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out of the darkness

February 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

I don’t think I will ever be the mom who believes God’s original and best plan for my daughter was for her to be in my home.

I realize that’s a controversial statement, and perhaps many of the people reading this will feel something bristle inside of them as they think about their own precious children who came into their families through similar roads. But I can’t believe that a loving God who designed all of creation to be whole and in harmony and in relationship with Him would carefully knit my daughter together in her mother’s womb with the intention that she be wrenched away from the very spot He placed her in the earliest days of her life. That was a tragedy. She was collateral damage in this war-torn and fallen world. I do, however, believe that a loving God redeems and restores all broken things, and I have no doubt that He orchestrated untold miracles to ensure that our paths would cross at just the right time and give me the unspeakable honor and joy of walking out life as her mama. But there is a tension there, and in recent weeks, I’ve come to realize that this tension between His original plan and His redemptive plan has wrongly settled in my heart as often feeling that I’m really not the woman He meant for this job.

She came out of anesthesia kicking and screaming… holding her breath without ever opening her eyes, she stiffened and clawed and then gasped and screamed. Then she’d hold her breath all over again and do the whole cycle once more. She was clearly fighting to wake up. “It’s normal,” the nurse kept saying to me over and over… looking at me with the unblinking calm of a woman who has seen far too many wide-eyed mamas panic as their children writhed and kicked and battled their way back to reality. “Just keep holding her,” she said. “You’re doing great, mama.”

I sat silently, holding her tight through the cries, wondering what I should do next and if I really was doing great. I immediately found myself slipping back into that place of thinking, “She doesn’t want you, Carrie. You aren’t going to be able to comfort her.” My sweet girl and I have had quite a journey this last year, and this feeling isn’t based only on deep theological questions about whether or not I was meant to be her mother. (Though it isn’t helped by those, either.) We have spent most of the last year fighting to come closer to each other; fighting for the type of deep bond I know is possible and that she’s probably never experienced. And so often I let myself wallow in the muck pond of How Far We Have Left To Go, rather than look back down the mountain and celebrate How Far We Have Come. And in my wallowing, I grow despondent and assume I simply don’t measure up for the task at hand.

As these thoughts ran through my head, she was still writhing and crying in my arms, eyes still clenched shut as if she couldn’t get her body to open them even though it was what she wanted most. I’ve had nightmares like that before, where I felt like I was fighting to wake up and unseen forces were holding me back. The nurse was talking to Alea, but Alea seemed very far away. I felt sad and helpless watching her… But all of a sudden it occurred to me to just start talking, too.

“Alea, can you open your eyes for mama? Open your eyes, baby. Mama is here.” I just kept talking, gently pushing her thick black hair out of her face, wondering if she could hear me. And in a moment the screams stopped. She took a deep breath and her eyes cracked open. I kept talking, “Good girl! Hi there! Open your eyes, sweetheart. Do you want to go home and see LeLe and Sissy and Daddy?“ Her eyes opened a little wider and she looked directly at me and nodded.

And I sat there stunned.

It was my voice that helped her find her way out of the darkness. I am her mama and she heard me calling to her and she came back to me. She wants me and she wanted to go home with me. And in that moment, something inside me shifted. Just because I’m unwilling to say that God originally designed for her to be in my family doesn’t mean that this isn’t where she is meant to be now. Just because she grew under another mama’s heart doesn’t mean she doesn’t belong in mine now. And just because the road is hard and I know we still have a long way to go doesn’t mean we are on the wrong path or haven’t made enough progress yet.

I know some adoptive mamas feel like it is hard to “share” their child with the first mom, even if that woman remains a stranger for all of their days. There are adoptive moms who feel threatened and defensive about their place as their child’s mother. I think I understand that a little; I can see how feelings like that might grow when our own fears and inadequacies take root and we begin to wonder, in the deepest parts of our heart, if that sinister and accusatory voice is speaking truth when it says we are the wrong woman for the job. But can we all agree to recognize that voice is not the Father’s? He does not shame, accuse, or condemn us. He does not glory in our shortcomings or laugh at our feelings of inadequacy.

His voice is the one gently calling to us to wake up to the reality of His goodness and mercy. Perhaps we’ve been fighting to open our eyes, but when we are fighting with our strength alone we quickly grow weary and our fears, brokenness and that accusatory voice listing all the ways we don’t measure up conspire to hold us back in the darkness. And so we writhe and we ache and we cry out; we get defensive and angry and scared. But He’s still calling, telling us He will help us find our way out of the darkness. He is our Daddy and when we finally hear Him calling us, our hearts know His voice and we go running, like prodigal daughters who know the safest place we could be is wrapped up in His loving, open arms.


light

And right now I hear Him calling me out of the place of wondering if I can ever be enough… the place of doubting that I can ever be what she needs since I wasn’t the one He gave her to in the first place. Just like it was my voice that helped guide her back to me, His voice is bringing me closer to His heart. And when I am near His heart, I trust that I’m enough because His mercies are new every morning and He fills me up. When I’m near His heart, I trust that He is the great weaver, picking up the broken strands – the lives disrupted by tragedy and set off course by this fallen world with its dark laws, cultural biases, and family brokenness — and ties them back together. He’s always moving, always weaving, always creating a beautiful tapestry that is stronger for having been made of so many individual parts. And I know in this beautiful work of art, there is room for both me and my daughter’s first mother… room for both our brokenness and our beauty, and the threads of both of our lives come together to make our daughter who she is. Friends, He is calling each of us out of our darkness. If we listen, we will hear him singing a song of redemption and restoration; whispering healing and wholeness over our lives and the lives of our children… He’s calling, and when we open our eyes we see His face of love.

- photo by Tish Goff

Medical Needs and Marriage: Ten Tips

February 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

You adopted a child with medical needs and the game changed. The Coach altered the playbook. The new little life in your family has your whole team scrambling to reorient themselves. You survived the stretching adoption process with its paperwork, lack of control, waiting and financial stress. You made it home, and you’d like to settle in for family bonding, but you can’t. You’ve got a bunch of new balls to carry: nurse, equipment manager, advocate, caretaker, researcher and appointment chauffeur. You start pushing so hard, shifting from offense to defense, and back again, that you can think of little else. You deem yourself team captain and suit up for battle, sometimes forgetting the teammate you share a life with. It’s enough to rattle a marriage.

The game has changed and all things are new. It’s a good new, but it just might take some time to feel the victory.

Whether your child needs no surgeries, one or six, years of therapies or a couple months of treatment, you experience some level of family triage. You prioritize needs. A treatment plan? Pain? Attachment? Sleep issues? Needs of siblings? Educational catch-up? Your exhaustion? Everyone’s emotions?

You give and treat, care and advocate, nurture and research, nurse and hold, schedule appointments and administer medicines. The nurse role sometimes trumps the parent role and parenting sometimes trumps marriage. Living in parenting-adoption-medical needs survival mode sends marriage down on the triage list.


rebecca2


Medical needs busy your days and can usher in feelings of fear, powerlessness, guilt, denial, anger, disappointment, and grief. I seem to be working my way through several of them, and try to remind myself that my husband is too. This is new territory to navigate, both together and individually.

Our relationship playbook is different now. For us, a surprise is the fierce, new protective parent anger. It is intense, and it’s hard not to let it color communication with everyone in our lives, especially each other. It bubbles up after medical tests, surgeries or even weeks later. It’s laced with fear and powerlessness, and we’re trying to figure out how to name and overcome it. It’s a powerful marriage opponent.

Our marriage has battle scars. And those wounds teach us that strong marriages are earned from intention. It’s not easy. Many days we’d rather either unleash our frustrations on each other or shut down completely. We are weary, but slowly becoming new. Better even.

……..

Ten ways to move our marriages up the triage list.

1. Acknowledge that the ground under you has shifted. If your marriage is floundering a bit, admit that it is a hard season and give yourselves grace. It will take time to find your footing again. 


2. Trust that the Lord can put you on the same page for decision-making. The amount of decisions that need to be made as a medical parent has surprised us. Are you wanting to hold off on a therapy, or get a second opinion, but your spouse doesn’t agree? If you are not in agreement, communicate, then wait. Harmony is not impossible for God. Pray for it.

3. Make time. It’s easy to become physically and emotionally unavailable to everyone except your child. Prioritize pockets of time to be a couple. It might seem impossible, or that you are too tired, but do it anyway. Reach out for childcare help, even after bedtime if necessary. Take a breather from the crazy, and show your spouse that you still value time spent together.

4. Talk. Verbalize what you need emotionally or physically. Don’t assume your spouse can read your mind, or guess your feelings. Ask what he needs too. Fight the urge to shut down mentally or retreat emotionally. Fight the urge to process it mostly with friends.

Download Parenting Time Out: 20 Discussion Questions, grab a quiet moment, or plan a date night, and let the questions spark conversation.

5. Consider personalities. When facing hard things, remember you are uniquely wired. For us, he’s logic then feelings. I am feelings then logic. This makes for challenges, but knowing our personality types helps us understand each other better.

Take the Meyers Briggs personality test. It explains how personality impacts decision-making and stress.

6. Show gratitude. Is your spouse making sacrifices? Researching specialists and treatments? Steadying your fluctuating emotions? Making the insurance calls? On his knees praying? Stepping up with the other kids? Is she perfect? Definitely not, but your spouse is likely meeting needs. Let them know you see it.

7. Celebrate together. Hard appointment over? Survive the first year? The day? Hear positive test results? Celebrate big and little things.

8. Play. Get outside and toss a ball to each other. YouTube a Fallon clip and sit next to your husband. Rent a comedy. Go hiking. Relieve some stress, connect and laugh. You might not have time, but it’s life giving.

9. Give grace. It’s been hard for you both. Reach for the hand. Give the hug.

10. Pray together. Nothing solidifies a marriage more. With eyes closed and fingers clasped, you just might be touched at the prayers of your spouse.


rebecca

………

The needs are great, emotions high, and tasks plenty. I need a teammate. I can’t do this alone, and don’t want to. I want to drop my captain’s jersey, and pass the ball to my husband more. Something new is building, and though we can’t always trust ourselves, we can trust the One who designed our union and created our team. He creatively pooled our collective strength, and offered us marriage as a gift. We need only surrender again each day, and be intentional, in sickness and in health, for better or worse.

So, weary medical parents, get childcare for a date night, download Parenting Time Out: 20 Discussion Questions, and spend some time being teammates.

I don’t get it.

February 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 8 Comments

I get it. There was a big crisis. In 1979, facing a huge and growing population, Chinese government officials created the “family planning policy” as the solution. Things were turned upside down as families who years before had been encouraged to build China by adding to their family were now told they could have one child only. Couples who were from minority groups were allowed two children. And, in some rural areas, a one-son, two-child rule was upheld. If those families’ first-born child was a girl, they were allowed a second chance to have the boy they wanted and needed to ensure their own social security. It was the right thing for everyone; at least, that’s what was promoted on posters and painted on walls in villages.

It didn’t take long for people to learn that violating the policy was serious business; families were fined anywhere between 3 to 10 times their annual salary as a “social compensation fee” with increased fees for multiple violations. When the billboards and fines proved not enough, officials stepped up their enforcement. Somehow horrific became normal as women with wombs growing with life were brought into makeshift surgical rooms together for forced abortions and sterilizations. It has happened. Many, many times over. I’ve heard the stories. I have read that through all these efforts combined, China has successfully “avoided” approximately 400 million births since 1979 — 400 million.


kelly

“Give fewer and better births, be happy the whole life.” – source


It’s now 35 years later. I wonder if there are as many conference room meetings now about the family planning policy as there were in 1979. There likely may be. The effects of the policy that are apparent right now are dramatic. With needing a son and only being allowed one child, girls are simply missing. Some have said there are as many as 40 million more men than women in the 20-something age bracket in China. 40 million young women are simply missing.

The disparity has opened the way to a myriad of problems — prostitution and trafficking, families selling their daughters to other families as future wives for their sons, parents demanding huge dowries including houses and cars from potential husbands to their daughters. Men who are poor, uneducated, and/or disabled simply cannot compete and will likely remain alone for life. As of right now, about 12-15% of all Chinese men will never marry and will live out their lives shamefully as bare branches in their family trees.

We’ve seen the family planning policy morph in recent years in response. A few years ago, couples who were both only children in their families of origin became allowed to have two children together. Then, if even one member of the couple was an only child, they were allowed to have two children together. Upholding the policy has been said to be more “relaxed” in general. And, Beijing government officials have denounced forced abortions.

Just a week ago, I read a report online that there have been conversations among officials in Shanxi province about how to handle the current consequences of the last 35 years of the family planning policy that included the idea of forcing all couples in their province to have a second child now and fining them if they don’t.

I don’t get it.

Every night, we eat at our dining room table with both leaves extending it to the largest it can go. We don’t fit around the kitchen table anymore. Eating together are five American faces and four Chinese ones, one of them my daughter forever. The other three are friends — a 4 year old boy, his father, and his mother — who are living with us for a season because it wasn’t safe for them where they were were. There’s a baby girl growing inside her who will be meeting the world soon. Those same forced abortions that were denounced publicly in Beijing are a reality where they are from. Only an overnight train ride from the city where officials are talking about forcing families to have second children, officials are still doing whatever they can to make sure they look like they’re doing a good job for the People.

The dichotomy of the world around me is overwhelming. My head is spinning, and my heart dizzy.


Missing girls.
Astronomical fines that cripple families.
Forced abortions.


Pink flowered onesies with tiny little bows.
The baby bib from a friend decorated with hearts
that says “Daddy’s Little Sweetheart.”


Women lying quietly in surgical recovery rooms
knowing they will never give a baby life again.


The smile of a mother hearing her baby’s heartbeat.


Officials confused by the problems surrounding them
and actually considering flipping the world upside down again
and fining the same families if they do not now have two children.


The sisterhood between mothers.
The dimples on the sweet face of my little girl.


Wondering if the woman who gave her life has the same dimples
and if she is somewhere today resigned to the hard reality of life
or if she’s as confused as I am and thinking too


I
don’t
get
it.

find my family: Samantha

February 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Stunning Samantha is 11 years old. She is diagnosed with cerebral palsy with leg muscles weakness. She has been working hard to build her strength and while she does have difficulty walking, she can now walk up and down stairs while holding on to a railing! While she loves to learn, because of her delays …Read More

“Normal” Ain’t Got Nothin On This

February 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

As we continue through February, the month of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness, we continue to share posts from moms parenting children with heart defects. Our goal is to inform and equip those considering or home with children with this special need by sharing the real-life experiences of those already parenting a child (or children) with …Read More

find my family: Henry from Bethel

February 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

henry

Bethel’s adorable Henry is quiet at first but loves nothing more than to be on an adult’s lap for a cuddle. He likes to sing songs about animals and cars. He loves playing with balls and loves running and listening to music. Happy Henry has the most amazing smile. When he smiles, his entire face …Read More

Chinese New Year’s Resolution

February 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

great wall1

I don’t know that I understood the full ramifications the day I marked the CHINA box on our adoption paperwork. I understood that I would be bringing a piece of China home with me (he was so soft and cute!), but I didn’t realize that I would also be sending a piece of myself there. …Read More

5 Ways To Build Into Your Marriage While Growing Your Family

February 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

Young Family-Young Family-0185

It was almost exactly one year after arriving home with our fifth child, and I felt like our family had finally found our new normal. It took us much longer after bringing home our fourth to get in our groove as his medical needs were more complex, and we had to quickly learn how to …Read More

find my family: Eddie

February 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Eddie turns five years old this March. Eddie’s listed special need is “mild development delay,” however his facial features may be indicative of Down Syndrome. Eddie’s adoption file was prepared when he was just two years old, he is now almost five and still waits for a family of his very own. At the time …Read More

Adoption: Hard to Start. Harder to Stop.

February 19, 2015 by nohandsbutours 25 Comments

Chinese Village

“When you go back…” In the weeks before we left for China for our first adoption, Anne and I met with some family friends who had adopted three Chinese daughters. The goal of our time with Kevin and Vicki was to better understand what to expect on the trip and in the months to follow. …Read More