Friday, February 11, 2011

A Little Story While We Wait (Part 3)

So on with the final part of this story...

Everyone appeared to settle in nicely and there
was time to get to know my cousin a little better. After some time had passed, my cousin would share horrific stories of sexual abuse and being caught up in child trafficking. This mother.....this child. My insides ached for her and instantly I was given a spirit of protectiveness over this "woman-child". Her nickname would become "choman" and we would smile at my utterance of this name because it would acknowledge that she was both a child and a woman in the same body. I wanted her to know that I adored and respected all parts of her. She went to church with us and eventually came to a saving knowledge of Christ. She was baptized in water and in the tears of joy from others that were rooting her on.

My cousin seemed to be adjusting well and wanting to learn. First thing was first,
we needed to get her eldest, Maria, on a schedule so she would sleep through the night. Insurance was also a concern and so we got them approved and started on Medicaid and W.I.C. Through God's grace, we were successful in obtaining a grant that would pay the full tuition to a local beauty college. This was a stepping stone to what she really wanted to do with her life and that be a mortician. There, I said it. I am so not going to answer any questions regarding this, because I was as perplexed with this desire as you probably are now! But I figured someone has to be a mortician right?

After about a month, the cracks began to show through. My cousin was wanting to get on MySpace to "talk with her friends" and she was sleeping in later and later and not taking care of her babies like she needed to. Most of her time was spent texting her friends. We really had no idea what we were taking on nor the limits we needed to set in having her live with our family. Given hindsight, we would have done many things differently, but we just didn't know. She was used to having so much freedom back in her home town....the same type of freedom that got her into trouble in the first place. We were afraid to set too many limits becau
se we were afraid it would drive her away and the help we had to offer her would mean nothing. We just didn't know how to strike this balance and still be successful with her. In retrospect, we were way too timid.

15 mos old Maria was showing signs of emotional wear and tear as well due to previous unexplained absences of her mother. It had already been a month and I had yet to get a smile out of her. Not only that, her desire to play was non-existent. With all the children in our home ready and wanting to play with her, she exhibited no spark of interest. Her main goal of each and every moment of every day was to be as close to her mother as possible. If she had suction cups, I am sure she would have used them to attach herself to her
mother like one of those stuffed animals that you see plastered to a window. A month of this behavior was not normal. Something wasn't right.

My cousin's beauty school was to start in January of 2010. It was agreed that I would care for her daughters while she went to school. In mid-October of 2009, before the start of school, my cousin was making noises that she wanted to go back home to "tie up loose ends" (i.e. parole issues, re-instating her driver's license..etc.) She did not want to take her little ones because she was afraid their father would try to abduct them. It was a valid fear that we both shared. She had an unused
plane ticket and this is what she used to go home. She was scheduled to come back in 10 days.

We would not see her again for another four and half months.

After a series of conversations, I would learn that she had wanted to go back home solely to hook up with someone she had met on MySpace and they had decided they wanted to get married. And within in three weeks, she was pregnant once again with her third child at the ripe age of 17.

My cousin had left me with her precious girls, hidden from all the chaos she was now involved in. Was this why the Lord had them come live with us
? It was obvious we were going to be of no help to their mother. Were we going to end up with them permanently?

In the ensuing weeks and months, we would have nu
merous phone calls with many family members to discuss our options. The end conclusion was that we were encouraged to seek temporary custody of the girls. Even their mother, my cousin, agreed and felt that we needed to pursue this.

At this point, I had four children three and under and seven additional children above these ages. Two of them were just months old. I loved the challenge and I loved Maria and Julia. Maria would begin to open up to me in ways that would melt my heart. The first time she ever reached her arms up for me to hold her was a milestone. This was a huge step for her in her trust in me. She was actually re
aching out to have a need met. She used to just whimper quietly when she was upset or injured, almost as if she didn't think her need or pain was worth a robust cry. Her cries were becoming more strong and confident as she saw I would attend to her. Whoever thought I would want to hear this!!! But it was music to my ears. She was now fully playing with my children.....she seemed more at peace and happy. In a deep sense, I was so thankful that the Lord had given this chance to make a difference in a little curly headed life. However, her eating was still a sign that something was amiss. She would eat anything put in front of her. She had no stopping point. She would stuff her mouth so full that she would not be able to breathe. She was treating food as a choking person would oxygen. She would eat desperately, even when there was no need to.

It was this little person that would teach me that no matter how much I loved on her, my love would never saturate the deepest roots of who she was.......only her mom could do this and she wasn't there.

Again, we were back at the lawyers office trying to draw up documents to obtain temporary custody of Julia and Maria. According to NC state law, this could only happen once the girls had been in NC for 6 months which would be in late February of 2010. So now it was just a waiting game. Their mother
would call on a regular basis and was noticeably torn. She wanted to be with her girls, but she wanted to create a stable life in which to take care of them.

At one point, my cousin asked to come back and live with us. The hardest thing to do was to say "no" to her. But her behaviors and lies were something we could not tolerate in our house. Since she was pregnant again, there was no way we could take on another little life and then have her leave again. Her children couldn't be exposed to more episodes of abandonment. Even if she were to stay and go to school, I felt confident we couldn't take on another infant so soon wi
thout jeopardizing the rest of my children. All we could offer was to take on the continual care of Maria and Julia while she got her life together and stabilized. She was upset and hurt that we would not take her back and took it very personally. As a result, she somehow convinced her mother that the girls were in imminent danger of being kidnapped by their father and was able to scare out the funds necessary to fly back to NC. With an 8 hr. warning, my cousin and her sister flew in and retrieved the girls.

Within hours they were gone. There was a hole left in our family. For days afterward, out of habit, I would check their room at night to make sure they were ok only to find the room vacant. Sigh.

What was I supposed to learn from all of this? Did we somehow misinterpret what God wanted us to do? Did we help at all? All I know, was that my heart ached and I was worried for these girls. There was nothing we could do except to offer future help should the girls need it.....and I was selfishly hoping they would so I could see them and love on them again.

We would hear nothing more of the girls unless I initiated contact with my aunt. They are currently living with their father and paternal grandmother. I'm assuming the grandmother has since developed the fine art of remembering the formula and bottles by now (refer to previous post). The father and grandmother are not in this country legally, so I do not know if this will affect the girls in anyway. My prayer is that it won't. My cousin apparently, rarely visits her daughters and is slowly evacuating herself from their lives.

Here's how I look at it. God uses all kinds of situations in which to raise us.....even imperfect ones. Obviously, this is the case for these girls. At least they are with family that love them and take care of them how they see fit. It could be so much worse. I feel con
tent and satisfied that we obeyed the Lord's leading and did all that we could do. There are not, and never will be, any regrets in what we attempted to do.

If anything, this experience has made us realize that our hearts desire is to give of ourselves to children in need on a permanent what adoption offers. This experience played a huge part in grooming us for this role
. We have a lot for which to thank Maria and Julia. They were teachers and didn't even know it.

You know, as I re-read through this whole story, there is so much that has been left unsaid. So much that happened and so many emotions that ran rampant and have been left unexplained and unexpressed. But I think I was successful in getting the gist of this story documented.

Listen, if you made it all the way through this long and arduous deserve an award! You have also shown great love towards me as well as it means the world to me that you would even be interested. Thank you. This has been something that I have needed to write down for the longest time and it has been cathartic to do so.

Here is the most recent picture I have of them: Maria @ 2yrs. and Julia @ 1yr.:

A Little Story While We Wait (Part 2)

Ok. So I have been duly chastised regarding telling my story in parts. Really, if I told the whole story at one time, I am afraid my poor friends and readers would not last until the end. I liken it to swallowing a whole steak instead of cutting it into edible pieces.

Here is the next piece of steak.

Alright, where was I? Ah yes, I ended the last p
ost saying that I had convinced myself that God had wanted us to adopt my cousin's precious baby girl. I couldn't wait. She was due late August of 2009, but on July 25th, I got a call saying that she had gone into preterm labor and was about to deliver. This was not supposed to happen this way! My cousin was 5 days away from flying out to North Carolina to deliver here. I had wanted to be with her and legally it just made things a whole lot easier. I tried everything in my power to get to where she was to no avail. This is where I fully admit, with shame, that I was in this more for me than the baby or the mom. To be truthful, a part of me knew that the longer my cousin was around her baby girl, the less likely she would let her baby girl be adopted by us.

Too late.

We received a call later that night from my aunt telling us to stop all the paperwork and that my cousin had decided to keep her baby. I wasn't surprised, but oh so disappointed.......I mean, who could blame her? I couldn't even be mad at her. Quickly, I knew this was the way it was supposed to go and I was surprised at how easy it was for me to make peace with this. My husband had other ideas. Shortly after my aunt's call to halt the adoption, he came to me with tears and
conviction. He told me that he felt the Lord was leading him to take in my 17 yr old cousin and her two tiny little girls. My cousin had had an unsavory past and was struggling with the choices she had made and was making. Most of our family would not lend support to her as they had wearied of her behavior long ago. It was clear to us that we may be her last life line and it was my husband's prayer that maybe we could mentor her and get her on her feet so that she could learn to support her children. Now, please keep in mind that I never told him that I had read books on birth mother issues, nor had I ever confessed to a single soul that my heart was telling me to try to keep my cousin and her babies together. It was then, that I knew the Lord was speaking very clearly to me. He had tried to speak to me through my research on birth mom issues, but I did not have the courage to listen. Then, my husband came to me with a solution to help keep my cousin and her girls together. Now, it was glaringly obvious to me what we had to do. We were about to become a family of 12 children overnight.

Within three weeks, I was on a plane to go pick up my cousin and her girls Maria and Baby Julia. Here is Maria at 15 mos and Julia at three weeks in the arms of the daughter of a good friend, several days after
their arrival in NC:

Unbeknownst to me, there was much debate about whether coming to live with us was the right thing to do. The children's' father and paternal grandmother were against it but relations between them and my cousin were strained due to accusations of physical abuse and drug abuse on the father's part. It was a whirlwind pick up and we were all back at the airport ready to come home to NC within 24 hours. The paternal grandmother had told my cousin that she would help by "packing" Maria and Julia's carry on backpack for the trip. I thought this to be so odd given her negative feelings about my cousin going to NC with her girls. Upon arriving at the airport and waiting at the gate, little Julia began to fuss due to hunger. My cousin pulled out the back pack and started to rummage around for the bottles and formula to feed her. After searching fruitlessly, it was clear that the grandmother had failed to pack the formula or any bottles. There was no way that this 5 lb newborn was going to survive 8 hrs of travel without being fed. It was midnight, 20 minutes before boarding, and there was no way we could get our hands on any formula. In my heart, and knowing the grandmother and her absolute distaste for what we were doing, this was a purposeful act of rebellion and an attempt to sabotage our flight. This had the potential of being a real deal breaker.


What the grandmother did not take into account was that I was an active breast feeder, and with my cousin's permission, I breastfed sweet hungry Julia all the way home without a hitch. This also spoke to me that we were doing the right thing. It truly felt like the Lord had parted the Red Sea for us and that any attempt to stop this would, and did, fail miserably.

You know, at this point, I am not sure which way to go with this. There are so many points to this story and so many lessons learned. I am glad it all happened. I would love to say that this all had a happy ending. It did have an ending but not what I expected at all.

(To Be Continued....)

Monday, February 07, 2011

A Little Story While We Wait (part 1)

First, before I jet off into story land, I want to profusely thank all of my friends for their concern and encouragement in regards to our latest developments. Your prayers have meant more to me now than ever, and I ask that you continue them as our adoption journey has not ended but taken a pit stop. Our journey will just be a little longer than anticipated!

I have been wanting to write about this for awhile. Since it looks as though I will have some time on my hands before we adopt, I guess I'll indulge myself by telling you this story.

About a year and a half ago, I was contacted out of the blue by my aunt. She seemed a little uneasy, but as the conversation matured it became apparent, she was looking for a potential family for her unborn grandchild. As it would turn out, my husband and I felt that we wanted to take this on in order to keep this child in the family not to mention that new life in our family would be eagerly absorbed and enjoyed. My cousin was a young 17 yr old who had already given birth to one daughter on her 16th birthday and now found herself expecting another little girl.

When this call came in, my youngest (our ninth) was only five months old and my next (our 8th) was not even two yet. We quickly retained a lawyer who would help navigate us through a private adoption. The only hang up was whether the potential father would relinquish his rights and let his daughter be adopted out. As it turned out, this would be the least of our concerns.

As the due date drew near, I felt a keen interest and desire to learn more about the issue birth moms have in relinquishing their children. The mother of this new baby would be doing something I could never imagine doing. I needed to know how to minister to her and realize the pain she would have to endure....and after all, the mother, my cousin, was a part of our family as well. In my quest to find literature that pertained to birth mothers' issues, I was surprised to find how sparse the pickings were. There were tons of books about issues with adoptive children and being an adoptive parent but hardly anything regarding birth mothers.
All in all, I was able to find about four to five books dealing with this issue. As I would eventually conclude, birth mothers historically have been the ugly step daughter of the adoptive process and, as a result, have had to grieve silently and painfully with shame as their muzzle.

I couldn't wait to devour these books. I was sure they would give me all the answers I would need. Now, I could feel good about the adoption and I could make myself feel even better about the fact that I "cared" about the mom and her outcome. This couldn't have been further from the truth. What these books did do was open a slew of ethical questions in my mind regarding the whole practice of adoption. What seemed to be the main theme running through the books was that, for the most part, the birth mothers really never heal from the adoptive process. I read case after case after case where mothers told their stories anywhere from 1 to 40 years ago detailing their experience of releasing their child. Heartbreaking. Regret screamed out of the pages I turned. And yet, this is a topic that no one really talks about.....authors don't write about. This is because no one wants to read it, no one wants to admit it.....that adoption is not always the best answer. There are thousands upon thousands of children that have been adopted out when it would have been better had the child stayed with their family.

It's a marketing issue. It's a "fulfilling-a-desire-at-all-costs" issue. There is a load of money to be made through the adoptive process. There is no money to be made in trying to keep mothers and children intact. This would take conviction, time and money. So, you tell me, which option do you think wins?

Now, don't get me wrong. I am PRO adoption but only for the right reasons. Death of parents, abandonment, drugs abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse are all reasons to preserve children's' lives and adoption may be a good option. Some may argue "that a teenage mom has no business raising children!" or "that mom has a right to get an education!" or even "it just wasn't a good time to have a child." Internationally speaking, corruption is also a huge issue that persuades / forces capable parents to put their children up for adoption. But you have to realize that many of the situations that are a reason for relinquishment are temporary...but giving up a child is forever.

In my mind, adoption is based on loss for both parent and child. And if I were queen for a day and had to make a criteria of when adoption was called for, it would be the following: If the wounds of adoption are less injurious than the wounds created by letting the child stay with the parent, then adoption is a good option. If a child has no living parents, then adoption is the only option (this includes by family members as well).

Now that I had these questions, was it really best to let my cousin give up her unborn daughter to us? Did it fit my "queen for a day" criteria above? Was there possibly a way that she could remain united with her children without going through the terminal heartbreak that would result from relinquishing her flesh and blood? Honestly, these were questions that were difficult for me to face and admit. The desire of having yet another newborn in our arms to love and cherish threatened to override my conscience, and ashamedly, it would for a time. Instead of going to my husband and telling him of my concerns, I stayed quiet and convinced myself that God wanted us to do this......

(to be con't)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Price of Being United

I could have done it. It would have been so easy.

The plan was to go to my husband's office and get the adoption service contract notarized and sent off with a very large payment of $5,000. This contract was easily 20-30 pages long and required 50-60 signatures. Earlier that same morning, I got up to read my bible and do some writing. As I was writing, I realized my heart was heavy with uneasiness. Little ques given off by my husband were negligible but nestled deep in my mind. Small words and actions were unsaid and undone or said and done. Each alone did not amount to anything but when all put together it all screamed that I was more alone on this journey of adoption than I was willing to be.

I could have done it. It would have been so easy.

If you had asked my husband how he felt about us adopting, he would have given you a very convincing answer about how we needed to do it and that he was looking forward to reaching beyond our biology to gain a new family member. He was convinced. I was convinced.

But it was the little things.

It took me a good hour and a half to read through the contract and sign it. I was actually savoring every word. He took 5 minutes. I purposely mistook it for eagerness as he would say "I trust you, I'll read it later." The alternative reason, other than eagerness, was not something I thought I could survive. But my gut knew and I would deny my intuition. I wanted to talk about potential names (if need be) and where they would sleep in our home. I wanted to dream out loud but I could feel the subtle resistance as the topic seemed to always change to something else. There were other clues that I chose to ignore. It was easy to ignore because I would reason that
he was the one that came to me about wanting to adopt. OF COURSE he wanted to adopt, it wasn't like I pushed and badgered him into it.

So....I knew what I had to do. I felt it would kill me. Honestly, I wasn't sure I was capable of it. I wanted to adopt in the worst way. I started by telling my husband that I would not be meeting him at his office to notarize the contract nor would I be sending it off. He was shocked, "WHAT?" He claimed that he wanted to go through with the adoption and that he didn't want it to be held up and what could I be thinking? I was almost convinced. I calmly told him what I had been sensing and why. I told hm that my intuition would not leave me alone on this one.

He got quiet. He sat down and put his head in his hands. He then admitted that what he really wanted right now was for us to have another baby. It wasn't about money, it wasn't about being scared of adopting....he was just hoping to try to have another baby before we started adopting. I had no idea that this was brewing under the surface, my intuition did, but I didn't. The miscarriage of twins last September was devastating for the both of us. It was scary. In the midst of healing from this, he felt strongly that he would rather adopt than go through that again and I agreed. But as I would inform him of friends that had just gotten pregnant, he would realize that he wasn't done yet in this arena. I actually think this is rather humorous given that he was always the one that didn't know if he could "handle anymore".

I can honestly tell you, that my brain went into a panic of how were going to reverse all that we've done? How were we going to tell people? How was I going to let our agency know? Would this hurt our future chances of adoption? Would our agency lose their trust in us? How would our children handle the news? Was I even OK with this?

This is where it stands right now. We are going to adopt...but not right now.
I have told my husband that we can take the next couple of months to try for a baby. If it turns out that this time yields no baby, we will start the adoption process all over again. It we do end up with a new little one, after the birth, we will start the adoption process. Either way, it's a win win situation. Our family will grow. We will adopt. We are at peace. The keyword is WE.

Our agency was amazing when I told them the news. They applauded us for having the courage as a couple to "be on the same page"...even at the cost of halting an adoption. As it turns out, it seemed to bolster their respect for our marriage and our family and they reassured us that they wanted us back when the time came for us to adopt. I love this agency. I adore the people that I have had a chance to work with.

Our children.....well, they couldn't have cared less. Just as long as they were promised another sibling at some point, they were happy. Whew!!

I will be honest, I am sad but excited at the same time. That's almost like saying pickles taste good with peanut butter. I really don't like waiting and the thought of it sends an ache through my heart. I had my heart set on adopting. I just knew this would glorify the Lord. I just knew it would be such an amazing experience. I wanted to donate my permanent embrace to a child that needed permanence. I wanted to give myself away. It will happen, just not now.

If I have anything to say to those of you who are in the process of adopting: Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page...not 100% but 1,000%. The peace that results in this is worth it. This is not a journey that is meant to be traveled alone or even partially alone. Because there may come a time that the adopted child is difficult to handle and the last thing you will need is someone saying "YOU were the one that wanted this, YOU handle it." There is no room for regrets or resentment in adoption especially between you and your spouse. What is needed when difficulties arise with an adopted child is a spouse that comes alongside you and says "Hey, we are in this together; we can do this." My husband would have let me send off the check and the contract, but I knew his heart was not where is needed to be.

I could have done it. It would have been so easy.

But, not without tears, I am glad I didn't.

P.S. This blog is not going away. I will keep posting as this is all a part of our journey that will include adoption.