As the year winds down into seemingly endless holidays, it's easy to get sucked into a vortex of downward spiraling depression. While in many ways I feel I've 'aged out' of the seasonal adoption depression, I was taken aback in church this weekend by a video shot in my birthdaughter's hometown of all places. It took a few minutes of tears and asking, "What just happened?" before I was able to get my bearings again.
One of the best ways I've found to combat seasonal depression is by thanksgiving. Not the holiday, the act. It's a proven fact that one of the mysteries of God is that if we give Him thanks regardless of our circumstances, He fills us with joy regardless of our circumstances. So here, in no particular order, are the things I'm thankful for as of this moment:
a warm home
a loyal, hardworking husband
an adoptive family for Katie
lovely and loveable children
my own car
a direct line to the God of the Bible
You get the idea. It's amazing what happens when we start focusing on the good stuff in our lives. When we do, there is no time to focus on the negative. Am I talking about living in a bubble? No way. I challenge you this week to start counting the things you are thankful for every time a negative thought creeps into your mind. See what happens.
Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning. Like a great white shark grabbed onto my leg and won't let go. It feels like I'm suffocating. It's horrendous. I've been going through so much lately, I'm barely reaching the surface. It's a constant weight on my chest that won't go away. Is it guilt? Maybe. Is it stress? Possibly. Nothing helps. I'm self medicating with mantras and daily bull but the pain won't go away.
If birthmothering is your first grief experience, I'm sorry. I'm sad for anyone who grieves. And although loss is a part of living, the way we grieve and experience grief is as different as our DNA. By the time my dad died 10 years ago, I had already been grieving the loss of my firstborn daughter to adoption for about 17 years. Although losing my dad was different in many ways, caring for myself as I was grieving and knowing what to expect remained the same.
First of all, you never know when or where grief will strike. Sure, you can learn your triggers and protect yourself that way. But sometimes when the stars, hormones, and memories align in just the right way, a tidal wave can hit you out of seemingly nowhere. It's important for you to recognize when that is happening and take immediate action. Delaying grief only makes it worse. As soon as you can, get alone and get it out.
Second, grief is like an onion. Yes, onions are stinky as is grief. But there's a little more to it. Onions have layers (remember Shrek?) as you slice through them. Each layer can differ from the others in thickness and odor. Now apply this to your particular situation for a moment. Yes I know it's crazy, but really.
Here's an example from my own birthmom journey. There were years that Katie's birthday came and went and I hardly noticed. Summer ran into fall ran into winter and so on. Suddenly it was spring, and her March birthday had come and gone. But then there were other years when the grief was so heavy in December that I could barely make it through the holidays much less hold on until March. It is still amazing to me that her 17th birthday was the hardest one I had experienced up until that point and I had been practicing for 16 years!
Anyway, my point is that grief is a continual journey and while today may be good, tomorrow may be a totally different story.
Finally, we can only grieve up to the developmental stage we are at. For example, I grieved Katie the best I knew how at 20 and 25 and so on and was at a what I thought was a 'good place'. But when I started having my own children, it was a whole new ballgame. Even though she was already 18, taking care of a newborn for the first time really shed light on all I had missed as her mommy.
Just yesterday the grief of losing my daddy hit me anew. It was a rough afternoon of remembering and crying and journaling. But at the end, I felt like I could breathe again. Is it okay? No. Not yet. But I continue moving forward finding comfort in my routine and taking time to remember as needed.
In my Wednesday morning Bible study, we have spent a lot of time talking about unity: Unity in the church, unity among other believers, loving each other even when we don't like each other.. that sort of thing. It occurred to me we could apply this principle of unity to our own community of birthmoms.
We all have this common thread of experiencing the loss of one or more of our children through adoption. Not all of our stories are the same. Not all of our experiences are the same. But we all share this deep grief and sadness at losing one of our own. Instead of judging each others' motives or stories or lifestyles, we should continue loving and supporting each other wherever we are.
Do you make any type of photo gifts like a photo book or photo calendar for people for Christmas? Does your family order photo Christmas cards? If not, maybe this is the year to start! BirthMom Buds is doing a Christmas fundraiser with Picaboo, which sells awesome photo cards and gifts. When you place an order between now and December 31, 2013 simply use the code PFBMB at checkout and you will receive 25% off your order and BMB will receive a portion of the proceeds!
As you know, I placed Micah when I was 17. 17 is a big stage in your life. For mine, it was my senior year of high school so I was keeping tabs on the people I wanted to stay in touch with when I went away to college.
I was expecting to be there for 4 years, so I wasn't too concerned with who I'd hang out with if I was home. As luck would have it, I failed out my freshman year. E-town here I come! It was weird being home.... people I went to high school with were home for the summer, going to parties, hanging out at HersheyPark, going to the beach, just living life! I sooo wanted to enjoy and be with them, but no one wants to hang out with the mopey sad girl who "gave up" her baby. To them, Micah was pretty much dead. If they couldn't see him or hold him, they didn't care.
Long story short, over that summer I found myself hanging out with more of my "teen mom" friends. But I didn't fit in. Ijourneyed back over to my "college" friends. But I didn't fit in. I wasn't away at college but I wasn't taking care of my child, either.
It's still difficult for me to find groups of friends where I really do fit in.I still feel as if I'm not 100% sure where I stand..
Have any of you felt like an "outsider" to people you were, at one point, friends with, post adoption?
Recently a friend in another group posted this question: What has been your hardest decision? While we are all birthmoms in this particular community, I noticed that she didn't reference adoption specifically but rather left the question wide open. After reading some of the other responses and formulating my own, here is how I responded:
The choice for adoption was not hard for me. I knew from the beginning that I was not able or equipped to give my daughter what she needed. I knew that she needed two parents who were emotionally and financially stable enough to care for her needs. I was neither.
Forgiving the birthfather was tough for me. It took me six long years to work through my feelings, emotions and anger towards him before finally realizing I needed to forgive him so I could move on.
Forgiving myself was even harder than that. I continued punishing myself for years after I had let go of my anger towards Chris by telling myself over and over that I was worthless, that it was too late for me. I had messed up too much and there was no hope. No one would ever want me again so I might as well do what I wanted with whom I wanted. I was as worthless as trash.
But even as hard as those things were for me, probably my biggest challenge was trusting God with all of it. The God of the Bible tells us that he can use any and everything to bring glory to himself. In Romans chapter 8, Paul tells us, ...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Having been raised in church and having literally no where else to turn, I gave God a try. The road didn't get any easier, but for the first time in my life I felt truly accepted, truly loved, despite all I had done. Regardless of my stupid decisions and times I had made bad choices, God loved me. He wasn't ashamed of me, ashamed of my unplanned pregnancy. He wasn't afraid to walk with me, to hold my hand, as we journeyed through those dark places in my soul and He healed them.
Adoption wasn't my hardest decision, not by far. It has been trusting God to take the broken pieces of my life and put them back together in a way that is beautiful and useful.
"Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That's what real love amounts to-letting a person be what he really is."