I spent this past weekend in ATL at the Created to Care retreat. 250 adoptive moms in one place! Where 2 or more are gathered He is there, well, let me tell you, when 250 adoptive moms are there, HE IS BIG TIME THERE!!!! IT was AMAZING!!!! I cannot say it enough or put into words how wonderful it was!! If you missed it - make it a non negotiable trip for next year.
While I was at the retreat I realized more of my story that I really needed to put into words for me and for my children to read one day and see how God works EVERYTHING for HIS glory - the good and the bad. If you have read my previous posts, you know a huge part of our journey that really started our path to adoption was caring for Jay's mom Coco. She was diagnosed with ALS and lived for 2 years after diagnosis. She lived with us for a portion of that time so we could care for her.
The part I have not told before is how this impacted our oldest daughter. She was 6 months at the time my mother in law moved in with us and 17 months old when she died. During that time Sarah Beth had a very hard time. She went from having a grandmother that could hold her to one that, due to her illness, could not even smile in the end. Many things that a preschooler cannot understand. This caused a lot of stress on me, Jay and thus Sarah Beth. Then, my second daughter was born the week Coco died. Again, more stress on Sarah Beth. Over the next three years a few stressful events occurred - we moved to a new home, I was on bed rest starting at 16 weeks when pregnant with Carter, Carter was a premie and in the NICU, my parents lived us while waiting on their home to be built (really great for me by the way! But just different and difficult on SB) Carter then had a mystery mass on his head that took months to diagnose and ultimately have surgery.
Basically we had event after event that caused stress for Sarah Beth. When children go through stressful times they need down time to look back and realize "okay, I got through that, I'm good." SB never got that time due to so many events. By age 4 1/2 I realized something was really not right. I won't go into all the details, just know she was acting out in ways I had no clue how to handle. Around age 5 we started seeing a therapist for her and I was then told I had a 5 year old physically, but emotionally she was placed at 18 months. She had been so traumatized by her past, she basically became stuck at the first major stressful event in her life. Again, won't go into all the details, but fast forward to now - she's awesome! A very healthy child, physically and emotionally! She is mature beyond her 10 years! It took a good 3-4 years to get her self confidence back, her trust in herself and others, and her joy in life. But now she will knock your socks off! She's an amazing and very talented girl!
How does this tie in to our adoption - this is the very cool part. When your going through events the way we did those 5 years that it seemed we NEVER caught a break, you want to know WHY?!?! I remember my mom telling me it was all building character. (I really didn't want any more during those years!) Also that I was being prepared for something much greater! When we first started this process we were going to adopt a little boy. Well, that quickly changed when God spoke to both me and Jay and we knew we were meant to adopt siblings. Our parameters were for brothers. When the phone call came, it was for a girl and a boy - would we consider them? Y'all know the answer by now, we accepted the referral of a 5 year old girl and 18 month old boy. The 18 month old boy is what I always pictured in my mind. The 5 year old girl - How was I going to do this? That was my thought, but didn't change that I knew God was telling me she was mine.
Adoption is very traumatizing. Something many who have not adopted really think about. It will be very stressful for them to leave the only country they know and come to a very white country, we will smell funny, look funny and nothing will seem familiar. Add the language barrier, strange food, and they don't know us. They did ask for this. And they have to deal with all of this as a child.
A few days ago it all came together for me. The path I have been on the last 10 years have prepared me for more than I even knew. I have parented a traumatized 5 year old girl. I have dealt with the temper tantrums that you never thought were possible. I have been kicked and hit by a 5 year old girl. I have been screamed at, at the top of her lungs by a 5 year old girl. I have ducked when something was thrown at me. I knew that was not my SB in there, just her stress and fear. I learned how to parent her and bring her through. Now, I'm about to bring home a 5 year old girl that will be very scared, stressed and most likely act out not because she wants to, but because she's fearful. I don't know if I'm going to face all that I have faced before, but now I KNOW I have been prepared. I'm ready to love her. I'm ready to care for her. I 'm ready to show her she can trust again. I'm ready for her to be apart of our family.
I have said before, ALS never makes sense. Watching my mother in law die slowly before our eyes was the most painful and depressing experience of my life. But we were meant to care for her. Dealing with the aftermath of what it did to my daughter was heart wrenching. But, God makes beauty from ashes. It is always THE COOLEST moment to look back and realize He's been there all along, never doubt He's using EVERYTHING, weaving it all to work for His plan. I would love if we did not have to experience ALS in our family, for SB to have never gone through those years of struggle and for Hope and Zak to come into our home peacefully and know we are their family and all will be fine. God never told me this was going to be easy. He asked that I follow. And I am.