The Myth of the "New Normal"

September 3, 2012 heart defect, older child adoption, Sonia 28 Comments

That’s what it feels like to me.

A myth.

“New” normal?
I’m completely unfamiliar with that word at the moment.

The feeling of being normal is elusive to me.
Does “the new normal” really even exist?
I wonder this because I cannot, for the life of me, find it.

Nothing about our life right now feels normal.
Not the questions they ask,
not their off the wall behaviors,
not the trauma I have witnessed,
none. of. it.

And it seems to me in the last year I have been unable to put my finger on  why I can’t seem to find this “new normal” that everyone raves about.
I feel like the party bus has been loaded up with people who figured it out.
People who are sailing smoothly through these intricacies of adoption.
They are throwing confetti and hootin and hollerin that they; have arrived.

You arrived in the town of New Normal.
Population: Everyone But Me.

And I feel like I’m on the side of the road,
unable to board that bus,
and I watch you pull away with your contented newly adopted children
and I watch you drive off.

And I weep.

And it wasn’t until I was talking and {more accurately} crying to my friend on the phone the other night regaling her with stories and seeking wisdom and discernment for some of the things we are going through, that it hit me.

I think I figured it out…
and further…
I think…..well…..I kinda know..…that our issues are related to the fact that we brought home 3 in 7 months.
It seems so freakin obvious now.
But for whatever reason,
probably because I have spent the last year trying to just breathe in and out….
it didn’t occur to me before.

It was in this moment of revelation that I wanted to smack myself upside the forehead and shout, “Of course! Of course that’s why it feels like it is taking so long! There is not 1, not 2 but 3 children all in varying stages of grief and attachment. This is it! This is why I feel like I have aged 200 years in the last 16 months! Aha! People of the world, hear me now! I have figured it out!! Come! Let us break bread and celebrate this revelation!”

So maybe it’s true, maybe I haven’t missed the bus completely after-all, maybe my trip is just delayed significantly. Maybe I just need to reschedule and adjust my timetable.

Because I have finally realized, my timetable doesn’t look like yours. And that’s ok with me. That has to be ok with me.

Our story begins when we petitioned for and were given a waiver to adopt two kiddos at the same time about 5 months before China changed the  rules and began granting everyone that privilege in 2010.

We knew going into this that 2 would be what would fit our family best. Jason and Jordan are only 12 months apart and then we had the twins, so dropping one child in the middle of those two sets of two didn’t make much logical sense to me.

Throughout that time as we were paper-chasing for them and especially once the  rule change took effect their began to be a lot of chatter about the intricacies of adopting two kids at once.
Should you do it.
Should you not do it.
Heck no.
Heck yes.
The opinions on the matter were all over the place.

Though I never engaged in those “discussions” publicly,
I silently took up residence in the camp of pro-dual adoption. Which….ya know….is good since we were smack dab in the middle of one.

I {honestly} didn’t give it much thought.
It just seemed so clear cut to me.
So black and white.
I knew how to parent in sets of two.
I had done it before.
I further reasoned that having a buddy would make the transition easier for them.
They’d have someone to talk to.
Someone to share with.
Someone to sit up late at night and talk to in Chinese when no one else around them had that ability.

It just made good sense to me.
And further, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could possibly make the argument  that it would be better for one of them to remain behind in that orphanage while we settled one at a time into our family.

Pfffft. Duh.

After arriving home with Jacob and Joey we were back in China a short four months later adopting Joshua and it was then that I definitely couldn’t fathom any argument that would say that he should be left  there to die since the other two had only been home a few months.

Pfffft. Duh. Again.

And I still believe all of that.


But man alive are we living the repercussions of that now.
And I don’t intend the use of the word repercussion to be all negative
Because truly, it’s not all bad repercussions…
but….. ahem….
it’s not all good either.

There were a few things I failed to take into consideration….
~Namely the pre-existing relationship between Jacob and Joey and what that looked like for them before I entered the picture.
~And the fact that we now have 3 kids here who are all trying to settle in and find their place in this family, at.the.same.time.
This is incredibly hard for them…..and for us.
~And then there’s the fact that one of them is struggling,
the other two are doing great,
but the struggling one has some immense influence upon the other two that is causing a very unhealthy dynamic to develop.
~Insert weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. {uhhh…that’d be me.}


And I could go on and on and on and…..well…..on
but for the sake of not making this a novel I won’t.
But needless to say, I think these are the reasons I am not on the bus to Normal Town just yet.

I think those of us left behind all have our own reasons why we aren’t on the bus.
Severe Neglect.

None of which are “normal”

So maybe instead of shooting for normalcy
I’ll just call it “life” for now.
My new life.
this small change in language makes me feel better.
It comforts me.
I no longer feel like I am grasping for something that keeps slipping away,
something that is truly unattainable to me at this moment.

So instead I will change my trajectory away from “normal” and toward “acceptance.”
Acceptance for where we are now.
I’m gonna choose to embrace it.
I’m going to make friends with it.
I’m going to invite it over for coffee and blackberry scones each morning.
Acceptance and I will overcome.
We have to.

In the meantime I’ll wait for the next normal bus to roll through town.
And know I’ll be able to board at some point.
And I’ll sit next to you,
and blow my paper noisemakers right alongside you.
I’ll be actually {genuinely} smiling from ear to ear and we’ll talk and laugh till we pee.
But then I think I’ll gaze out the window
and I’ll see you there.
I’ll see you standing on the sidewalk
wishing you were on our bus,
and I think I’ll get off the bus
and come cry with you instead.
Because I hear your heart.
I know what you are going through.
And I’d rather be standing with you anyway.

Because adoption
is hard
and beautiful
and messy
and challenging
and rewarding
and just when you think things are getting better you find a trash wrapper that doesn’t belong to you that was in your grocery cart that morning shoved under your son’s pillow.

But nonetheless at the end of the day in our new life
I am honored.
I am blessed.
I am humbled.
I am exhausted.
And that works for me for now.
Because really, I don’t want to be normal anyway.
I want to be more like HIM.
And a King that would choose to come down from his throne, walk among us, live a perfect life yet still be hung on a cross for me. And hung on a  cross for you. Doesn’t sound anything like normal to me. It sounds like  love.

So how bout you?
How long did it take you to “find your new normal?”
Is there such a thing?
Are you on the bus?
Or can I come keep you company on the sidewalk.
Because just say the word, and I’ll be right there next to you.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the  world.” John 16:33

28 responses to “The Myth of the "New Normal"”

  1. Its so funny that this is posted now…as I just let the words “find our new normal” slip out of my mouth a few hours ago. We’re adding MULTIPLE children to the family within weeks of each other…my husband is in China right now to bring two of that equation home. Both 5, both with the same special need, both grieving completely differently, both scaring the devil out of me that this will trigger major regression in one of my children home for 3 yrs with severe anxiety.

    Hooo boy, why was I thinking this was going to be a breeze…we’d done this before….add multiple at the same time. I’m currently in denial for awhile but its going to hit me hard that there is nothing normal about the changes about to come. I’ll give you the new part but not the normal.

    Off to ponder your wise words.

  2. Debbie says:

    Oh my friend. So glad you wrote this. Because it’s exactly how I am feeling. I said to Bill a year ago “how hard could adopting 2 be?” Well I have that answer now. HARD! Sure, there are easy moments. MOMENTS. Right now it feels the hard outweighs the easy. But I remind myself it’s only been 4 weeks since Gotcha. I hope I can find any glimmer of “normal” in the near future. I don’t need 100% normal. Just a little. I can’t wait for the words “don’t touch”, “stop”, “NO” etc to stop coming out of my mouth about 1000 times a day. I can’t wait for the pure exhaustion to escape (I will always be tired, but the PURE exhaustion I’m tired of LOL). Not sure I will be on the “normal bus” again. But hopefully one day I will be like you, able to stand outside and help someone who is struggling, the way we feel we are struggling right now. Would I adopt the older child again? Yes (if there is an again…..right now we say we’re complete LOL). Would I adopt 2 at once? That’s a question I should not answer right now. Because exhaustion (pure exhaustion) is consuming me at the moment. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for being here. It helps knowing we are not alone.

  3. I believe there is a big difference when you adopt two from two different orphanages. While we are far from normal, and

  4. Oops. . . Kendall still does not understand the phrase,” leave Sadie alone,” Sadie came running to me for rescue bumping my iPad in the process. That’s my normal!

    I loved your post and as a mom that just adopted two older kids, I get it,

  5. Julie says:

    I’m so glad that you wrote this post! Hubby and I want to start the process again as soon as we receive our tax credit from last year – Ha Ha!!! I’ve been praying about this and am feeling led to adopt 2 at once – an aging out girl and a young boy. We currently have 2 2 year olds, 1 from China and 1 from foster care. We’ve had the girl from foster care for 3 weeks. I’m just now getting into my ‘new normal’. It’s definitely been an easier transition than with my daughter from China. Some days, you just have to take it 1 minute at a time. Parents who don’t have kids who’ve experienced trauma do not understand this. Luckily there are lots of folks in the adoption world who do!

  6. Sarah says:

    I know that the point of your post is not to discourage adopting two at once (and then another one soon after…:) ), but I would say that even when we adopted two within 18 months of each other, it was hard. And as much as I’d love to adopt two this time around, I really don’t think that we can. I know that there are so many children in need of families, and I know that we could probably manage another, but I also know that I am limited (thank God that He is not limited!). It goes back to your last post on this site. When do we say “no”? It’s so hard to say. But right now, I am at peace with adopting one. And as much as I’d like to adopt two, I don’t think that I could do that kind of “hard” right now without making it really hard on the ones we already are responsible for. Yes. I want to be stretched and yes, I want our children to be stretched, but I dont’ want all of us to break. Oh boy, now I’m rambling…

    I’m so grateful that you said “yes” to all three boys! I’m praying for your struggling one. You’re right. Adoption is hard. It’s messy. And it’s WONDERFUL! I’m so wishing that many more would say “yes” to even just one. Even just one makes such a difference (especially for that one).

  7. Ann says:

    Hugs to you and prayers! I can’t even imagine adding three in seven months–in many ways, I think that would be even harder than adding three all at the same time. On top of it, you had a move, your three have had some major special needs, there’s been the emotional rollercoaster (hurricane?) of literally wondering if your newest would even LIVE, and your bio kids have also had challenges (broken jaw, scoliosis etc.). Even one of those stresses in a year is MAJOR. I think on the stressmobile you are flying at hypersonic speed! You are wise to just accept where you are and party there–because partying right in the house can be awesome too–pajama party! Small steps. Small steps. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that others are lifting you in prayer.

  8. Stefanie says:

    Wow, Sonia. Loved this. “Normal” is such a relative term, I think our family left “normal” a while back. And I honestly don’t think normal is a place we’ll ever be again. There is some grief there, not gonna lie, but it’s what He wants, and it’s really what we want. It’s just that sometimes the rest of the world looks so darn happy on that ‘normal’ bus… but we just wouldn’t fit in any more, even if we tried 😉
    Trusting Him above all!

  9. Amy says:

    Sonia, as always you have nailed it with your post with transparency and humor. So true. And who wants to be “normal?” A new word I have started using instead of “normal” is “routine.” Our routines are much different now than they were before our two adotions (joined our family 3 years apart, but the girls are virtual twins in age), but that is ok. Acceptance is good, and I know you will be a good friend to anyone else feeling alone and off of the bus to “new normal.” Someone once pointed out to us that when you add to your family (whether through birth or adoption), you are not just added a new parent-child relationship, but a new sibling dynamic relationship as well…which, as you add more children, truly increases the potential for friction and complexity exponentially. In your case, that would be…well, my math isn’t so hot, but like 18 new individual relationships among siblings? Plus the fact of the pre-existing relationships that you mentioned…plus the fact that your most recently adopted son had such severe medical needs at first… I can’t even imagine the many dynamics taking place in your home right now. But God…in His wisdom and His sovereignty…knew you and your man were up to this task. And your wisdom and willingness to speak honestly encourages the rest of us. Thanks my friend!

  10. Jennifer P says:

    We learned pretty early on in our foster care years that two meant way more than twice the work. And three is an exponential explosion. I love your use of “repurcussions”. So honest and so true. Even good change is hard. Thanks for sharing. Love ya.

  11. Lori McCary says:

    Beautiful post, sweet friend! Said like only YOU could say it! I must be a real mess since only ONE at a time and I’ve yet to feel “normal”…. Can you remind me what “normal” is again??? Oh… I forgot… that’s what I LOVE about you Sonia Martin! You’re NOT NORMAL! How else could I get away with acting like a crazy loon in the cafeteria of the hospital while waiting for possible life-shattering news from the operating room??? We’ve been taking up space on this curb for almost a year now and I’m not expecting to move anytime soon! Don’t you DARE leave me here alone!!!! I’m gonna need you in your “crazy” state when that new heart arrives…. Do you understand me????? Good! Glad we got that straightened out! 🙂 Hugs to one of my all time besties…. Lori

  12. Rhiannon says:

    I’m glad you wrote this! Hang in there!
    I’m a 26 year old with no kids, planning on adopting when I hit 30(-ish?), and hopefully sometime in the next four years my partner and I will make up our minds about whether to start our family by adopting one child or two. (Maybe China will change their laws again and make up our minds for us). I certainly wish you were having an easier time, but it’s good to hear people being honest about how HARD it is. I feel more confident knowing people are being real about this.

    I wonder if it’s better for newbie parents to adopt two at once so the kids can have siblings to (hopefully) bond to right away, or if we should tackle only one kid until we know how this parenting thing works….

  13. Rebecca says:

    Beautifully said. I was just talking with a fellow adopter tonight… You’re not alone on the sidewalk. I love your attitude. It’s so refreshing and inspiring. I’m putting this post in my back pocket… Travelling for 2 in China sometime this fall.

  14. Julie says:

    LOVE this. And I was just reading/praying about that verse!
    I think I wake up everyday expecting to find “normal”. We have been home 8 months and that magic “6 months home” milestone passed us by without even slowing down. So I am waiting on the sidewalk for my bus.
    I have to remind myself that I have my hands full (2, 3, 4 year olds) and that I cannot compare myself to everyone else’s normal….I don’t know anyone with kids that close together. 🙂 It’s so hard to give ourselves some slack. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Cindy says:

    We just left our ‘normal’ bus 9 days ago and I can’t believe how hard I grieved/am grieving my ‘normal’. Thanks for your sweet post. Prayers

  16. Kate says:

    We have adopted three, but all at least 20 months apart. Our most recent was six months ago. I can’t even imagine multiplying what we’ve been through in the past six months times three. While its been a huge blessing, it has been hard. I didn’t anticipate how difficult the relationships among my children would be to develop. I keep thinking we’ve hit our new normal and then something blows up in my face. But I really do think we’re almost there. At the new normal. It’s nothing like it was before, which when looking back seems like all I did was sit around sipping coffee and eating bonbons. It’s harder now, but I guess that’s what a new normal is. New.

  17. Aus says:

    HHHEEELLLLLLLOOO Sonia – this IS normal!! Dear lady – may I consider you ‘friend’ – what makes you think it’s ONE BUS? It’s a big bunch of different buses – and a bunch of transfers from one to the other – until eventually you reach the main line! But that one only get’s you city to city – when you reach the next city you have to start the transfer thing all over again….but finally…after missing one or two and even taking the wrong one and having to back track and start over – you do get home!….I promise!

    In the meantime – rant – vent – rave – and love – hug – grow!

    For our part – we’ll hold you close to our hearts and pray too!

    hugs – aus and co.

    • Wendy Hoff says:

      I love how you describe the whole adoption experience which actually can translate to biological children….just when you think you got it and are normal….the bus begins to take a U turn. There are relatively normal things in parenting but nothing is truly normal.

      I will pray for you Sonia and for your family.

  18. Sarah says:

    Oh Sonia, I’m on the sidewalk. Our dual adoption daughters came home two months ago and it’s rough. sigh. Thanks for writing this. Thanks for reminding me that Jesus didn’t have a normal life either. Thank you for helping me think about embracing this in-between-stage you are calling life, just life. Not the new normal.

  19. Laine Ferrill says:

    We adopted two from China back in 2007…when it was definitely not the “normal” thing to do…and it was definitely a “hard” thing to do! I was so busy trying to find that “new normal”, that I missed so many sweet blessings along the way! Oswald Chambers has good advice for those in the middle of this adjustment:
    “What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power NOW. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish–His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see Him walking on the sea with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.”

    And really, what is normal anyway? Normal is way overrated if you ask me! 🙂 Thank you SO much for sharing, Sonia! Thank you for bringing glory to Him!

  20. Nikki says:

    As a wise friend once said to me…”Nikki, “Normal” is a setting on a dryer.” Soooo, here we are, home since April with our 2 newest additions…surgeries, grieving, laughter, tears…and it is good. It is HARD, but it is good. And, He told us that it isn’t supposed to be easy. So, I have to rest in the fact that His grace is sufficient, and we will probably never return to Normal Town.

  21. Leslie says:

    Basically what Stefanie said. 🙂

    But more, yes, you adopted 3 in 7 months.

    We also adopted two at once, unrelated, unknown to one another until the day we all met in China (well me, DH, and oldest son who came with us).

    SOOOOOOO, yeah, new normal? I think that is the key. Your other normal is GONE. I find myself mourning that at times, but the reality is like Stefanie said we are not going back there and ultimately I’m really happy about that (though some days I have to remind myself of this fact).

    We added 4 in 41 months. We adopted DD and then 21 months later our two sons from China … and then 20 months later, baby girl. And we are D.O.N.E. 🙂 It is a different sort of done feeling. Can’t explain it but I know to give the 6 we have what they NEED, we can’t adopt anymore now. I wouldn’t say never but definitely not anytime soon or even a little later.

    I do think adopting two unrelated at the same time is the HARDEST (where is the bold button) thing I have every S.U.R.V.I.V.E.D. in my entire life. It ROCKED our family dynamics like a TUMULTUOUS earthquake. It was SO HARD. Unimaginably hard. More than once, I had to call our SW and we did find ourselves in some therapy sessions through all of it with various children. But in the end, even that was GOOD.

    Do I recommend adopting two, unrelated children at the same time? Definitely not. However, if God calls you absolutely to it (as he did us and your family), then He will get you through it. It may not be pretty and it may be downright ugly at times, but mud washes off and scars are good for the soul as reminders of God’s promises and faithfulness.

    Hang in there Sonia and HANG ON. I am feeling like I’m hanging on to that thin thread at the moment for different reasons, but I am definitely feeling you on this. And new normal with a 2-year-old in the house again? Oh.MY.WORD. What in the world was I thinking???

    Diapers, boogers, wipes, and tantrums. Oh my.

  22. Wendy Hoff says:

    Hi Sonia,
    What really is the definition of normal? We went from one child to two and then to three and then to four. Along the way, we developed a new normal for our family. Every stage of our life as a family is met with developing a new normal. Two weeks ago, my 18 year old left on a Monday for the Marines and my 20 year old left two days later for college, three states away. Neither of these had been away from home before and the momma in me was really hurting. Now, we find our new normal as a family of four at home. My point is I think normal is over-rated. What is it really? When one thinks they found it, something comes along to upset the normal. I am so happy for those who adopt, get on the bus and sail away to pure bliss. Could it be that many have a different attitude and this attitude either makes them ok to the real potentials of what the child is going through or might go through or are they just are hoping for the best? I did a huge research project on adoption and post adoption issues and really found that the normal depends on where the parents are at during the time of the adoption or what kind of personality they have based on their life experiences. I have experience working with children and adolescents with mental health issues so of course I was looking for any signs of these issues with my child who I adopted from China. I just knew we would find something wrong. Sad of me but it was because of my experiences. I person with the attitude that “this will all work out” might not focus on these issues. Another might look at the whole process as “this is what God has planned for me.” Probably long winded and not criticizing anyones’ personality at all. I just mean that our adoption experiences and how we view them might be based on our past experiences and belief in life. No two adoptions are alike and children bring many hurts and how they respond to these hurts will become part of the normal of the family. My daughter has been with us over four years and she was five when we adopted her. She still has many moments of insecurities irregardless os how much we love and show her we are always there for her. We also see things that we cannot believe but that is because of where she was in her early years. Somedays we just think she is happy because she has a roof and food. I feel sad at times when I see this but I just remember that God had a plan for our family and a plan for our daughter and I trust in Him to make things right for all of us. I love how you write and your honesty. It is so refreshing. You have a beautiful family. God Bless all of you.

  23. Liz says:

    I adopted two children in two years. Our second little guy is what I have termed as “Deaf Plus”. He is hearing impaired, but also has many other serious medical issues, including Ataxia, epilepsy, developmental delay…the list goes on. The past two years have been the most challenging of my life but also the most rewarding. Last year I started attending a monthly “therapeutic parenting” class held by a local adoption agency. It is centered arounding helping adoption families work through the attachment process. What an eye-opening experience for me. These types of meetings should be a requirement for all families waiting to adopt. I saw families that were in crisis…they were/are breaking. The common theme among the families that were/are at the breaking point was the multiple adoptions at one time. It is hard. Especially when you have other children already at home. There are so many well intentioned people who want to make a difference but the adoption community needs to do a better job educating families on the realities of adopting children with special needs and then when you add multiples on to that…yikes.

    Thank you for your raw honesty, it is refreshing in a sea of everything is rainbows and butterfly blogs.


    • Wendy Hoff says:

      Hi Liz, I did an extensive research project on adoption and post adoption issues and if there is support out there to help with issues. I contacted adoption agencies in all 50 states. You are so blessed to have found a support group…they are few and far between. I certainly found that the support is not always there. I am glad you have been blessed to have found one. Sad as it is, I found with our daughter that there are so many families that really have it tough when they bring their child home. By me seeing this, I was able to put my daughter’s issues in perspective and realize that we are so fortunate that she really is doing very well, I know there are some agencies that are just so amazing and the best…I wish for everyone that all could be the best. God bless you and your family.

  24. Cammie says:

    The truth just shines trhough your post

  25. Kim says:

    This is brilliant. I especially loved the line, “and just when you think things are getting better you find a trash wrapper that doesn’t belong to you that was in your grocery cart that morning shoved under your son’s pillow.” I have tears, laughing so hard at how well that captures the calamity that is motherhood.
    So glad to find this site (this is my first visit! And I have a kiddo from China as well).
    Endure, mamma.

  26. Jill says:

    Oh my goodness, you had me in tears. I left the normal bus and am slumped on the side of the road. I know we’ll never be normal, but I’m still in the early stages of wanting to jump back on that bus. Thanks for sharing that.

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