Grief Dressed As Delusion
How’s the adoption going?
Any news yet?
Don’t you know who you’re adopting yet?
How long has it been since you’ve started this?
Aren’t you worried about how “those” kids will screw up the ones you already have?
Isn’t it a whole lot easier to have your own naturally?
So, some children were adopted by another family. Why let that bother you so much? If they’re adopted, shouldn’t you be happy that they’re taken care of?
You really shouldn’t get your hopes up. Don’t you know how that affects the children you have?
How can you afford this?
How long will you allow this to continue before you finally give up?
These are only a handful of the questions curious friends and family ask me on a daily basis. Now, I challenge you to imagine yourself face to face with a couple struggling with fertility and infancy loss and ask this imaginary couple a few of these same questions. “Hey, it’s been a few months, aren’t you pregnant yet?” Nobody with a sense of empathy would ever ask such a loaded question to that struggling couple. I understand that adoption is a new concept for just about every person I encounter personally and that I need to have some patience with them (you can’t hold a grudge when people genuinely don’t know better), but I’m beginning to lose my patience, especially in this covid world of panic. Every day I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a building. I’m so elated by the view and this whole new perspective of what’s in front of me, but I’m terrified that at any given moment I might fall by the gentlest of breezes–or worse, by my own lack of notice on my next step. My nerves are shot and my heart is rubbed raw. I’m baffled how, after more than a year into the international adoption process, those questions still have the ability to stun and sting me. I mean, really, do you see a kid before you? Have I given any indication of news worth sharing?
During the summer of 2020, we received a call from our adoption agency introducing us to a new sibling group. Based on our family profile, they felt they could be a great match for us, so we requested more information and we couldn’t have agreed more! They really were perfect in every way, right down to their own unique quirky little habits that made us believe they were already ours. There’s a scene at the very end of the movie Rapunzel where the queen looks into the sad forlorn eyes of the king right before the guard runs in with the look of disbelief, because the lost princess had actually returned! Before they run out to see their daughter for the first time in 16 years, they exchange a look and they just know. That’s exactly what it felt like when I saw their photos for the very first time.
The next step is to fill out roughly 50 pages to explain how you will deal with all the needs a child could ever possibly need accompanied with names, numbers, and addresses of physicians, every kind of specialist, every kind of therapist (did you know there was such a thing as a musical therapist?) along with all the names, numbers and addresses of all the people who may come in contact with you (friends and family included) who might help support you or your children emotionally, mentally, physically, whatever else along the way. Yes, we also needed to find support groups not only for adoption and mental health, but for multiracial needs.
We needed to track down an international pediatric specialist to look over the needs of our potential children and get them to write a report on all the ways in which they would treat them and what the long term care would look like. Mind you, we had to answer twice for each child because we were (and still are) expecting two! It wasn’t all focused on medical needs, there was some planning for the plane ride home (like, weighted blankets to provide physical comfort if they weren’t comfortable with our hugs, snacks to keep their jaws busy to provide a calming relief, coloring books, headphones, and the like). There was also the constructing of the bedroom and the red string of fate dream I had of them before I ever knew the red string of fate legend existed! We had visions of video chats with them over Christmas and our biological children were adapting to the same visions our imaginations were adhering to. We’ve been asked why we have to go through all of that if we’re not guaranteed these children, and it’s a valid question. The answer is this: it looks that much better on paper and proves that we’re ready and suited for these children. Despite what our social worker said (or warned), we were firmly attached. We’ve covered all the bases despite the fact we were in competition with other couples globally who care just as much as we do for these two precious children. The red string of fate dream that I had told me we were bound in some way bigger than all of this. I know this because I googled the “red string of fate” upon waking that morning and I do not believe in coincidences that big, or unbelievable.
If you haven’t read previous entries of my blog, we’re adopting two Filipino children and it’s been about a year since we’ve started on paper. A sibling group of two is important to us and there are the plethora of reasons to justify why, but most importantly we’ve chosen that route because it seems to be what God led us to. Maybe that sounds stupid to you. I can’t explain the way I feel, except to say that it just feels right. So, basically, we got to know the ins and outs of these children in every way possible without ever meeting them. They kept telling us not to attach, because anything can happen…Can somebody please explain to me how one is supposed to NOT attach when you’re looking to foresee every possible need a person could ever have in the world (mentally, physically, emotionally…FOR THE NEXT 15 YEARS at least)? I had to call up the local school district to ask specifically where they would be working with my children should they need speech therapy, ESL, or another kind of therapy so that I could fill out this huge transition plan. By the way, we needed to track all these specialists, books, movies and such all within a few days. It was 3 days straight of siting in front of a monitor, on the phone, and researching. My kids were vacationing at their grandparents house and I will never be able to thank them for what they did for us. There’s no way to parent the children you have without support when you go through some parts of the adoption process. It’s impossible to meet these deadlines and be a parent and I cannot roll my eyes any harder at that fact. To be clear, to be the best adoptive parent, we need to neglect our children. Yes, you read that right. It’s good though, because when it’s all finalized and shit hits the fan when an emergency crops up, you have the transition plan there with all the info already laid out for you so you don’t need to panic (as much). All of your focus is on meeting the needs of your children and not the panic of researching how to handle this disaster in front of you. Honestly, forget lamaze classes, every parent should have to fill out a transition plan and opt to take TBRI (trust based relational intervention) classes. That’s where it’s at if you want to be an empathic parent who wants to understand their children for who they are. Don’t even get me started on parents who try to force their children into that attachment parenting box. There’s nothing wrong with attachment parenting, but there is something wrong with the cult of attachment parents. When it goes unchecked, it is often misinterpreted, hence, misused. Back to the point…
We submitted both transition plans and learned we had to create a video for ICAB (inter-country adoption board) which I was so excited for! Once I had to create a music video for my AP history class in high school and loved the experience. I never had a reason to revisit that craft until then. The only problem was that I had a new Mac and didn’t know how to use it yet. There’s definitely a learning curve when switching operating systems (and also why I’ve been so delinquent with my website). It turned out well regardless, but I wasn’t proud of it. Something was off about the video. We did a home tour like we were supposed to, and we interviewed each member of the family about adopting the two little ones that I can’t name here for privacy sake, and everyone said the right things, but it didn’t feel right. I had a bad feeling, but I chose to ignore it. “10,000 Reasons” was her favorite song, and I could think of 10,00 reasons to justify my feelings. I was trying to be impartial, but if we were matched with them, it’d be in time for Christmas and I wanted to give myself time to think of presents we could send should ICAB say yes to us. I designed an American Girl doll that looked exactly like the little girl I dreamed of. I even made the one eye a different shade, like hers. In America, we have white baby doll, black baby doll, and Moana baby doll…It wouldn’t be easy to find my almost daughter a doll that she could identify with. That’s why the thought seemed perfect. Her American Girl doll would match the way she looked and she would be become a real life American Girl once the adoption was finalized. We submitted everything we had and it was off to the desk of ICAB. We waited….and waited…then waited some more.
Months had passed and when the first day of October slowly rolled around, I woke up with a terrible feeling in the pit of my soul. I could feel in my bones that we were bracing for bad news. I even told my husband that morning that this was the month we’d know. If it doesn’t come today, it’s coming soon and it’s not going to be good and that’s exactly what I told him. The very next day we received the monthly home findings listing we always get, but our two were not included on that list. I was sure that meant they had been matched. My husband called up our caseworker and she said there was no reason to be alarmed. It probably meant they were either updating the profile from a medical standpoint, or ICAB had received enough family profiles and they were ready to match them with a prospective family. We waited some more, and they were the longest days of my life. Finally I received an email from our caseworker about…grief? I don’t know, I didn’t read it. I deleted it, but I knew what it meant. I stayed in bed most of that day. The one time I did get out of bed, I visited the fridge and my husband told me about the call he had received while I was still in bed.
Do you remember that scene from Friends when Ross drank all those margaritas insisting he was fine with the whole Joey and Rachel thing? Well, my husband tried to hug me in that way one does at a funeral and I shrugged him off, raising both hands declaring, “I’m fine!” except, it really did come out all loud and squeaky. Unfortunately, he was not fine, but I was not in the mental head space to be of any sort comfort. I allowed myself one day to cry. The next day I went out and bought some dirt, bulbs, and a huge planter to turn yet another negative into a positive. It’s a memorial to all the dreams I had with them. I know they’re not mine, but I attached to the vision emotionally and mentally the way a mother attaches to her baby in utero 3 months along, and in a way, I had twins. I’d be lying if I said I was sure I’d easily attach to the children I’m meant to be with, but now I’ve built this wall up around my heart. I’m not sure at which point it will crumble away, but I know that, in time, it has to…right?
The thing is, every single choice I’ve ever made in the last 15 years hasn’t led me to be the best career woman, the best wife, the best friend, or even the best daughter, but the best mother. I never wanted anything more than to be surrounded by a home full of children bursting with joy. I spent my junior year of high school at the career center in the preschool program because I wanted so badly to teach little ones. I spent my senior year in a cosmetology school I absolutely hated. Initially I wanted to do hair while I worked through college, but after about 6 months, the only reason I stayed was because I knew I’d have a family and I wanted to be the one to provide those services. I enjoyed the work, I just hated the work environment. A room full of caddy women is not my idea of paradise. I endured and I graduated the same time I graduated high school. I landed my first real job at the elementary school I went to. I tutored kindergarten, and 2nd-5th grade, but I had a pivotal role in the 5th grade, teaching social studies to the kids who missed it while they were in their special education class. I had a knack for it and they seemed to respect me because I had a deep respect for them. I’ve been in their shoes with low self-esteem and teachers that have sort of given up on you. I even went as far as to make color coded word banks for my one student who never passed the first grade reading level and he EXCELLED! My cards were actually helping him so that’s when I decided to switch my focus to special education.
Fate stepped in and gave me a family all at once, so I dropped out of school for a while until my second baby was born. With those two, I had my hands full. The thought of being a full-time teacher with my children in daycare rubbed me the wrong way, so I went back to become a paraprofessional. If I’m being honest, I knew I’d never get a job. I just wanted to know how to do the job should my children have any kind of learning disability, the way I did. I wanted to be the one they could lean on, for anything. I shadowed a blind third grader for several weeks and learned so much about life from him. He sees the world differently and I admired exactly how God had made him. We ended up moving, so I dropped out of school for the second time to focus on the move and transitioning my children into our new way of life. I wouldn’t return to school until 2020. Right as the epidemic shut the whole world down, I decided to get me TESOL certification. If my children can’t speak a word of English, it’s important I can communicate with them. I applied to a masters program in California (mind you I still had to get my Associates and Bachelors degree) in order to reach this level of certification, except I found that there was an easier way to get the same content without all the BS for a lot less time and money. I earned that certification in a day and it wasn’t by any means easy—but I conquered. It was another thing to add to the ICAB family profile to demonstrate how serious I take my role as a mother. Evidently none of it mattered because the Philippines didn’t think we were the best suited for the role, and I can’t help but wonder why I wasn’t good enough.
The devil loves division and right now, through this entire 2020 crap shoot of a year, he’s one happy camper. I made my very first self portrait while in isolation which you can view here. It’s the most meaningful piece I’ve ever done, but I’ll let you interpret what it means to you. I painted it shortly after my last post and it says all the things I haven’t been able to convey.
Which brings me to my last thought; In my last post I mentioned the fact I gave up my triggers for lent (triggers, meaning people who give me extreme anxiety). In regard to an update, I’m back in contact with one family who never even seemed to notice we weren’t in contact. It sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. We’re actually really good. I never unblocked certain phone numbers because it wouldn’t do any good if I did. They’re the vindictive type who hold grudges and I just don’t need that in my life with everything else I have to deal with. I can’t have drama and deal with trauma. While I’m certainly not the best mother in the world, it’s simply not an option right now to open that line of toxic communication. I exist to be the best mother I can be to my children, not the best mother to grown adults who can’t seem to pull themselves together. I’m not a therapist. On the flip side, I understand those who feel that same way about me, too. I’ve been under a massive amount of stress and grief and I’ve experienced much of it alone, which has isolated me from more than just my family. My friends are feeling it, too. I get it. I don’t think any less of them for putting themselves first. It’s a weird time for all of us and I have faith things will work out in the end, whatever that means. It’s not much of an update, but despite the grief, I’m mentally right where I want to be and I’m not willing to give that up, not for anyone or anything.
My wish for anybody reading this ,who’s currently struggling with people pleasing, is to find the courage to put yourself first. Be the protagonist in your own life and stop playing the role of the second rate character in your own life, for goodness sake! Get over yourself and what others might think of you and tell people no! When people call you up and your home alone in your pajamas watching movies and binging on leftover Halloween candy, tell them you’re busy. Taking time for yourself, no matter how unproductive is may seem to society, is exactly what you need sometimes with no justification whatsoever. Read that line again.
Please, flood my inbox with any questions concerning adoption you may have. It’s important to express everything throughout this process if it helps another couple looking into the process (it’s literally the most selfless act a person can do) or perhaps it’ll help you address an adoptive couple you may know. At this point, I can’t be offended. It’s all been said and asked before. I just want people to understand anything that needs explaining that I haven’t already covered in this post. Also, on a more positive note, send me the ways in which you’ve dealt with this entire pandemic. We just had our first holiday, so what are you doing for the upcoming family gatherings? Are you attending, hosting, or avoiding? I’d love to feature you and what you’ve done to turn a negative into a positive!