An open letter to ministers, yoga teachers, rabbis, spin instructors, pastors, adjunct professors, priests, zumba instructors, imams, motivational speakers, reverends and anyone addressing mothers and fathers in mid-May or mid-June.
Dear Person at the Front of the Room,
I know you worked really hard on that homily about Mother’s Day / Father’s Day. It’s a time of joy and appreciation and community for almost everyone in the room. Thank you for your special sentiments to soothe those in your audience who don’t have their mothers / fathers accessible to them. It’s a nice touch to bring in that compassion.
You may not know this, but there are likely other outliers receiving your message. That 30-something lady who pulled the tissues out of her purse and filled up three of them with tears and snot? That man who had to excuse himself awkwardly? That woman who tried to hide the fact that she was sobbing on her yoga mat?
These are people who desperately WANT to be a mother or father. To join the parenting club at long last. To have the cards and commercials and 30% off sales apply to them. To bring into their lives what others are able to effortlessly. These are the outliers in your audience. Let me tell you about some of them.
Could be a woman who found out this morning that her third IVF attempt didn’t work — no line on the pee stick. To make matters worse, she turns 35 next week and her medical chart will be marked AMA — advanced maternal age. Her prospects for success with future treatments looks unbearably bleak.
Could be a couple who has been waiting in an adoption pool for 28 months. Each period she has, each turn of the calendar page, marks another month their prayers have gone unanswered.
Could be a couple who finally thought they were to be admitted to the Mother’s Day / Father’s Day club, but whose hopes ended in a miscarriage.
Could be a couple whose planned surrogate is suddenly unavailable to them.
Could be a man who wore the title of Dad for a few months — until his baby died.
Could be a woman who experienced an unexpected pregnancy and took the course to place her baby in the arms of another mother.
Could be a couple who has exhausted their options and who has resigned themselves to live childfree. Not so much by choice as by circumstance.
I know you didn’t know. Why would you, unless you or a loved had experienced this type of loss? I suspect that if you knew you were also addressing outliers, you would include compassion for them in your message. Now you know.
I’m closing out the last week of National Adoption Awareness Month with the second part of twin posts from the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. Part 1 was where I interviewed Allison of A Few Sprinkles Short of a Sundae, and below is the part in which she interviewed me (originally posted on her blog).
Allison: You wrote that you taught students that geography determines how they chose certain aspects of their life – sports teams, religion and politics. How did you come up with this wise analogy? Is there anything else that can be subbed in for those choices? Sexual orientation? Socio-economic status (city vs country, state to state, & globally)? Divorce rates?
After my husband and I got married, I marveled that my husband’s “clan” in Boston loved the Patriots with the same fervor that my clan loved the Broncos. How could this be? I had grown up with the One True Team, hadn’t I?
Later on, my husband and I moved to Syria for two years and found that our new Muslim friends (who were overwhelmingly warm, kind, loving and compassionate, despite the way Muslims are often portrayed in western media) were as devoted to Allah and to honoring the five pillars of Islam as my clan was in living a Christ-like life and using the Ten Commandments as a guide. How could this be? Hadn’t I grown up with the One True Religion?
Same with politics. We absorb what we’re exposed to and it becomes our default setting, only we may not be aware that we HAVE a default setting in these areas. We might just think everyone else is wrong.
As for the other aspects you mention, I suppose it is possible in all areas to think that your way is the One True Way, but I don’t really hear people arguing that it’s better to be homosexual than hetero, better to be poor than not-poor, or that divorced families are better than intact families. Rather I hear people asking for acceptance of differences, not an insistence on a hierarchy.
What made you decide to go with domestic infant adoption versus international, foster or other kinds of adoption? Did you ever feel that adoption was a “second choice” for you and your husband? Did your feelings on that change after your first adoption?
Although we also went to information sessions for international and foster adoption programs, we were fairly clear from the start that domestic infant adoption would be the way for us. As for being second choice in building a family, it depends on what you mean by “second.” Yes, we did try to become parents in the old-fashioned way first and through adoption second, so if you mean in chronological terms, the answer is yes. I wrote about this in a post, In adoption, last means best.
You have contact with your children’s birth parents, how would you handle things if that was not an option? Would you have sought any level of openness if you had adopted through foster care? Or helped your child find their roots if you had adopted internationally? Why/why not?
Well that would make me very sad to have no contact with the birth parents of either of my children. If we had gone with foster adoption or international adoption and if I knew then what I know now, I would pursue any openness we could get (assuming openness made sense; clearly, there are times when it wouldn’t, such as if our family’s safety were at stake). Writers who have influenced me on this topic are SocialWrkr24/7 and the book Bones that Float by Kari Grady Grossman, who tracked down her sons birth family in Cambodia and found so much more.
Openness is a good way to help an adopted child heal the split between his biology and his biography because it minimizes the space (physical and/or emotional) between his two sets of parents.
Why do you think envisioning disrupting your adoption helped you to realize that you actually did not want to do that and that you were indeed bonded to your child? Was that a risky move on the part of your counselor? (I ask because I also had to do the same thing when dealing with severe post-adoption anxiety.)
Because it put choice back into my equation. Having choice is key to someone who is stuck. I suppose it was risky, now that I think about it, but my therapist must have had both trust in me and the process, as well as experience with other stuck clients, in order to have had such certainty about the outcome.
If you encounter someone with PADS (or PPD) do you encourage them that some days just getting dressed is indeed a victory? How else can someone encourage a person going through post-child depression?
Yes. I would encourage the person to be gentle with herself. And to get help, in the form of counseling, and in being able to take a break once in awhile — a trusted friend or neighbor or relative stepping in for just an hour at a time. Perhaps at the root of the depression is fear of not being up to the task, and that can often be eased by getting just one night of good sleep, by having some space in which to regain perspective, and by being gentle with oneself. This is so hard to do when you’re running on fumes! Sometimes getting dressed is a huge victory, as is just managing to get a meal on the table, even if it’s mac & cheese. As my yoga teachers say, “we count success in small measures.”
How to encourage a person? That’s a tough question and I’m not a therapist. But what helped me was family members letting me know they would be there when I got too close to Overwhelm. That friends sat with me while I cried, not trying to fix me but simply abiding with me. And that my husband picked up the slack when I was incapable. And that they all reflected back to me their faith that I would come out on the other side intact, even when I was certain there WAS no other side.
What does your family like to do together as a family unit? What do you do to further strengthen your familial bonds?
As I type we are on our way out to play family Nerf football in our front yard on this beautiful Fall day. We attend each others’ choir concerts, basketball games and other activities — often our extended family members are there, too. Once in awhile we go to a really cool bloggy event at the museum, theme park or movie theater. And we make a point to have dinner together almost every night, a steady point of connection in our lives.
My yoga teacher, Jane, harps and harps on gratitude. Got something good going on? Show gratitude! Got something bad going on? Show gratitude! And she’s always trying to open our hips because “open hips = happy heart.” And a happy heart is a grateful one.
One day, after a very stretchy sequence to eke open our hips more! more! more!, Jane closed our practice with this quote during savasana:
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. — Melody Beattie
I practically wept on the mat.
My journey thus far flashed before my eyes. My empty arms and longing heart gave way to my fantastically full home — basketballs, extra laundry, teddy bears and the two children who leave those things all over. My very dark days where I nearly lost the will to live were juxtaposed with the brilliant light I found in the infertility blogging community. My sickly, failure of a body has evolved into something I love, both in the way it looks and all it can do. Even the recent chaos presented to me is balanced by the calm stillness I find when I draw in my attention solely to the space on my mat.
In my mind’s eye were a thousand tao symbols, each one symbolizing duality joining into unity.
Day + night = a day.
Good + evil = a human.
Broken + forgiveness = wholeness.
Infertile + superfertile = open adoption.
Self-loathing + self love = me.
It was bliss. And I was grateful, for every single thread in the tapestry that is my life.