OF BORN FROM MY HEART
IN A SNAPSHOT
Our life and love began at a punk rock concert where I saw Nick for the first time. It was the take your breath away, look over your shoulder after passing and catching each other in a stare, kind of attraction. Nick’s side of the story is that he started noticing a girl front and centre at his shows, but he thought she was way too good for the likes of him. My side of the story? The very same. But as soon as he found out I was in fact interested in him, cut off shorts, old band t-shirts, flip-flops during winter and all, we were inseparable. There is never a dull moment in our marriage and I give all the credit to my husband. He truly is everything I am not and the best decision I ever made was marrying this man who makes me want to be my best self every day.
Three years, two dogs and one small town later, we found our firstborn, Elijah, through adoption and discovered a hidden chamber in our hearts made to beat just for him.
When we first brought Oliver home four years later, I told Eli I was almost one hundred percent sure that Ollie chose to come to our family because of him. I told him that his baby brother was probably up there in heaven chillin’ on a cloud, waiting his turn when he spotted Eli down below bein’ all cool and amazing and said, “that’s him.” “That’s who I want for my big brother.”And since those baby blues cannot be refused, God obliged. And then like magnets long deprived of their opposite charge, they came together. We all did. Sometimes I catch them together. Making each other laugh, whispering secrets, holding hands… I watch the way they look out for one another and how they are very aware of each other. And yes, I even take notice of the way they drive each other crazy and the only explanation I have for their beautiful bond is that we must have found them so that they could find each other.
The only explanation I have for their beautiful bond is that we must have found them so that they could find each other.
I’ve never won the lottery, but I imagine it kind of feels like being handed your three-day-old baby for the first time and hearing the words “congratulations, you are a mother.” Especially after the road getting there was a long and lonely one.
I don’t usually like to throw around the word “infertility”, it feels so hopelessly decisive and its negative vibe doesn’t flow with my unicorn loving nature. It wasn’t the deciding factor for us in choosing to adopt, but it was the push we needed to do something we had always planned on whether we got pregnant or not.
I know that’s not everyone’s story though, and none of that discredits the very real truth that infertility still hurts something fierce. When you are being held in God’s hands like that, it is hard to understand what He is making out of you, and you can’t hear Him through all the frustration and tears telling you to please hold on, ‘I am working on your prayers and what I have for you is better than you ever imagined.’
I didn’t hear or feel any of that until I saw that little face that looked nothing like my own for the first time–staring up at me, begging me to love him. And that’s when I knew. I began to realize that if God wouldn’t have spent that extra time on me, I wouldn’t be here holding this baby and being asked to love him. I wouldn’t have known that the disappointment of seeing one line on that pregnancy test month after endless month could become the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen while I was holding my three-day-old baby; who would’ve never been in my arms had the stick read positive.
I know that I may never have the chance to be the first person to breathe in the scent of my child, and my heart beat will not be the first he heard when he laid his sweet head next to it. For that moment, of witnessing them coming into the world, I will always feel a little bit envious. But if we had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change it. I would, every time, let her keep those first moments of his life to herself in return for what she has given me for the rest of mine.
It is hard for me to find words for the beauty of adoption. There will just never be the right enough words. The only word that comes close is awe. The moment my boys were placed in my arms, I felt quiet. Standing there, in that small office where papers were signed and lives changed, I felt like my heart had taken up residence in my throat and it would come crawling out if I tried to speak. The awe of everything that had just taken place made me wonder if I should slip my shoes off because I felt as if I was suddenly standing on the holiest ground. That is what the adoption journey is. Holy ground. Every step of the way.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY DYNAMICS CHANGED SINCE?
We wanted to see the world before we became parents, but then wanting to be parents quickly became our world and we found ourselves filling out adoption forms instead of passport applications–knowing that the payout of bringing a baby into our home would be richer than any week we could spend on our dream vacation. We’ve said no to a lot of things in life so that we could say yes to adopting our babies. We’ve said no to higher paying, far away job offers so that we could say yes to waking up to our family of four every morning. We might live in a little house and share a bathroom and eat a lot of hot dogs and spaghetti most nights and life will always be full of things that continue to tug at our relationship; children, work, finances, religion, and our individual dreams. These are big and important things that constantly compete with each other. But this is the most important thing: Us. And all of it is hard and a bit messy, but it’s more than okay because right now we are living our dream life instead of our dream vacations and I always want my boys to know this life of making so very much out of so very little.
There is an underlying message that rings true in our family now and it is that our children may be unique and different from us, they might not carry our genes or have our blood running through their veins…and despite not sharing the genetic codes that make a typical family what it is, we do share the one quality that is necessary to hold any family together, which is love. Love is the answer for so many things. It wins every time and I feel so much gratitude on a daily basis for a Heavenly Father who loved me enough to let me be the mother of these two beautiful souls. Adoption, more so than anything has helped me understand that where we belong in this world is not just a function of the blood in our veins. It’s a choice. Belonging, acceptance, connection—This is a gift we give each other.
WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED?
If I could travel through time and talk to this 23-year-old version of myself I might tell her something like this:
One day she is going to be alarmed when all of her friends start having one, and then two kids and she doesn’t have any yet. She is going to pray for a baby for so long until the day she can’t see the point in asking anymore. She is going to know what it feels like to be angry with God, and sad. Really, truly, deeply sad when she realizes the babies are not coming. But then I would gently grab her shoulders and look her in her worried eyes and I would say to her; Listen. God has every intention of completely wrecking your soul more than once in your life so you will know what it means to let Him put it back together again. And one day that will happen when you find yourself holding your husband’s hand in a small office at an adoption agency and the caseworker will get off the phone and tell you that a paper has been signed and you are now the mother of a three-day-old baby boy. That is when you will close your eyes and thank God for all of those unanswered prayers. But just you wait, it will happen again. Just when you think your heart can’t hold any more love, a beautiful girl will lay her baby in your arms and make you a mother of two.
And then I would straighten her tiara and tell her sorry for spoiling the ending, but everything is going to be okay because her heart knows no happiness like mine does right now.
When I don’t have the answers and they are not tiny
anymore, I find perspective hidden in the journey it took to find them.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU’VE EVOLVED AS A MOTHER?
I wonder sometimes if we mamas find ourselves lamenting too often that we have “lost” ourselves in this job. I certainly saw this happening when I asked myself WHO I was and found a long list of nouns that were getting buried under my role as a mother. Nouns like: Wife. Friend. Daughter. Teacher. Writer. Picture-taker. Beauty maker. Adventurer. Reader. Hiker.
If these are the only things we let define us then I understand how we can easily be lost in the day to day of motherhood. But what if we started looking at who we are with adjectives instead? Then “who we are” becomes much more meaningful and deeper than the passions we do or don’t have time for in this season of life. And they are the
Instead, our list starts to look like this: I am optimistic. I am loyal. I am faithful. I am giving. I am kind. I am loving. I am strong. I am patient. I am creative.
The best part of this perspective is that these adjectives that define me are not lost in this motherhood gig. They are refined by it.
They are the things at the heart of my soul that will still remain long after my ability to hike mountains, take pictures or write stories is gone. Because they are me.
And someday when I’m done wiping bums and faces and picking up the wreckage my little ones leave behind every night.
They will still be me.
And I will be grateful that the years I spent doing this beautiful mothering gig not only served my children, but they also served to strengthen these deepest parts of me.
I’ve learned that the best part about owning the title of Mother is that we don’t have to be defined solely by motherhood. There is a framework of interests, dreams and passions that make us individuals who are strong enough to stand alone. And yet, I find it so interesting that there is nothing I would rather be defined by more than my children.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST THING ABOUT EMBARKING ON THIS JOURNEY?
Perhaps one of my favourite gifts that comes with adoption is that of perspective. Those beautiful, heart-wrenching moments when I was handed my three-day-old sons—and how quickly and deeply I fell in love–are the ones I go back to when things are both rough and when life feels like it could never be better. When parenting is hard, when these years right here replace days in separating me from the moment they arrived. When I don’t have the answers and they are not tiny anymore, I find perspective hidden in the journey it took to find them. It’s like having your own secret code you say to yourself that triggers a reminder. Something that says “hey, this is hard. It really sucks, but pay attention because this moment is teaching you something.” I usually have to do this during a sleepless night or a rough day of parenting when I’m stretched thin and my boys need my utmost attention for their latest trick or adventure. I say to myself… “Self. While you are wishing that your littlest would just go to bed already and that your wild child would slow down for a minute, remember that someone out there just saw the negative on her pregnancy stick and would give anything to be kissing her baby goodnight right now. Remember that you were that someone once.”
And that kind of perspective?
It works every time.
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‘We must have loved our babies very much in our previous lives, to have found them again in this one’.
Sometimes the fact that they are mine and that they found me up here in the corner of nowhere, in such a big world, really takes my breath away. It’s such an unbelievable thing really, but once you experience that feeling of looking into eyes that hold no gene of yours and knowing in the deepest parts of your heart that they have always belonged to you, you really can’t believe anything else. With the experiences of belonging together that we’ve had and the proof I’ve felt that they were always meant to be mine (same soul, maybe with just a few different genes) it is easy for me to believe that we must have loved our babies very much in our previous lives to have found them again in this one.
The saying “for a child, love is really spelled T-I-M-E” has never been truer for our kids.
We love taking our boys with us on adventures and have come to know that this big beautiful planet is the very best teacher. We are lucky to have mountains for our backyard and we spend most of our time there camping, hiking, biking and floating around all the lakes we can. Our evenings together have become our most cherished part of the day. This is when all the great talks happen, the best stories are read and a whole lot of love and togetherness warms up our little home.
We try not to fill our nights with any plans other than travelling to the end of a bedtime story, though with two wild-hearted boys (three if the husband counts) our evenings can range anywhere from quiet and lovely to loud and rambunctious. I can usually take the kids from an energy level of 10 to 1 gradually and effortlessly so that, without even realizing it’s happening, they’re snuggled up on the couch with me, bundled up for a moonwalk or in their snorkeling gear diving for glow sticks in the bathtub while I take a seat on the floor next to them and read aloud. A professional winder-downer I am—just a high lace collar and an apron away from Mary Poppins herself. My husband though, well, he gets some of his best ideas for fun when the kids have just settled down. “Hey kids, want me to find all your best tickle spots? Hey kids, want to go turn on the amps, bang on the drums and have a jam session?” Which leads to me getting sucked right in. Every time.
When our boys do finally land in our bed we become the bookends to a sacred space–a nightly ritual of talking, laughing and praying, that I hope becomes wound up in their memories so tightly that when years separate them from me, these evenings spent together will bring them back to their beloved childhood.
I imagine them on those nights visiting home from college, sitting at the end of our bed, with that same look on their faces from all those years ago, while we smile and listen to them talk about girlfriends and the adventures of 20-something kids. That look–the one that’s delighted with the fact that we’re spending our evening all scrunched up in our bed together.
Sometimes the fact that they are mine and that they found me up here
in the corner of nowhere, in such a big world, really takes my breath away.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO REMEMBER ABOUT THEIR CHILDHOOD?
Two things: First, I hope I’m teaching my boys to recognize that difference is beautiful in everyone and we all have something that makes us unique and special. We all face adversity, we are all human, we all make mistakes and we all want to belong and to be loved. We are all capable of moving forward, learning more about ourselves through challenges and becoming more compassionate in the process. We are all the same kind of different and the world is so much more beautiful because of it.
And second, someday our kids are going to find out, just like the rest of us do that life is hard. Really hard. And most of our days will be more ordinary than they will be spectacular. No amount of unicorns, make-believe or happy memories is going to change that. But what if that one extra tradition you start for your family, or that week you spend staying up late making magic of your house, tells your kids that just because life is mostly ordinary and not always pretty, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own beauty. It doesn’t mean you have to wait for the magic to come to you. I know the world can be a hurtful place, but I always want my kids to know the place they came from was magical, beautiful, and full of love and grace.
AND FINALLY, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PARENTS WHO ARE TRYING TO ADOPT?
I know everyone’s adoption experience is different and that the reasons behind adopting are as unique and varied as there are children out there needing a family. Below is what led us to adoption. I don’t think it’s true, like people often tell me, that it takes someone special to adopt. Loving someone else’s baby is not the hard part of adoption. It’s the best and most beautiful part.
And for me, this is why:
I simply cannot imagine looking back at a child who is asking me to love him with eyes that hold no gene of mine and saying “its great, but it’s not for me.” This hurts just too much.” He says every child’s life matters and that we are all wonderfully, gloriously made…No matter what womb we came from. He proved that His children are worth every sacrifice, even one as great as going through hell and back for even one soul to experience that kind of love. If His love did this for me and His divinity resides in me, then I am more than capable of extending that love to others. I truly believe that is all the “special” we need to love somebody else’s baby as our own.
Whether you have always wanted to have your family through adoption or you are the 1 in 8 couples out there who are experiencing infertility and adoption is bringing you hope during your own achy wait…It can be one lonely road, but while you wait for whatever miracle God has in store for you, rest assured that He is making something beautiful out of this situation and of you.
With thanks to Kortni.
If you have more questions and concerns about adoption, you can contact her through her Instagram account.