My name is Amy and I’ve never been pregnant

The moment completely caught me off guard. I was sitting in a room full of 50 or so moms in a Manhattan church classroom.

I had known these women for only a few months and had already enjoyed getting to know them each. They came from different areas in the United States and abroad. They had different stories. But we were all united in the fact that here we were…moms of young kids doing our best to raise those littles in New York City.

Each meeting started the same: after a time of fellowship, we would all sit down and answer some sort of ice breaker question.

“Since all of us have been pregnant, why don’t you each give me your best pregnancy advice,” one of our group leaders (newly pregnant) said.

All of us have been pregnant?

And before I had much time to think of it, tears rushed to my eyes. As discreetly as possible, I looked at my phone with urgency and then left the room as if I had a phone call. Nobody thought anything of it.

It was more than 11 years ago that I had found out getting pregnant might be difficult. And for so long I yearned, I longed, I obsessed over that biological child.

But now, I had two beautiful children at home and had begun to rejoice and delight in the way God had written our story. If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past few years, you know that I have experienced God’s incredible healing deeply in the midst of my brokenness.

And here I was crying over that infertility that I hadn’t given thought to in years.

But this time it wasn’t that I was crying over the lack of a biological child. I wasn’t weeping the same tears I had many years before.

No, these tears were new. But their source has been my constant companion: Barrenness. 

Barrenness.

This morning I was reading Psalm 113 and I saw something I’d never noticed before

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 113:9)

I have become a mom in a very different kind of way. A way that runs straight into the brokenness of our world and embraces the redemption inside of it. A way that walks the tight rope of that brokenness almost every day.

A way that strangers around me have felt free to question. A way that not all of our family members have understood.

A way that has created a very different sort of woman than I was 12 years ago.

A way that, yes, sometimes makes me feel odd and misunderstood when surrounded by more “normal” moms.

And a way that asks me to embrace my brokenness instead of denying it and allow it to be used for the good of others. And, if I’m honest, that sometimes stings.

I cried that day not for the biological child I cannot have. No, I cried that day because I didn’t want to be defined by my barrenness. I wanted to exist outside of it. But, I’m beginning to think God is asking me to instead embrace it. Live in it.

When I walked back into the room that day, I chose not to share what I had just experienced. And I think that was a mistake. Over the last year this group has become a significant source of encouragement for me. Many of them have become dear friends. I should have trusted them then but the truth is, I didn’t want their pity.

AmyOBrienphoto (1)

But if I had it to do all over again, I’m thinking I should have stayed in my seat, and when it came to my turn (tears and all) simply said, “I’m Amy and I’ve never been pregnant. And I’m beginning to understand that maybe it’s a gift.”

God’s healing of our hearts began to happen long before we became parents. And it continues to teach me.

My body is broken. But my God is good.

The one where I tell you I’m writing a book

Goodness, gracious friends I’ve got some news.

Brandon and I have signed a contract with Intervarsity Press to co-author our first book together. The topic? Adoption.

IMG_6999

That’s right, my editor / writer husband has just accepted perhaps the most challenging job of his career…writing a book with his wife.

We began working on the proposal and figuring out what a book by us about adoption would look like this past spring. Over one particularly long dinner Brandon and I began to flesh out this project and we had that moment of “we’ve got to write this.”

But we still had to walk the process. It had to pass through multiple committees and receive multiple stamps of approval. Even though Brandon has worked with this particular press on several projects, this was no guaranteed deal. We received helpful critique and concerns along the way.

And ultimately they decided to offer us the deal. We put those signed contracts in the mail today.

And it was all business along the way until we got the offer. Then I froze. I’m talking, sat in a chair and stared at the contract for an hour froze (good thing my kids were watching a movie).

Brandon will have his 6th book in print. I will author my first book. And while I am aware that I am totally riding on his coat-tails, I’m also kind of okay with it. And I’m honored because IVP wanted both of us. My husband, the published-brilliant-known author, AND me, the small-time blogger and mom. We get to write this book together.

IMG_7441Now, Brandon and I are the parents of two young adopted children and we are NOT adoption / parenting experts. This is not the book where we tell you how to do it all. Neither is this the book where we share the nitty-gritty details of our children’s stories. No, those stories are their own and we don’t have a right to blast them to the world. There are lots of other stories bound up in ours, and we don’t want to put dear dear people on display.

No, our hope is that this will be a book about adoption that draws in all the people. Because we believe the adoption narrative has something to teach us all. We have been changed as the parents of our two little people and we want you to be changed, too.

And we realize that in doing this we are stepping right into the fray. If we do this book right we will make a few people uncomfortable and we will probably draw criticism. And, believe me when I tell you, I am terrified. But in the we’ve-got-to-do-this-anyway sort of way.

IMG_0344So here we go.

And I have a request: if you are an adoptive family or birth family would you get in touch with us? We will have some questions for you.

And If you are an adult adoptee (or you know an adult adoptee) can you please please PLEASE please contact us? We feel like your voice isn’t heard enough, we want you to be a part of this project.

Friends, this is a heart project for us. It’s close and we want to handle it with care. We want to inspire and challenge and encourage. We want to give voice to the voiceless and we want to correct some misperceptions.

But, mostly, we want to let you in on what God has done in and through our family make-up. Because it’s good. It’s really really good.

IMG_5248

It’s not the way I thought it would be…

…Because sometimes you find yourself living a life that you never imagined.

IMG_5267

This past Friday, I had a rare moment alone to get some errands done. As I walked by myself to the grocery store (coat zipped up, hands in pockets, scarf on, head down), I caught a glimpse of myself in a store window and saw a different woman than I used to be.

Not different in a fundamental sense but different in reality. Different in life.

I’ve been working on a project lately that isn’t ready to share. And I’ve been practicing the discipline of writing, and I’ve been learning the art of deciphering what words are ready for the public and what words are reserved for later. (and I’ve been perhaps putting my editor-husband to his ultimate test…editing his wife’s writing.)

And I keep catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror. A glimpse of a woman with brown hair and no makeup.

A glimpse of a woman prepared for all the city will bring, zig-zagging among pedestrians.

A glimpse of a woman weary and impatient from a day of public transportation with littles.

A glimpse of a woman who is trying her hardest to find the next thing.

A glimpse of a woman with a messy living room and pile of recycling.

A glimpse of a woman who is broken and cracked, but beautiful and whole.

And this woman isn’t exactly who I imagined I’d be. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Because the truth is, despite my deepest heart’s desire, I never even thought of living in a city like New York. I never could have dreamed how being married for 12 years and a mom for 6 years would have molded, shaped, changed, broken, and strengthened me. I never imagined having the confidence that this woman has to fight for her people and (on her bravest days) pursue her dreams.

And I never knew the courage and sacrifice it would take to slow down and lean in to the children God has graciously placed in my care. To choose the unexpected because it provides safety and security for my oldest.

To choose less productivity because it gives affection to my youngest.

To choose being their mom first over the pursuit of the many desires and passions and professional pursuits.

To choose to see my children fully in the brokenness of their stories but not wholly without the hope of their futures.

Being a woman who is driven, determined, opinionated, cautious, kind, and tender…this is how God created me.

Being an adoptive mom who is slow to talk, quick to listen, fully of mercy and compassion…a white mom who is taking awkward and uncomfortable steps to put my white-ness aside and enter into the brown world of my two loves…a wife who is the ultimate partner in the small things and the biggest things…this is how Christ is re-creating me.

Coming to terms with my brokenness, with the cracks in my appearance, with the lines and wrinkles on my face, with the different-than-expected-but-incredibly-beautiful-life that I get to lead…

Well, this is my journey. What’s yours?

IMG_8441

(very important side note: this post is in no way meant to communicate that moms must put aside their professional dreams for their children. I know and respect lots of moms who have thriving careers because that is exactly where they should be. This is just my personal journey towards different professional goals than I may have planned a few years ago.) 

When a stroller is a sacred symbol

So this week Eliza and I walked our very well loved, but still in excellent condition, Uppababy Vista over to a local ministry that serves families of young children in our neighborhood. I was glad to have helped a family in need but it honestly felt like a real loss.
Stroller 1

 

My bright yellow Vista has served us well as a family. Both our babies used the bassinet as their first bed. Walks with Jamie as an infant and later with both kids helped me keep my sanity in the haze of baby-hood. The roomy basket could hold bikes and scooters easily and I loved taking it grocery shopping or to the farmer’s market. I had researched WAY too much before settling on this stroller and we did our best to use it as much as possible.

Stroller 4

We moved it to NYC knowing that Eliza was close to outgrowing it. With it, the kids and I explored our neighborhood parks and streets. Jamie rode on the rumbleseat and it was, honestly, one of the few places Eliza felt safe when we were out. I pushed it with ease. It served us well.

Lest you think I’m being paid by Uppababy to promote their high quality strollers 😉 I should probably get to my point….

Our Uppababy has always been more than a stroller to me.

When we were waiting to adopt our first child, our caseworkers had been very intentional about encouraging us to wait to prepare for our baby. Don’t decorate a room…don’t buy all the clothes…don’t have a baby shower…just wait. Everything you need, they explained, you can get when you bring your baby home.

I had watched people close to us walk through the heartbreak of situations falling through. And when a decorated and fully stocked room remained empty, I knew that there was wisdom is not fully preparing. In the end, there is nothing certain about the adoption process, and nothing is a done deal until the judge says it is.

But the fact remained that I was an expecting mother. It’s not just the hormones of pregnancy that make a mama nest. Early on in our process, a fellow adoptive mama told me that one of the hard things about adoption is that you are potentially 9 months pregnant for a long time. Because any day your baby could come. Any day our world could change.

I needed some physical representation of God’s provision. I needed something to hold on to. So I bought a few outfits that were particularly meaningful to me and I kept them hanging in my closet as a symbol of God’s faithfulness to provide, even if I couldn’t see that provision yet. I wore a certain necklace almost everyday that a friend gave to me as a symbol of the faith we all had that God would provide.

We purchased a carseat with money from grandparents and when I found a great deal on our Vista, my parents graciously bought it. And I kept it in the corner of our guest room wrapped with a blanket that some very sweet girls had knitted for me. And over the almost two years that followed, it became a sacred spot in our home.

When people came to visit, I packed it away in the closet. But otherwise, I enjoyed looking at it when I walked past the room. I cried over it when situations fell through. I found myself staring at it when life was overwhelmingly hard. When darkness threatened to swallow me up, this was the physical manifestation of ultimate hope.

Stroller 3And just like the usually-not-so-nice cat that God used to comfort me in the midst of our infertility, this stroller, this tool, this inanimate object, became sacred. After having looked at the stroller for more than a year, when I put Jamie in the bassinet that first night (and checked on him roughly 135 times), it felt as though it was more than a bed. I was wrapping my baby in the longings of my heart. I was placing him to rest, in the prayers of our family and friends, in the generosity of his grandparents. I was, ultimately, laying him on the altar that I had met and worshipped God at for more than a year.

And, of course, the stroller in and of itself, is simply a tool. I always knew, I couldn’t keep it forever. Honestly, I’m glad for the empty space in our apartment, and I can’t think of any better legacy than passing this symbol of God’s faithfulness onto a family in need. Because the Vista is a work horse and has lots of years of use ahead of it.

But, after more than 7 years with it, it feels strange without it.

 

 

The First Noel (thoughts from a lonely Christmas)

img_7206

This Christmas it will be just the four of us at home. No traveling, no family visiting. And while we (of course) will miss time with our extended family, we’re more than a little excited to have just the four of us. To form traditions and snuggle and stay in PJs all day. To explore our new city and to serve our neighbors. To make cinnamon rolls and start a new tradition of fish and chips for dinner.

Brandon and I will celebrate twelve years on December 31. And in that 12 years, we have only ever spent 1 Christmas Day with just us, in 2011.

On this particular year, Christmas was on a Sunday. Since we were sticking around, we volunteered to sing the special music at church. We chose The First Noel. And while it wasn’t particularly meaningful to us at the time, it became deeply meaningful to me in the 6 years since.

Why? Well let me back up a little bit.

This was the Christmas before Jamie was born. It had been 5 years since we had first started trying to have our first child. And we were spent. tired. defeated. As we approached that day, we were filled with great longing and sadness. We were exhausted emotionally and my body was exhausted physically.

And one might think (and they would have good reason) that this was the wrong year to choose a quiet Christmas with just the two of us. And it wasn’t our first choice. Brandon’s grandma had passed away earlier that fall and the expense of extra travel meant we didn’t really have the funds (or vacation time) for the Christmas visit. And, if we’re honest, we weren’t emotionally ready for what the Christmas would bring. We missed his grandma and we were grieving her. We were also grieving the four different adoption situations that had looked possible, only to fall through (at various places in the process). We were sad. If we we’re honest, we just couldn’t handle the questions and the pity and all the things.

So we stayed home. We had a quiet and lovely Christmas Eve with my brother and his wife. And then Christmas Day we made plans for it to be just the two of us.

And reflecting on this day, Brandon and I have realized something. This is where our hearts began to heal. On that lonely Christmas we found the hidden beauty of Advent. When you are longing and waiting for something that may or may not come anytime soon, it’s easy to lose hope. And we knew that we could either find God in the midst of where we were or we would crumble under the weight of it. We were too weak to make much of a choice at the time, instead God descended to us. He found us in our overwhelming exhaustion and weakness and He gave us his presence. He soothed our hearts and held our grief so tenderly. And suddenly we began to understand the magic and mystery of that Bethlehem night…The night when God’s people encountered the savior that they probably didn’t think was coming anymore.

He met us. He cradled us. He loved us. We didn’t know at the time, that Jamie was going to be born a few short months later. We didn’t know that God was preparing the answer to our prayers. We didn’t know that a woman sat miles away taking such good care of the baby in her belly. She didn’t know what her future held either. But she made the most selfless and loving choices. I imagine she was scared, but I also like to imagine that she held the same peace that God gave to us. That month of December none of us knew how the story would unfold.

And as I sit here 6 years later with tears in my eyes, now mom of two beautiful children, I just can’t help but thank God for that Christmas. For the tears. For the pain. For the longing and even for the loneliness. For God descending to us and covering us. For giving us a glimpse and a deeper understanding of his coming, of the beauty of the Incarnation…that the Savior of the World would come to the broken and the weak.

And so I leave you with the lyrics of that beautiful hymn.

The first Noel the angel did say 
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; 
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep, 
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep. 

Refrain:
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, 
born is the King of Israel. 

They looked up and saw a star 
shining in the east, beyond them far; 
and to the earth it gave great light, 
and so it continued both day and night.

 

img_7237

 

 

It came in like a wrecking ball…

Okay, that’s a bad title. I’ll admit to that. But there is something tender I’ve been processing for a while. And, well, I may just be brave enough to write about it. Or, you know, I may not. We’ll have to see.

IMG_5277

Brandon and I parent two amazing children. There is not a single day that I am not thankful that I get to be a part of their story. That I get to be the one to hold them and love them and encourage them and direct them. That I get to build never-ending Lego creations and pillow forts. That I get to kiss boo boos and talk about being kind to each other. I love being their mom. So much that it frequently makes me cry.

But, there is also not a day that goes by that I am not acutely aware of the pain with which their story began. Because I was not their first mother. I am their complete mother, but I am not the only and I am not the first. (And I would appreciate no one arguing with me on this point. I don’t tolerate disparaging words about birthparents).

Lately I’ve been having a recurring nightmare that one or both of my kids are taken from me. And it has nothing to do with the “dangers” of the city. No, I feel way safer in a city than I feel out in the middle of the country (just ask Brandon). 

And to an extent it is a normal fear for any parent. Except our family was not formed in the “normal” way. If the world was not a broken place, my children would not have needed my home. Therefore, their pain is the reason I am their mother. And more than 5 years in, I can’t even write that sentence without tears.

IMG_5269Now, for our beautiful, spunky, brave daughter we have pictures and stories and actual real people who made a brave decision for her good. We have evidence of love in the midst of the brokenness. We have people she will meet and talk to and hear from one day. And her story begins with pain but it gets to redemption a whole lot quicker. But the pain. The pain is still there. Don’t think for a moment that it’s gone away. She and her birth family feel this pain.

IMG_5268

But let me tell you about my J. My sweet, amazing, beautiful boy. His pain is different than Eliza’s. And his pain sometimes bursts forth with quiet intensity that knocks us off our feet.

Our sweet boy left a whole network of friends back in Arkansas. Friends he loved. Friends he would boss around (let’s just be honest about that). And friends that loved him just as much as he loved them. Jamie didn’t lack confidence. He had it in abundance. He made friends out of strangers everywhere we went. He loved deeply and fully. He couldn’t get enough of people. He had a quiet confidence.

And then we changed his whole world. And, guess what? He loved it. Because if you know my son, you know that he LOVES adventure. And this adventure came with more time with mom & dad, and with airplanes and subways and buses…all the things he loves best.

But one day on the playground (the one right by our house) another kid was quite mean to Jamie. And that combined with the total life change was the spark for trauma to come crashing in. Since that day, something has changed in my boy. What was once confidence is now hesitancy. What was once peace is now anxiety. What was once a plethora of friends is now a mom, dad, and little sister.

Now don’t get me wrong, J is still creative and adventure seeking. He is still brave and willing to try new things. But now he does not approach other kids to become their friend. He does not leave his sister’s side at the playground. He meets his world with anxiety.

Photo Jun 16, 2 18 24 PMAnd on more than one occasion I have rocked my baby boy to sleep while he wept. And this is not my J. Except that it is. My beautiful boy has pain so deep that even his own mother forgets that it’s there. Until it comes in and wrecks us all.

You see, for a child who is formed with pain and trauma…this is how they handle their world. Our job as his parents is to teach him how to handle feelings that are too big to express. Feelings and emotions that 5 year olds just shouldn’t have. And, friends, don’t get me wrong. I know that a lot of this is just the nature of change. I know that boys are emotional. But I also know that this is something deeper. Because our journey together started with pain: My pain, their pain, their birth family’s pain. And there is far too much evidence that shows how this sort of pain totally devastates a child.

And, can I just be honest for a second? Society doesn’t make it easy for adoptive parents. Seriously. Society sometimes makes this all WAY harder than it needs to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I like society. We get along. But I’m becoming weary of the way our family is so openly questioned.  Whether in Arkansas or New York City (or everywhere in between), we are viewed with a little more skepticism. Our motives are suspect. Our methods are scrutinized (down to the type of music we play for our children). We are watched.  And don’t even get me started on the comments. Well meaning or not, everyone has an opinion about our family and for whatever reason they feel free to share it. Many are positive. Many are intentionally not and they are said loudly enough for us to hear and to field disapproval. Because of our family’s makeup, we bear the weight of a lot of agendas. And sometimes it feels like too much.

So what do I do? I weep with my strong boy. I weep that he will have to answer more difficult questions than many of his peers. I weep because he won’t even have to question his identity on his own…society will do that for him. He will have to account for decisions beyond his control. And I feel his anger and his frustration. I share it with him. Because that’s my job.

And I trust that this too shall pass? Why? Because we’re facing it. And it’s messy and hard and difficult, but we’re handling it.

So where do we go from here? I’m hoping to write a blog post very soon with a lot more practical advice and do’s / do not’s for people. But, in the meantime, here are my two pieces of advice for two different groups of people who didn’t ask….

  • Fellow parents of kids from hard places: Stop what you’re doing and grieve with your child. Seriously, hold them and cry with them. Listen to them. Even a 5 year old can tell you what they need (which is why I’m about to stop this blog posting and play Legos). And, reach out to your surrounding community. Emotional breakdowns don’t come up naturally in conversation, so it can become isolating when it happens. Don’t let it be. Text those who get it, text those who may not “get it” but love you best. I waited too long to do this but when I finally did, a flood of encouragement came in. And while they didn’t offer practical “fix it right now” solutions (those don’t exist anyway), and while many of them may not have understood, they made me feel less crazy and gave me permission to just cry it out and then to take the next right step.
  • Those watching from the outside (i.e. friends or family of those with adopted kids): Listen to the concerns being offered. And just let them be concerns. I can’t tell you how many times well meaning members of my community have tried to explain away my concern by downplaying it…it leads to more isolation, not encouragement. The times people listen, and simply allow me to be worried. Those are the times I leave encouraged. Also, unless you are a very good friend or family member…it’s probably best not to comment. I have never ended a day wishing I’d had more comments from strangers about the makeup of my family. When in doubt, just smile and move on.

And, so, I have full confidence that this story ends well. Because it has already been so good! So today and tomorrow we will take one step forward and rejoice in the small things. We will make cookies. We will stare right back at those people who stare at us and we will speak with boldness (and kindness!) to those who question us. And, above all, we will give grace to all because we all have missteps. We will continue to laugh about the fact that our skin is so beautifully different. We will talk seriously about how Jamie will have to behave differently than some of his friends (not just because of his color but also because of mine).

And we will continue to enjoy our family. We will build forts, visit museums, try new foods, make new friends, and continue to explore this beautiful city we have the privilege of living in.

Because what’s the answer to the brokenness? It isn’t ignoring it. It’s choosing joy in the midst of it. It’s choosing mercy right in the mess. And that’s where Jesus is, friends. Right there in the midst of the mess.

IMG_5271

My Husband is not the One for me.

img_5620.jpg

It’s true.

Now, before my friends and family start worrying about the future of the O’Briens, maybe I should back up.

When I came to college, I was determined to meet “the one.” I was on the lookout for the man God created for me. The man who would be my partner for life. The only one in the entire universe that I could be happy with. The one who had been formed and molded in his mother’s womb in order to someday be my husband.

But, after a few failed relationships I came crashing into the truth that there was one problem…

This man. This “one”…

Well, he didn’t exist.

I was dating Brandon at the time that I finally came to this realization. A few weeks after a very honest conversation with a professor, I said yes to Brandon’s proposal. And a breezy 11 months later (long engagements are the absolute WORST), we were married.

10 years later, I have never been more in love with my husband. I plan to be married to him for the rest of my life. I love the life we have created. I love our family. I love my partner.

But, I don’t believe that God created him just for me. I don’t think he is the one my whole life was leading to.

Brandon is just a man. He’s a very good man. A smart man. A creative and resourceful and caring and encouraging man. He’s loyal and honest and tender and compassionate. He is absolutely hilarious.

But he’s just a man.

I firmly believe that Brandon could have been happy with any woman he chose.

I believe I could have been happy with any man that I chose.

(assuming, of course, that they were equally committed to their faith)

We aren’t together because the universe wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re together, because we chose one another. We love God deeply, we are committed to serving Him our entire lives, and we see in one another the possibility of doing that together.

We fell in love and we love doing life together. God is active in our midst, in our home, in our family. But it’s not because this is the only way it could have been. No, it’s because this is just what God does. He takes two imperfect people who are committed to one another and he makes a family.

Okay, so now that I have that out of the way, I have something else I need to get off my chest.

cropped-2014-06-17-14-06-27.jpg

I do not believe that my children were created in order to be my children.

We weren’t destined for one another.

And I can’t even count how many times people have said this to me.

Here’s my beef…

I do not believe that my God caused my children and their birth families pain in order to give me a child. Similarly, I don’t believe that God gave me infertility in order to teach me a lesson.

Instead, I believe that God brought something beautiful out of the pain. What a world marred by sin meant for bad, God used for good.

What a body devastated by brokenness couldn’t do…God did in a way that only he could do.

And here’s my point in all of this. I believe the beauty of our God is that He brings beauty out of ashes. He brings victory out of failure. He brings wholeness out of brokenness.

Our family is whole. But not because we were always intended for one another from the beginning.

No, I think this whole thing could have worked out very differently and still just as sweet.

Our family is whole because that’s what God does.

 

 

A whole new kind of family

One year ago today we woke up in our home as a family of four for the very first time.

2014-07-04 08.38.29

Eliza was born early in the morning on June 28 and it took a week for the state of Oklahoma to let us leave. It was a stressful week with a lot of the unpredicted things coming up.

But I don’t think I’ve ever written how it ended.

The state of Oklahoma had been giving us lots of conflicting information. We had all of our paperwork done and completed, but after Eliza was born they asked for brand new paperwork and told us of requirements they had never mentioned before. My long suffering, incredibly patient husband had just about had his full.

At the end of the week, on Thursday, July 3, the state of Oklahoma tells us that Eliza’s birthmom (J) needs to go before a judge. This was a one more requirement they had never mentioned before. And we had to find someone get it done before the holiday weekend.

Through some very kind individuals we are able to get an appointment with an Oklahoma judge for 2 p.m. that day. J and her dad met us there.

At this appointment J held Eliza while the judge asked her if she understood her decision. I couldn’t take my eyes off the two of them. J looked at Eliza most of the time as she gave her statement. Then we went into a court room to wait and the judge said everything was done. J hugged Eliza one more time. Her dad did the same and then we said our goodbyes. A few minutes later we got official permission to leave the state and return home. That night we were home.

2014-07-04 22.53.07

This image has been forever burned in my mind. J knew what she was doing. And she did it out of love for her child. The state of Oklahoma gave J and her parents a lot of extra things to do. And they did them all.

There is a misconception about adoption that if a mother loves the child, she wont go through with it.

Adoptions get disrupted all the time for a multitude of reasons. And many mothers change their minds and make the decision to parent. And they have every right to do so.

(And there are many adoption situations that arise out of abuse or mistreatment. I’m not talking about those. )

Both the decision to parent and the decision to place your child for adoption can be loving decisions.

Many people have asked us about our relationship with Eliza’s birth family. And they don’t often understand what it must be like. If we’re honest, we don’t really either. We’re all figuring this out as we go. But the fact is, these people have become our very own family. We love them. They are a part of our daughter, they love her deeply and so they are a part of us. But it’s not just Eliza, they also love Jamie. We keep in touch and they are just as eager to hear how he is doing. They love him. They love me. They love Brandon.

We don’t know when Eliza will get to see them all again. We are praying for wisdom to know when it’s time.

But we are so incredibly thankful, honored, privileged and humbled that they would entrust our sweet baby to us.

Adoption is a beautiful and incredible thing. It’s hard. It can be uncomfortable. It’s messy and unpredictable. It’s full of brokenness and heartache. But the grace is so very rich. The mercy is overflowing.

And I love it.

2015-06-05 15.11.22

A child of my very own

IMG_5056(1)

As an adoptive family, we get lots of questions and comments. They provide for lots of awkward moments but they rarely keep me up at night.

Except one. One eats away at me and it comes in many forms.

The other day in the grocery store, it was just me and Jamie. Jamie was being his normal, silly and inquisitive self. As she was scanning my groceries, the checkout lady looked at him and then looked at me and simply asked, ‘Is he yours?” When I responded that he was, she followed up with “Is he adopted?”

I get this question a lot, so I had an answer. I knew the drill. But there was something very different this time.

This time Jamie was listening. After our exchange, Jamie looked at me and very innocently asked, “What did she say?” And when I told him, he immediately asked, “Why?”

As I looked at my precious boy, my heart broke. As I responded politely to the woman asking the question, I felt tears in the back of my eyes. And as I told Jamie a better version of what she had asked, I realized that I need to teach my children how to handle this question.

And the question comes in many forms:

Is he/she yours? Are they adopted? Do you have any children of your own? Are they real brother and sister? Are you their “real” mom / dad?

In addition to teaching them to brush their teeth, go potty, ask polite questions and pick up their shoes … In addition to family dance parties, group hugs and Lego building … I need to teach my kids how to handle someone questioning whether they belong to me or to their daddy or to each other.

I need to help prepare them that people will ask questions in such a way that it will call into question everything they have always known.

I need to prepare them.

And I’ve got to start now.

I know that this woman and the many, many others who have asked don’t mean any harm. I tend to assume the best of people, and this case is no different. And, most of the time, the comment I get most is about my children’s eye lashes and beautiful smiles.

I don’t blame that woman. She didn’t know me or my children and she was making polite conversation.

I’ve been wrestling with this blog post for some time. Adoptive families will tell you that this is a constant theme, especially if your family is very obviously formed by adoption.

And I’ve written lots about this subject. Some I’ve published, others are still too intimate, too personal to let the world read.

In the end, here is what I want people to know. Questions aren’t bad. I’m a teacher. I love questions. If you ask one, I will feel compelled to answer.

But, I need you to understand something. This is personal. Asking questions about our adoption story is like asking someone for their birth story. It’s not necessarily as graphic, but it is just as personal.

So, here’s my unsolicited advice: If you are interacting with an adoptive family that you have no personal relationship with, think about the question before you ask the question.

(For help knowing if a question is appropriate, I suggest you watch this.)

And, if you’re never going to see them again, don’t ask. Instead, squelch your curiosity and simply say, “they’re precious.” And leave it at that.

If you have a relationship with the family and are sincerely curious, my best advice is to admit that you don’t know exactly how to ask the question and proceed from there. As I said earlier, Brandon and I are very open and we love answering questions in the context of a personal conversation.

But here is my one request. Do not (I repeat) do not ask the question in front of the child. Just don’t. They hear more than you think and, even if they’re 18, they probably wont enjoy the question.

So, seriously, don’t.

In conclusion, here are my very own children, a very real brother and sister, at around the same age taking a bath. They both have beautiful curls and the kind of eyes that cause (and convey) all sorts of feelings.

Aren’t they beautiful?
2015-03-27 17.40.39-1 2015-03-27 22.36.53

 

It’s an adoption thing

Photo Sep 02, 6 03 08 PM (HDR) (1)

Adoption blogs are everywhere.

There’s a part of me that loves it. I love the awareness. I love the spotlight being on such an important topic. I am thankful for the other adoptive moms who get it. Who understand our family. Who put words to feelings I had not yet acknowledged.

But another part of me is. so. tired. of. them.

I’m tired of everyone having an opinion about how my family was formed. I’m tired of adoptive parents complaining. I’m tired of people who haven’t adopted feeling that they have the right to offer sweeping commentary. I’m tired of the savior and rescue language.

And the problem is: it’s everywhere. Encouragement and discouragement… awareness and opinions… helpful advice and butting in…Buzzfeed article, after buzzfeed article, after buzzfeed article…

There are many times I’d prefer to just not talk about it. I’d prefer that people not feel the need to clarify that my children are not biologically mine. I hate the constant commentary on my kid’s skin tone, or the traits they most surely got from their birth families (because we couldn’t possibly deserve any credit)… And, somedays, I’d like to just shut off all the noise and just simply be a mom. A mom who may look differently from my children but loves them just the same. A mom who cleans up vomit and changes diapers (this is what my last two days have held). A mom who kisses boo boos and reads bed time stories. A mom who tickles and laughs. Who disciplines and provides structure. A mom who just loves as best as I know how.

And I am that mom. But, the fact is, I am also an adoptive mom. And that comes with certain responsibilities. And, whether I always feel like it or not, it means I need to talk about it. It is my responsibility to educate others about adoption so that my children have a better world to live in. It is my responsibility to talk with my children so they are equipped to handle the challenges that will inevitably come. I have to tell pediatricians and doctors that there are certain biological questions I cannot answer. I have to learn grace for the stupid, insensitive and insulting questions. Because I’m the one my children will look to.

As tired as I am by these questions and comments, I’ve been convicted lately that I’ve got to step up. In order to parent my children fully, I have to become a part of the conversation. Because one day they will be playing on the playground and will be asked insulting and demeaning questions by other kids (who heard it from their parents). They will be asked about their “real” parents. They will be required to answer for their status as an adopted child. And I need to do my part to pave the way. To prepare them at home, but to also change the world they are growing up in.

And, you know what? I don’t mind. I would do infinitely more just to be able to parent these precious ones I have been entrusted with.

So, this is my first of several blogs about adoption. (It’s also my attempt to resume this regular blogging thing.)

Why add to the overwhelming amount of adoption blogs? Well, I guess you could say it’s an adoption thing.

Now back to those dirty diapers…