Monday, August 19, 2013

What would I do differently if I knew what I know now?

I was talking to some girlfriends this weekend about my adoption and parenting journey as a single momma and it got me thinking - if I knew what I know now - 10 months in - what would I do differently? Here are a few things specifically regarding adoption related things in the first few weeks and some travel things. This is not a list of actual parenting things I would change - that would be a much, much longer list:) Maybe this short list of simple things that I'd do differently early on will help a new adoptive momma - single or not:)

1) I would just let him sleep in my room with me from Day 1. 
Instead I had this plan to hopefully transition him into his own bed as soon as possible - which involved us sleeping on the floor on an air mattress in his room from the first night we came home and for the first month or so after that. It then transitioned to me putting him in his bed once he was asleep but me still on the air mattress and yet every time he woke up (which was 4 or 5 times a night) - he'd climb back out of bed and back on the floor with me. And then that transitioned to me putting the air mattress away and then I was rocking him to sleep in the rocking chair every night which wasn't the most comfy for him or me and tended to take a while and be pretty frustrating and then put him into his bed once he was all the way asleep. And then I would go across the hall to my room and sleep and he'd wake up and come in with me like a few hours later. A few times I tried taking him back in his room and rocking him to sleep and putting him back in his bed but that took awhile and he'd still wake up again and come in with me anyway. It was a lot of interrupted sleep for both of us. I was very very very much wanting to sleep by myself again. But the reality is - it's not happening and I can't force it to happen. A few months back - my friends gave us a twin bed and frame and that helped a ton cause I could just lay down in bed with him until he was asleep and then slip out. I usually fell asleep too until like 12 or 1 am - then I'd get up and go in my room and then a few hours later - M would come in with me. Still pretty interrupted sleep.
It wasn't until our July trip to Michigan when we slept in the guest room at my mom's and aunt's houses that I finally just realized it was the best sleep I had had in months. And Mihretu too. And it was that aha lightbulb moment - "why the heck aren't we just doing this at home?" "Why am I trying so hard to transition him into his own room? It's not like he's still going to be sleeping with me in middle school (at least I hope not)!" And so when we got home from our trip, I asked him if he wanted to sleep in mommy's room and we started doing so ever since. It's working way better. I still miss sleeping by myself, I'm not gonna lie. My back hurts pretty much every day cause my little 4 year old moves a lot, takes up half the bed and usually it leaves me with a little sliver on the edge. I move him over often in the night if little feet are kicking my ribs or head but he usually ends up with an arm across my neck or a head on me or feet poking me somewhere. But it's still better sleep than we were getting.
If I got to start over again - I would just have him sleep with me in the first place. And maybe I would have bought a queen bed before he came home:) ha ha

2) I would have asked for help right away. In fact, I would have asked for someone to come stay with me for at least the first week or two. I was so over the top in my "no one else can help me because of attachment" thinking that I took on more than I could handle well. And therefore, I didn't handle it as well as I had hoped and that sent me into somewhat of a depression cause I just felt like an awful version of myself. I certainly didn't feel like the patient, giving mom I expected to be. I was tired, I was overwhelmed. My child was screaming bloody murder anytime the dog was near. Even just a hand with the dog so I didn't feel like she was totally neglected would have been a Godsend! If I could do it again - I would ask someone in my family to come stay with me those first few weeks. Not so that they could bathe him or feed him or do the attachment stuff - but just so that someone else would be in the house to understand what was happening and me to be able to talk about it with someone who was there witnessing it. And like I said, to help with the dog. I felt horrible that Auty wasn't getting any attention and had to be sectioned off in our house by a baby gate. That was really hard.

3) I would have had the dog at doggy daycare for at least the first night and possibly several nights. It was too much - especially that first night when we got home at 8 pm after 40 hours of travel and I was left by myself with my precious dog and my new son and the immediate response was screaming and a very stressed out all 3 of us. My goodness, what was I thinking? We survived though and a month later - Mihretu started to even like Auty. Another month went by and he loved her. She didn't love him though so my heart broke when we surrendered her back to the adoption agency I got her from. She was just so anxious around him. I still miss that fur baby.

4) I would have brought a stroller for the pickup trip. This one is just a travel tip really. I thought M would hate a stroller or being strapped into anything. I thought it would be too much to carry, especially if he didn't really want to go in it. So I brought my super awesome Ergo carrier and left the stroller at home. My goodness, I about killed my back in that decision. Even if he hadn't wanted to be in the stroller - it would have been helpful to put everything else I was carrying over the arms of the stroller or in the part where you sit like I do now when I travel. If I could go back, I would have definitely brought that stroller. The connection in Frankfurt, Germany was killer. I swear you have to walk like 2 miles from where you get off to where your next flight is. And there's no tram for the most part and there's these escalators and sections with these weird metal barriers designed to keep you from taking the carts you can rent up the thing - but it also makes it horrible to get your bags through the small entrance onto the thing. I hate that airport. And that brings me to the last thing...

5) I would have paid extra just to NOT have to fly through Frankfurt, Germany. Worst airport ever to connect in if you are carrying a lot of bags and/or a child strapped to you. I literally broke down in tears in the security line because I felt so physically fatiqued that I thought I might collapse. You don't really get to work up the muscle gradually when adopting a 30 pound child either - it's hard on the back. Especially when all you brought to carry him in was something you wear on your body.

And that's my list. Not too bad really. Not that much I would change. I'm so thankful that every day and every month things get a little bit easier and I figure out this parenting thing a little bit more. God is faithful - He meets you where you're at. And sometimes it takes awhile to find your way. Hold tight to Him and you will:)

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Thankful Heart

Mihretu and I just got back from 6 days in Maine visiting the family that adopted Sitota - his best little friend from Ethiopia. Sitota and Mihretu grew up at the same orphanage - they were together for several years in a room with many other kids. They were buddies. They still are.

Top photo - Oct 2012, Bottom - Aug 2013

I think it's totally awesome that in this great big world - Mihretu's mommy and Sitota's mommy both met these kiddos on a mission trip to Ethiopia and both ended up using the same adoption agency to adopt these two friends. That same agency connected us last year - two families from two different states - with two precious kiddos who were buddies. I'm so glad they did. Seriously, I can't even describe how glad I am. How thankful. And then the God timing of us having court the SAME week and getting to meet in person in Ethiopia this time last year. And then again - more God timing - we got Embassy clearance the SAME DAY. All the other families that were with us in Ethiopia for court all got theirs spread out on different days and some were weeks and months apart from ours. And we got ours on the same day. I mean - seriously - this cannot be a coincidence. It's truly a God thing. We got to go get our kids the same week and stay at the same guesthouse so that our kiddos could transition into their forever families with some familiarity - each other. What a blessing. And then when we came home - to be able to skype regularly with them, watch each others videos on facebook and then to be blessed to spend 6 days in their home with their family and watching our kiddos play together. I feel like my heart literally grew 3 sizes!! It was such an amazing trip.

I'm thankful that they invited us. Thankful that they welcomed us into their home. So very thankful to have gotten a glimpse into the beauty of their family. I learned so much about parenting from Megin and Rob. I seriously am so thankful for observing how they interact with their kids and praise them over and over again and getting to see how that lights a kid up. I wasn't doing that nearly enough. I was feeling lost and frustrated and so insecure in my parenting because many of the things I was trying were not working and I just felt so inadequate. I don't think any advice anyone could give me could ever be as great or as meaningful as watching it in action within a beautiful family. I'm so thankful to have seen it, to have gotten ideas and inspiration and to have had another mom to sit and share our stories and our struggles with. There's so much healing in that. I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face as I write this. I just feel like this trip was such a gift. Yes, to Mihretu and Sitota but also to me. To encourage my weary mommy heart. And to help me find joy and peace and so much more love than I even knew I had.

It wasn't just a vacation - it was a God ordained trip. I don't know if they will every truly know how much it meant to me. Seeing our kids together brought so much overflowing joy. And it reminded me of all those months of waiting and how far we've come - all of us. Megin and I talked about doing this yearly and I really truly hope we do. I'm so thankful for that time we had together for 6 precious days in Maine in August of 2013!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One year later

This week marks the 1 year anniversary of my court appointment in Ethiopia and the 7 days I spent with my sweet boy at my agencies care center. It was the first time I had seen him since we first met - a full year had gone by. I was so nervous as we drove there that morning. Would he warm up to me like he did the first time? How would it go? What would he think of me?

And then I was there, walking into the care center telling the nannies which child I was there to see. They pointed to the door and I walked to it and saw that it was the room he was in. I scanned the room full of kids and quickly saw him. The nannies were talking to him and before I could say a word - he walked up and put his arms up for me to pick him up. I'm sure they told him to but still - he didn't HAVE to do it. And in a moment - he was in my arms and photos were being snapped by my friend Wynne at the door who had come along to document the day. My friend Elisa was there briefly to take a little video and meet him before going on her way to do other things in Addis Ababa. It was surreal. All this time, all this paperwork, all this praying, hoping and waiting and he was in my arms. And he wasn't freaking out, crying or pushing me away - thank the Lord. He was so curious - just looking at me and checking me out. I showed him his photo on my necklace and he was so intrigued. I showed him the picture book I brought with pics of him and I from the year before and of his room and our dog and some friends and family. And the rest of the day and the next 6 days - he was attached to me non-stop. He didn't want me to put him down. He would scream and cry and yell "mommy, mommy" each day when I had to leave - which made my heart feel like it was literally being ripped out. I just kept reminding myself - I can do this - we are closer to forever - soon he'll be home - I can do this.

I had to leave to come home without him. That's just the way the process goes. Which feels all sorts of wrong. You know you have to. But it feels like you just left your child in another country and you're going home without them because that is exactly what you're doing and yet you have no choice. HARD. Emotional. And yet, you suck it up and try to hold it together because you know you are at the homestretch. I've made it this far - I can make it a few more months. Lord, let it be 3 months or less - not one of the many cases that takes EVEN longer than that. Let it be soon.

And thank God - it was just around 3 months and the long-awaited email from the Embassy came at 1:30 am that said "you are approved and can come get your child". Ok so maybe it didn't say that exactly but that's what it meant. And 3 days later, I was on a plane with my friend Merrill to go get my son and bring him home. That anniversary date is in October.

It's hard to believe it's been a year since my court date and since we were reunited and these great pictures were taken. So thankful to have my sweet boy home.

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...