Friday, July 15, 2016

The Loss of Hope

We thought we were being cautiously optimistic about the adoption happening, but that didn't mean we didn't have our hearts opened to the idea of welcoming you and your birth mother and birth father into our family. We wanted you more than you will ever know. We prayed for another child fervently for years before you were conceived, and we thought you and your biological parents were going to be our unexpected answer to those prayers.

But it didn't work out that way.

And now I grieve.

Most of the minutes and most of the hours of most of the days, I am fine. I am almost able to function at a decent level. But I have those awful minutes, hours, and days where unexpected grief overwhelms me. Often, that grief is accompanied by so many tears and such shallow breaths as I sob that I can only beg for distractions to tear me out of the all-consuming pain.

We learned about you almost immediately after your birth mother did. It was almost like finding out I was pregnant again, except without the worries of miscarriage, blood clots, hospital stays, morning sickness, and my possible death that I knew would be my frequent companions were you to be in my own womb. Only this time, I had no control. None. To pretend otherwise would have been foolish. And yet, I wanted to believe you would end up in my arms, so I allowed myself to believe.

As your due date drew nearer, I realized I needed to start preparing. While out with my daughter and her friend, I purchased the first onesie and first bib I bought specifically for you, designed and created by a local small business owner. I naively talked with these strangers at the booth about the adoption, allowing myself to get excited and caught up in the moment. Preparing for your arrival. Proving that I was worthy of you.

Then the facade started to crumble, and the bricks from that facade were used to build walls around my heart as I cried and began to worry in earnest, realizing that the doubts that had started creeping into my mind some time before were not unfounded red flags. Events confirmed the signs popping up indicated this was not likely meant to be.

But still, I had some hope left. Hope. The word hope, the idea of hope, and now the name Hope that had been picked for you by both your birth father and by me in what seemed to be kismet now seemed like a cruel joke. My hope was slipping away. Hope that your birth parents would do the right thing by you. Hope that placing you with me and my family were the right thing for you.

All preparations for your possible arrival ceased to protect our hearts from more damage, as though doing that would matter. We decided not to get the nursery ready. We figured that we could do that after you were in our home. We planned on picking bottles and formula and diapers and clothes on the way home from the hospital, when you were safe in our arms. I could not bear the burden of breaking down the walls around my heart again for fear my heart would be pummeled further and I wouldn't recover from the pain and loss of you, especially seeing the reminders of what could have been around us in our home. You were mine, but you were not. And yet, you had my heart.

However, I know now that the reminders are still there. Some visible, and some not.

This room, mostly unused these days, was going to be transformed into your nursery.

This flower lamp was going to hang on your wall, casting a soft glow in the room.

This was going to be your crib, followed by your toddler bed when you were big enough for one.

This is the chair where your new family members were going to take turns holding you and lovingly feeding, burping, and rocking you at all hours of the day and night.

This would have been a bib that was sure to get much use from you, and a onesie I was looking forward to you growing into.

My fractured heart is working on healing from the loss of you. I will never forget you, and I will never stop praying for your safety and well-being. I am trying so hard to hold on to my last shreds of hope, even as I let you go.

Today is one of those days that the grief has hit me like a freight train. Sunday was a hard day, and I cried with my head hung low while I played the piano in a room full of children, smiles, and laughter. No one saw the pain on my face or in my heart. No one comforted me. I even tried to call your birth mother. She didn't answer. I wasn't expecting her to, and I don't know what I would have said if she did.

Monday was a better day, full of family time at lunch and the movies and work. Better days, I have learned, don't mean you are over the worst of it. The rest of the week has been a struggle, with hours of grieving storming into my heart and mind unabashedly, making it difficult for me to concentrate on what I was doing or should have been doing, making it difficult for me to care.

How am I supposed to focus on work or anything else with a gaping, seeping, tearing hole in my heart? How long will I endure these unexpected and unwelcome acquaintances of mine, sorrow and pain? How is it that I am still in denial, as though some miracle will still bring you to me, when it is clear to everyone else that is not in the cards? How long will it be before I can truly move forward with my life?

I find myself thinking it will be better once you are born, but I know that I will still be so wrapped up in concern for your safety and well-being that you will continue to occupy my thoughts then, possibly more than you are now. I fear you are going to be used, as my family and I have been; mistreated, as we have been; harmed, as we have been; and broken, as we now are.

God knows you and loves you. I do too. I can't imagine loving you more than I do right now. And I suppose that is why this is so hard. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Adoption, foster care, or pregnancy through reproductive assistance?

The size of my family and my physical, emotional, and financial ability to impact that has been weighing on my mind, and more so on my heart, for some time.

I have taken various actions to address each of these to see what impact I might be able to make on them, and I have weighed my options. I've been poked with needles. I have met with reproductive endocrinologists and perinatologists. I've counted calories, fasted and prayed, researched, discussed, consumed massive amounts of chocolate to help with the stress of it all, pondered, and fretted.

I wanted to be sure that whatever conclusion I came to would be something I could live with for the rest of my life. I took into consideration the impact my decision would have on the other two people in my immediate family. Joe had already informed me that he would support whatever decision I made. This burden is ultimately on my shoulders, which is stressful enough. And at the same time, I did not feel completely alone, as I had Joe's support.

I finally feel like I have enough information to make a decision that I won't later regret.

And now the time has come to announce that I am still not pregnant. Instead of worrying about trying to force that issue and deal with the risks involved in another pregnancy, we have decided to move forward with the adoption process. We are a bit nervous about the whole process and are cautiously optimistic that this will allow our family to grow. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Accepting Influence

When I was studying in my master's program, I was introduced to Dr. John Gottman. He is a researcher and clinical psychologist who studies the science behind relationships and has written some excellent books on the subject. I find the work he has done to be fascinating, and it makes sense. I've used his ideas in counseling couples and in my own relationships.

One aspect of healthy relationships he teaches about he calls accepting influence. This idea resonates with me on a personal level, as it points to a big part of what I look for in my relationships.

As my husband wrote about in his most-recent blog post on compliments, sometimes when people interact with you, they are complimenting you. One of the biggest compliments someone can pay me is demonstrating that they have accepted my influence. After all, I want to be an influence for good in the lives of those around me. I want people to have a desire to and work toward a positive change because of me. If someone sees a way I act, hears a message I share, or otherwise learns of something I have done and then decides that because of it, they are going to act a certain way, I have influenced them .Ideally, I would like it to be an uplifting influence I have on others, as I don't need the guilt associated with bringing someone down to my level in areas where I lack.

Example: An old friend of mine frequently came to me for advice about how to deal with an issue in her romantic relationships. Honestly, it was the same issue that kept coming up in that relationship over and over again in different situations. Based on the information I had, which I realize is biased from only getting one person's perspective, and I said as much to her, I gave advice on what seemed like a good way to come to a resolution for that issue. She never took that advice. If she further contemplated the advice before deciding how to best move forward, she decided not to take it. But when she kept coming to me with the same issue repeating itself, asking for my advice, I questioned what the point was of doing so if she was never going to use it. Did she really just want to vent and try to figure things out on her own? Or was she really willing to accept my suggestion and eventually act on it? She insisted she wanted advice, but I was not providing her the advice she wanted to hear, so she discarded it. And eventually, that hurt and angered me. Did she think that I had such little to offer? Did she not realize that this was a repeated rejection of me?

I know it might seem like somewhat of a stretch, and some might think it isn't something I should take personally. But my education and training is in marriage and family therapy. I was approached as not only a friend but as somewhat of an expert in the field. I was given the impression on multiple occasions that she wanted my help. She wanted my time, my attention, and my thoughts. She wanted to connect with me by sharing personal details of her life. But she also wanted my help-- my influence. And yet, she never accepted it.

Do we accept the influence of people around us and allow it to work within us, giving us the opportunity for personal growth and development? Sometimes, I admit, I am better at this than others. Do I rise to become what I see as a better person because of my association with a particular person? Or do I expect them to change to meet my personal ego and comfort?

In my relationships, I honestly aim to both influence others and be influenced by them, both in positive, rather than negative, ways. I know I'm not exactly an expert in any particular area. I have experience, however, and that experience may give me knowledge and insight that a friend or family member is lacking due to their lack of experience. It is flattering when someone acknowledges that they have acted differently, positively, because of something they learned from me. But more important in my relationships is the ability to have mutually beneficial exchanges of ideas and experiences to then help each other grow. Just like I'm flattered someone has learned something from me that they take with them going forward, I like learning from people around me; I enjoy surrounding myself with people who inspire a positive change in me.

Have I helped my associates grow in positive ways as they have interacted with me? Have any of them chosen to do something differently than they otherwise may have because of something I said or did? Am I influencing others for good?

I had a conversation a while back with a friend of mine. I let him know that I noticed in his interactions with me that he really didn't seem to care to hear my opinions, and it hurt. I felt overlooked, ignored, and discarded as a person by the way interactions had gone with him. He hadn't realized that he had been doing this until then, but my bringing it to his attention helped him to understand my feelings, and his interactions with me started to change. I realized that I subconsciously became more receptive to his influence once he opened to mine. Our relationship moved from an acquaintance to a friendship.

I had another friend talk about signing up to volunteer in  her son's classroom and said she thought of me as she signed up to do so. I was confused, as I don't have any kids whose classroom I volunteer in, so I asked her about it. She told me that she thought of me and how willing I was to volunteer to help others around me and felt like she should do the same. She accepted my influence-- influence I wasn't even aware I was giving! What a complement that was to me and to what she saw as my character!

When we accept influence of those around us, it may be done subtly, possibly even imperceptibly. Maybe we use language they use. Maybe we try out a television show, book, or band that was recommended to us. Maybe we add a little task to our routine that we learned they do. Maybe we research a topic to learn more about their viewpoint. These little acts acknowledge that we think that person is important enough to pay attention to. That person contributes something that has worth. Everyone has worth.

Today, I accepted my husband's influence by writing about this topic, which I had been thinking about for some time and had been meaning to write about. I'm about to accept a friend's influence by making sure I have a water bottle filled with water to drink from as I work so that I get enough water in for the day. I'm also about to accept another friend's influence by having a healthier breakfast option than what I might otherwise choose. But I have decided that I am going to try identify consciously some people who are influencing me for the good as I go about my day, and then properly thank them for doing so. For in these kinds of connections, relationships can truly grow and thrive.