Life. Holy Toledo. Life has been, well, not sure if crazy really covers it at this point, but I'll go with that - Life has been crazy.
I've been silent for awhile. There are the obvious reasons for the silence -
A. I rarely have time to sit
B. I'm exhausted
C. Not a lot of time spent on me lately
D. There are things I legally cannot write about to keep our kiddos safe
But there are other reasons I've been silent. Silence is easy - with silence, you don't have to answer the questions that haunt you. I think this silence comes from not knowing exactly what to say. The silence comes from this feeling of such overwhelming desire to have answers and knowledge of the unknown, that speaking outwardly of that unknown is - well - it's scary. About a month into our journey of welcoming four more children into our home, I read this article The Silence of Adoption and I understood everything this woman was saying. Her words struck a chord. It was exactly everything that was going through my head but didn't know how to express...
"It's not because we are hiding.
It's not because we want to gloss over our lives and give a false impression of adoption to the world.
It's because words are shabby and elusive and so much of the time I just don't know what to say and don't truly have the mental energy to chase after those elusive words.
It's the silence of adoption.
It's those early days with a traumatized child and a family in shock trying to wade through in a process where the handbooks are sadly inadequate.
The truth. It is in that time that the family needs the support the most. The months of quiet. The silent times. When words are inadequate and thoughts are too jumbled to get onto paper.
It is those times when the family needs prayers. They need the church, the neighbors, the friends, the family to step up. They need people to encourage. Call. Ask. Listen.
Without judgment. With ears of understanding. With a willingness to give the family a break so they can pass through this season free from guilt. And shame. Because with the trauma comes layers of shame for the mom and the dad.
Wading through with a child lost in trauma is a humbling, scary and guilt-ridden process. There are times when the family struggles deeply with how to love. They struggle with questions and doubt. When they see the trauma affecting their other children the layers of guilt get ever deeper.
They feel shame for the anger and frustration they feel towards the hurting child in their midst. They feel shame that they aren't experts on raising this child despite many of them who have been there and done that with the other children in their family. They feel guilt that they can't even find the words to express their current world.
And one of the hardest parts - when the child who spins out of control at home, goes out in public and smiles and glad hands everyone in his or her path, charming the socks off the adults around him leaving the parents feeling ever more alone. How can they share about the battle when the child is obviously so sweet and easy?
It's a complicated bunch of mess in that silence. "
The first month of our family of eight was busy, had a ton of ups and downs, and became a blur. I focused on getting food on the table, everyone tucked in at night, and creating a new family unit out of two groups of people. After about the first two weeks, we started seeing signs of what was to come. By four weeks, things hit the fan. And here we were, a family of eight, wading through water five minutes at a time, sometimes struggling to breathe.
It was interesting when Tope came home a year ago from the Philippines. We had a wide array of support. Everyone knew what was going on. You all knew our story, where we were in the process, and we had constant questions of how life was. Fostering children has been a different experience. First, many people didn't know it had happened, as it happened much sooner than we had ever expected and when fostering children it is not ideal to parade around town sharing that your children are actually foster children. With Tope, even though most of our community doesn't understand adoption, we felt people were ready and willing to learn, and now here we were with foster children and we felt isolated. I felt alone. Like the author above said: "It's a complicated bunch of mess in that silence."
We lost our oldest foster child at two months into their time here. I cannot share why or how of course, but do know this was a huge decision to be made by our social worker, a decision that sat so sourly in my mouth. How I longed to be able to make everything "good" and "right" and "fix" this whole situation, but I knew it was much larger than us, and I'm very thankful for a social worker that could see this before everything completely crumbled. Although this was extremely hard for us all, I do believe it is the best decision for her and will ultimately be a very good thing for her and her siblings. But now to deal with the stress and loss that causes on the other children.
We now have three "foster" children that are part of our family. We have stumbles every day. There are effects of trauma in these children that severly effect how they cope with life each and every day. The therapists and textbooks say we must be doing things right. The children feel safe in our home and they trust us - we know this because they are starting to trust us with their grief. Every day is a day of trauma/loss/mourning for at least one of our children and they take it out in so many ways. It's tiring, mind-numbing, and some days I feel awful for how I deal with the behaviors. Then there are the days where I see the silverlining. There are days I feel I've got this. The days where meltdowns turn into cuddles, yells turn into talking, fearful hyper activity turns into a calm silence - these are the days where I say, yes, we can do it.
The truth - It all takes a toll. I don't sleep well. Neither Jon or I have exercised really since they've joined our family. Boxes from moving into our house are still sitting in the living room and kitchen. The bags under my eyes get darker and darker and I am stress eating with the best of them. Tope is regressing in his behaviors some, which is hard to see (and handle), but then I remember how Caleb did the same thing when Tope came home and I truly do believe all is well. And we just have a lot of learning still to do.
But an even greater truth - It all has changed us. I am a mom of five kids now - busier than I ever was before - and I love having my house busy with imaginative play, girl's hair bows, laughter, new conversations, and new relationships forming. My son, Caleb, an only child for six years, now has four siblings and he is happy. He is very happy. Tope, who wasn't so sure about having a sibling younger than him, is now best buddies with the youngest. Both boys stay busier, are excited to play more, and are learning how to adjust and grow with our changing family. Jon - my husband - well he has been amazing. This is a lot, and he has more than stepped up to the plate. He is showing me more strength and courage than I've ever seen, and I appreciate being in this journey with him as a team.
Life is again changing as we head towards the end of the school year. I am looking forward to more bonding time with the kids, as well as becoming very nervous about dealing with behaviors more often, but I think overall the summer will prove to be a healthy time for us all. We have also been very thankful to our church. The ladies learned that we could really use some help with food and cleaning. I hated asking for help - so Jon, smart guy he is, he asked, and the ladies have provided. The first month I did so great keeping up on things, but when the behaviors began, all of my time has been devoted to spending time with the kids to either prevent fires or put them out, so cooking and cleaning became very hard to attain until 9:30 at night when I was physically and emotionally wiped. The last couple weeks the ladies and Jon's Mom have helped us out with food, laundry, and organizing some of our cupboards. I can't begin to express thanks for all that this has helped our family accomplish. It is a huge burden off of my shoulders and was just what this weary soul needed. It has given me a boost in confidence again and has gained me some time with the kids. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart ladies!
I've done it. I've finally broken my silence. It feels good and it feels scary.
Adoption and Foster care are not something to rush into. We thought long and hard about our decision to build our family in this way. Are there days I wish I could breathe and everything would be happy and honkeydorey? Absolutely. Are there days I wouldn't give it up for the world and can't wait to see these children grow and blossom? More than I can count.
God has blessed us richly. The struggles in our house right now are deep, hard, and scary at times, but the amount of love and faith in this house will outweigh these battles in the end. I may be tired and weary, but I do feel this is where God wants us to be, we just have to take it all a day at a time.
If you are one who likes to pray, could you please pray for God to guide us in patience and strength? All seven of us in this family need these two things right now, each in our own ways.
Thanks for being a part of our community. Thanks for reading. I'll write again soon.