Since I said I would be honest, you should know that I sort of spun of out control the last two weeks. Not in a super noticeable way, but in terms of my stress and anxiety levels (which I am VERY good at compartmentalizing and working around). But I have spent MANY hours lying in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about all of the things I still need to do to even make a dent in our paperwork process. I become so overwhelmed with the enormity of it all that I am almost paralyzed by my nerves, and then for a couple of days I do almost NOTHING related to the adoption at all. It’s not healthy, and it’s not necessary, because for the most part there’s not a lot I can do except handle one thing at a time. But I’d like to think it’s fairly normal, as you officially dig into the whole international adoption process, to feel a bit overwhelmed, and wonder if it will actually be possible for you to make it to your child one day.
When you hear people say they are having a “paperwork pregnancy” or are in the “paper chase,” I think it’s hard to imagine what it is they are actually doing. I mean, how HARD could it actually be? And to be fair, it’s not like anyone is expecting me to do advanced calculus, and my anxiety stems from being unsure how I’m going to show work for all my proofs. (Is that even how you say that? I was always terrible at math!) But it can be super tedious, and at times seems pointless, so I think it messes with your mind a bit.
For example, Daddy K and I had our adoption physicals this week. In and of itself, pretty low key. It’s a typical exam, and includes a decent amount of lab work and immunization checks. But here’s the tricky part: the actual original copy of your exam must be signed by your examining doctor in the presence of a notary. And your doctor can’t sign the exam until your labs and blood work come back. And you can’t have the form in the meantime. So you have to figure out how to have a notary come with you (in our case, onto a restricted military base) to your appointment. It’s not impossible, but it’s a logistical nightmare.
Oh, and any form that is a required part of your dossier (a fancy term for the application that is actually sent to the country you are adopting from), must NOT ONLY be notarized, but apostilled. Yep, that’s a real word. And it basically means notarizing the notary. So these forms need to be taken and/or mailed to the issuing state capital, where someone can double check that the notary was, in fact, a real notary for that state. Oh, and don’t forget, the notary’s seal can’t expire within the next 18 months, and they MUST sign exactly the same as the information contained within their seal!!! Um, yeah, it makes my eyeballs bleed.
To further invite you into our exact
pain experience, and maybe help you understand why my anxiety took the reins for a bit, let’s chat family birth certificates. For us, those come from three different states. Each person’s birth certificate needs to be re-ordered from the issuing state, since the certificate has to be less than 6 months old. And it HAS to be a pen-and-ink signed and notarized copy with an official seal. I literally just spent $100 ordering 2 copies of the kids’ certificates (because I know I’m the person who would lose one). Then, once I receive those forms, I have to send them BACK to the issuing state to be apostilled. Nope, for our states it can’t be done all at once. I missed two official “certificate” deliveries in one day.
So, as you can see, it starts to feel a little overwhelming, and I started to panic that I would never remember how to do everything right, or that I would forget something super important and ruin the whole thing.
I had post-partum depression symptoms after I had Sissy. It was really interesting (although I didn’t think so at the time 🙂 ) in that they didn’t really manifest until she was almost 8 months old. And I think part of it might have been triggered by a medicine I was taking to increase milk production, but the truth is, I’ve always struggled with anxiety. God just choose to use this experience to show me what a vice-grip on control I had… and feeling like I couldn’t mother perfectly nearly wrecked me. I am very Type-A, and I thrive on routine and predictability. My baby didn’t get that memo, and I wasn’t able to go with the flow as easily as other mamas. It was a very tough 3-4 months, but I am super thankful now for the experience. I met with a counselor (a MFLC — if you are military and don’t know about this amazing resource, please contact me, I can’t say enough good things) who really helped me work through my feelings. She had me read an interesting book about depression, and one section focused on ten to twelve common thought distortions in most people. We worked through them to see if any were pitfalls of mine, and one clearly stood out (although I lean toward a couple, this one was big). It’s the ALL OR NOTHING mentality. So in this specific case, if I had one bad hour in the afternoon (my girl crying inconsolably, or not sleeping well, or refusing to eat, etc,) then for me, the entire day had been terrible. Basically, it’s like it sounds. For me, it was all of nothing.
Just recognizing this tendency made a huge change in my life. I feel truly lucky that all I needed to start feeling better was someone to help me work through the WHYS of the way I felt, and assure me they were totally normal. I recognize it almost immediately now, and I try to combat it with the Truth of all the good things that have happened in any given day. This adoption, with all it’s related stresses, has brought out the same tendency. I start to feel like it’s all or nothing. And if I hadn’t checked off enough boxes in one day to feel like I was making significant progress, then I felt like I had done NOTHING productive in the adoption arena. Basically, what I’m saying is that adoption can be stressful. 🙂
Thankfully, I got a sweet email from a new friend who recently came home from our same country with her little boy. They are also a military family, so she understands some of the unique stresses I am feeling. And she reminded me of two HUGE things: One, I should be enjoying this journey. It will take the time it takes, and it does me absolutely no good to dwell on any areas I think I’m not handling perfectly. This should be a fun experience for our family, as we learn so much about parenting and each other, and grow closer preparing for this new chapter. And it that same vein, the second things is that I should ENJOY my children and family now. When Boo comes, things will never be the same. And that’s okay, we are comfortable with different, but I want to be mindful of enjoying our family the way it is. When I was pregnant with Bug, I remember trying to soak up every minute with my girl. I don’t want to waste the next several months of our lives being wrapped up in stress and anxiety. Life is too beautiful to waste playing mind games with myself. And the last few days I’ve been resting in His peace, and I’m able to let all the little frustrations of this paperwork madness slide away. It WILL happen, one step at a time.
I keep these two quotes from Francis Chan’s Crazy Love on a note in my phone, because I need to refer to them often. 🙂
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 that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.
The thing is, friends, He really does have it all under control. And I actually don’t even WANT that kind of responsibility. Especially not when it comes to an international adoption. If I honestly thought this whole thing depended on ME, I’d lose my mind at some point. During one of our first conversations, I told the liaison from our placing agency, “I’m actually ecstatic that God is the one in control of all of this.” Now, please just keep saying that back to me for the next 9-12 months!!