been absolutely ravenous to learn; asking questions, doing projects, celebrating victories like learning to write his name.

This week I rearranged his playroom to make a reading corner with low shelves, a lamp, and new chairs. A small change in our home to symbolize our first steps into a new leg of our parenting journey: school. I feel a heightened sense of awareness that these next few years will greatly shape how Arie feels about learning: will be it exciting? Fun? Boring? Frustrating? I deeply hope to nurture his sense of curiosity and wonder.  People often remark to me how imaginative he is and John and I want to keep that spirit alive in him! We want him to claim his capabilities, to widen his sense of wonder and to take pleasure in learning.

Today he will learn with hands in the sandpit and finger paints, but I know how soon those hands will grow to grasp a microscope in science class or gesture widely on the drama stage or etch slowly with pencil on a math page.

For certain, we will have our schooling ups and downs, but for now I take joy in the possibility set before us. In two weeks I will take his little hand in mine, walk through those preschool doors and excitedly begin.



Men, adoption, and three common fears

Today I'm blogging over at the National Registry for Adoption on a topic that frequently finds its way into my inbox: men and adoption fears.  Join my over at the nrfa.org blog to hear my response to these three questions: 1) Can I love a child who is not genetically mine? 2) What if I don’t bond to the child? 3) What if the child has special needs?



I can't explain

There is so much pain in our world right now. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with heartbreak and exclamations from people who can't process the tragedies of war, persecution, disease, death, and suicide. It's all too much. We're overwhelmed.  

I wrote this poem months ago on a particularly dark night of the soul, searching for a little solace. It seems like a good time to share. 

I Can't Explain 

I can't explain
the whispery pink on a cherry blossom
nor the surprising yellow face
of a dandelion weed.

An angry, spiteful God makes sense to me now
as I whither in pain.

Or at least an absent one
who surely doesn't hear
my weakly offered prayers.

I'm not the only one.
Not the only who feels alone

If he was cold
it would explain
why we're wasting away.

But then,

I'm troubled still.

Because then, what

what explains the flowers
in our bleak world? 


Infertility and body image

I have a vivid childhood memory of two adult women in a swimming pool. After a humorous struggle to both climb onto the same double sized floating air mattress, they are lying on their backs, laughing breathlessly and shading their eyes from the sun with their hands. One of them looks down at the other's belly and remarks, "Wow you look so slim!" 

The compliment receiver immediately turns the sentiment on the other, "No way! You're the one who looks great! Look what I've got!" She grabs the soft part of her belly where her babies once grew and gives it a shake. 

"I've go that too!" the other replies, and follows with her own grab and shake. The two continue laughing and firing compliments at one another, jiggling their bellies all the while. 

I remember watching these women both delighted by their laughter but also confused by their words.  I was probably 6 or 7 at the time and it's the first time I remember being confronted with the idea that someone wouldn't like something about their own body. 

At six, my body was for doing. Running, jumping, skipping, playing, eating, smiling, laughing. I had also, around that time, experienced a fairly severe bone infection in my back, wrist and hips, undergoing several related surgeries and treatments. Because of that, I knew bodies could be source of sickness and pain but ultimately, in my experience, healing. I earned two major scars on my body after undergoing two surgeries, however I was never made to feel self conscious about them and even as an adult I never have been. One scar is on my back and sometimes- if I lean over too far so my shirt slips up a little- a person behind me will make a little gasping noise and ask, "What happened??" (It's a big scar.) "I had back surgery when I was a kid," I'll reply and the questioner will quickly catch themselves, "Oh I'm sorry! I shouldn't have asked. I thought you might be hurt." I always wave my hand dismissively because truthfully it doesn't bother me. To me, my scars are a symbol of my healing. 

I've always thought the same about the soft bellies of all the women I know to be blessed with a child by birth. They are symbols of something beautiful: of life and love and this magic thing we call pregnancy and birth. 

From the time I was old enough to understand that I, too, could someday trade my girlish little midsection for one that would grow with new life and then deflate to something puffier in exchange for the gift of motherhood, I promised myself that I would embrace the extra skin with grace. 

I was naive to how difficult that task really is, but I what I thought back then was that I should love my body for what it can do and not how it looks. 

That actually seems laudable, doesn't it? I can see it on Pinterest now: 

original photo source. 

But then... infertility happened. 

And can I say it plainly? At times, infertility has caused me to really hate my body. 

Infertility has caused me to hate my body because I loved my body for what it could do… until then it couldn't do something. It couldn't get pregnant. 

Oh and how well I treated it! The things I ate, the vitamins I took, the supplements, the teas, the chiropractor, the endocrinologist, The Fertility Diet, the exercise, the rest, the medications, the injections, the procedures, the eve.ry.thing. 

My body just won't listen. It won't get pregnant. 

As I cope with jealous feelings toward women whose bodies actually work- whose bodies apparently function like they said they would in my middle school health class (have sex and get pregnant? Imagine that!)- I have to wonder who looks at me with envy. Someone who can't walk or see? A woman who can't hear the world or a girl who wishes she could do something I take for granted every day? Do they get angry at their bodies too? 

"Love your body not for how it looks but for what it does!" That might seem like a great thing to say. Until you're looking into the eyes of a person left quadriplegic in an accident. 

If it's not about how they look or what they do, maybe we shouldn't be trying to love our bodies at all. 

Maybe it's not about love, but about gratitude. 

Maybe it's about being thankful for our bodies we have and the lives they let us live. Thankful for what they can do, regardless of what they can't. 

Maybe I've been so angry at my body for not allowing me to hold a life inside that I've forgotten it already does: my own. 

In Revelation 12, Jesus says of his faithful followers: 

They triumphed over him (Satan)
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.

I believe infertility pleases Satan because it is a perverse twisting of the way God intended things to be. If I am going to triumph over the hold Satan has on me through infertility- whether physically or spiritually- I know I can only do so by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony. 

My testimony can't be that I hate my body. It has to be that I did not love my life so much as to shrink from anything, infertility included. 

This is a new path for me and a hard one. It's easy for me to hate. It's not easy to overcome. But I know I've already got the blood of the lamb... and I'm working on the power of my testimony. 



I think I want to adopt… now what? Eight places to start exploring.

A few times each month I receive a message from a reader who asks something like, "We think we want to adopt, but we have no idea where to start. Help!"

I totally remember feeling that way when John and I started looking into adoption… and then again recently before we decided on embryo "adoption." There are many different paths to adoption and it can feel overwhelming to know which path to take. There is no one "right" way to start your adoption research, but I want to share some helpful resources and some of the things John and I did when we were trying to discern which adoption path to take.  In no particular order here are some steps you can take to familiarize yourself with the world of adoption:

1. Attend a local adoption seminar. Although we did not end up using them for our adoption, John and I started our adoption journey by attending two seminars by Bethany Christian Services. I can't say enough good things about these seminars! The first we attended was on the topic of financing adoption and the second was specific to international adoption. Bethany is not the only agency that puts on these seminars; a quick google should make you aware of agencies in your area and a follow up email or visit to their website will help you find an info meeting in your area. Check it out!

2. Listen/watch webinars and podcasts. These web-based info meetings might even be preferable for some of us as you can attend from the privacy of your own home without worries about running into someone you know before you are ready to announce your adoption plans or finding a babysitter for any kids at home. I checked out a few different webinars specific to embryo adoption this time around and learned a ton! Additionally, this way you can learn about adoption related issues like attachment, adopting kids with special needs, or how to form a relationship with birth parents. Don't overlook these valuable opportunities to learn about adoption!

3. Talk to people! There is nothing better than talking to someone who has been down the adoption path before you. If you know someone who has adopted, sit down with them and hear their story. Ask questions. Get a personal perspective. If you don't know anyone, ask your friends if *they* know anyone. I know I am happy to share our journey with anyone who asks! You can even ask a local agency if they can put you in touch with a family who has been down the same path you are considering. You will also want to get in touch with a few different agencies to hear about how they operate and learn about different types of adoption. Before we decided on embryo adoption, John and I strongly considered foster-to-adopt and were impressed when a social worker from a local foster agency offered to come to our home to talk to us about fostering/adopting. We learned so much from his visit and it really helped us discern our path forward.

4. Check out the Next Steps Booklet from the Christian Alliance for Orphans. This booklet is available online and provides a list of reputable adoption agencies (among other things). If you feel lost as to where you could even start looking for an agency this is a great resource!

5. Visit the US Department of State Inter-country Adoption Website. (http://adoption.state.gov) I found this website very helpful in our beginning stages. If you are considering international adoption this site will provide a great overview of different countries and their adoption program requirements and processes.

6. Look through Resolve's resources on adoption. Resolve is an National Infertility Association and they have a great list of resources on their site for prospective adoptive parents. I especially like their "Questions to Ask" page which will help you ask good questions when deciding on an agency.

7. Learn about how different agencies operate in order to choose one that's right for you.  This article from Adoptive Families is a great place to start. Different people will have different fee structures, levels of parental (and birth parent) support both pre and post adoption, and timelines (while no agency should give you a "definite timeline" they should be able to estimate your home study timeline) among other things. Your agency should employ licensed social workers and be accredited through a larger governing body like the Joint Council on International Children's Services. For most international adoptions your agency should be Hague Accredited.

8. Join adoptive parent groups. Whether you find an adoptive parent group in person or online, these groups will be a great resource for every step of your journey from agency recommendations to advice after your child has come home. I belong to a few different groups via Facebook and also in person groups which I've found through local churches in our area. Groups can be general ("adoptive parents") or specific (to your type of adoption, country or origin and even special need if your child has one). Some Facebook groups will be private, but I found once we made our adoption plans known I was quickly connected to them through friends and through our agency. Don't miss out on this terrific resource!

My final word of advice would be simply to accept the fact that for most people, deciding on an adoption route is not a linear process. I wish it could look like this:

Decide to adopt > decide on domestic/international/foster care > decide on agency > never look back!

And sometimes it does! But often it looks more like this:

Think you might want to adopt > feel overwhelmed > research all different kinds of adoptions > feel MORE overwhelmed > decide on international adoption > decide on country > change your mind > decide on another country > research an agency > something doesn't feel right > switch to domestic adoption > find another agency> second guess yourself > recommit to your path > move forward > wait a lot > bring your child home > tell everyone it he/she was worth it all! 

It's totally normal to feel a bit lost in the process. You'll get there! Keep asking questions, researching, and moving forward one step at a time. Be patient with yourself and your partner and trust that the right path will make itself clear as you research and pray for discernment.

What other recommendations would you add for people exploring adoption?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...