Feelings, nothing more than feelings. . .

Woo to the hoo, friends. We are leaving in ONE WEEK. On one hand I can’t believe it’s finally here, on the other hand it feels like it snuck up on us. Naturally, as we get ready to head out, people ask, “How are you feeling?” As a Jen Hatmaker groupie, I’ve been combing through some of her old posts on adoption, and I found this gem that she actually stole from Melissa Fay Greene on the first year of adoption, and it was a salve to my tender little heart:

“Put Feelings on a back-burner. This is not the time for Feelings. If you could express your feelings right now, you’d be saying things like, “Oh my God, I must have lost my mind to think that I can handle this, to think that I wanted a child like this. I’ll never manage to raise this child; I’m way way way way over my head. I’ll never spend time with my spouse or friends again; my older children are going to waste away in profound neglect; my career is finished. I am completely and utterly trapped.” You see? What’s the point of expressing all that right now? Put Feelings in the deep freeze. Live a material life instead: wake, dress, eat, walk. Let your hands and words mother the new child, don’t pause to look back, to reflect, or to experience emotions. “Shut up, Emotions,” you’ll say. “I’ll check back with you in six months to see if you’ve pulled yourselves together. But no whining meanwhile!” 

And I like that, I can understand the value in that. I know I’ve gotten through more than one tough time in my life by putting my feelings in the deep freeze for a while – not forever, because I think it’s important to be authentic with who we are and explore the complexities of what makes us human. But for a time, for just long enough to MAKE IT to the other side. So, as we approach our “due date” I wanted to take this chance to share all. of. the. feelings. stumbling around in my body right now. One, because I wanted to be honest about what this looks like for me, right now, in this moment. But also, because I’m going to just get to work when we come home, and save all this emotion sharing for a later date. 🙂

And I’m taking a page from New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson; who beautifully, eloquently, and honestly demonstrated that it’s possible for one person to feel a myriad of emotions about something — emotions that although might seem diametrically opposed, are ALL still entirely authentic. One emotion simply cannot capture the entire picture. And I just love how he made it okay to feel a lot of different things, and not pretend to have all of the answers to such a complex issue.

To be clear, I in no way equate the complexity of my emotions with his, nor the issue of our adoption as charged, but I personally related to his heart in this instance, and I think so often it’s almost impossible to clearly explain our thoughts about something from just one angle.

So without further adieu, here’s how I feel. . .

I feel EXCITED.

So many parts of this journey make me happy. I am actually really excited to travel alone with my husband and spend some time connecting. It feels fun to have this adventure together, to have a super long flight to read books, listen to podcasts, and annoy him with my incessant talking. I’m excited to visit Lithuania, especially during their Independence Day. I just finished a historical fiction novel called Between Shades of Grey about how Stalin deported tens of thousands of Lithuanians to Siberia in the 1940s. And it wasn’t talked about for DECADES because Lithuania wasn’t able to gain independence until 1990. I can’t wait to learn more about this strong, brave, resilient little country that brought us to our son. I can’t believe I’m actually going to meet our son for the first time, to touch him and see him and hear him. I’m excited to be past the anticipation, and just “have” this baby already.

I feel GUILTY.

I hate that I will be away from Sissy and Bug for so long, and worry about if they will feel lonely, or abandoned, or sad. Bug has been super clingy lately and I have been soaking up every moment and extra hug, not sure how the dynamic will play out when we are all home. I know, without question, that this is a temporary hardship for our family, this separation, and that it is unavoidable to bring their brother home. And I know that Luke 15:4 tells us that it’s nautral for us to leave 99 sheep (who we know are safe) to go off and find the ONE sheep who is missing (because that’s the sheep in danger). But really, I will feel so much better when all my sheep are under the same roof,

I feel EXHAUSTED.

It has been a long year, friends. We started this adoption process within a few months of moving to a new state, with an entire new life to build. Daddy K has a new job, and learning to live within the rhythms of this new assignment has been taxing on all of us. Trying to navigate an entire new set of emotions that relate to adoption has also been draining. It’s a roller coaster of highs and lows, and that modulation has worn me down a bit.  I’m ready for to move on past settling in and waiting for our boy.

I feel ANXIOUS.

There is so much unknown in this trip, and I honestly struggle a lot with not having control. I’m not sure how Boo will feel about us, how deep his grief will be over losing his home, his language, his caretakers. I’m not sure how or if he will eat and sleep once he’s with me. Or if the clothes I bring will fit. Or anything really. And yet:

Worry implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. 
Stress says the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control.
Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives are brief … and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed. –Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I feel HOPEFUL.

Because I know God is part of this story. It’s His story. He always shows up. Actually, I guess He never leaves. And I know that as we walk out on this water (to the place where if I take my eyes of Him for a second I’ll drown), I’m going to fall more in love with my Creator. Being completely dependent on him with foster an even deeper relationship, and there is freedom in knowing I don’t have to have all the answers because Someone else does. In Tiny Green Elephants, one of my favorite blogs throughout this process, she reflects on her first adoption journey and the lessons they learned along the way:

What I’m saying is, if God is asking you to do anything, no matter how big or how small, it’s because He loves you, and because he wants what is best for you, and those you love, and his plan is bigger than just your plan for yourself.  Don’t stress, don’t worry, relax.

He loves me. He loves my husband. And He loves my children more than I could possibly ever imagine. And true, He’s not promising me smooth sailing in this, or a perfect transition without pain and suffering. But He is promising me Himself. Which is more than enough. More than I deserve.

Thank you for investing in this journey with us, for taking the time to read about our story and listen to my heart. We are ready to bring our little man home, and start figuring out what happens next.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. –Francis Chan, Crazy Love

the very hungry catepillar

We leave in about two weeks and honestly I am all over the place emotionally. Trying to get everything planned out and then dealing with changes, worrying about if it will all go perfectly (umm, I really like things to all go perfectly), and losing sleep over how the kids will do while I’m gone is all making me a hot mess.  So, I haven’t had a lot of space left in brain to write anything creative. Or write at all, or respond to texts or messages. It’s taking all of my energy to just keep plugging along.

But, I did want to quickly write about one things people outside the adoption world might not be familiar with – it’s called cocooning. When I mention it to people, they agree that it makes sense, it’s just not something they’ve ever heard of before. Sometimes I forget that everyone hasn’t read all the same articles, blogs, and books as me, and I just assume everyone has heard of these things.

For detailed information, you can google adoption and cocooning, but I’m just give you the simplified, Ali-version here. The basic idea is that once an adoptive child comes home, they kind of need a “reset” of sorts. This is especially true of older and internationally adopted children. Everything in their life has changed dramatically, and “experts” seem to agree that there is value is spending a little bit of time hunkering down once you are home.

What this looks like varies from family to family, and the length of time is dependent on the individual child (and what the rest of the family can handle). Essentially, you want to help the child form a secure, lasting bond/attachment with his new mama and daddy, as opposed to just viewing you as a reliable caregiver. One thing I read suggested cocooning for one month for every year of orphanage life, plus one month. So we’d be looking at 3 months-ish. Something else recommended at least 6 weeks.

One thing that is hard during this time is that you are not encouraged to let other people meet your new child’s needs. Which means even though he will be the cutest little Eastern European on the block, when he first comes home we won’t be able to let other people hold him. We also won’t be able to go out as a whole family for a while, so we plan to alternate Sundays at church for a bit. Some families have said it’s taken only a few months for their child to adjust, others actually over a year. Really, we have no idea what it will be like for our little dude.

The danger is that if your child is being cared for/loved on by too many people (really people outside of mom and dad), they won’t internalize the actual difference between their previous situation and their new life (i.e. orphanage care versus FAMILY). And to create a strong attachment, its important for them to understand that they have a mama and a daddy who will meet their every need. This attachment is crucial for later emotional maturity and stability.

We will also have to limit family outings because of the over-stimulation for him. He has literally spent his entire life in one building, and mostly the same one room, so EVERYTHING will assault his senses. At the beginning, that will be too overwhelming for him, so we will stay home and just focus on simple play, eye contact, rocking. Essentially, you almost treat them like an infant at the beginning, in an attempt to create the natural attachment that occurs when caring for a baby.

Practically, I think this will be difficult for our family. The other kids have activities, and I know spending so much time in two units (one parent with Sissy and Bug, the other with Boo) will be lonely for all of us. Also, Daddy K and I won’t be able to go out on dates for a while since he won’t be able to stay with a babysitter, although we have talked about leaving after the kids are in bed. Let’s be honest though, by then I’m sure I will just want to be in bed too! I’m definitely looking forward to the time when we are past this initial phase. But I don’t want to rush it either, because I understand we are laying the foundation that will be crucial for Boo to feel secure for the rest of his life.

So, if you are in the local area, please don’t be offended if we turn down invitations or don’t invite you over. Also, please don’t think we are crazy when ask you not to pick up our little guy. You are welcome to talk to him and engage him while we are holding him. We will play it by ear and try to adjust as necessary to make this transition easy on all of us. We can’t wait to share him with everyone as soon as he is ready!

We are totally fine with having people come to the airport to meet us, especially because this will probably be the last time for a few weeks that we are able to be in a larger group and give people a chance to meet him. After that, we plan to cocoon through all of April and then see where we are at. Daddy K and I will take turns getting the other little people out of the house for the sake of the sanity, and to make sure they still feel nurtured and loved. If you want to help Sissy and Bug feel special during this time, you are more than welcome!

We are so excited to be this close, and yet obviously we are still in the stage of the big unknown. Even more excited to get home and start figuring out what our new normal will look like. Thanks for supporting us on this journey.