But even in this short amount of time down the long and winding road of adoption, there are a few (a very few, but we take what we can get!) pearls of wisdom I'd love to pass on to those who are just starting out.
1. When it comes to paperwork, pace is everything. There is absolutely no doubt about it, the paperwork necessary for adoption is daunting. On your best day. Mark and I have lived in three different states, I've had several different jobs before becoming "unemployed" (ha!), and if you've been around the blog for awhile, you know my medical records are...thorough. Every so often I would panic. Like the hyperventilating, frothing at the mouth, and trembling kind of we'll-never-get-this-done panic. Mark and I would sit down and set goals. This week we will do these two items to the best of our ability. (Because often it took two or three phone calls, letters, faxes, etc.) Pace yourself. You don't need it all done overnight, but you will feel so much better starting out of the gate if you set a good paperwork pace.
2. Name your bleeding ulcer. It seems more friendly that way. Admittedly, we had an exceptionally wild and emotional ride when it came to our adoption journey (Can you say "failed adoption"?), but when your heart is involved, your gastroenterologist quite possibly ends up being involved as well. There is nothing easy about adoption - not before, during, or after. When a curve comes or the bottom drops out on this roller coaster, catch your breath, but hold on. Have a good cry, but regroup. It is inevitable. (Did I mention this is hard?!?!?) Take care of yourself. Starting yesterday. Actually, starting the moment God first planted that little, tiny seed of a dream in your heart. Rest. East right. Walk like your Nikes are on fire. Remember, you can do this.
3. Read. Read. Read. I remember I bought my first "baby" book before the pee had even dried on the stick when I got pregnant with Jude. Then I read about eighteen more books before I needed maternity pants. (And that's saying something if you ever saw me pregnant...) Now I look back and laugh because, let's face it, they all said eighteen different things and swore the other theories would turn out a delinquent who would never sleep through the night. But there is a big difference when it comes to adoption reading. You really need experts. In many ways, there aren't natural instincts for parenting a child who has experienced neglect and abuse. Most of the time, you won't be able to draw on your own experience to understand where they are coming from. Allow your eyes to be opened to a different way of parenting and a difficult perspective. I was helped tremendously by reading Deborah Gray, Arleta James, Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky, and anything Karyn Purvis (seriously, I would read her grocery list if I could get my hands on it...). I needed the reality check and paradigm shift in my mind and heart to give us a starting point from which to work. Now, do I think I know it all? Oh, good grief - no! I am actually back to re-reading some of these books, and it is helping Mark and I understand better what we need to do, and what we really need not do. Does reading these books mean we won't raise a delinquent who doesn't sleep through the night? Man, I hope so!
4. Friends are like a bra. If they don't fully support you... Now, I say this keeping in mind that not everyone is called to adopt. Not everyone is able to understand why someone would adopt. So I am not saying take a machete to your "friend" list on Facebook if they don't "like" every adoption status update you post. First reactions don't always correlate to last words, so give folks some time to get their minds around this crazy idea. (It's crazy. We both know it is. But the good kind of crazy...) It isn't your job to change other people's minds about adoption...it IS your job to keep your mind on your calling. Yes, sometimes we need to hear from our spiritual mentors and families, but remember, Abraham probably took a ton of flack when he packed up his tents and left Ur. But, well...God called him. Period. Allow people to ask questions in a spirit of love, but don't allow your heart to be swayed by anyone but the Holy Spirit. And the upside of this is that you will be blessed beyond words by the folks who surprise you and come alongside with a spirit of encouragement and joy.
5. The theology of us being adopted by God is great, but when the going gets tough here's some theology to chew on...get down on your knees before the Lord, confess you have no idea what you are doing, show him the paper cuts from rifling through all those stinking books looking for an answer, and proclaim that when all is said and done, you remember that HE is THE ANSWER. I admit here and now - I have struggled with this. Uh, recently. (Do I get points for learning from my mistakes?) God writes the story of your child's life. God sees the heart perfectly. God heals. In His timing. With His love. We are the family, and that is really important. But He is GOD.
6. Laugh. I would be lying if I didn't say I have had a day or two here when I felt like a total failure at the end of the day. I search Amazon for a book about how to help children whose adoptive parents are total dorks with a complete lack of skill. I have been overwhelmed by how underwhelming I can be. When I feel like I am in over my head, I pray, take a deep breath, and then find one thing (or two) to laugh about. Little things, like how Alina taught the boys the Russian word for "underwear" and how they chant it when we walk past the intimates section at Walmart. The sweet sound of Alina's voice when she says, "Not really". How four of us scramble to sit anywhere but next to Mark when we play family Uno. Listening to the kids sing songs from High School Musical. Even on days when there are tears (regardless of whose tears they are), there are still glimpses of joy. And hope. Before you feel defeated by how far you have to go, remember how far you're child has come. Every. Little. Victory. Counts. You children deserve to be celebrated with joy, and you do, too.
7. Plan ahead, but count on nothing. Research hotels in Riga. Learn some basic Latvian. Buy some new sheets for your child. But don't put your life and your family's life on hold while you wait for your new child to land in the States. I've heard people say the only constant in adoption is that there are always changes. It's true. Cry over the delays, then stock up on socks for your child. Don't spend your time and energy counting days until they are home, spend your time and energy counting the blessings right in front of you today. Your adoption may be on hold, but life never is. Prepare, but don't hold God to your timeline. Take it from someone who knows. I mean, waaaaay deep down knows. His ways are not our ways. His calendar is always right. He sees things our eyes cannot. Prayerfully prepare. Practically prepare. But count on God, not your agency or the governments.
So, here are my few feeble words of wisdom to anyone just starting out or hovering in that mind numbing holding pattern in the adoption journey. But, if I am honest, this post is mostly for myself. I need to remember these things right now, too.
(So when I freak out on the blog in the future, please redirect my frothing, trembling, weepy self here. Thank you.)