5 minutes away from my house there is a nature preserve. It’s where I go to run, which means it’s also where I go to think. I’ve been running there for almost 5 years, so that means that those trees have heard a lot… my arguments with God and raging questions, my tears and eventual acceptance that our family would not expand the way we expected, my “can we really do this adoption thing” questions, my desperate, fervent prayers for protection and heart preparation for Jia, and my joy and wonder at unexpected provision. I have lived a lot of life and dealt with a lot of feelings while my feet have covered those miles.
Recently, I took Jia there for the first time, and as we walked around the pond, it occurred to me that the fruition of all those prayers and wishes and hopes and wants was literally walking beside me, real, here, in the flesh. There were many, many moments in these last 5 years that I wondered how this story would eventually end, and here it was, the end cap of all those hopes. Jia is, in the realest possible way, a dream come true.
We have known Jia for three months now, and we’ve lived a lot of life in those three months. There have been so many amazing moments like getting to experience firsts with Jia (s’mores, peddling her Big Wheel on her own, her baptism), seeing Jia and Eden’s relationship really grow, finally feeling all of us settle into a routine and find our rhythm, and a million other little insignificant moments that make up the fabric of a family. It is truly hard to remember life without Jia (although I remember that it was quieter… I think the decibel level in my house increased by 50% when she came home! 🙂 ), and she has really just adjusted to being part of our family so well, like she was always here. I have no words for how thankful I am for that because I know that is not the case for so many kids. Jia was loved so well by her foster family and prepared so well to be part of our family and we reap the rewards of that daily.
But, here is the other side of that coin. These three months have been hard. They have been exhausting and overwhelming and challenging. I have cried more tears in these three months then I care to count. My preference would be to tell you that it’s been GREAT and that we’ve all adjusted seamlessly, but that’s just not true. Bringing home a toddler, making sisters out of strangers, seeing your oldest child grieve the loss of her only child status, adjusting to being a stay at home parent…. this is not for the feint of heart. We have all dealt with grief and had to readjust our expectations and had to fight through some really, really sad, hard days in the last three months. And I think that every adoptive family has their own version of that, of the things that made coming home feel at once like a gift and a deep grief, but it’s hard to talk about.
I have struggled over these words because I don’t ever want Jia to read them and think that it was about HER, that she, personally, made it hard, when the truth is that she was what made it all worth fighting through. All the sad, hard stuff was situational, things that we needed to acknowledge and wrestle with and adjust to so we could fully embrace the new life in front of us.
There were moments where it felt like we would never be through the adjustment part, like we would never see normal again. And that’s the thing…. when you’re in it and everyone keeps saying “it will get better” it hard to see how it will. You feel like you will be the exception to the rule, the one who struggles forever. It’s hard to see that eventually, you remember how to parent a toddler and it’s not really that hard, relatively speaking. Eventually you learn how to sit with your grief for the life you had and even more then that, eventually you move into appreciating the life you’re making, and one day you look around and really see the glory of the imperfect life you have. You figure out how to help your other kids adjust and you watch her thrive again. You stop crying everyday. You can think about something other than getting through the day without it being totally overwhelming. Eventually, you look around and realize that you’re doing it. It doesn’t feel as weird anymore. It doesn’t feel like someone else’s life anymore. There are still moments where it’s hard, but more in a normal life sort of way then a frantic sort of way. That’s the work we’ve been doing over the past three months, a little each day, until we eventually made it out of the weeds.
I know that there will be other moments, other struggles, but for now, we are just stabilizing. We’re doing well. We’re good. It’s been a journey through some rocky terrain to get here, but we made it. Because three months from the day that we met, I look at her and she is a marvel. She is worth every moment of the work it took to figure out how to make us a family. I’m so glad she’s ours and we’re her’s. Here’s to many more “normal” days and years ahead. I really like normal.