My life changed drastically in October 2005 from what I thought being a mother was supposed to look like, to now a world of new emotions and confusion of what to do next. I only thought the way I did because that is how I was raised and fashioned to think...get married, get pregnant, become a mother....right. Well that is not always the way and on my journey I have learned that there are many ways of becoming a mother. Adoption is our story.
(Patiently working with my daughter on her English)
As an adoptive mother I have learned many things. During the "waiting" period (a very difficult time in the process, for me at least) I learned that waiting to be an adoptive mom is exhausting and tried my patience nearly every second of every day. Patience. UGH! It used to be a dirty word for me. However, this is what I have learned about patience. Patience is accepting that you don't know the end result of your story, but you do try to enjoy the journey along the way. Patience is knowing that tomorrow brings more uncertainty....more unsure feelings of whether or not I would be a mother and if so when would that be. Patience is not only understanding that that uncertainty is inevitable, but you learn to have a more positive outlook and embrace your attitude about the uncertainty. Patience is living each day with progress over perfection and striving for growth. Standing still and "waiting" for life to come to you, will only keep you at the same place you were the day before. Moving forward each moment in life comes from the beliefs or stories we tell ourselves and then the emotions we feel. Its how we show up from that that truly designs who we are as a human. I am certainly NOT an expert on patience and as a mother my patience is tried everyday....but it's a learning process.
Becoming a mother (adoptive or not, however I only know being an adoptive mother) it taught me a whole new outlook of patience. There is a saying I heard that sums it up beautifully. "From Gods arms, to her arms, to 'mine'". Even if I were to have had the opportunity to carry my children in my own belly and bore them biologically...these children are still on loan from God. He has entrusted me, through their birth parent's choice, the opportunity to raise them on this earth in hopes to return them to Him someday in Heaven. I was also given the opportunity to encompass my children's first parent's into the mix of parenthood. Every adoption relationship will be different and personalized to all of the adoption triad involved. For our story, not only do we have multiple "parents"...but grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, biological siblings and so forth....in addition to my immediate family as well as my husband's immediate family. What does this mean for us? Does everyone help raise my children....does everyone KNOW my children? In our case...yes...it really does take a village. Our village contains bio family and adoptive family. No, our children's birth parents don't create the rules in our home, nor do they actually "parent" (the act of) my children. Again, this may not be the best situation for all adoption cases, and certainly in our case as with all others (should be), the best interest of our children and their first parents, is our number one priority. We truly have been blessed with the village that God orchestrated. We have even had conversations with some family about how great a village it would be in Heaven (we believe in an afterlife) to have our mansions of all 8 of our families be on the same street or cul-de-sac. What a beautiful eternal perspective!
Each personality trait and behavior my children possess tell a story or shine a light on something new. As an adoptive mother, when my child acts out or behaves a certain way to make me proud, the thought will always run through my mind..."nature vs. nurture". Those are terms of endearment in our family...who gets to claim responsibility for their BEST behaviors. As my children grow older their birth parents' amazing personalities shine through more and more. As their adoptive mother I hold tight to as many behaviors as possible with the hope that I am nurturing them to the best of my ability or the way God would want me to raise them. However, nature plays an important roll. Every time my son laughs...I see his birth mom or see his creativity. I see my oldest daughter's birth mother every time I look at her and see the resemblance or watch her love her horses. My son tells a joke or when his skin turns golden brown in the sun, his birth father shines through. There are so many examples and I could go on and on about when it comes to the resemblances they have to their loving first parents. I do have a third child, and with her story, having been adopted at the age of 12 from an international orphan adoption, the only thing I have to hold onto are the pictures I get to see of her bio siblings and the resemblance is definitely there. I love my children and I count my blessings each time I get to hold them when they're sick or hurt, and each tear I wipe dry, each accomplishment they have and each memory we make. It takes patience to hand over those natural gifts they own and know that it's my job to raise them to embrace who they are biologically. It takes patience to help them value self and nurture them to develop their own identity, with a strong understanding that they are more than being adopted or having multiple families. We all should give ourselves grace when learning who we are. That comes down to knowing whose we are and to whom we wish to return...in my belief, that is God.
Being an adoptive mom doesn't make me any different as a mother with respect to raising children in this complicated world...it just gives me a unique perspective about life and raising children. It gives me the perspective that its my job to ensure that my children get to grow up with a strong sense of their whole identity, coming from their biological roots and the nurturing they get in our home. It means that learning to be patient with all the experiences we are given, means we are also given a life of blessings in growth. Patience and grace for oneself are one way we can encounter and conquer the opposition that comes with being human and having a human experience. Patience. No longer UGH!, but Ahhh!
(Picture: Patiently waiting for baby to come (2006), while I massage birth mama's back)
I love a good story. I spend a lot of time listening to or reading books about other people's stories. It's how I learn about people, life and how to experience life. Not necessarily through their experiences, but how they have learned and grown. I'm fascinated with the human experience.
As a child and into my teenage years, I demanded a lot of attention from my parents and siblings. When telling about my day, I wanted to share all the details of my experiences. Possibly, to make sure they really got to feel what I felt. I often heard the phrase, "Paula, get to the point". It wasn't until I was an adult (recently) that I realized that not everyone learns through others' experiences the way I do. But it was still important to me to share the details. It wasn't for lack of care that I was told to "hurry up" in my story telling, it was that I was the middle child of seven children and they all demanded attention and wanted to share their stories. It's how I believe we connect with other humans in the human experience, telling our stories.
There are great story tellers our there and oh how I wish I was one of them. I do my best. But to hear people like Brené Brown and Byron Katie share their stories and draw you in to be enthralled in their lives, makes for a great read. I am certainly nowhere near their caliber of story telling, but aspire to be a great story teller in my own right. Heaven knows I tried as a kid. That's just it though, sometimes not sharing every little detail may be the key to a great story. Allowing the reader to "choose your own ending" is intriguing.
It's time to share the story and become vulnerable in the process. For ten years I have worked on sharing my family's story. Not only have I been writing about it, but also living it, wherein the story doesn't have an ending. The story goes on. In this process I have learned much about the human connection experience and continue to learn more everyday. I am not the expert on human connections, but through our story I have grown leaps and bounds in my human connection experiences. As I mentioned, I am fascinated with human connections, it's something that not only is in my nature, but has been nurtured in me through my life experiences. I grew up in the military, traveling the world and seeing how many different types of people lives their lives. I learned respect for races, ethnicities, religions and cultures different than me. Everyone is a child of God and everyone has a story they live. I believe got gave me these experiences to help build my character and viewpoint of people in preparation for what He had in store for my life.
Open adoption. That is what He was preparing me for. Not just the adoption experience as we grew our family, but the open adoption experience as our family didn't just grow through children, but with multiple families. God gave me eyes to see and love all people. To respect and accept the differences we all walk in. I believe that is why my family has been given the experiences we have, to be able to have the capacity to love and experience genuine human connections.
This is the story I tell in my upcoming book. Human Connection; From an Open Adoption Journey. I share our story with the life lessons I've learned in creating authentic human connections. Having an open heart and open mind to the differences we all live and the value everyone brings to the table.
So when living your life, remember you have a story to tell. Whether you share it with the world or hold it close to you for you to embrace, everyone has a story.
(I'm sure you've read many blog posts that are titled "prayer", but I am going to share some thoughts I had during my morning workout today. As I sit here and ice my foot (dang plantar fasciitis), I want to get my thoughts down before they disappear. It tends to happen all to often. Sometimes I feel like I have great inspirational thoughts and then I let my day get ahead of me and never write it down. Or maybe I just think they are great thoughts and they are better left that way, just thoughts. Haha Either way, this is one of my 2020 goals, write more.
So my morning workout routine usually consists of 10 minutes on either the spin bike or stair climber (flat footed - trying to hit those glutes more than the calf). After my warmup I HIT the weights with a very low impact HIIT routine (total pun intended). When the workout requires jumping, I switch it up to a little more upper body power and keep my feet on the ground. Trust me when I say I still am getting a great sweat on. My heart rate goes from 130's to high 160's as I move from interval to interval, rest periods in between. (selfie picture, photographer...me)
While I am on my cardio warmup, my rose gold beats drown out the gym noise and I usually have a good inspirational book playing, or a great podcast. My latest listen on the podcast app, Cindy Sue Bezas, my mentor for my first three books and a dear friend of mine. She recently launched her podcast with "Concussion, There is hope" series. Or Candace Cameron Bure's book "Reshaping it All", which I have already listened to once, but felt it was a great one to recycle at this time.
Ok, that's enough fitness, motivational talk, here is the meat of this post. Recently I posted on my IG about depression. Something I have battled for nearly 15 years or more, and still fight each day. I said this, "Yesterday I didn’t go in to the gym to allow a day of rest for foot (plantar fasciitis), unfortunately that set the tone for my whole day and I seriously struggled to know what to do, how to do it and why. My mind was foggy and I literally was lacking in mental clarity. Which in turns gives my depression a really great head start down the dark path. I hate that."
As I started my week with another great Monday morning workout, it hit me, I do know how to start my day...even when I do get a morning workout, and ESPECIALLY WHEN I DON'T. I want to emphasize the DON'T part, because there are mornings when I allow myself a little longer sleep, knowing full well that that is what my body needs. I prefer to workout at 5 am and be done before my kids get up. It really does set the tone for the day for me. However, let's talk about the days when I don't workout before the kids get up, or even the day I don't workout at all (rest days). Prayer. That is what sets the tone for the day. I still have a lot to work on when it comes to consistent prayer, and its hard when I'm in a dark place and don't care about much of anything outside myself, under the covers of my bed. Ok, that was bleak, but truth. So how do I get out of those "covers" (the dark clouds, the actual comforter of my bed and the dang demons that try so hard to take over my thoughts)? I literally roll from my bed to my knees. In part because it hurts to stand right away (holy cry baby here), but in part because if I do stand right away, I will walk on to my day and sadly bypass what truly gets me on my feet. A loving Father in Heaven, God, my greater being.
When Christ was crucified on the cross, they drove nails through His feet, and then He still walked again. Remembering that, and knowing what my Savior has done for me, helps me continue to walk and move forward. But not without prayer. I cannot do this alone, nor do I want to. So when I say that I don't know how to start my day without a workout, that is not entirely true. Allbeit, I need to be better about remembering this, prayer is my "pick me up" as well.
Boise Adoption Blog
Pretty excited to share this post. I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by a local writer, Katie Rickert, for an adoption attorney's blog from Boise, Idaho. It has been a treat and honor to share our story with her and then to see what she created with her beautiful words.
Owning our story has been one of my greatest and by far most blessed journeys. Our journey has not been an easy one, but in retrospect, it was created by God above especially for us. And for that I am truly grateful.
Thank you Katie and Boise Adoption for giving our story a voice in the adoption community. To read part 1 of 4, visit the link in the button below.
Find the light
I had been waiting years in search of the perfect photography assistant. Someone that I could mentor, that I could have a blast working with, that would learn and grow in life with me. I had finally found that perfect assistant, until she decided it really wasn't her thing. My oldest daughter wanted to learn about photography and asked to join me on a shoot one day. I learned so much more about life from this one photography session. In a world where depression runs rampant, it is vital that we spend our energies seeking for the light. This is so hard to do when your neck deep or even deeper in the darkness of depression. Therefore, when a opportunity to grow from the light presents itself, you grab onto it like the plague. You give it your undivided attention in a desperate effort to add the knowledge attained or the light emulating, to your grab bag of life-gold.
Life-gold nuggets are those treasures we gather in life experiences, and in my world, in hopes to share those treasures with others. Has there ever been a moment in your life when something just clicks, and the clarity you gain from it nags at your mind like a toddler begging for your attention. A toddler that has just learned a new trick and that's all they want to do. Of course they need all eyes on them while they master it. This is what its like to have what Oprah calls, an "ah-ha moment". Don't let that moment escape, even for one second. The best time to learn and grow from life-gold is when it is most clear to you.
I invited my sweet and very artistic daughter to join me on a photo session, per her request, and assist me with the lighting. Occasionally she has come along to wedding sessions with me to carry my bags and help hold my lighting equipment. Idaho wind tends to pick up my umbrella and carry it like a sail, so bringing her along to hold down the tripod is very helpful. However, she hasn't always enjoyed that job; "its boring", she would say. So when she was excited to go with me and help this time, I was elated. This time, she wasn't there to hold stuff, she was there to work and learn.
Her job assignment was simple but required some technique, "Kya, find the light from the sun, and reflect it on to their face". I am a lighthouse fanatic; the symbolism, its sole purpose, everything about the lighthouse intrigues me and draws me near its story. When it comes to light, I am always looking for the analogy.
As Kya is my daughter, I found this moment of teaching her to use the reflector properly, as an opportunity to teach her about life and how our influence on others around us and the universe can affect how the world goes round, and how we can find peace and love in our own life. Find the light, and reflect it on others.
In my faith, the light we focus on is The Light of Christ. All that He exemplifies in service and kindness, in sacrifice, in loving all people. Finding this light in our own countenance is crucial to our own happiness. Finding this light takes effort each day, through prayer and developing a solid and loving relationship with God our Father in Heaven, through service for others. Often focusing our attention on other's needs over our own offers us to see others the way God and our Savior see them. It brings empathy and honest love into our hearts, and helps to put our own "issues" or concerns into perspective. Once you have found that light, then share it. I like to use the word "reflect", not only because it directly relates to photography lighting, but once your light is shared, it comes back to you, it reflects.
I am also a firm believer in karma. What you put out into the world, does come back to you, twofold. I have seen this and experienced this first hand in my life, many times. So when I teach Kya to "find the sun's light, and reflect it onto my subject", what I am hoping she gets from this practice is to find His Light and Reflect it onto the world that surrounds her, with her own glowing countenance.
Look how she glows! She takes her work serious! She usually doesn't like when I take pictures of her unexpectedly. hee hee. So grabbing this snapshot was tricky.
She found the light. Its a skill and takes practice to find it and then be able to hold just the right amount on the subject as not to blind them, or cast too much highlighting. And as Kya found, when the clouds are out, its a little more difficult to find the light, but it is always there, you just have to search for it.
Mother to all...
"Mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort"
There are seasons of triumph and seasons of trials. During our triumphs we see the clearest, and grow from what we learned in the midst of trials. At least that is the ultimate goal. Sometimes when things are messy and unbearable God sends us kindred spirits or tender mercies when He knows we need them the most. As a pediatric nurse many of my patients were tender mercies for me at specific seasons of trial in my life.
A while ago I heard the scripture Mosiah 18:9 twice at two different places by two completely different people. This is what it reads,
"Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn ; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the..."
I've been pondering this verse and wondered its meaning. Even without complete awareness, we minister to those around us, placed in our path, by simply serving with love and compassion. Sharing our heart and caring for others. With these thoughts on my mind I have been also pondering where I am most able to serve others. While working out this morning I was in communication with a gentlemen from Africa and contemplating the needs he is sharing with me and orphans that he is caring for. A question that I get a lot lately, since bringing home our newest daughter from Ecuador, popped in my head. “Do you feel like your family is complete?”
This question comes up a lot, probably because people who ask know me and know that I would bring all the children in the world into my home if it was possible. Alas, this is not possible. So when asked, I hesitate to answer. I hesitate because in my heart, no I don’t feel complete. However in my home, yes I think we are complete. It does sting a little to even admit that, because if the opportunity were right and we knew it, I would of course welcome another child or two into my home. Let’s go back to the response, “in my heart”. No I don’t feel complete in my heart because I know that I have so much more to give to other mother’s, other children and a whole tribe of people. I know I can better serve a community of mother’s who may feel isolated, lonely and just need someone to talk to. I know there is more work to be done in the adoption community, bringing the human connection full circle with open adoption. There is also plenty of need within the closed adoption world. I can’t even begin to explain the need within the orphan and foster care world. The needs far surpass what I can do, but making the effort to change even one life is worth it.
There is a story of “The starfish”. You can read more about it HERE. The premise of the story is that anyone can make a difference, just one person at a time. When we adopted our daughter from an orphanage in Ecuador, she became our starfish. From this experience, along with our complete adoption journey, drives my desire to feel complete in my heart, because my home is there.
I love it when I see His hands so clearly in my life. Often these moments, and life experiences come through children for me. I love children, their innocence, pure hearts and unconditional love, light up every room. This little darling in particular was a bright ray of sunshine for me, as well as so many others.
This is my little friend Princess Cosette. While serving in the nursery of our last ward, I was fighting an internal battle, one that I have fought on and off for over 15 years. Depression is such an ugly word, and certainly an ugly feeling. But as much as we wish to shut it out, its there and it is real, for so many of us. As desperate as I am to have more children, being around little children can sometimes break me. Break me to my very core, where my heart turns cold and wishes to close off to the world around me. But despite my weak and aching heart, I knew God put me in this nursery for a reason, even for just a short season of my life. I knew He was trying to soften my heart and teach me to serve always, especially His most precious.
Within the first couple Sundays in the nursery, my beautiful friend Princess Cosette came running into my lap and stayed by my side for the 2 hours of our time in nursery, and then each Sunday following. Occasionally she would jump up and dance, or grab a toy or book for me to read, but she stayed close by, warming my lap and heart and filling my empty. As if she knew I needed to feel His love. She knew just how to show His love for me.
Each week I could feel my heart soften and have more faith in His plan for me. The sting of infertility still haunts me and occasionally breaks me, but not for long. I know how to fight stronger each time I face the darkness.
It was Princess Cosette that saved my heart, it was Princess Cosette that knew how to love and was sent directly in my path when I needed His love the most. It is Princess Cosette that touches the hearts of so many now.
I've learned that even in or darkest hours, we can find a ray of light. He is always there, He always hears our prayers, He listens and provides. We just have to accept it in faith.
"Mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort"
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” -albert pine
Light in the Tunnel
Adoption has always been a dream of mine, and when it became my only reality for motherhood, I welcomed the gift my husband and I were given. After being able to adopt two children through domestic infant adoption, we tried to grow our family for 8 years and had to walk through 6 failed adoptions. Each time, we experienced the excitement of what was coming, only to realize we were going to have to do this over and over and over again. Eventually, the excitement even wore off a bit. When the opportunity to finally be blessed with an international orphan adoption arose, it was like the night before Christmas and Groundhogs Day all mashed together. Adoption can be a very long process, and eight years felt like forever. To add to it, we experienced a snag in every step along the way. I’m sure that sounds dramatic, but I am serious. With nearly every document to be signed, every online class taken, every medical visit and legal process, we had hoops to jump through. I thought I had seen every hoop to jump through. I was getting good at hoops. But I was also getting tired of hoops. Then we headed to our daughter’s nation and found out there were far more hoops to jump. I wasn’t sure I could take anymore. Certainly, we are all given hard experiences in life, and we can choose to grow from them.
While in our daughter’s country finalizing her adoption, we drove through so many tunnels. Each time we entered the tunnel, not knowing how far it was to the other side, I would look for the light signifying we were almost out of the tunnel. Mostly, I was just curious as to how big the mountain was, because the tunnels got longer and darker as the mountains got bigger. It was incredible to think that we were driving through a mountain - not driving over it, but straight through the bottom of the mountain. I would imagine the force of pressure that could be on the walls of those tunnels. And in this moment of failure, the sides of the mountain were crushing me. The pressure was too much. All I could think about was WHEN I would see the light at the end of the tunnel. What was I supposed to be learning from this pressure and darkness? Was I supposed to be learning anything at all or was I destined to live in this darkness and pressure forever? Many times, in each of our adoption journeys, I asked myself these same questions. And this is where I realized that I didn’t have to succumb to this pressure. This was not my burden to bear. And here I was, in the middle of a tunnel, pressure on all sides, before I remembered to look for the light. More than anything, I didn’t want to wait for the end of the tunnel to see the light! I needed to see the light right here, in the middle of the darkness. So, in this moment of complete fatigue, I rolled off my bed and knelt in prayer and pleaded for reprieve. I knew that I couldn’t do this alone. I knew that I needed my Savior’s atonement and God’s help. More than anything, I needed His light.
We are given opportunities in life, choices to make and paths to take. Those opportunities and choices either build us or break us. How many times have we asked for opportunities to grow and then curse the day life gets hard instead of seeing the opportunity we have been given? I do it ALL THE TIME. However, in the trenches of a trial, it can be draining to try to see the light. That light that is in the tunnel (not at the end) but in, what is that? That light is the light of Jesus Christ. The light that He emulates in all our trials and triumphs. He is the light in the darkness, and He has given the light to us, whether we use it or not, when He knelt in prayer for our sins and when He bled and died on the cross. I am a follower of His light, even when the light is hard to find.
This past weekend we experienced quite a bit of His light. And even though we are at the end of a tunnel, with a new tunnel beginning, I am so grateful for the insight a dear friend shared with me recently. In this observation of light, this is the story of our daughter’s baptism.
After two years of road bumps, we were on our way to the church for our daughter to be baptized. A decision she made on her own, after hearing the words of Christ shared with her by many of our faithful missionaries and devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As we got out of our car at the church, my husband gets a call for the missionaries sharing with us that the baptismal font was locked up and not filled with water. The exact water that we would need to have for her to be baptized. To give you an idea of what this means, the font takes a few hours to fill, and we were 30 minutes away for our family and tribe arriving at the church. They were coming to witness this special occasion and support her and our family in her decision.
My first thought was not of panic or frustration, it was honestly that of acceptance that we were ok, we would get the key, fill the font and proceed with the baptism. Until it dawned on me that we had many people driving from far away to be here and this special event was a bit of an inconvenience for people to be there on a Friday, mid-morning. A work day for most. As we scramble to find a key and contact the proper authority regarding this road bump, my friend said to me, “Isn’t this just the way it should be…?” Did we really think that we would get through something that is so big and important for our daughter and our family without a road bump? Did we really believe that Satan wasn’t going to try his hardest to keep her from the waters of baptism, knowing the amazing things she will do for so many generations to come. In this moment of thought and thousands of questions, the tears hit me like a freight train.
I wasn’t crying out of anger, or frustration or even fear of the things that were happening. I was crying incredibly emotional, happy tears. I was given a small glimpse of the realization that all of our children are here to do amazing things in service to our Father in Heaven and I knew this because of the lengths that Satan has gone through to stop them. Then I was overcome with His love for us and comfort that I knew we would win over the adversary. I knew that we would do anything to move forward and overcome power over he that was sent here to destroy our happiness. I cried because this momentary obstruction gave me a stronger belief that I know the gospel is true and my family needed to see this through, at any cost.
With many little miracles from then on in that day, she was able to be baptized in a friend’s pool, (of course with permission from the proper authority). Her father (my amazingly faithful husband) surprised us by performing the ordinance in Spanish. I had no idea he learned that and I know it meant a lot to her. The view of the temple from the pool and the beautiful landscape that surrounded us made the scenery breathtaking and the ambience of this occasion that much more special than it already was. The feeling that came over me as a mother when the two of them walked up the stairs and out of that now sacred blue water, was overwhelming peace that we had won over the adversary, in this one battle.
This particular experience taught me to find the light in the midst of the tunnels. I learned that you don’t have to wait until you are through the tunnel to see the light. God’s light is always there, shining brightly. We just have to learn to see it through the darkness.
If there is only one thing (which there is not just one) that I have learned from this adoption journey in Ecuador, it's that communication in every form is valuable. Communication has always been important to me and I value strong connections through honest and sincere conversations. The Human Connection (a project I have been working on for years) is a big key to what makes me tick. And what better way to dial in to the human connection than to be honored and blessed with the challenge to build a mother-daughter relationship with our newest child. A tween, might I add. Sometimes when I think of the "human connection" that I work so hard at with my other tween daughter, I ask myself, What where we thinking? However, truthfully, God placed her in our lives, and God wanted us to experience this #adoptionjourney for a reason. I count my blessings everyday for this blessed child. However, it's becoming clearer to me as I wake up each day with a new opportunity to communicate and connect, in her native land and tongue.
My kids know their stories. They know who they are, and where they come from, both heavenly and earthly. There really are no secrets in our house, when it comes to their value, their truth, and their heritage. If my kids come to us with questions, we as parents answer in the most age appropriate and protective way as possible. In other words, we protect the privacy of their birth-parents and their own need to know minds. However, with such open adoptions, my children know quite a bit about their stories and their birth parent's stories. They are still only 12, 12 and 10, so with our focus on their growth and development priorities, it makes our communication skills a little imaginative.
I truly value good communication, it helps me to connect with others and also parent properly. I am far from being an expert in parenting, merely a student. I feel that there have been some very valuable experiences in our lives that have been uplifted through good communication. My oldest daughter is not a talker (she's quite like her dad) and it has been a mountain to climb for me. Obviously, I know how to ramble, and when I have a thought, I am not too shy to share. Whereas with her, it's like pulling teeth to get her to share her thoughts, feelings or anything. As she has grown into the tween stage, she is a little better, but I have had to learn different ways to communicate with her. For example, riding horses, being with animals, or asking about a book she has read; this is where the girl shines. Her non-verbal cues are key for me as her mother. So sitting down and chatting with her, has a lot to be desired. But I love our silent conversations and watching her in her element, those times share so much information for me.
My youngest son, however, he is a lot more like me when it comes to verbal communication. He is loud, and expressive and has no filter. Everything on his mind, comes out like vomit. Often we are cleaning up a mess afterwards, but I understand his language, I am very familiar with it. He and I can communicate well, and I am cautious to ever silence him. I do however have a more appreciation for what my parents had to deal with when I was a child. I love to hear with auditory cues and his expressive words all that he has to share.
The adoption process we are on currently has been an eye opener for us as parents, in so many ways. Communication with the language barrier alone has been a huge hurdle, and we are just beginning this lesson. My perspective of how we parent is taking on a new role. How we listen to our children, how we teach them and even what we teach. Ok, let's break down what I mean by communication.
First: Non-verbal communication - The nonlinguistic transmission of information through auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic channels. It's important to have a basic knowledge of information regarding communication skills, to know what type is best for you, or where you can stand to learn more. With our other two children, being infant domestic adoptions, teaching and learning to communicate with them came pretty naturally. As with all parents, you watch them grow and explore, babble and scream, make all kinds of noises (from all parts of the their body). All these forms of direct communication can be very informative, educational and part of the developing process as a parent. Even as babies, before actual words are spoken you have non-verbal communication
Second: Verbal Communication - The imparting or exchanging of information and news. In its most basic form, communication is to merely provide information. "Are you hungry?", "What do you want to eat?", “Where are you going?”, etc. As I learn to speak a new language and only with simple commands and prompt phrases, I struggle to be able to really dive in and connect on a level of communication I desire. Child #3, second daughter and middle child. This is where my learning as a parent has taken monumental strides in the communication realm. We have adopted her through an orphan international experience. I am writing this from her birth country while waiting to return home with her. She comes to us as a tween, from an orphanage, speaking a completely different language and with so much in her story. 5 weeks I have been here with her. Sent my husband home last week to be with the other two kids. And now, I am the only English speaking one left. We had grandma and grandpa with us for a couple weeks, but after they left, Carl and I could speak together. Now is it me and her.
So here I am, giving as much effort as I can muster. This adoption process has been our longest by far. Eight years of praying, with failed adoptions along the way and now two years of paperwork and hoops to jump for this one. My energies are nearly spent on the international adoption process. Therefore learning to speak her language has been difficult at its best. All while encouraging her to learn English, as this will be her primary language when we get home. We have been extremely blessed to make new friends and family here in her country, but while at meals and events, church and adoption meetings, my ears are wide open to try to understand the verbal language. However, I have noticed that I am understanding the meaning behind the words more while being in tune to the non-verbal cues. Thank you daughter number 1 for practice in that skill. Body language, informal sign language and facial expressions have been my saving grace. Even finger pointing has its purpose, and I don't mean the middle one that you often see with the crazy driver's here. Haha!
While learning to parent this beautiful soul, during the most awkward and difficult age, with only the basic knowledge of verbal phrases in her language, this is where the journey really begins for us. When one skill is lacking, the others stand at attention and really help get the job done.
1. Have expectations
Often in international adoption, the timing is the biggest misconception adoptive parents are led to believe. I think most countries have good intention for matching a child with prospective parents, and maybe they even have good intentions on making an adoption happen in a relatively timely fashion. However, if you are looking into international adoption and you are wanting to grow your family within months or even a year, stop now, turn around and look the other way. International adoption may not be right for you at this time. I’m not saying you should turn your back on the possibility completely, just make sure you rethink your expectations before pursuing it.
When I write these tips, I almost feel a little hypocritical, because I actually went into every adoption, domestic and international, doing these exact things that I am encouraging you NOT to do. It’s because I did these things and learned from them, that gives me the courage and maybe even qualifications to share with you how I went about it the wrong way. Often throughout our international adoption when we hit road blocks, literally with every step of the process, I would pray and ask my loving Heavenly Father, “Are you offering these challenges just so we can help the system work out all the kinks”? As if adoption was a new concept, or a new business and there needed to be the guinea pigs to try out all the things that could go wrong, just to know how to do it better the next time. If we aren’t willing to learn from our mistakes, then what was the point of trying anything to begin with. I don’t know about you, but I make mistakes in nearly everything I do, on the daily. It could simply be because I am the type of person that runs full steam ahead into the ocean without even considering the fact that there are deadly sharks below. The things that I can’t see aren’t even a concern for me when I start a project or even big decisions. I don’t think its complete naivety, just pure desire that drives me forward. If there is something I want to do or to be, I will just do it and work out the details later and seriously stumble through the whole journey. Smart? Not necessarily. Effective in progression for at least the effort? Maybe.
So, if you want to go about it my way, then by all means, have expectations. Dream about the child you will one day have in your home. Like really imagine what they will look like, how they will act, how you will raise them, and they will do and be exactly what you imagined. How they will be a dancer, or athlete, or whatever it is you dream you children will be. However, if you are looking for a more comfortable journey or realistic one (not that anything you do in adoption is comfortable) but at least be a little more prepared for, then go into it without any expectations. If you are told the process takes approximately 8-12 months, add on at least a year maybe two. Even then, don’t hold your breath. If you are expecting it to be easy, then oh man you are in the wrong arena. If you’re praying for a girl, maybe consider that you will actually be blessed with a boy. This goes for any type of adoption, not just international. If you believe that your “in-country” time frame that you are told, is a realistic one, then let me be the first one you call and cry to when you have missed your son’s school performance and your daughter’s clogging show. Let me be the first one to have a tear-soaked shirt from your heartache when the trip you planned with your daughter after school got out, comes and goes. You missed it because the legal system is un-organized enough that the paperwork is delayed another week, yet again. Please don’t misunderstand me in that there are really great people behind the scenes working their tails off to keep the process moving forward, but the system of adoption is broken and sometimes there is nothing they can do to change it.
What are you going to walk away with from this ‘what not to do’ piece of advice? If your intentions are to provide a loving home for a child in need, your heart is in the right place. If you’re desire and drive is to welcome whatever God has in store for you then you had better hurry and get in touch with an adoption consult, yesterday. Get the ball rolling. If you are willing to get kicked numerous times while you are already down, then welcome to the party. If you know in the end you will have aloud yourself and your family to grow and be stretched physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, then this definitely is part of your journey.
2. Sit back and let the process happen, trust in the system
I really don’t want to be the one to tell you that the foster system and adoption system is broken. I don’t like being a pessimist, it’s not my nature to be that person. However, it is in my nature to be honest and tell it like it is. The world we live in is broken, in so many ways. Just saying that makes me cringe because I am a God-fearing woman, a Christian and I know there are amazing people across the globe where their whole purpose it to try to fix what is broken. I also know that this world was created by an unconditionally loving Father in Heaven and Savior that gave us this world and all we have is for our benefit. We can read in 2 Corinthians 4:17
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight in glory”
Or in Doctrine and Covenants section 122 verse 7 we read,
“7. And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
All these things shall be for thy good. What does that mean? Its means that a broken system is inevitable, its already there. If you want to sit back and watch it continue to roll over your efforts to do what you know to be the right thing, then sit back grab your popcorn and enjoy the show. For our family, I know with every fiber of my being, without a shadow of doubt that we were supposed to adopt. I know that God could have easily given me the ability to bare children biologically, the same way He gave me the inability to do so. I know that it is His plan for us to have adopted our three beautiful and amazing children. Because of this knowledge, I was more than willing to put my trust in Him and not the system. By this I mean, if something isn’t getting done, don’t sit back and wait for others to do it for you.
I’m sure our agency and all parties involved with our international adoption have a few not so nice things to say about me. I am pushy, I am impatient, I am a nag…you get the idea. But if I had sat back and not constantly checked in on the process, it would have taken three maybe more years to bring our daughter home. Remember, there is a process and you must be cautious in how you approach it. Adoption consultants, agencies, attorneys and facilitators all have a job to do. They are in the position they are (you hope) to help you along the way. But they are busy and have their own lives to live, their own challenges to face, not to mention the 1000’s of adoptive parents waiting in the wings for their journey to embark. Adoption professionals do their best to facilitate the process, but nobody is going to care as much about your story as you do. With respect to their position and efforts, don’t always expect things to get done without a little nudge from you. It’s your job to see your journey through.
3. If there is a language barrier, no need to learn
Dear, oh dear. This one is a tough one. Maybe not for all adoption circumstances, but it will definitely be a stumbling block, more accurately put, a mountain to climb. As a military brat I grew up moving around the world with my family. Mom, dad and 6 siblings. We were even lucky enough to experience international travel. As a kindergartener and the first couple years of elementary I was given the opportunity to attend a dual language school of French and English, in Belgium. At that age, language seemed to come pretty easily for me. Then years later while in High School, dad was transferred to Verona, Italy. I was finishing my freshman year and started school on the military base in Vicenza. Again, I had the opportunity to learn Italian in a class at school. Although I never became fluent in either of those languages, I remember thinking it wasn’t so bad. I felt like I understood and had a pretty good grasp of learning languages.
So, when the opportunity to adopt internationally arose, I was excited about learning another language. This time it being Spanish. Was there really a need for me to learn? I had already been taught the basics of the Romance languages. I could wing it, right? However, I did decide to purchase Duolingo, mostly for my children to learn to speak with their new sibling. I was arrogant enough to think I didn’t need to learn. Then I decided to go ahead and purchase another language app, just for fun. I did want to learn, but I don’t think I took it that seriously. Do you see the pattern forming, “I should learn, I don’t need to, I should learn, I don’t need to…? I should learn”. Ok, so the moral of this story, hold on, I’ll get there.
So, three weeks into our in country stay to finalize our adoption, I was getting frustrated. Here we were welcoming a new child to our home, and not just any child, a 12-year-old girl. I imagine it would be hard enough to bring in a toddler, or children with medical challenges, mental or physical delays. But a hormonal coming of age girl. That was a whole different ball game. She didn’t only come with her own history and challenges, but she was also coming with nearly being a teen. Holy crap do we have our work cut out for us. I was getting frustrated because I was listening to this soon-to-be daughter, chat it up with everyone around me. It didn’t take long for me to learn that she was a talker. She had stories to tell, and experiences to share. And I was only understanding bits and pieces, not enough to really embrace her stories, or the details about them. I wanted so badly to know what was going on in her “tween-y” brain.
It was then and there that I decided I was going to learn Spanish. Not just a little, the whole kitten caboodle. I was going to be fluent and actually be considered bilingual. Even though it was so important for her to learn English, the language of her new home, family and life, I was going to be able to really hear her stories and honest to goodness know who this little girl was.
So, if you go into an international adoption thinking your primary goal is to teach your child your language, maybe you should consider the importance of learning theirs. It may sound silly if your child is just learning to speak all together and their first language actually might be yours. However, I have a firm belief that learning their language will do wonders for your relationship. It’s a sign of respect for their heritage, it’s a sign of love for the ones who chose to give them life. It’s a gesture of reverence for your child’s culture and ethnicity. Not only for communication purposes, adoptive parents should learn to speak the literal language and love language of all of their children, domestic and international.
4. Give up when it gets difficult
I mentioned earlier about being willing to get kicked, over and over again, while you are already down. This is going to happen in adoption, especially international adoption. Guys, this process is not easy, for all parties involved. Its brutal, its ugly and downright hard. But holy cow, in the end when you can look into the eyes of God’s beautiful children and know that He is trusting you with his most precious, it really is all so worth it. I used to hate to hear this. “It will all be worth it in the end”. Well no kidding, I would begrudgingly whisper under my breath. Everybody tells you that. And you know what, they are right and sometimes that is all they know what to say. If your support system or tribe haven’t been through adoption, it’s hard for them to really understand what you are going through. However, their hearts are so amazingly supportive of your journey that you should run into their arms and thank them for having the insight you may not have in the thick of the crud.
Speaking of your tribe…go get one if you don’t already have one. Find those who are honest and sincere about supporting you. Grab onto those who have been through the journey already. Grab on and don’t let go. Bring into your circle people that won’t take away from your energy and light. When you feel as though you are stuck down the rabbit hole, and sometimes it’s all you have in you to even attempt to come out, make sure your tribe are those who will thrust their arm down the hole just to let you hold their hand. This doesn’t have to only be others that have walked the adoption path.
It’s going to get tough; you are going to ask yourself “what am I doing”, “why am I here”. There will be many times that you will want to catapult the 1000’s of pieces of paper you painstakingly cry over. You are going to want to just walk away. The thought of another psychological evaluation, or question about what kind of child you are willing to accept will make you want to run away. The invasive interrogation you will endure about your personal lives and how you parent or plan to parent. The countless documents you will sign, notarize and apostille and then maybe have to do all over again because there is the possibility that it gets lost or signed wrong, or finds itself outdated because of the long wait. It’s going to happen; this you can expect. Remember when I mentioned stretching and growing? You will be stretched to the max and when, not if, when that happens please oh please, find yourself on your knees praying for the strength to continue. There is a reason you started in the first place. If you have already considered the things that I discussed earlier…. What is your reason? If you are still here and you know your reason, hang on, don’t give up just yet. Find your reason, find your purpose.
5. You’ve got this! You can totally do this alone.
Cheese and crackers, if I had a penny every time I told myself this, “Girl, you’ve got this. You are strong and determined and nobody is going to get the job done like you!”
WOW! Am I ever wrong. DO NOT DO THIS ALONE! I can’t stress this enough because I have tried 100+ too many times and I can tell you, it is not easy. I don’t just mean embrace your tribe, find your support system or hold your therapist’s hand. I mean, find God, or whatever source of power you gravitate towards. For me and my family, its God. The most loving Father in Heaven that literally has carried me through the process. Sadly, there have been many times when I find myself buried under the covers, only to find my pillow soaked in tears, hours later.
While in the middle of our eighth adoption attempt, I was so broken that I was physically sick. My defeated body crawled into bed with a silly head cold. My head was pounding, my throat and chest felt as though they were closing in on themselves and I was beginning to welcome the pain. The shattered soul inside me was ready to give in to the pain and just succumb to my bed forever. I didn’t want to leave. It was easier to lay there and wallow, binge watching 90’s tv shows on Netflix. Seriously, I was done fighting. Who really wants to be kicked while they are already beaten? Until the thought entered my mind. The thought that changed everything. Regretfully, that thought was being fought back with demonic thoughts. “Stay in bed, eat more, ignore your family and the two other children you have been blessed with, they don’t need you”. The thought that wouldn’t go away was barely a whisper and I could scarcely hear it. The thought that would not resign, and thank goodness it didn’t was…
“Get up, go to your knees”
After I don’t even know how long of the internal scuffle, I found myself literally slithering out of bed, not even allowing my head to leave the pillow. The blanket that I used as my “comforter” followed me to the floor. Wrapped in the covers and head lazily resting on my pillow, I began to pray. It was a weak prayer; I barely was able to form the words and it was unorganized. There was no repetition in what I said, like other times when I would pray for the usual stuff. Bless my family. I’m grateful for my health, I couldn’t say that, I felt like crap. Please give me opportunities to help another. Nothing like this. Single. Words. Only. I couldn’t even create full sentences. And then slowly, my heart began to soften, very slowly. I found myself filled with a desire to speak with God. Not just pray, but really have a personal conversation with Him. I pleaded for health this time. I begged for an answer. I petitioned for His attention. All the while, I am sure He was already offering all these things but was just waiting for me to humble myself enough to ask.
You cannot do this alone. Adoption, I believe, was composed through divine intervention to help create a solution. God (or your greater being) knew this world would be what it is today. He knew there would be thousands of thousands of children suffering or lost. Lost without family, suffering from circumstances beyond their innocent control. What better way to even begin to resolve this fortuity than to allow the opportunity for parents who cannot biologically create life, or parents who choose to open their heart and home to these children. So, if what I believe is true, and I do wholeheartedly, then He, the creator, will help you through your journey. Do not for a minute brush aside His willing gesture.
“Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power”
May 28th, 2019
I am a passionate person, in that when something is important to me, I go 200% full steam ahead. Adoption is just one of those things that I am passionate about. Not only has it changed the course of my life and my family's, but it was gently placed in my heart and arms directly from God. He engrained it in my heart because it is what we are now, as a family, me as a Christian woman and hopefully you as a part of my tribe.
Since this has become my new online home, I will be sharing some previous posts. Some from many years ago and of course new stuff, fresh off the press. If you have seen these posts before, bare with me as I revive my blog. If you're just joining the tribe, welcome and thank you.
I posted this about 5 years ago (so the article is a bit out of date) because it was a great way to introduce some of the questions people have about adoption. And rather than summarizing, I am reposting in its entirety, with tags and all credit to the original author. However, if you still have questions about adoption, please feel free to share in the comments or email me. I will do a follow up Q&A of my own later. I am here to help others journey through adoption with a little more ease and comfort. Grab your fav drink, throw on your sweats and let's chat.
What LDS Families Involved in Adoption Wish You Knew
BRIANA STEWART -
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For those families involved in adoption, a little understanding goes a long way. Find out what you can do to help support these special families in and out of the Church.
Adoptive parent Terra Cooper embraces the birthmother of her child.
Photo courtesy of Brittany Cascio
For Tarrin Philpott, years of diagnosed “unexplained infertility” led her and her husband, Tyrell, to adoption. And it was a shift in strategy and heart.
“Adoption is emotional,” Philpott says. “A big change has to take place. Instead of pregnancy and birth, your mindset changes from a child who shares your DNA to a child who comes in a way we had never previously considered. I had to let go of the family I had envisioned my whole life (a large family, children who looked like me) and accept the new vision for my family. I felt like Tyrell made the shift easily, but I was emotional about it. It was tough making choices about ethnicity and health in our adoption profile. We ultimately left many of those decisions to our Heavenly Father, knowing that we weren’t looking for any baby, we were looking for our baby—the baby meant for us. And He would help guide us to him or her.”
Heavenly Father did indeed guide two babies to the Philpotts through the miracle of adoption—McKinlee and Tatum. Since then, they’ve added twins to their family through the miracle of in vitro fertilization and a sweet baby girl who came by surprise naturally. Their unexplained infertility has led to inexplicable joy.
For members of the Church involved in adoption, like the Philpotts, sometimes misunderstandings arise that can be easily avoided if their fellow Church members knew more about their circumstances. For members of the Church involved in adoption, like the Philpotts, sometimes misunderstandings arise that can be easily avoided if their fellow Church members knew more about their circumstances, emotions, and sensitivities. Here are a few common questions and their answers that will help us all understand adoption a little better:
Q: Why do couples decide to adopt?
A: As with every important life decision, these couples turn to the Lord. They are prayerful in their decisions and do not make them lightly. Adoption is far from an “easy fix.” Many couples break their hearts and their bank accounts pursuing this option--but in the end, it's all worth it.
Sally Lee, who has worked as a counselor at LDS Family Services in Hawaii for 34 years, explains: “I have often heard adoptive couples express they could not love their adopted children more if they had been born to them biologically. Having that full heart to love unconditionally is most important.”
Q: How does adoption typically affect birthparents?“
A: In planning to place a child for adoption, birthparents usually go through a thorough self-assessment of their own lives and where they are,” Lee says. “They think deeply about what they want for their child. They realize many things about themselves, such as their readiness for responsibility, relationships, employment, and so forth. They become more prayerful than ever. They grow to feel a love stronger than they have ever known and are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the child—even if it brings them grief and sadness. Their hearts expand in love for the child and the adoptive couple. Their sacrifice cannot be described in words. I know that the Lord will bless them for what they go through.”
Q: How does the adoption process typically affect adoptive couples? “
A: The adoptive couple gets to look deep into themselves as they are interviewed and share information about their marriage, finances, goals, experiences, feelings about a child not biologically related to them, etc.,” Lee says. “It makes them want to be even better as a couple and a family. They grow in love for the birthparents and the child, and their hearts are forever changed for good.”
Q: What should I know about the recent changes to LDS Family Services?
A: Earlier this year, LDS Family Services announced that they will no longer be working as an official adoption agency, but instead will focus on family counseling.
“LDS Family Services is not ‘getting out of adoption,’” says David McConkie, group manager of Children’s Services at LDS Family Services in Salt Lake City. “Because LDS Family Services is an integral part of the Church’s Welfare Services program, we are able to provide services in a unique way. Unlike traditional adoption agencies, LDS Family Services provides free professional counseling to unmarried expectant parents and their families who are referred by their bishop, regardless of whether the parents choose to marry, be single parents, or place their child for adoption. We will help unmarried expectant parents with their individual mental health needs, whatever they may be.”
Read more about the changes--and what they mean for you and for those involved in LDS adoptions.
Q: What insensitive remarks about adoption should be avoided?
A: If you know someone who has been involved in an adoption, remember to be sensitive about what you say.
“The baby’s ‘real’ mom....” This implies the adoptive mom is not the baby’s true mother. The correct term is birthmother.
“She gave up her baby for adoption.” The term “gave up” has a negative connotation for something that is actually an act of love. Rather, say, “She placed her baby for adoption.”
“Good for you for adopting! I don’t think I could love someone else’s child as much as I love my own.” This implies the adopted child will not be their child or is harder to love. Just stop after saying "Good for you."
“How much did your baby cost?” They didn’t get the baby on Craigslist, for crying out loud. If you’re trying to learn about the financials of an adoption, simply ask couples, “How much does adoption generally cost?”
Learn more about positive adoption language on the Church's official adoption website,itsaboutlove.org.
Q: How can we, as a general culture, be more supportive of adoption? “
A: One couple I worked with—when they announced they were adopting—had some people say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’” says Keven R. Downs, a licensed clinical social worker at Heritage School, a residential treatment center in Provo, Utah. “They were presumably apologizing for what they assumed were infertility problems, and onlookers were acting as if it’s a lesser thing to adopt. It’s not! Couples who adopt are just as excited as a couple giving birth to a child. And after hearing horror stories like this, it makes me think we don’t celebrate adoption enough. Let’s be more aware. Let’s celebrate with them!”
Learn more about adoption in Adoption: 20 Questions Asked and Answered, found in the September/October 2014 issue of LDS Living magazine.
Tags: Parenting, Children, Adoption, Family, Lifestyle, Parenthood, Parents, family, parenting
I am a mother of three beautiful children, through the blessing of adoption. Lover of the human connection. Wife to the best husband in the world. Daughter of God