Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mysterious Ways!

Lots of people say that the universe works in mysterious ways. Here is one part of my life where it did for me and my family. (Warning -- this is VERY long!)

Before my husband and I got married, we talked about children. We had agreed that we would have two or three biological children, then we would consider adopting more. Though I knew it was a good idea, and I believed in adoption, I was a little nervous about the idea.

A few years after we were married, we had our wonderful daughter. When she was two years old, we became foster parents. The first child was only 3 and had had a rough life. After a short period of time he went back home. Though I was not confident it was the best decision for him, he and I did not bond and I was relieved when he left. I was a little worried about fostering any more kids because we didn't bond.

Our second foster child, Sam, was 11 years old. He was a great kid! His family had a once-in-a-lifetime situation that they fixed. He fit right into our family. We loved Sam, our daughter loved him, my parents loved him, our siblings loved him. After a few short months, he went back home. I did not realize how much I could love a child who was not "ours" until we had Sam. If Sam had been available for adoption, we would have kept him.

For a variety of reasons I don't want to get into, and unrelated to Sam, we stopped being foster parents after he went home.

Over the next year or so we tried to get pregnant again. Nothing we did worked and I felt like a failure. As the months of treatments went on, I felt that God was punishing me. What on Earth did I do that was so horrible that God would punish me this way? Were we such horrible parents that he would not want us to have more kids? It was devastating. We talked about stopping the expensive treatments, but I kept wanting to try -- one more time.

One day in early December I had an epiphany. We had talked about adopting when we were finished having biological children. Why was I continuing to torture myself this way -- we could just speed up our adoption plan without having more biological children.

I called my mom to tell her and she was thrilled! It broke her heart seeing me suffer for so long. After many discussions and phone calls and seeking advice on adoptions, we decided to adopt from Mexico.

Though it took a year, things fell in place in an oddly smooth way. To me it felt purposeful. I was beginning to believe that God wanted us to go to Mexico -- that there was a child there he wanted us to meet.

With everything in order, we finally arranged to go to Mexico in early February. Everyone asked if we wanted a boy or a girl. It actually confused them when we said it didn't matter. Though neither of us really had a preference, we didn't want to eliminate half of the available children based on sex. I was nervous and prayed a lot, asking God to help us to recognize the child he wanted us to meet. My only criteria was I did not want an infant. Our daughter was already 7 years old, plus, to be honest, I'm not a big fan of infants. (Long story.) So we were thinking between 3 and 6 years old.

We jumped through a bunch of legal hoops and finally, after being approved, we sat in front of the desk of the social worker and said, "We are ready to meet children." There were just a couple of days left before we had to return home.

Ms. Jimenez had a folder sitting on her desk. She picked it up and said, "This is Juan. He just became available. I know he is younger than what you were thinking, but you can look at his file while I locate the folders of other children for you to meet."

Juan was only 15 months old and adorable. He was younger than what we wanted and we knew he would be adopted quickly, but we still agreed to meet him. Ms. Jimenez also picked a couple of pairs of sisters for us to meet.

I'll shorten this here. We missed our appointment to meet Juan because of confusion about where he was living, so we had to reschedule for our last day in Mexico, a few hours before we were to fly out. In the meantime, we met the sets of sisters, and a bunch of other kids. It was rough, no one seemed right, and on that last day, we were discouraged and convinced that we would have to come back in a few months to meet more children.

The staff at the orphanage where Juan lived did not want Juan to get individual attention, think we were his parents, then have us leave and never come back. We were told we had only 30 20 minutes. They took us to the cottage where he lived and we walked into a playroom full of about a dozen children from a year to maybe 3 4 years old. We immediately sat on the floor and started playing with the kids. Several climbed on us, others wanted to show us their favorite toys, and we were an instant hit with every kid in the room -- except Juan. Juan pretended to ignore us, looking at us out of the corner of his eye to see if we were watching. He did some amazingly cute things, but would not go near us.

After a while, the teacher started bringing Juan to us to sit in our laps or to play with us, but he would jump up and run away. Ninety minutes later we were still there and reluctantly had to leave or we would miss our flight home. (Obviously, the teachers liked us or they wouldn't have let us stay so long.) We had a great time playing with all of the kids, but Juan was amazing.

In the cab, my husband was glowing. After a stressful and discouraging week, he was happy! "You want Juan, don't you." He turned to me and said, "I didn't know I wanted a boy until now." When the cab stopped, we went to a pay phone to call our attorney.

Here is where the universe is mysterious:
1) At first, I wasn't sure if I could love a child who was not biologically related to me. Because of Sam, I knew it would be OK.
2) We had planned to adopt from a specific city to make things more cost effective. We met a family who lived near us who had adopted from that city, and their attorney agreed to represent us.
3) Juan was born (we think) the week I decided to stop fertility treatments and look into adoption.
4) I didn't want an infant. Juan was 15 months old when we met him and 27 months old when we brought him home.
5) Juan was just available for adoption about the week we arrived to meet children, and his file was sitting on the social worker's desk.

Other mysterious universe moments:
1) When our daughter was in high school, one of her friends ended up in foster care. Because we had been foster parents years earlier, it didn't take a lot of work to get re-licensed. Her friend lived with us for 18 months.
2) It's been about 6 years since the friend moved out. We had the honor of visiting her at college for parents' day!
3) We are lucky enough to see this friend, our "other" daughter, often!
4) Before we were married, we had wanted three or four kids. And even though I could not get pregnant again, we still ended up with three great kids!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Do It Anyway

I tend to suffer from seasonal depression. To combat the effects, I exercise, go outside as much as possible and try to maintain a positive attitude.

Recently, I found a podcast that discusses mental health issues -- mostly depression -- and how famous people deal with it. At the end of his interview, Adam Carolla recommends acting as if you are not depressed as a way to help get through depression. He said something like this:
If you don't feel like getting out of bed, get out of bed anyway. If you go for a run and feel like quitting, run 1 mile farther. If you don't want to shower, take a shower anyway.
His point was, while you are trying to work through depression, it helps to act the part. When you act as if you are feeling some way (happy, sad, brave, scared), you eventually will start to feel some of it.

So, my goal when the seasonal depression really strikes hard once winter in Ohio turns cold and gray, is to act as if I'm happy and see if it makes a difference. In the meantime, I'm just enjoying that the days are getting longer and that I did get to see sunshine today.