Why I love my birthday…

I feel a little bit like a 2nd grader writing that title.

But, being born in December I have always had a stressful relationship with my birthday. I’ve even played with the idea of moving it 6 months so that I get presents twice a year, but that idea was a non starter.

I’ve spent my fair share of birthdays at Christmas parties, or taking final exams. I’ve gotten more than a few birthday/Christmas presents over the years. Combine these things with a childhood spent caring WAY too much what other people thought of me, and an obsession with being “cool” and it meant that most birthdays were a mix of both excitement…and disappointment.

For example…one year, my mom used those trick candles on my cake that you blow out and they re-light. I’m sure she thought they’d be funny…but they caused me so much anxiety that in a moment of panic I ended up spitting on my cake just to get them out. I was like 9 or 10 but I still remember that feeling…it felt like everyone was laughing at me for being so dumb that I couldn’t put them out…but also being mortified because I had ruined the cake for everyone.

While childhood birthdays were stressful, adult birthdays were a full on anxiety inducer. Suddenly I was far from home and no one was obligated to celebrate me on my special day. Should I tell people my birthday was coming? Would people plan something for me or should I? Did the people I called friends even love me enough to take time during finals week to acknowledge my birth? Would anyone buy me presents?

There was this one year my sweet cousin drove to campus to spend my birthday with me and make me feel special….which it totally did…and it was good she came up, because she ended up having to take me to the hospital where I would spend the next week fighting off a double kidney infection.

So yeah, the birthday and me have had a bit of a love hate relationship…and honestly while I don’t mind at all getting older…I had come to dread my birthdays a bit.

And then one year things changed.

On December 13th 2013 Ian and I sat in a courtroom and listened as Andrew’s dying mother surrendered her parental rights, making the way for us to adopt him. She was so sick at this point she couldn’t make it to the courthouse and she had to call in to make her statement. We listened over the speakerphone as she shared why she was making the choice, and why she had chosen us.

Less than a month later she had left this earth to be with her Savior.

I remember sitting in that courtroom…my mind swimming with thoughts of sadness and gratitude and an overwhelming sense that this woman was giving me not just my greatest birthday present ever…but the thing her heart treasured the most.

It was beautifully awful and the most painfully joyous thing to experience. To be trusted this much…with something so precious…but to know that loss was the thing paving the way for me to receive this gift.

4 years later we were sitting in the middle of the week that rocked our world. It had been a few days since we had found out about the pregnant young lady that wanted to know if we might adopt her baby, and we hadn’t shared anything with Andrew yet because we didn’t want to get him excited until we knew for sure. Then we got the text “I’m due the 17th.

4 days away

So last year on my birthday we told Andrew he might be a big brother…in 4 days. We spent the day getting fingerprints and background checks and filling out paperwork. We walked around Target staring at bottles and car seats and diapers unable to make any sort of decision we were so overwhelmed. We went to dinner with friends…most of which had no idea what was happening…and had quite, secret conversations with those that did.

Last year’s birthday was another jumble of emotions; excitement, joy, fear, uncertainty, grief. It was a day where I found myself deeply aware of the incredible calling placed on my life…to be mom, in the absence of mom.

This year, my birthday feels different. I’m not worried about how we’re going to celebrate, or who will show up. I don’t care about the gifts or the cake. I have just found myself reflecting on this life, on this family I’ve been given, on the children I’ve been entrusted with.

Before, I loved my birthday because of gifts and parties and things being all about me…but now I love my birthday because it’s this reminder that in an instant life can change. Grief can turn to joy, fear to peace, and loss to overwhelming blessing.

This year has been hard, and it’s easy to remember that, to remember the hard. But looking towards my birthday this year has brought me so much joy as I remember two of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

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The Continuation

“Would you be interested in adopting her baby?”

I don’t remember much of the conversation that followed…I remember asking some basic questions about her. She was young, very far along in her pregnancy…we were told 8 months at the time…and she was in need of a family for the baby she had decided to give up for adoption months before. There is more to be told of course, more layers to the story, more to why us and why then…but to go into those things is to wade into the waters of someone else’s story…and not for me to tell.

As I heard the words “would you be interested in adopting her baby,” something happened in my heart, it was like a jolt of energy pulsed right through it…and I knew…I knew the answer was yes.

I saw the months of heartbreak, the desire for a child I had wrestled with, the grief of loosing a child, and the preparation of my heart for an infant…something I had never been fully confident in wanting before…in an instant, something deep inside of me knew…and all I could think was, “this is what we have been waiting for.

Ian and I left the conversation and I did the only thing I could think to do…I ran to find my best friend. I found her husband instead, “What do you need her for?” he asked “EMOTIONAL SUPPORT!” I said as I ran off to call her.

I don’t remember much of our conversation over the phone…except there were both tears and laughter…and sooooo much excitement…as she reminded me she had predicted this was how Dizon #2 would come to us one day…and encouragement that I could do this, that Ian and I could do this, and that we wouldn’t be doing it alone.

The next several days are a blur. We got in touch with the adoption agency we used with Andrew. They reassured us that 8 months pregnant meant we would have to work fast, but that it was possible to get us certified in time and they would work with us to make it happen…then when we found out she was actually due in just a few days, we all scrambled to get background checks done and paperwork in to make it the impossible happen. Ian and I started to pick out car seats, bottles, diapers, and to communicate to the people in our lives that NEEDED to know that a big change could be coming…all while not yet having met Ezra’s birth mom or even really knowing if this was for real.

I was riding an emotional roller coaster of uncertainty and excitement. Maternal instincts were kicking in and I wanted to prepare for my child…but was this my child…it was happening so fast I needed to prepare for this child…but if it wasn’t my child wouldn’t it just hurt too bad if I began preparing and dreaming and hoping…if I didn’t prepare and it was my child how would we get home from the hospital, or change diapers, or feed…basically my mind and emotions were everywhere.

Saturday…one week after the conversation that changed my life…we met birth mom.

We left the meeting reassured that this truly was what she wanted for her child, and completely impressed by how selflessly she loved the baby growing inside of her. It seemed that a baby was coming our way soon…so we ordered a car seat, bought some diapers, grabbed some basic things from my cousin, cleaned the house, and did all the laundry…we did everything we could think of and manage to do as quickly as we could do it to prepare for what may happen…at this point it’s worth noting that we had all decided that baby was a girl and dreams of pink and sweet dresses were part of the preparation.

Then Sunday we got a phone call…he was here!

…to be continued…again…I know, it’s just cruel…but the next part is already written this time…I’ll post next Tuesday.

Featured image by Michaella Photography the last image by me 🙂

 

Is it harder?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about throwing in the towel, closing this joint down, and pretending like this blog never even happened. Because, my life isn’t that interesting, and what could I really even have to say, and being open with all of you is HARD!

And then, as I’m going about my day something strikes me. A thought, a phrase, a situation that brings my heart joy or deep grief…and I find myself wanting to share this thing with you, to encourage you or challenge you…maybe sometimes even to make you laugh.

So, after weeks of silence this is where I find myself, with a thought that I want to share with you so badly that I’ve decided to allow you to see into my heart a little bit.

I have had this thought for a week or so…or this stream of thoughts really…about adoption, and parenting, and teenagers…I feel like I’m ALWAYS sharing about this, but this is my reality so it probably is going to be something I talk about…anyways, back to the thought.

It began as I left a brief conversation with a kind and loving woman that left me a bit unsettled…not angry and not hurt, it’s just that something about the conversation didn’t sit right with me…it’s a conversation I’ve had before, and the words she said I will most likely hear again.

“Adopting a teenager is such a hard thing to do.”

Why does this statement bug me so much? It’s true. Adopting a teenager is hard. But, I think what bugs me about it is the implication that adopting a teenager is somehow harder than adopting an infant, a child, or having a biological child…but is it?

Is there some sort of scale I don’t know about, some sort of system for quantifying and measuring the difficulties of parenting that I have been left in the dark about? Do biological moms sit around discussing their child raising and the one that has it the easiest gets some sort of all expenses paid trip to a private island, and poor me doesn’t even get to be in the running for it because I adopted a teenager (insert dramatic music here)!?!

Sure, there are things that are harder. Walking through his grief and trauma with him is hard. When behavioral issues arise, weeding through what’s learned, what’s instinctive, and what’s teenager is challenging.

The moment I became a mom was hard. It wasn’t simply an elated moment of joy where the child I had spent 9 months growing and loving finally arrived. Instead it was a moment where the child I had spent years praying for and loving from a distance was finally here, and that moment of joy was shared with deep grief, because to acknowledge me as mom means to recognize the loss of the two moms that came before me. The moment I became his mom meant choosing to open my heart fully, to love him with abandon as a mom should, and then to grow into that in time…and to pray he would choose to love me back…it is still a bit terrifying! So yeah, that’s hard.

But, how do I quantify if this is harder than parenting any other child, if these pains are worse than having the child of your womb telling you they hate you…because I’m pretty sure that HURTS!!!

Then, this week, clarity came in the form of a shared video on FaceBook and I heard these beautiful words…

“Healthy seems easier, healthy seems normal, healthy seems nice. What I didn’t know then is that easy, and normal, and nice would do little to make me a better and more complete human being.” Heather Avis watch the video here

Those two sentences welled up a crazy mix of emotions in my heart and I found myself overwhelmed with grief and joy…seriously, I can’t even write about it or re-watch the video without becoming a crying mess…they are written not about teenagers, but about adoption in general, and adopting children with special needs specifically. But, they spoke so clearly to my heart because I suddenly realized why that statement above had bothered me so much…

IT’S A LIE

It’s not harder…it’s scarier, more complicated, messier, and abnormal.

But so many of us have bought into the lie that somehow adopting older children is harder. Adopting children with special needs is harder. And when faced with the opportunity or the challenge this is the lie that many of us tell ourselves to justify inaction…I’m so guilty of this when it comes to special needs.

But, the truth is, our lives were never meant to be about easy, simple, or normal. 

My mom-ness may be more complicated than most. I may not have memories of my child as an infant or toddler. I didn’t hear his first words, or see when he took his first steps. I wasn’t there to send him off to his first day of school. But I have been given an incredible gift. Because when those moments come when I’m discouraged…as they do for all parents…when I feel inadequate, and like there’s no way I can be the parent I need to be, there is a sudden gust of wind that rushes in and lifts me back up and reminds me…I was chosen for this…I was chosen for him…he was chosen for me.

Is adopting a teenager hard…yes. Is raising a young man hard…yes! Is being a parent hard…YES!

But this was never meant to be about simple and easy. Because what growth, what depth, what demonstration of true love ever came out of simple and easy?