Have you ever woken up and no longer recognized the life you were living? I mentioned in my last post that there were lots of changes in my life. Some changes have been amazing and exciting, others are incredibly frightening and have left me feeling lost and unsure. As a result, my entire life has been turned upside down and though I’ve wanted to blog about it, I’ve been a bit unsure about how much to reveal. I’m still not sure about that. So this is a beginning of a conversation I hope to continue one day. I hope you will have patience with me as a struggle through this.
My trip down the rabbit hole began last December. Life was pretty good. I was working at a church I loved, with people I respected. Little Man and I were progressing well, moving toward adoption, and enjoying our first Christmas season together. I was expecting Baby Amaia to arrive in a few short months, and had been stocking up on the most adorable baby clothes and tiny little diapers.
Then the tornado hit. Three weeks before Christmas I lost my job. The job that I loved and was so passionate about. And although I was beginning to struggle with the 60-80 hour work weeks I was putting in as a single mom, the news caught me completely off-guard. There is a lot about that situation that I would like to share. There’s a lot that I feel needs to be heard and understood. But when you work in the church, things are complicated. A whole-other-universe kind of complicated. I was heartbroken, and angry, and insanely stressed. Because apart from every other thing I was feeling, I was a single mom without a job, and when you work in pastoral ministry you can’t just find another job in town. Continuing to work in my field would mean moving, probably out of state. And moving would mean giving up my son and soon-to-be-born daughter, who were still in the foster care system. And that was not an option. So I went into full-on panic mode.
I applied for close to a thousand jobs. I only got three interviews and no job offers. Then on January 29 I got a call that taught me fear. Baby Amaia’s bio mother was going into labor almost three weeks early and they had discovered multiple problems with the baby. They didn’t expect her to survive the delivery. As the foster parent I had no legal rights, and no way of knowing what was going on. I waited and prayed all night. Sometime the next day I learned she had survived the birth. For two weeks I waited each day for news, hoping for miracles. I was able to go see her in the NICU and was blown away by how tiny she was. She was hooked up to dozens of monitors and IV tubes. Then on February 12 I received the phone call that changed our lives. Baby Amaia would only live a few more hours. They had decided to take her off life support and she would not survive. I rushed to the hospital and held my sweet girl for the first and last time, as I watched the life ebb from her body. There are no words for the pain I felt that day, the pain that still haunts me. I miss her every day.
After months of looking for jobs I decided to become a substitute teacher until I could find full-time work. Subbing in an inner city school district was an eye-opening experience. I have worked professionally with kids for 13 years but I had never experienced anything like that. The challenges were incredible. After a few weeks I was hired to stay at one elementary school where I rotated between all types of classrooms, from pre-k through 6th, from standard, to special needs, to emotionally disturbed. The students pushed me to new levels of frustration and I came home with more than one injury. But they also broke my heart and made me fall in love with them.
In March an unexpected blessing came. Little Man’s biological mother suddenly and unexpectedly signed over her parental rights, naming me as the adoptive parent. This cleared the path for us to begin moving forward with his adoption. It’s a humbling experience sitting in the courtroom as a parent signs away their parental rights to make way for you to become the mother of their child. To sit and listen as the judge asks “Are you sure?” in a hundred different ways. At the end of the day I was free to adopt my Little Man and his case was officially transferred to the adoption department.
Then began months of waiting, bureaucracy, and frustration. It seemed like everything was moving at a snail’s pace. In the meantime I began to explore the possibility of moving back to Illinois to be near my family. Being a single mom is hard without any family around. With no family in New York I was at a bit of a disadvantage. I’d always had a great network of friends and church members who served as my support system, but when I lost my job I lost about 95% of those people. I had not only lost my job, I had lost my church and most of my friends. Since I’d been exploring the possibility of going back to school and getting a second masters in teaching, school counseling, or speech therapy, having family around would be really nice. Now that I was looking at adoption, moving to be closer to family was a possibility.
Finally, just a few short weeks ago, we finalized our adoption! After 588 days in foster care, Little Man became part of his Forever Family! I can now officially introduce you to Austin!
After a year and a half, I can finally show you my adorable Little Man’s face! Officially becoming a family is definitely the highlight of my year, and the best thing that has ever happened to me. It makes all the struggles and pain of the past year worthwhile. I am so blessed to call him mine, and so thankful God brought him into my life.
Austin’s adoption day was August 26. I had decided it was best to move to Illinois, and we had been making plans prior to the adoption. So a mere two days after the adoption we loaded up a truck full of stuff and the next day we pulled out of town. We’ve been in Illinois for a few weeks now and everything has been a huge adjustment. I’ve been living in large cities since I left home at 17. Now I’ve moved to a small town where everyone knows everything about each other. I’m coming to terms with the fact that there are no stand-alone Starbucks (although, thank God, there is one in a grocery store), big shopping areas, or fun attractions. I’m also starting my job search all over again, this time in a small town with far less opportunities. I’m renting a house for the first time and purchasing appliances, dealing with spiders and cockroaches, and discovering the [insert sarcasm] joys of living in a home that’s over a 100 years old. I’m struggling with a school district that has been very frustrating to get registered with and just decreased Austin’s services significantly–from 10 times a week in a 5 hour program to 4 times a week in a 2 1/2 hour program. And on top of all that I’m trying to unpack, make new friends, cook without a stove (going on 2 weeks now), acclimate Austin, and try not to freak out about how I’m going to survive until I find a job.
This is my life now, and I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore. So much of the past year has been overwhelmingly heartbreaking. It has challenged my faith and left me in an emotional blackhole. And yet, there are glimpses of beauty and hope. Becoming a forever family is the best thing in my life. Even painful things, like losing my job, have taught me to trust God and allowed me to see the beauty in spending time as a family–which was something we seriously lacked when I worked in the church. I don’t know where this yellow brick road will lead me. I have no idea what my life will be like five years from now–what I will be doing as my next career, where we’ll be living (because houses with cockroaches and zero storage space are not my cup of tea), or how far Austin will have progressed on his journey. But I have hope. The wonders of Oz await!