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The Ugly Monster Sitting On My Chest

I haven’t written about adoption-related stuff in awhile, partly because as my kids are getting older I’m trying to honor their privacy (unless they say something hilarious that needs to be on Twitter, in which case all bets are off) and partly because my kids are adopted, past tense, and now we’re trying to just be a family.  So I don’t have as much to say as when we were waiting and flying places and going to courts.

But I do have something I need to talk about.  There’s this ugly monster sitting on my chest making it hard for me to breathe most days and I’m embarrassed to tell you about it because I feel small and weak.  I’d rather write about the zombie apocalypse.

I was thinking today that maybe someone else needs to hear about my ugly monster because she’s got one on her chest, too.  And this is what I do.  I share my stuff and try to help other people feel like they aren’t alone.

We’ve been doing this three-kid family thing for a little less than two years and at first glance things seemed okay.  But they weren’t.  We kept putting out fires here and there, keeping our sense of humor, and moving one foot in front of the other, but the fires kept growing.  I’ve realized that instead of trying to find more water and fire extinguishers, I need to figure out what’s causing the fires to begin with.

My kids don’t know how to be siblings.

I mean, how could they?  This is something you learn growing up with people through the years, but in our case, we shoved three strangers from three different continents together and told them they’re a family and to love each other.  (Maybe you’ve experienced this with remarriage and step-siblings, too?)

“Be a family.”  It’s not that simple.  We’re finding it’s really not that simple.

So we have moments of wonderfulness, where I take a mental pic or an actual pic, put it on Instagram, and I treasure it up in my shriveled heart.  And we have a whole lot of hard moments.

There’s no sense of team.  It’s more like The Hunger Games around here, minus the weapons.  (We do have trackerjackets, because this is Georgia, we live on a swamp, and the bugs are fierce.)

I’ve been feeling exhausted and people thought it was because of the writing and speaking and working.  But actually, those things are energizing for me.  It’s the ugly monster on my chest, this heaviness that settles over me each morning while the kids get ready for school and every afternoon when they come home.  I’m a captive audience to the three people I love the most daily tearing each other apart, and my heart feels like it’s going to explode.

My mama heart is collateral damage in their intergalactic battle.

All three are incredible and precious.  They’re gifted and sweet.  They just don’t know how to be siblings.

It has to be learned.

I lamented to my friends about it and you know that thing where you aren’t sure what’s really going on inside your head until the words come tumbling out?  I said, ‘I feel like for twelve years as we built our family through infertility and adoption, God was so close.  He carried me through it.  And then once I had my kids with me, he brushed his hands together and said “Good luck with that” and walked away.  I know he doesn’t change and he hasn’t left.  I know because I know what the bible says.  But it feels that way.  And I know not to give too much weight to my feelings because feelings change all the time blah blah BLAH.  But I’m hurting and feel abandoned.’

Have you ever felt abandoned?  *she whispers quietly into the dark to see if she’s truly alone*

A couple winters ago when we were struggling with attachment stuff, my friend Andrea told me about this amazing therapist for adoptive families.  I never pursued it, because we were fine.  We were soooo fiiiinnne.

And then a few weeks ago I spoke at a group for adoptive and foster care mamas and she was there.  And she gave me her card.  She’s started coming to our house every week and she’s teaching my kids how to be siblings, rolling it all back to the basics.

“This is a safe place.”

My girls come from hard places and now my son comes from a hard place, because our house is a hard place.  When you adopt it means bringing the hard places in and healing together.

If you’ve ever been to counseling you know that things get worse before they get better.  The hurt is pouring out and we are gushing open wounds walking around.  But I have hope.  My heart is broken but it’s beating harder than ever for these three loves of my life.

We’re learning a new language, a language of team and of safety.

I’m tired always and cynical sometimes.  SuperTherapist says I have compassion fatigue and need to practice self care.  I asked for a coloring book for my birthday so I think I’ll start with coloring.

I felt like God abandoned us, but my friends Courtney and Allison reminded me that he’s right here with us, positioning me where I meet the exact therapist we need right when we need her the most.  The cynic in me says it’s a coincidence but the hopeful part of me thinks they’re right.  The cynic part laughs sarcastically in his direction and the hopeful part is singing “Good Good Father” on repeat in the kitchen.

I’m grateful for friends who point us to hope.

I used to think that you adopted kids, worked on all the attachment and language stuff, then moved on like everyone was fine.  I’m learning that adoption is layered, like Shrek like an onion like parfait.  We peel back a layer and there’s another one.  This is a lifetime of learning and healing for all three of my kids, for all of us.

Sometimes when I feel brokenhearted I think about what my kids will be like when they’re adults.  Someday after all the kid stuff will they come home for Thanksgiving and laugh about the time we got stuck in the snow on our way to Kentucky and remember the beach house we rented one summer?  Will these difficult beginnings give way to compassionate, understanding people who know how to be bridge builders and problem solvers?

I think so.

So there’s my ugly monster.  Newsflash: Georgia mom does not have it all together.  Kids do not (yet) love each other.  Working on problems.

We’re all just working on our problems, right?  I hope this week yours seem a little less monstrous.  I hope you hope.  And do something to take care of yourself.  I’m going to go color.