Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

If I’m being honest… Adjusting to life as a transracial adoptive family of 5

On April 6, my family officially became a Family of 5!  Although we have been functioning that way for several months, it was meaningful and symbolic to move forward together.  Since the beginning of our journey with our girls, we have received an abundance of support and encouragement from friends and family near and far.  This has been a true gift to us.  In addition to that, I have also been asked one question more than any other, so I thought I would answer it here.

“How are you adjusting to life as a family of 5?”

There is a quick and sincere answer to that question- I am doing well.  We all are.  Life is chaotic, exhausting, confusing, and amazing.  But what else is new.  The simple answer is, “We are good. Life is good.”

Nothing negates the simple answer, but if you have a little more time and you genuinely want to know, I can dig a little deeper.  Because honestly, life is good, and it is also more than that.  Life is hard.  I have three kids now, so… there’s that.  I became a mother of three in an unconventional way, and I am still figuring it out. They are so opinionated.  And hungry.  And human.  And just when I think I have one figured out, that kid goes and does something completely unprecedented, and all bets are off.  Life is hard, yet rich with insight and perspective.

Another thing I may tell you if I am being honest is that I am seeing very clearly that hurt begets anger, fear begets hostility and grief begets emotional unrest.  When I remember this, I am filled with compassion for my children (and even myself), but when I forget this, the initial hurts, fears and grief beget anger, hostility and emotional unrest in me, too.  I realize all too often that there are actually 5 wounded children in our house, not just three.  My wounds are not like my children’s wounds for many reasons.  I don’t pretend to compare my life to theirs.  But I am a broken, wounded child, too.  I am looking for someone to take care of me and defend me and take on my burdens because, even though I am a grown-up, I feel very small sometimes.  In these moments, I may call my mom or my sister and lament, or I may communicate through my facial expression to my husband to just hug me and tell me everything will be okay.  Sometimes, although not often enough, I remember that I have a Creator who loves me and cares for me in ways I cannot even understand, and I want my children to feel comforted by that, too.  Because I will let them down.  I already have thousands of times.  And I feel like crap when I do it because these are kids that have already dealt with so much disappointment.  I want to come through for them, but I can’t do it all the time.  I can’t even do it half the time. So life is good, and most days, life is overwhelming.

If I am being really honest, I may also say that, even though I knew my life would look very different after adopting two black girls, I had no idea how different it would be.  My husband put it best when he said that he has lived his whole life trying to blend in, and now he is in a family that will always stand out.  It is a drastically different experience when I take my white adopted son to Target versus taking one of my black daughters.  Sometimes, it feels like curiosity.  Other times, it feels like confusion.  Occasionally, it feels like judgment.  I wish I could say it didn’t bother me.  Often times, it doesn’t.  After all, I don’t hate attention as much as my husband does. 🙂  But sometimes, I am over it.  Sometimes I just want to blend in.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to wear my Adoptive Mother badge all the time.  Sometimes I wish it was more like it was before- a badge I wore when I wanted to, needed to, remembered to…

After adopting our son almost 4 years ago, I knew that adoption would always be woven intricately into our story, and I honored that.  It felt good and right for our family to embrace the adoption narrative.  But this feels different.  I can’t tell my daughters that it is their story to tell like I have told my son for years.  Although it is still their story to tell, the world feels entitled to know it.  They ask questions in front of my children or to my children about their stories.  Personal questions.  Complicated questions.  And they expect answers.  It’s like they are asking me where I got my purse, and if I refuse to provide the information, I am seen as stand-offish or rude.  But it’s not a handbag.  It’s my daughter’s past.  It is pain and hurt that cannot be summed up in a quick response, but somehow, it needs to be.  I don’t know what is worse: grown-ups asking my young black daughters about their white mom or grown-ups asking me in front of them about my young black daughters.   So life is good, and life is uncomfortable.

So there it is.  Life is good.  Life is hard.  Life is overwhelming.  Life is uncomfortable.  And life is very sweet.  On Mother’s Day, a day that is not simple for any my children or for me, we decided to get away.  We took a day trip to the beach, our first one as a family of 5, and we let the beach do what the beach does.  We let it soothe us and embrace us.  We let it heal us and renew us.  As my husband and I stood on the shore and watched our three children play in the waves together, laughing and unencumbered, I felt deeply connected to and grateful for my family and my life.  As a dear friend reminded me recently, a meaningful life is much richer than a happy one.  And the beauty is that when I seek meaning and connection more than ease and comfort, I experience more contentment and peace than I do when happiness is my pursuit.

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So, back to the question at hand.  “How am I adjusting to life as a family of 5?”

Honestly… It gets richer and more meaningful by the day.

 

A letter to my son’s first mother on Mother’s Day

My becoming a mother came at a high cost to someone else.  And on this Mother’s Day, I want to honor that sacrifice.

My husband and I adopted our son when he was 4 years old. We had the opportunity to meet his biological mother once, which I am grateful for. When I think back to that day, I can remember the pain in her voice. The sadness in her eyes. The mixture of shame and anxiety and regret and fatigue that were evident in her body language and her distant glances. But I also remember her intentionality and the way she carried herself with grace and humility. I saw her son’s/our son’s face in her deep blue eyes. I knew in that moment she would always be a part of me.

As I celebrate my third Mother’s Day, my heart is drawn back to her. I have so many things I want to say to her now, almost three years later. So I wrote her a letter.

Dear J,

There are so many things I want to say…

First of all, our son is amazing. He is a fun and gregarious boy who makes others feel comfortable and valued. He is full of insight and awareness.   He has a beautiful imagination and sense of adventure coupled with a thoughtful care and respect for the world. He draws people in with his ability to connect and his sweet spirit. He is a special boy.

You are not forgotten. I think about you often, and our son does, too. I see it in his eyes. A far off look of wonder and concern. A creased brow. A wide-eyed expression of excitement followed by a pause. A feeling he can’t quite name. A deep connection to his past that will never leave him.

He remembers and so do we.

You are not alone. You carry us in your heart just as we carry you. You are an integral part of my story, and because of that, we will always be connected. Our son keeps you with him in his big smile and his cute nose and his memories. You are always with us.

You are mentioned. I do not pretend you don’t exist or quiet our son from speaking your name. I honor your presence by asking him what he remembers and leaving room for him to speak freely about you whenever he wants or needs to. Every time we meet someone with your first name, he jolts his head up and smiles at me with a knowing glance. He calls you his first mom, and I do, too.

You are still a mother. You gave me the gift of motherhood, and now that I have experienced it, I know I can’t ever go back. I will always be a mother, and so will you. Although he isn’t calling for you in the middle of the night or asking you to tie his shoes, you know the feeling of love for your child. You made choices to protect and support him. You intimately know the pain and guilt of wanting the best for your child and not knowing how to give it to him.

You are still a mother, and you always will be.

I want you to know that you are a precious and valuable human being. I don’t know what you believe about God, but here’s what I believe. He created you. He knows you. He loves you. Your love and sacrifice is a reflection of God’s love and sacrifice, and he hasn’t given up on you. I pray that you know how precious and valuable you are, to me and to God.

Most importantly, know that our son is loved.  As a mother, the most meaningful thing someone can do for me is to love my child. To treat my son with dignity and to honor his journey. To notice him and to value him, not for what he does, but for who he is. To put his needs above her own and to give sacrificially to him. And that’s what I promise you.

I want you to know that our son is loved. And so are you. 

Thank you for making me a mother and for entrusting me with the most profound job of my life.  Our son is growing so fast.  In the blink of an eye, he went from a preschooler with training wheels to a kid riding roller blades.  He is doing well.  We hope you are, too.

Take care,

Karin

100_2247        josh skating

Mother’s Day is not easy for many people.  My son’s first mother is just one example of that.  Remember that this weekend. Look around at church or at brunch or the grocery store and show love and compassion to those with far-off looks.  I hope someone does that for my son’s first mother today.

Lord, be with the grieving, with the barren, with the lonely, with the distant, with the orphans, with the broken-hearted… Today and always.

“I’m a happy mother”: Honoring the joys and sorrows of Mother’s Day

mom and me

Growing up, my mom’s response to the exclamation “Happy Mother’s Day!” was always the same.

“I’m a happy mother!”

Now that I am a mother, I see this response from a more personal lens.  I have always wanted to be a mom.  I know that not every woman shares this desire for motherhood, which I respect.  But for me, it was something I just assumed would happen, along with every other goal or dream for my life.  I don’t remember yearning for it when I was younger and even newly married, partly because I was pursuing other ambitions and passions, but also because I believed it would happen exactly how and when I wanted it to.  I didn’t see the point in dwelling on it.  I would be a mom, and it would be great when the time was right.

Long gone are the days of simple assumptions about anything.

2 years ago, I remember sitting in church on Mother’s Day feeling alone and angry.  Dave and I had been “trying” (awkward) for longer than I was admitting to myself or others, and it wasn’t happening.  I watched loved ones and not-so-loved ones around me getting pregnant like it was an item on a lunch menu.

I‘ll have a salad.”

“And I will have a baby.”

My beliefs about life and the way the world worked were being challenged in a painful and paradigm-shifting turn of events.  After buying in to the adage that I was “Taking Charge of My Fertility”, both by preventing and then by not preventing, the realization finally hit me that I really have very little control over it at all.  This always reminds me of Charlotte on Sex and the City when she says, “I spent all of my twenties trying not to get pregnant and all of my thirties trying to get pregnant!”

So here I was, sitting in church, watching adorable children pass out carnations to the standing women- the mothers– and I finally yearned to be one of them.  It went beyond a “you do you and I’ll do me” mindset and it became personal.

“Why them and not me?”

In that moment, I felt like I was becoming the person I hated.  The person who believes that everything is about her and that someone else’s fortune is somehow in direct competition with her own.  And then something happened.  I stopped looking at the women who were standing and started looking at the ones who weren’t.  Young women.  Old women.  Single women.  Married women.  Women who looked annoyed and others who looked embarrassed.  Women who fidgeted in their seats and those who looked around smiling and nodding happily at the standing women around them.  I didn’t want to judge them.  I wanted to know them.  “What are their stories?”

What I am learning as I allow myself to be vulnerable with others about my story is that there are a lot of complicated, painful, confusing, uncomfortable, and tragic stories all around me.  There are also countless stories about love, redemption, second chances, joy from sorrow, strength in weakness and healing amidst loss and grief.  I am not unique.  But my story is valuable.  So is yours.

Today, on Mother’s Day, my mom’s words resonate in my heart and soul.

“I am a happy mother!” 

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I am not happy because I got what I wanted, nor am I happy because I deserved it all along.  I am happy because I have seen God work in my life in a real and personal way.  I am happy because God had a plan all along that was better than mine, and I didn’t know or understand that two years ago.  I am happy because the deep yearning I felt that day in church and the story I have been telling myself since childhood are connected.  For me, that’s the key to my story now.  It was never about getting everything I wanted.  It was about the desires, passions and visions God put in my heart the day I was created that have strengthened and evolved into something more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Mother’s Day is a painful day for a lot of people.  It represents loss as much as it represents gain.  It reminds people of what they used to have and what they have never had.  So in addition to my happiness today, there is room for grief.  I grieve the loss of my son’s first mom.  Today, while I celebrate my “mom” status with my son, she will feel her own loss acutely, and that pains my heart.  I grieve the loss of my parents’ mothers.  I am reminded of my mom’s face when my grandmother died and the deep wailing in her spirit as she verbalized that she had become an orphan.  I mourn with my friends and clients who never knew the love of a mother.  I weep with those who have lost a child or who have a child who is sick and hurting and they don’t know how to help.  I hurt with those who yearn for  a child deeply.

That’s the beauty of life, really.  Feelings are not compartmentalized; they are fluid.  They don’t exist one after another, but in a magnificent tapestry, woven together intricately and gently.

If you are a happy mother today, celebrate that.  If that label does not fit for you, honor that however you need to.  For me, I will enjoy my presents and cards and cherish every hug and acknowledgment.  I will also make a conscious effort to be sensitive to the stories of others and leave room for grief and contemplation while still embracing my “special day”.

My road to motherhood was not simple, but it was just as it was meant to be.  And for that, I am certainly a happy and grateful mother.

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