Sunday, November 20, 2016

National Adoption Day Speech!

This past weekend I had the honor of kicking off National Adoption Day at our local courthouse. DHS workers, foster and adoptive families, support workers, courthouse employees, the Mayor and a 150 or so other people all stood together to celebrate the adoption of 16 children from our community. What an honor it was, to share our story with them. It was truly a magical day. Here is the speech I shared, my oldest also shared from her perspective, her story will come tomorrow!

It was a Friday two and a half years ago, I woke up to a full house I now shared with three little strangers. I was given the address of where my crew had called home for less than 30 days, met at the door and handed trash bags of belongings. This is where our story begins, the story of us.

If I could sum up these last several years I would equate it to those little figures, when placed in water they grow. The promise is you can have an insta-whatever you need, friend, boyfriend, Jesus. I was an insta-mom, overnight drowning, growing rapidly at times leaving me slightly disproportionate. Occasionally I would come up for air and realize I was changing.

My story of becoming a mom is different from most, I was single and 27 when the tug of foster care came. From a very young age my heart was stirred for adoption, knowing I would build my family with it someday. I loved hearing stories of families being built not by blood but love. My “plan” was get married, have children of my own and round out the family nicely with adoption, life didn’t unfold that way.

There are moments in life I refer to as touch points, those moments when looking back we realize radically changed the course of our life. Foster care is one of my touch points. It is as if I walked through a door into a room I knew existed, but upon entering I realize I had underestimated the impact those steps would have. The world around me changed and my perspective shifted. I knew I had to do something about it, I simply can not unsee the need. I can not turn away from the eyes of those who need love, stability and safety more than ever.

January 2014, I jumped in with both feet, figuring it out as I went along owning the phrase, “fake it until you make it.” In June 2014, as the ink was drying on my foster care license, I became a mom of three, just like that. My quiet, single life was turned upside down. Unknowingly, life circumstances had led me to my kids.

Early on in my journey, adoption wasn’t the plan. I honestly, didn’t believe I could do it. I didn’t believe I was the best option for my crew. I was wrong, the cool thing with adoption is it is lives, merging together in a completely intentional way. There is a choice with adoption, a choice to commit, choose and change forever.

Top ten ways my life has been changed by adoption:
10- No more privacy. I always wondered why my mom would lock the bathroom door and scream I just want 2 minutes alone. I am convinced kids have very selective super hearing, they hear the candy wrappers crinkle and the bathroom door close.

9- Nights out with friends have evolved into movie nights in blanket forts. I adore our Friday ritual of pizza and movies.

8- My cute red Focus was traded in for a light blue Town and Country, we affectionately named Elsa. That step took my final carefree single woman card, I clutched the card, slightly hesitant to give it up. Now, I will forever and always own a van, for the sheer fact that my children aren’t able to touch each other while we drive.

7-I no longer communicate using complete thoughts or sentences. Parent brain is a thing, I think our brains click on and the hyperproductivity causes speech delay and confusion.

6-I have learned there is no such thing as a lost cause. I have seen bonds built after 9 months of intense therapy. I have seen babies change in a matter of weeks. I have seen fears fade into nothing. There is always hope for healing.

5-Every thing in my home is suddenly sticky and/or wet. I would say at least 80% of my sentences start with the phrase, “why is this…”

4-I have fought hard to be a voice for those who have been silenced. I have learned to petition for my children. To advocate for foster care. To allow fears to be shared and stories to be heard.

3-I hear myself say all of the things, I swore I never would. We all have those phrases we pledged never to say, I say them all and some creative ones I have made up. I love teaching my children irony by shouting, “don’t scream at your sister.”

2-My interior design style is a mix of chic meets montessori preschool classroom with a bit of glitter for flair. I have learned to create a space that encourages learning but also doesn’t scream mom. This past week, we had a craft gone bad and ¼ cup of glitter was spilled on our carpet. As we all know glitter spreads like wildfire, so these days our home has a bit more shimmer.

1-I have seen first hand the joy of intentional love building a family. Bringing my children into the future plans for our family has been beautiful. We continue to open our home to foster care, however now we are doing it together. It has been a joy watching my children welcome in new little ones, they do so with such warmth, love and grace. I am praying that I raise a few kids who are a little more kind, loving and open because of foster care. That they would be secure in their future while always aware of their past. Reminding them to always remember everyone has a story.

We endured two long years of foster care, the ebb and flow, changes, questions, fears, tears, visits and court hearings. Those years changed us, we fought the hard battle and in hindsight didn’t realize just how tired we were from fighting until adoption became a reality. March of this year, the court order finally read termination, the fight was over. The bittersweet reality that the rights of two parents are severed and given to me, the line that once read birth mom’s name, was replaced with mine. That was the moment we all let out a sigh of relief, the moment we knew that nothing would ever separate us.

On May 12, we stood before the judge and a room full of our loved ones declaring forever to be a family. The security of permanency, allowed us to be able to work through deeper levels of hurt. Once we settled into our new names and the fact that we were forever a family new waves of behaviors started to show. People asked me on adoption day if it felt different, at first I said it didn’t. I loved them whole heartedly from day one. We were no doubt a family those two years, as I reflected I realized that I did in fact feel different. There was a freedom in my soul, I no longer had to fear getting “the call” that they were leaving.

Our story has been messy, while I have the honor of being the forever mama of my crew of three, we have a fourth, a bio baby sister. Who’s story is still unfolding, she has come and gone twice in our home, we have deeply grieved as a family. The call for her second return to birth mom came the exact same day our adoption was finalized. In the midst of great celebration came the paradox of this system. The story is still unfolding and while I will always fight for sobriety in our birth parents I must say, my heart longs for our little girl. 

Each one of you in this room has an unique experience. The timelines, stories and ways are different but the result the same. We get them, we get to kiss the owies, hold their hands, watch them grow and learn. We will cherish the journey of healing, we will watch them rise above and use their stories as fuel for greatness. We get to be there, and that is hands down the greatest gift of all.

I asked the kids to define the word adoption: 

Kennedy (age 5):you get to go somewhere special

Daniel (age 7):where you get love

Charlotte (age 9):where families join together

Adoption is intentional love pouring out, empowering others, granting them a new identity. There is an element of tragedy behind every adoption story, in order for adoption to take place it means a birth parent can’t or won’t take care of their child. Adoption steps in and fills the void, becoming the redemption plan. Adoption is the redemption of brokenness, neglect, addiction and abuse.

My heart still flutters when they call me mom, having the “official” title has been so freeing. Seeing their names, attached to mine is a long desired win. What an honor it has been to have the privilege of being their mom I feel lucky, like I undeservedly won this jackpot.

“Fluid adoption” is common in Polynesian culture, rarely are ties to the biological family severed. In Arab cultures, if a child is adopted, he or she traditionally does not become a “son” or “daughter”, but rather a ward of the caretakers. In Jamaica the act of adoption is symbolized by an individual giving a child their jacket. Which is them saying they are covering and welcoming the child into their heritage.

Not only are we giving our children a future. When we adopt them, we also intertwine them into our family name, in doing so they receive our heritage. Trading their lineage for ours, giving them a whole new bloodline. This blood does not course through their veins but it rewrites their story. We cover them with our jackets claiming them as a part of us, we must always respect and honor where they have come from.

In our home we talk about the past, we talk about our birth parents, we keep an open dialogue in our home. We allow space for birth parents to be a part of daily conversations as we talk about the past. We pray for our birth parents. While I am open for contact someday, we have made the decision that for now they need to settle, heal, and grow. I have told my kids, that for now I want them to focus on healing and growing and that I would keep in contact with birth mom.

I adore our story, I love that we got to grow into a family, one day at a time. I love that my crew was so patient with me as I grew into a mom. I love that I got to know them, watch them heal and blossom. I love that together we picked their new names, breaking the bondage of their past and giving them a vision for their future.

Jody Landers beautifully sums up the journey with this quote, “A child born to another woman calls me mommy, the magnitude of that tragedy and depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” What a beautiful privilege it is to be their parent.
Each of you in this room has been impacted by adoption. You are here this morning to celebrate, lives being united forever. Today is the first page of the rest of the story. The story that once was filled with sorrow and grief is now a story of hope.

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