Monday, July 27, 2015

Labor Pains


Two days ago, I swayed on my parents' hammock in a stolen, quiet hour, devouring Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren. I was sucked into her story, immersed in her pain, gulping it down like it was the only air left in the room. If she'd been within my reach, I would have sobbed into her hair. I'd have kissed her on both cheeks and the forehead. Yes. This. You wrote my story, and now there's no other option than for you to move into the vacant room in the basement. Don'teverleaveme.

Ten hours later, I sat with my mom in the E.R. while she suffered through a few tests (she's fine!) Because she's a trooper and one of the nicest people I know, she joked with the nurses and tried to put them at ease. When asked about her pain level she said, "Well, I've had kids. So this is a 7."

For a split second, I thought she was talking about the pain of a torn-apart heart.

I can't talk to you about contractions, epidurals, or mastitis. Oh, but I know a thing or two about bearing children. I could pen an anthology about all the ways a heart can break. If you don't have time for that, I could show you the flattened gaze of a toddler in his passport photo, and you'd see a glimpse of everything. Some say my kids were too young to understand, but those same people run to their infants' cries and spend their lives making the world safe and cozy. It's what we do. If you think my kids don't remember, I'd ask you to imagine your own without you. Just for a second, allow yourself to go there. Does it hurt? Do they feel it?

When I speak, I can't get two sentences into my son's adoption day without turning my back to the audience to compose myself.

It was one of the most beautiful days of my life.
It was hands-down the most painful.

And I'm just the mom.

Back when I doodled hearts on my notebook, back when I met a boy with clear, blue eyes, back when I walked the aisle a full head taller than my dad in a too-short dress, I never pictured this sort of motherhood, constantly leveraging the miracle against the loss.

This is adoption, the bearing of a shape-shifting weight. It's holding something precious in your hands but getting lost sometimes in the fallout. Adoption is the gas-slick rainbows of my childhood - as magical as the regular kind, but far more complex, and with an edge.

Last night was a rough one.

There are hard parenting days, and then there are hard adoption days. Those are the ones that level me. A decade into this gig, I haven't progressed beyond curling up in bed and sobbing so hard I choke.

I was not built to be rejected so persistently by someone who loves me so much.
(Or was I?)

I was not cut out for this job.
(Or am I?)

People get uppity when someone implies that adoption is harder than garden-variety parenting. It's all hard. It's all the hardest job we'll ever do. I get it. Honestly, I have no built-in control group. My kids are all over the map and one feels almost no loss at all (yet?) I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. I'm not qualified to weigh in when it comes to comparing, and there's really no point.

But I'll do it anyway.

When hormones and dysregulations and sibling rivalry and boring ol' disobedience end with someone sobbing because they miss their birth mom or they're mad we didn't teach them Korean or they feel unlovable at their core, "hard" veers off the cliff and we all crash and burn.

When your kid won't stop lashing out and it's turning your home into a war zone but for the life of you, you don't know what else to try, you don't know how to love everyone right, you would do anything/have tried everything/just want to make it stop, the air can rattle with the reverb of anxiety and fear.

When you're lonely, but you're terrified of being judged by people who haven't walked the same ground, well, you do what it takes. You hoist yourself up and you hug those kids harder. You make new friends, because your family is so worth it. If you can't understand us, you don't deserve to. (That's what you say to yourself on the worst days.)

I am tired of spit-shining my kids' loss.
I'm sick to death of pulling my sleeves down over my contact burns.

We have so many good days. We're working now, not nearly as broken as we used to be.
But we are entitled to these days, too. We've earned the right to sob our guts out until our hair clings damp against our foreheads and our eyes are rubbed raw.

I would give my right hand to erase their hurts, but I know the scars aren't wasted. I'm not confident in my ability to say the right thing or explain it perfectly to my kids when I can't wrap my own head around it, but I do know this: 1) I will love you every single second of your life, no matter what. 2) I will never give up on you. 3) You can say whatever you're feeling and you won't be in trouble. Tell me the truth. Tell me.

We were made for each other, not by a God who inflicts pain, but by a God who is famous for the way he can make a solid Plan B almost feel like it was always meant to be.

I believe childbirth is the most intense pain a woman experiences. I don't have to have felt it myself to trust it's true. If there's someone in your life who has adopted, you can offer them the same. Be their safe place. Get loud about the ways you see them. Cheer them on. Root for their kids. Do they parent in strange ways? I sure hope so. Do some of their kids have massive feelings that spill out in some pretty frustrating and annoying ways? I'm sure of it. Love them anyway. Love them just the same as if they were quiet and tidy. Let them be sad with you. Celebrate success. Believe what they tell you.

Morning came, just like it always does. Today is for eating French toast with puffy eyes and forgiving each other for the thousandth time. We'll pray for grace we can't manufacture on our own, and we will find it somewhere in that asphalt swirl, where the light catches a hard place and makes it gleam.


*Amazon link

53 comments:

  1. Shannan, this was beautiful. I work in foster care and adoption and you put into words what I know so many families are feeling but are afraid to say. Thank you.

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    1. I know that fear! I felt a bit of it myself before this published this a.m. I'm hoping that the more we all get real, the less scary it will be. :)

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  2. Wow...I felt it all.......I cry with you and I applaud you. Kids can be the most loving, wonderful, mean little tyrants in the world...:) Being a Mom is like being in a war. Some days are victories and others you just throw up the white flag and become a casualty of war. There is no doubt that you and your husband are great parents and no matter how bad the day is, or what the kids say and feel, your love has seeped into their marrow and is mending hearts and covering wounds. God bless you all.

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    1. Thank you so much for making me laugh and carrying my burdens with me.

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  3. This. This is why I keep coming back to your blog. You get it. I'm a foster mom on our 3rd placement & circumstances look like 2 of these kids will end up calling us their forever home. This is hard stuff. We have friends and family who don't get it, don't get us anymore because we can't parent the way they parent. Heck we can't even get our kids' hair cut because their mom won't give permission & county works slowly & we need a judge to give us permission. If it takes a judge to say it's ok for us to cut little guy's bangs so he can see why would anything else be easy? On hard days I wonder why I get to be punished for being infertile for the rest of my life. On good days I know that these kids are pieces of my heart and all of the pain of infertility, all of the pain of their anger & hurt directed at me instead of their biological mom is nothing compared to the feeling of knowing we are creating something good and beautiful in their lives.

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    1. This: " If it takes a judge to say it's ok for us to cut little guy's bangs so he can see why would anything else be easy?"
      Praying for loads of grace and caffeine for you, today. Carry on, sister!

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  4. Yes. It's all hard. This is hard. And just when we thought, hey, we passed that landmark and we're never going back, we find in great dismay that we've somehow circled back to it. The new pain caused by old scars makes new scars, and some days I can barely recognize myself underneath them all. The great joy is that new pain always brings a new redemption, and I'm so thankful it covers our whole broken family, scars and all.

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    1. This is beautiful. Thank you.

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    2. "some days I can barely recognize myself underneath them all" Yes, yes, yes. So much love to you.

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  5. Your writing punches me in the gut. Every time. You teach me.

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  6. Sometimes it is just so hard and you let yourself wonder if your biological kids would have been different. You wonder what it would be like to be connected in that way, the way you'll never know, to look into eyes that mirror your own, to see a part of you in those who call you mom and then you remember, so do they. And you call on grace to get you through the ugly words and lost feelings and you remember Who knows the answers to the whys of your life and who promises us we win in the end...love will win. So you eat the French toast with the puffy eyes and you see the day break and the smile cracks and you thank God for giving you the privilege of being a part of His redemptive plan and you pray to be the instrument of His love that he desires you to be. And we march on Shannan, we march on.

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    1. Thank you so, Patty. Love WILL win! It keeps winning and never stops.

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  7. This post resonated so deeply with me. Adoption/foster care is hands down the hardest, yet most beautiful thing we've done. I am wrecked nearly every day. We will keep fighting with that never giving up kind of love.

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  8. Because HIS WORDS are better than mine: Lamentations 3:22-24...especially 24! Sending a big virtual hug your way!!!

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  9. So glad you wrote and shared this. It's beauty and relief- just shared it with a few dear families. My sisters came to my family through adoption, so I don't bear the weight of mothering, but I do bear witness to the suffering and the joy. Holding you in my prayers- prayers for this right now minute, and the future. Each life stage brings its own set of processing and grieving and reconciliation and redemptions. Xo

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  10. Speaking for myself - labor pains are soon forgotten - I remember that is was bad, I remember what dilirium felt like.
    Kudos to those who willingly embrace the hardship you face. You are cut out for it. There's a course that I recently took called Mental Health First Aid and it is a game changer for self and others. Your children have been traumatized - I'd recommend a trauma specialist to help - trauma leaves physiological changes in the brain, but the good news is they can be healed. Best wishes!

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  11. Oh girl, just wow! I cannot wait to share this post with my adoption support group, it is so important to have those people in our lives who get us, who understand, who don't judge, but just come along beside you in the hard. Love you.

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  12. Oh girl, just wow! I cannot wait to share this post with my adoption support group, it is so important to have those people in our lives who get us, who understand, who don't judge, but just come along beside you in the hard. Love you.

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  13. This. Its seriously a battle cry written in words. Thank you Shannon.

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  14. You put my heart in words and I needed that so desperately today. Thank you. Just, Thank you. Before I adopted I prepared myself for the 14 year old who would yell out in a moment of anger that I couldn't tell her what to do because I'm not her "real" mom. What I couldn't have begun to imagine was the day my 5 year old, strapped into her booster seat in the back seat, would softly whisper I miss my mom. I want to see her. I wish I was still a baby so I could be in her tummy. I didn't know what it would be like to cry and grieve because my littles experienced deeper pain and loss before they were out of diapers than I have as a married, adult woman, with 5 children.
    I'm thankful for the reminder that the Lord will use this. I pray that He will call these children to be His. That they will find the peace in Him that I will never be able to offer. That they will not shut down to the sufferings of others, but that their heartache will cause them to love deeply and with immense compassion. And that, the Lord in His grace, will give us the strength and wisdom to love them well. Even when this parenting gig requires more of me than I think I actually have to offer.

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  15. You put my heart in words and I needed that so desperately today. Thank you. Just, Thank you. Before I adopted I prepared myself for the 14 year old who would yell out in a moment of anger that I couldn't tell her what to do because I'm not her "real" mom. What I couldn't have begun to imagine was the day my 5 year old, strapped into her booster seat in the back seat, would softly whisper I miss my mom. I want to see her. I wish I was still a baby so I could be in her tummy. I didn't know what it would be like to cry and grieve because my littles experienced deeper pain and loss before they were out of diapers than I have as a married, adult woman, with 5 children.
    I'm thankful for the reminder that the Lord will use this. I pray that He will call these children to be His. That they will find the peace in Him that I will never be able to offer. That they will not shut down to the sufferings of others, but that their heartache will cause them to love deeply and with immense compassion. And that, the Lord in His grace, will give us the strength and wisdom to love them well. Even when this parenting gig requires more of me than I think I actually have to offer.

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  16. This straight up slapped me: I was not built to be rejected so persistently by someone who loves me so much.

    That's us and God, too, and man I'm crap to him someone's but like you, he's hanging there with me, loving me still. Thank you for that reminder.

    I'm sorry it's hard right now. I know it probably feels like you're not doing anything right but I know you are. I watch you. I see you. You are the mom I want to be, too.

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    1. You're making me cry over here... WHAT ON EARTH would I do without you, K?

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  17. thank you for your honesty and realness, my step-mom heart nodded right along with your words. I'm praying for you guys and your precious littles-with-real-big-hurts.

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  18. dang you woman.you just know how to put it into words. sometimes if i get told one more time that her birth mom would never do that or she just wants her or get screamed at that i am not her mom...even though i am the only mom that has ever been there...well you know. somedays it just gets to you more than others.

    thank you for saying it out loud in a group setting. i really really really needed to hear someone else say it and know it isn't just me.

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  19. I dont have many words for this right now, because it's been 4.5 years and we're still hurting so bad. I just finished that book too and probably cried on more pages than I didn't. Yes, it was my story too, but we haven't quite found that steady place yet; not the one that she and you have. And I admit to jealousy, but I also admit to hope, because more than anything what I hear is "you are not alone".

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  20. I really really hope I get to hug you some day. ❤️

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  21. Did you somehow know how very much I needed this right now to help explain all pf the changes that aren't easily understood? Well, if not, God sure did. Thank you!

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  22. I am the 56 year old adopted daughter of a marriage gone very wrong, subsequently two biological children born to my father, suffered the loss of my brother 3 months ago (also adopted), and I have NEVER felt more alone and like I don't belong anywhere…I'm the leftover kid - rejected in a million different ways by someone who claims to love me, but is never quite there.
    Shannan- you and Cory have taken on a monumental and important job- I am praying for and rooting for you- and so is God!!

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  23. I am an adoptive Mom and a Mom who got to bear a child through egg donation. I don't belittle labour pains at all but they were so much easier to bear than the heart pains of adoption. I loved labour, every moment, every bit of physical pain. People either laugh at me or resent me for saying that. But the reason the pain was was bearable was that the end there was a child with no preconception of pain/ rejection. I watched her grow within me and cherished and nurtured her. Today she is confident and secure.
    My son was borne in a womb with stress and fear. He spent his first weeks largely alone and that has marked him. The twists and turns of adoption have brought so much heart pain for us all. I would do it again and again to be his Mom. He is worth it and I will fight for him to the end, there's no doubt. But the pain of labour and adoption are different in my experience and labour was far easier for me xox

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  24. This might not come across as intended, but here goes. I have experienced so much described here and in the comments. I am one of 12 children conceived (9 of us survived) and "nurtured" in a womb of trauma, stress and fear. I am the the product of divorce and lack of closure and processing. I am the unwilling adopted daughter of my stepdad. I am sister to several who disowned my mother for it. I am the one who as a teenager turned the same bitterness for both functional parents inward and then toward the biological father I was missing so deeply I couldn't receive any real love. I am the adult whose love life has been few and traumatic, with one unfaithful husband, and one amazing fiance who left without closure after my ptsd I've now caught glimpses of became too much for him to handle. I am the biological mother of only one, one beautiful, traumatized, aggressive, angry preteen, product of stressful fearful womb and home, divorce, sudden unexplained loss of a best friend with my own broken engagement, father's remarriage, extremely different parenting in each home.

    I can't say I can fully understand as everyone has a different experience, but I feel as so many have said here like finally someone has put into words the war that is my everyday with the beautiful girl I fight with and for everyday. And this is my everyday, puffy eyed loathing my inability to love effectively the one my heart longs soooo deeply to help feel the heaven I've only barely tasted or just relieve some of the hell I've lived in long enough to recognize she's consistently enduring.
    The one thing we've lost that I desperately frantically need is hope. Not the false pretense that it'll be ok if we just do this or that, I live there and its failure and pain and hatred and doors slammed in faces and lashing out at me physically, regardless of the reverently trying whatever I can. The hope I used to have palpably when rejection by God was an impossibility, not a years-long experience. I know and I've heard it all, that's not God...But until the unbelief settles deep in and in spite of all efforts by you and others it can't be pried, prayed, or pretended off, you don't know real hell.

    Anyway, I wanted to say thank you! So much. And I'm begging God for each of you mom's who've persevered regardless of the seeming lack of reward or victory for the children sake. You are an amazing picture of real LOVE. If you've got moments of sanity and hope, breathe them in deeply, hold on to them tightly. Your beautiful hearts make mine happy, just knowing there are others who've walked this lonely road and love fiercely too.

    I believe the Maker didn't create us for this kind of brokenness. But your devotion and sacrifice....This is how Love wins!

    Live is so short, and precious. Here's hoping. Again.

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  25. This might not come across as intended, but here goes. I have experienced so much described here and in the comments. I am one of 12 children conceived (9 of us survived) and "nurtured" in a womb of trauma, stress and fear. I am the the product of divorce and lack of closure and processing. I am the unwilling adopted daughter of my stepdad. I am sister to several who disowned my mother for it. I am the one who as a teenager turned the same bitterness for both functional parents inward and then toward the biological father I was missing so deeply I couldn't receive any real love. I am the adult whose love life has been few and traumatic, with one unfaithful husband, and one amazing fiance who left without closure after my ptsd I've now caught glimpses of became too much for him to handle. I am the biological mother of only one, one beautiful, traumatized, aggressive, angry preteen, product of stressful fearful womb and home, divorce, sudden unexplained loss of a best friend with my own broken engagement, father's remarriage, extremely different parenting in each home.

    I can't say I can fully understand as everyone has a different experience, but I feel as so many have said here like finally someone has put into words the war that is my everyday with the beautiful girl I fight with and for everyday. And this is my everyday, puffy eyed loathing my inability to love effectively the one my heart longs soooo deeply to help feel the heaven I've only barely tasted or just relieve some of the hell I've lived in long enough to recognize she's consistently enduring.
    The one thing we've lost that I desperately frantically need is hope. Not the false pretense that it'll be ok if we just do this or that, I live there and its failure and pain and hatred and doors slammed in faces and lashing out at me physically, regardless of the reverently trying whatever I can. The hope I used to have palpably when rejection by God was an impossibility, not a years-long experience. I know and I've heard it all, that's not God...But until the unbelief settles deep in and in spite of all efforts by you and others it can't be pried, prayed, or pretended off, you don't know real hell.

    Anyway, I wanted to say thank you! So much. And I'm begging God for each of you mom's who've persevered regardless of the seeming lack of reward or victory for the children sake. You are an amazing picture of real LOVE. If you've got moments of sanity and hope, breathe them in deeply, hold on to them tightly. Your beautiful hearts make mine happy, just knowing there are others who've walked this lonely road and love fiercely too.

    I believe the Maker didn't create us for this kind of brokenness. But your devotion and sacrifice....This is how Love wins!

    Live is so short, and precious. Here's hoping. Again.

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  26. This was so amazing. Thanks for the honesty. And suggestions to support other families.

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  27. This is what I tell myself. : - )

    Romans 8:28

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

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  28. I gave birth to three children. That pain is nothing compared to the numerous kinds of heart pain that follows. And what would we be without it? That's the rub.

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    1. What I meant to add was, my father was adopted. He loved his adopted mother very much. She died when he was nine years old. The pain didn't end with my father. As his children we had the repercussion of growing up with a person that was a bit broken. It was difficult for us because we didn't really understand what the real problem was. We internalized it then resented the stress that we didn't get why was a part of our life. I deeply loved my father. He died when I was 20. I feel bad that he had to deal with that kind of loneliness. We were kids, we just knew his love was very demanding and could be suffocating. It makes me resentful when people make comments that kids bounce back. Physically they do but the worst scars are the ones you can't see. It kind of goes on and on. Peace

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  29. i've labored and birthed 4 kids. and adopted 2 at the ages of 4 and 1. the pain and brokenness that entered our family the day we brought them home has, at times, felt like it will break us. actually, it has broken pieces of us..some of the pieces need to be broken off, some we've allowed to be broken in our sin. we will never be the same. none of us. i would be lying if i didn't admit to moments of wishing it away. but MOST of the time we press into each other's brokenness. and we marvel at watching how God has used His story in our family for His glory...the beautiful and the ugly.

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    1. I feel every word of this. With you, sister. We can do hard things. :)

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    2. I feel every word of this. With you, sister. We can do hard things. :)

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  30. Your honesty takes my breath away. The role you have as adoptive parents is holy ground work. Of course, all parenting is hard but you are LOVE in the flesh to these precious children of yours... By CHOICE! We love because He first loved us. Amen!

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  31. "I was not built to be rejected so persistently by someone who loves me so much.
    (Or was I?)"

    Struggling this summer with the same issues with a sweet girl from India who hurts so much and who is loved so dearly. Beautiful, beautiful words. Thanks for making me feel like we're not alone.

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  32. big ole raw lump in my throat.
    "the scars are not wasted."
    amen.

    i love this. i love your heart. i love your family.
    keep on. every day. you're doing SO GOOD. {really, you are!}

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  33. oh, and this. i read it a while back and kinda forgot..
    then came upon it again yesterday.
    reminded me of this whole "child bearing" of parenting and how God bears us -

    "You, who have been upheld by Me from birth,
    Who have been carried from the womb:
    Even to your old age, I am He,
    And even to gray hairs, I will carry you!
    I have made, and I will bear:
    Even I will carry, and will deliver you." isa.46:3,4

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  34. Shan, I know we can and will do this according to the plan God made. I am amazed at the wonderful cheering section He has given you. These wonderful ladies are in the front row seats giving encouragement and support every step of the way. I am so blessed by their comments and courage to share their own experiences. I am praying for them too. We are all in this together. And we can DO this.

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  35. Jillian may need to move into your basement, but you need to move into mine! And don't ever leave me!! Oh your piece about friends, and finding new ones-the conversation I had with my husband yesterday. Hello there, soul sister. So nice to meet you.

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  36. THIS. I get this---->When your kid won't stop lashing out and it's turning your home into a war zone but for the life of you, you don't know what else to try, you don't know how to love everyone right, you would do anything/have tried everything/just want to make it stop, the air can rattle with the reverb of anxiety and fear.

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  37. Crying with these words you wrote, "When your kid won't stop lashing out and it's turning your home into a war zone but for the life of you, you don't know what else to try, you don't know how to love everyone right, you would do anything/have tried everything/just want to make it stop, the air can rattle with the reverb of anxiety and fear.
    When you're lonely, but you're terrified of being judged by people who haven't walked the same ground, well, you do what it takes. You hoist yourself up and you hug those kids harder. You make new friends, because your family is so worth it. If you can't understand us, you don't deserve to. (That's what you say to yourself on the worst days.)"

    I'm not an adoptive mama (yet). but I'm a special needs mama and those two paragraphs helped me remember there are people who get the struggles I have - even if they are not the same exact ones.

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  38. Thank you for speaking this truth. Our family was changed right down to the core with the adoption of our daughter almost 5 years ago. The grief and the loss have shaken and changed us. It is the hardest most beautiful journey and the words are difficult to come by. Thank you for finding them and sharing with us all.

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  39. Wow-thank you for these beautiful God-given words! Wow and wow! Thank you!

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  40. Wow-thank you for these beautiful God-given words! Wow and wow! Thank you!

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