Saturday, August 18, 2012

Taking a Leap of Faith

Life has a funny way of taking you down paths you never envisioned. As a young girl and teenager, I certainly never imagined that I would have the experiences I have had or face the numerous obstacles that I have faced. I celebrated my 36th birthday about a month and a half ago, and I can honestly say that if someone had told me years ago that my life would have taken the twists and turns that it has taken, I would have had trouble believing it. After all, everything was supposed to unfold according to my perfect plan!

I knew that I wanted to be a Mommy even from a very young age. I always had a doll of some sort. I even had one that wet herself and one that cried. My poor mother hated the latter. I've heard the story from both my brothers, as well as close family friends, about the time that that doll cried incessantly in the middle of the night. She had a pacifier and apparently it fell out while I was sleeping with the doll clutched in my arms. My mother searched all over my room but wasn't able to find it anywhere. Finally, she realized that all she had to do to make it stop was take the batteries out! Needless to say, I didn't get any more dolls that cried after that :) I did have quite a collection of Cabbage Patch dolls though. I loved playing house and couldn't wait to grow up and be a wife and mommy. While I have most certainly accomplished that goal, it wasn't easy.

The obstacles Shane and I faced trying to conceive, followed by my high risk pregnancy, the extreme premature birth of our twins, and the subsequent death of Madelynn, as well as my recent miscarriage have all taken their toll. I can say with utmost certainty that I was not prepared for ANY of it but at the same time all of those experiences have made me who I am today. As much as I miss her and ache to hold her in my arms, I wouldn't trade the three months that we had with Maddie for anything. Losing her has caused both Shane and I to appreciate the time we have with Mason that much more. I cherish each day that I spend with him and look forward to watching him grow, although I must admit I'm having some growing pains at the moment even if he isn't!! He started Kindergarten this past week and it was very hard for me to let go, and not just because he's growing up so fast. I am a former teacher myself and it's just so strange being the parent and not the teacher.

I never really saw myself as the stay-at-home mommy type. I grew up watching my single mother work very hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. She encouraged me to go to college and make a career for myself. In all honesty, encouraged might not be the appropriate word. To say that she expected me to go to college would be more accurate. I loved learning and was very determined to do well in school. Once I graduated, I couldn't wait to start teaching. It took about 6 months to get a teaching job but I absolutely LOVED it.

Despite the fact that a teacher's salary is quite paltry, the intrinsic rewards are bountiful. I relished in the moments when my students finally grasped a concept after struggling at the outset. I used to liken it to seeing a light bulb turn on because their faces would light up with pride. It was also extremely rewarding to be an integral part in making them life long readers. I made it a point to read to my students on a daily basis and I loved doing my best to make the stories come alive for them. I had several colleagues and parents tell me that it was a sight to see me reading to my class because my students were mesmerized. I truly believe that teaching, like so many other professions, is a calling and I couldn't help but answer the call. I gave up my career in heartbeat though when Mason came home from the hospital. He needed me, and so I became a stay-at-home mommy.

Now that Mason is in school full-time, he doesn't need me as much any more. I had always planned to go back to the classroom when he started school but now that that time has arrived, I'm not quite ready. I wound up enjoying being a mommy so much that I let my education, and subsequently my teaching license, fall by the wayside. My license expired about 2.5 years ago, and in order to get it renewed and re-enter the classroom I will have to jump through hoops and get my Master's degree. While I am definitely not afraid of a little hard work, I'm not really prepared to go back to school just yet. I tend to become quite engrossed in my studies and I don't want my pursuit of higher learning to take over my life. Shane isn't quite sure he wants me to re-enter the teaching field either because he knows how dedicated I am and he doesn't want to lose his wife or for Mason to lose his mommy! I still haven't decided for sure yet whether or not I'm going to go back to teaching. I still feel the call but I also feel strongly that we are meant to add another member to our family although I'm still not sure how that is supposed to happen.

At first I was convinced that IVF was the path we were meant to take in our quest to parent a second child. I was ecstatic to be able to welcome a baby early next year. While I was right about us pursing fertility treatments again, I now know it was for a different reason than what I originally thought. As painful and unforgettable as my miscarriage has been, I strongly believe that it happened for a reason. We needed to close a chapter in our lives and now we have done so. Our snow babies are no longer in limbo. We gave them a chance at life but God decided that their place was with Him and their big sister in heaven. I was then convinced that we were meant to add to our family through adoption. Shane and I have both wondered for years now if God had been steering us in that direction but we had been ignoring him. Once again, I was wrong in my assumption.

We've contacted two separate adoption agencies and while the initial contact was positive, we've reached a dead end with both. One agency basically discriminates against couples who don't practice their specific faith. The other agency originally told us to contact them this month to sign up for an information meeting; however, when I contacted them early this week I was informed that they are no longer accepting new couples into their program. Apparently, they have seen a national decline in adoptions and they don't want to further limit the chances of the couples already in their program. While I understand their logic, it would have been nice to know this 3 months ago when I first contacted them. I am a firm believer that God guides us towards the paths we are meant to take in life. Given the fact that roadblocks keep popping up, we are obviously not meant to adopt, at least not right now or through an agency. I'm starting to think that God has another plan for us, one that we have been extremely resistant to until now.

Shane and I have discussed foster care multiple times over the years but we always felt that it wasn't the right fit for us. During the 7 years that we struggled to conceive we just couldn't fathom the possibility of welcoming a child into our home only to have him/her returned to his/her biological parents. We were already hurting with our failed attempts to get pregnant, and the thought of finally bringing a child home only to have him/her taken away again was just too much to bear. We ruled out foster care as a viable option for building our family. We've reconsidered it a few times in the past couple of years, but each time we discuss it we immediately dismiss it again. Our reasoning has changed though; now we have Mason to consider.

Although we know there are many children in foster care who deserve a loving, caring environment to grow up in, we're afraid of bringing a child into our home who has the potential to harm Mason. Some of those precious little ones have been exposed to abuse and he can't really defend himself and, more importantly, he can't communicate well enough to tell us if he is being hurt. In addition to that, we don't know how to explain to Mason that the child who he considered to be his brother or sister now has to go back to his or her biological parents. He has a hard time with change and we don't want turn his world upside down repeatedly. We also don't want to cause him to lose any more siblings. As I said before though, I am a firm believer in God sending us signs. I've had numerous people suggest that we look into foster care and it has made me stop and think.

A very dear friend recently suggested something that neither Shane nor I had considered until now. Children that are older and stronger than Mason and could potentially harm him are not the only ones in the system. It never occurred to us before that we could specify that we can only foster children younger than him. This dear friend also pointed out that Mason has in fact lost two siblings but that we've explained things to him and he seems to understand and accept it. I guess she essentially blew our excuses out of the water!! Shane and I discussed things today and we've decided that we're going to look into foster care. We know there are no guarantees and that we may not ever have the opportunity to adopt any children that we foster. We've learned the hard way though, that there are no guarantees in life and that we have to live in the moment and cherish each and every day we have together as a family. We have more than enough love to spare and there are way too many children out there who have experienced little, if any, love at all. We are both still apprehensive but if foster care is indeed the path that God has chosen for us, he will take care of us.

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