Friday, March 22, 2013

An Adoption Story

      When I was in high school, the TLC network on cable was becoming a pretty big hit. Everything was "a story": A Dating Story, A Baby Story, A Wedding Story, An Engagement Story, etc..... I'm not big on today's version of reality TV, but reality TV that was actually real- the kind where you could imagine what your life might be like in the future...the kind of reality that lets you dream....that kind I'm all over.
      For those that know me well, I'm a dreamer. My happiness comes from fantasizing about the future. Right now, I dream about vacations we'll take, the house we'll probably never build, the adventures our family will go on. Back then, though,  I dreamt about all the things these "stories" on this television network talked about: meeting the perfect guy, having a perfect engagement, planning the perfect wedding and having the perfect children.
     Funny how life works. Sometimes, especially when you are young and naive, you make choices that turn into responsibilities-bigger responsibilities than an 18 year old high school student should be able to handle. For me, these responsibilities crushed my perfect little plans of what my life should be like. I had wound up 18, pregnant, and with a boy who was no more ready to be a parent than I was.
       You find in moments like these, that everyone handles their own situations in a very different way. It's easy to get angry at another person's way of dealing with these curve balls, and try to make sense of it any way you know how. For a very long time, I didn't understand why I was the only parent who was madly in love with this 7 lb 3 oz bundle of joy. I didn't understand why my world was the only world that was wrapped around her, and why I was the only one thinking of her future and taking great pride in the fact that I was her protector. It was my job to keep her safe and raise her and keep her healthy. If I knew then what I know now....
     At first I clung onto the hope that this was just an age thing, and that it was just taking a little longer for him to get to the same place as I was. When that didn't happen, I began to think of what life would be like for us in the future. Were we mature enough to handle this? Was he the one I was supposed to marry? Were we just sticking together because we had a baby?
    It didn't take long for it to be abundantly clear that I was hanging around for all the wrong reasons, and the mommy guilt that followed was excruciatingly painful. What was I doing to her future by becoming a single mother? Would I be able to give her everything she needed or wanted? What kinds of questions would I need to answer later on about who he was and why he wasn't part of her life the way "normal" dads were apart of their children's lives?
    I have to be honest and say that I wrestled daily, sometimes hourly with these questions. This wasn't the life I planned for, and yet, this was the plan God had for our lives. Who was I to question the journey? God never said it would be easy. In fact, He made it perfectly clear that it would be hard, but he also said it would be worth it. And for the record, it so is.
      It's so funny how we make these plans for ourselves, and truly think that our plans won't get rocked by the One who is totally in control. Even better, when these plans you didn't make for yourself become the best freaking thing that ever happened to you, and the pieces of the puzzle just fit together so perfectly, you don't understand how you didn't predict this was coming.
      Guess what? That's exactly what He did. He rocked my world. He changed everything I had planned for my life, and made it better than all of the Dating, Engagement, Wedding, and Baby Stories put together. He gave me Dan. He gave me a daddy for my daughter, a best friend, a rock, a motivator, an encourager, a comedien and a companion. He gave me a young soul, much like myself, who sacrificed and worked hard to provide for our little family.

     Now,  I don't believe in soul mates. I think there are many people whom I could be married to and have a very good life. I do, however, think that God picked this man just for me. Not so I could have a good life, but so that I could have a GREAT life. I believe that the one who helped me create such a beautiful little lady has someone who fits for him so much better than I could have ever fit into his life. God did that. Sometimes I think....this whole stinkin world would be so effed up if I was in charge.
        When I look at my life now, I don't think about the scary questions I'll have to answer and all the things that could screw her up. I'm sure I do that enough to all of my littles on my own without anyone else's help. I always wondered how I was supposed to handle things as she grew up. Her grandparents and other family members were active parts of her life, and I knew that someday she was going to ask me why she had grandparents her brothers didn't have, and I would have little boys who would ask me why they couldn't go with "Grandma Patty or Grandma Tracy". And those things happened...they were inevitable pieces of Jae's puzzle that she had to put together. So I took the wise advice of my mama who said, "Answer the questions she asks you, honestly and gently and with grace, and don't give out more information than she is needing to know at that very moment."
      I've clung to that advice, and have needed to use it on many, many occasions. I needed it when out of the blue one day, my daughter asked me if she had another dad. (Um, hello big yellow bus.) She had heard it somewhere and was curious. So I gripped the edge of my seat and I explained to her in the best way I could how our situation came to be. And when I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes and asked her if there were any other questions she had been wondering about, bracing myself for the dam I was about to break open, she said, "Nope, and I'll have a popsicle thank you very much." Well alright then....the massive conversation I had been preparing 7 long years for was over in 2 minutes. "The conversation" didn't take away the fact that Dan was her dad or that she still had more grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that loved her. It didn't damage her and it certainly didn't make her lose her sense of who she was. It didn't change anything.

    I'm convinced now more than ever that allowing his family to stay apart of her life was the best decision I ever made. It validated her importance in that family. I watch her face light up when she is invited to her cousins' birthday parties or sleepovers at Grandma Tracy's, and it makes me melt. She uses my phone and my facebook to send her grandma messages that tell Grandma how much she loves her. She scopes out church on Sunday mornings to find her grandma every single Sunday in hopes that it means this Sunday is a Grandma and Jaedyn day. Some people may find it weird that our family sits with my ex-fiance's mother in church, but for us this is normal and healthy and good. It reminds her that she's special, and that as unorthodox or non traditional as we may be, she is freaking loved. How can that ever be a bad thing?

     The relationship that has been formed between Jaedyn and Dan is one that only God could have built. You would NEVER know that she wasn't biologically his child. They are two peas in a pod. They both anticipate their day...the day when Jaedyn officially became a Wolfswinkel,  every.single.year. March 5 is a day they spend months planning and hours talking about.. Throughout the year, I'll frequently hear both of them say, "We need to keep this one in mind for our day."

      As much as life would have been easier had Jaedyn been "ours" from day one, the teachable moments and joy and self confidence boosters and happiness that having this other family stay connected to her life has brought upon her (and me) is worth so much more than I ever could have possibly imagined.
    If you would have told me 10 years ago that this is what my life would look like, I'd never have believed you. The journey has been amazing and inspiring. It reminds me that God is in control. It doesn't come without its frustrations or challenges, but I go to bed each night knowing that the decisions I've made for her and myself and our family have been the right ones.

    So if you are in this situation, and I know lots of you are where I am or where I've been at some point on this journey, don't give up hope. Know that you are not screwing up your children. Your motherly instincts are almost always, 99% of the times perfectly spot on. Whether they are telling you to stay or go, do what makes you happy or what is best for your littles, and listen to it. Follow that path. It's not easy...but I promise you IT'S WORTH IT!
 The Voice
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long
"I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you---just listen to
The voice that speaks inside

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