About two weeks after the kid came home, I got invited to a ladies night out that the alumni organiztion through my agency was putting on. It was at some restaurant in Frisco, which is Far North Dallas, which is where lots of fancy people live. Alex and I talked about whether I could go or not and we decided that “YES, lady who has been spending every waking second with this child can go eat dinner”. So, after probably spending the day at the pool, playing ping pong, being a ninja, and other things that boys do, without looking at the restaurant’s menu or whatever, I hopped in the car and drove up to Frisco. I was on the phone with my mom when I got to the restaurant and, if you had been hiding in the back of my car (you creeper), you would have heard this one-sided conversation:
“Yeah, I hope it’s good too, mom. I’m really looking forward to… Crap. There’s a valet at this restaurant. IT’S FANCY. Dannnnng it. I’m wearing Toms shoes…and shorts! Can you even wear shorts to a restaurant that has a valet? I haven’t shaved my legs in a month. Are they going to make me sit outside with my ear pressed to the window? Crap!…Well, whew, okay. At least I’m wearing a bra today. So, I’ve got that going for me. Well, I can’t turn around now. I’ve already RSVP’ed…. The club president is expecting me. UGGGGGH. Fine. Here goes. Wish me luck. I’m going to carry my credit card visibly so they know I can pay for my food.”
So, then I went in and found a seat near the end of the table. I actually ended up sitting next to a staff member from our agency, who was kind of hippie-ish and was wearing a crochet vest, which somehow made me feel a tiny bit better.
When almost everyone had gotten there, we went around the table and did introductions. Almost every mom there had adopted (or was adopting) an infant. Mostly domestic, some international, but all their kids were younger than 4. During some of the introductions for women that had recently been matched with a birthmother, the group even did the squeal /clap thing like in the movies.
When it got to my turn, I said, “My name is Beth and my husband and I just brought home our 9 year old son out of the foster care system. He’s been home 9 days.”
I’m sure there weren’t crickets in that fancy restaurant, but it sure felt like it. They all murmured things like, “Oh, wow” or they just smiled and showed all their teeth.
The next two hours were some of the most uncomfortable in recent memory. It was like a perfect tornado of discomfort.
I was dressed for a day at Six Flags while visiting a restaurant that offered a sea salt scrub for your hands in the bathroom. I ordered a pizza (that was humongous) and everyone else ordered a side salad and a glass of red wine. Someone texted me during the event and I was so desperate for a sense of normalcy that I texted them back, even though my phone was made for junior high girls in 2002 and it has a plastic screen.
The other ladies were very nice. They just didn’t know how to respond to me. So, I listened to them talk about their babies’ feeding schedules and where to buy the cutest clothes. They ooh’ed and ahh’ed over play date pictures.
All I could think, as I tried not to cry at the dinner table, in my Toms, was
“I don’t fit in here”.
After I ate some of my giant pizza, I got a to-go box and my check, and I hastily made my exit.
As soon as I got to my car, I started to cry like a crazy person. I wept all the way home and then poured myself into Alex’s arms.
I just felt so alone.
I was an island.
In truth, I still feel that way sometimes. When people ask me, “How are you doing?”, I have to use the following criteria to craft an answer:
– Does this person really want to know how I’m doing or do they just want to hear about how great and easy adoption is?
– The adoption itself has been going fine (truly, we are blessed), but the fog of adrenaline from having a child placed with us is clearing and I’m looking around at the shattered pieces of my former identity and thinking, “What the heck is going on here?” It’s a little deep for the funnel cake line at the State Fair. Do they want to hear that narrative?
– Am I in a place where crying is appropriate?
The answer to the third is almost always no and so I plaster a fake smile and say, “Oh, we’re doing great. It’s really fun.”
I am an island.
Some days, the feelings of loneliness are less than others. Some weeks are better than others.
This is hard- this learning to be a parent to a kid who is learning to be a kid with parents.
It’s true that I’ve gathered a small, but feisty online tribe of adoptive people who have been very supportive. I even found a little group that meets once a month that has been very good for me.
The problem, of course, is that they’re all in the same boat that I am, where they’re busy moms who throw a deuce to one another via facebook or a quick text when they have two minutes to actually have free space in their brains for something other than snacks or naps or homework.
It’s good, but it’s often not enough to help quell the loneliness.
Friends and family reading this will say, “CALL US. We want you to call us when you need us!” but the truth is that, after most days, whether they were good or bad, the last thing this introvert wants to do is pick up the phone and have to talk to someone. The first thing this introvert wants to do is stress-stuff her face with comfort food and watch Modern Family before she passes out at 8:52pm.
I am an island.
In my darkest moments, Satan whispers to me, “You are an island. No one understands you. No one really cares.You’re doing this alone. ” In my darkest moments, I believe him.
Thankfully, though, I do not live in the darkness. And as I come out of it, I count my blessings and there are lots of you to count. The people that care about us and the adoption and my son and me probably number in the hundreds, which is more than I could ever hope for.
I know that you care. I know that you are cheering for us. We feel it. It’s working.
If you’re reading this and you feel like immediately need to call me and have an hour long phone conversation and then drive over to give me a ten-minute hug, then I have a couple of things for you:
– Thank you, you crazy person. I know what it feels like to have a visceral reaction to someone who needs help. It’s like your brain shuts off and can only think, “Must make sympathy brownies”. For this, I love you.
– Please resist the urge to maul me, mother bears. As I mentioned before, in this season of life, I’m usually all people’ed out at the end of the day and I need some introvert time so I can wake up and do it again. I would love to call 15 people and assure them that I know I’m not alone, but I think that might kill me.
– If you feel the need to do something, I just have one thing. If you’re thinking about me or the kid or Alex or us, will you let us know? Send me a text, an email, a letter. I am almost positive that God will use His good timing to make sure that I receive it precisely when I need the encouragement.
If you don’t know how to contact me, you can reach out to me via the “Contact me!” tab on this blog or send a message via my facebook page.
And if you know other adoptive families or people who might be struggling (or, as I like to call them, humans), maybe you can send them a little something too. We should all be reminding each other that we’re not islands. We don’t have to feel alone.
1 Thessalonians 5:11- So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
I love, love, love when I see a new blog post from you in my inbox! And even in this post that made me cry, you still made me laugh! (I’d like to call 15 people, but that would kill me) Girl, you are doing great! Just becoming a parent is the hardest, craziest adjustment in the world, and you are doing it with a 9 year old with trauma issues. I remember when our firstborn (who we wanted desperately and tried for 2 years to have) was about 3 months old, I suddenly decided that I just didn’t know if I could do this. It was all too much – this person who depended solely on me, the never-ending meeting of the needs, the not being able to go anywhere without thinking about when I would need to be home to feed him or if my boobs would leak all over my shirt while I was gone. And I just never expected to feel that way. And on that day I went out and weeded a flower bed in our backyard, sobbing while I did it, and so very happy to be alone while I was out there (and I am an extrovert) And somehow being out there digging in the dirt and seeing a cleaned-out flower bed gave me a sense of accomplishment and the strength to go on. And in a couple of weeks those weeds were back, but by then I was ok with that because I was in a better place on that day and I could accept that just like weeding is never truly a job finished and well-done, neither is parenting. And now here I am with 4-6 kids, and I never feel that sense of desperation or mind-numbing inability to carry on. So, I guess I’m saying that while you are going through a particular situation that most people never go through, you are going through some of the same feelings that most people experience when becoming a parent for the first time, and it is totally normal, and it will pass. You’re doing a good job, you’re a good mama, and you’re still Beth too – just evolving into a new form of yourself, and thank goodness for that because if we’re not growing we’re dying. And you are in a major growth spurt right now so the comfort food is a necessity! Praying for you all…
Thanks so much, Alayna! I love this (especially that you used the word ‘boobs’- we totally need to hang out!). Thanks for the encouragement!
I still wish I could have been there with you at that event! I could have worn my chacos, and there’s only a 1 in 3 chance that it would have landed on a shower day.
I drive Drew crazy with the spilling-of-the-emotions-but-I-don’t-need-a-solution conversations. I even find myself going jogging sometimes now. JOGGING. Me. But there are so many thoughts and concerns and emotions with the mom gig. And I’m still figuring out how to sort through it all.
But I wouldn’t trade it. Even if it means I become an occasional jogging girl. I wouldn’t trade the tears and the crazies. (You know what I mean.)
I totes know what you mean. It’s a definite hard transition (perhaps they should include that training requirement in adoption training- How to Avoid Having Crazy Insane Feelings about Becoming a Parent). You and I could co-teach. You in?
We are all an Island at times. There is so much when it comes to children and we all parent differently. What’s the right way? How should I treat my child? It doesn’t matter how we became mothers: Naturally, through a surrogate, by adopting…it does not matter. God had it planned for us. I fought the birth of my son. I spent over 4 months in a bed, feared every second of his life, slept poorly, my body ached, gained over 60 pounds. It was worth it, each pound, each tear, each ache…it was worth it. The day he arrived, Ian could not be there…he was training to be deployed. I endured the first 10 months of Liam’s life by myself…a new mom. Kids are all unique, regardless of the way in which they arrived into our lives. Your kid is unique, perfect for your family…otherwise God would’ve not allowed y’all match. I am deeply humbled by how much you’ve fought, alongside Alex, the adoption of your child. He was waiting for you, you were waiting for him. Time will seem to go slow….but you have him at the formative years: He will grow to love and fear God, to love (and sometimes fear) you and Alex, to respect the world around him….and most importantly he will learn to have empathy for those who have less. You are a unique and amazing woman Beth. Enjoy the sadness, the tears, the joy and the events of your new life. It is all worth it…just like me in bed during my pregnancy….take all these tears and emotions as your “bed-rest” process.
Thanks, Sonia! For the reminder that it is a process. I just wish we could be at the end already, but that is not how the process works. I know that these growing pains will result in a much deeper understanding of myself and my son. Thanks, girl!