Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent Musings

For the first time in what feels like months, I find myself sitting in a quiet house with only the cooing of little Dominic to keep me distracted. His belly is full and he has (finally) decided to sit in his bouncy seat for more than a few seconds. Normally, he prefers I wear him in a baby carrier but now that he is three months old, I am trying to coax him towards a little more independence. He is unsure about being emancipated from the Moby wrap at the moment, and his dark brown eyes are tugging at my heart as he whittles away at my willpower and anxiously waits for me to release him from his shackles.

The rest of the family is off to find a Christmas tree.  Having learned from experience that tree lots do not always provide trees up until Christmas Eve, we’ve tried to be proactive this year and get one while there are still a few trees on the lot to choose from. If we are so lucky, we’ll stash the tree in the garage in a pail of water until just a day or two before Christmas, so as not to interrupt Advent more than necessary.

Yesterday was our coldest day of the season thus far, but today began even colder. My morning run was brutal, at least by southeast Kentucky standards, and I labored to breathe twenty-degree air. Still, I’ll take that over the wildfire smoke that dominated the morning air here during the previous two months. Raking up the leaves around our cedar-siding home took on a sense of urgency this year, and as we watched the images of wildfires being fought by our Tennessee neighbors, we knew that we could be next. But then the rains came just after Thanksgiving, as they always do, and in just a few days, the long fire season that started before summer even ended was over. The air cleared and the leaves fell. Despite what the calendar may have said, autumn was over.

And now we sit next to the woodstove, counting down the days ‘til Christmas. St. Nicholas made his arrival here this week, and left two little boys new shoes and too much chocolate. After-supper prayers before the Advent wreath are becoming our new ritual and by the time Christmas is here, will finally be a habit, only to be put away again until next year.  Perhaps next year, the boys will take as much pleasure out of listening to the prayers they now do blowing out the candles, but I doubt it.

Dominic, of course, is our joy this season. Every moment with him makes our hearts fill with gratitude.  “Waiting for a baby” is the Advent theme that we lived every day for years. Now, to no longer be waiting for another baby, feels like a foreign state-of-mind. On many days, my life feels like it should belong to somebody else.  A mother of three children? Unfathomable ten years ago. And yet, here I am. Being their mother is my greatest testament to what it means to wait. The possible that came from the impossible.

 Yesterday, we heard through the grapevine that a couple we know who has been childless and waiting to adopt for many, many years was unexpectedly placed with a baby through adoption. We met this couple nearly three years ago, and at that time, they’d already been waiting to adopt for well over a year. This past summer, they were matched with a newborn but the birthmother chose to parent and their hearts were again shattered. Now, this year, their Advent is truly about an Arrival. Their lives from this point forward will look nothing like their past. Had they given up on the wait, they would have missed the Arrival.

And I suppose that is the real point of Advent. The Advent season is about waiting and preparing, yes, but more than that, it’s about having faith in the Arrival. That regardless of what shape or form or end our waiting takes, it does always, eventually, inevitably, come to an end. And when it does, regardless of whether our dream has come true or not, we can at least count on the arrival of something new. A new beginning.  An Advent to the rest of our life. And if we have trusted in God’s providence and timing, it very well could be a life worth waiting for, even if it is not the one we thought we'd ever have.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Meet My Mateo (In Honor of St. Matthew's Day)

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, which is a feast day that, until now, I paid little attention to. But today, I have a beautiful reason to remember and celebrate the intercession of this great saint. Because today, my family has our own little Matthew. Dominic Matthew.

Or should I say, Dominic Mateo, to be precise.

His name reflects the two cultures that he is a part of, and two great saints that he will hopefully call upon as he travels through life.

He's three weeks old and the answer to every prayer I said during the past five years that we waited for God to answer.

His arrival to our arms feels like nothing short of another miracle. His birthstory is filled with pain, hope, suffering, and love, and God is at work in every detail. Someday, I will find the time to write it and share it here with you, but not now. Now, we simply are marveling in God's mercy upon our family and giving thanks to St. Matthew on this wonderful feast day that will no longer be overlooked by one very grateful and humbled mother.

This photo was taken after Dominic Mateo's first holy mass,
which was also the day of
the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta.
I love this image of our family surrounded
by the holy family and this great saint.
We are never alone when we call upon the saints!

St. Matthew, pray for us!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Whatever That May Be

It was not long after our youngest son was born that we knew we wanted to try to have another child, which for us, meant trying to adopt again. Suffering through another miscarriage one year later only made us that more certain. I suppose some would say that we should have been satisfied with what we had, and simply quit trying to add more children to our family. After all, we were in our early forties and had already spent ten years trying to have children. After so many years of trying and failing, finding ourselves with two sons in the span of seven months felt a lot like winning the lottery. Hoping for just "one more" not only seemed completely unlikely, but almost greedy.

Still, the desire to add another child to our family sat heavy on my heart. No matter how I tried to rationalize it away (we're too old, it costs too much, so many other couples are waiting, our children already have a sibling, we already have more than we can barely handle, etc. etc.), the desire would not go away. All I can say is that there was a pulling that kept tugging at my heart, and as much as I tried to bury it, ignore it, rationalize, or pray it away, it always came back. So, each year for the past four years, we completed our adoption home study and waited. I waited for either the child to come or the tugging to go away.

This year of waiting, however, has felt much different than the previous three. Last December, when we submitted our home study update again, I knew this year would be the last. Not because I was certain we would be chosen to adopt this year, but because the tugging was gradually beginning to diminish. Although in my heart of hearts, I still wanted to parent another child, after three years of waiting to be chosen for an adoption situation (and another miscarriage), the knowledge that it may not happen had really begun to sink in. The number of times we'd been rejected by birthmothers was something we lost track of somewhere around ten or twelve. Rejection was beginning to feel like a normal part of our life now, and we came to expect it each time we presented our family profile to a birthmother looking to choose a family. Although every "she chose another family" message still left a sting, I'd cried my last tears over it at least a year ago. I had no tears left.

In addition, our sons were growing up and we were beginning to enjoy this new chapter of our family life. All the baby stuff has been packed away for a couple of years now, and in its place are overalls, ball caps, hiking boots, and baseball gloves. Our oldest turns six next week, and his brother is not far behind. Looking ahead, I saw my time with my children being measured not by feeding intervals and diaper changes but instead, by teaching them things like how to fish, ride a bike, swim in the deep-end, and read books that don't have pictures.

In truth, submitting our paperwork in January and agreeing with my husband that this would be our final update, our final year of trying, was liberating. Peace began to settle in my heart where the empty place of wanting another child had been. Just knowing that we didn't have to keep riding the rollercoaster of expectation followed by disappointment was consoling. It's been a fifteen year ride and finally, finally, I am ready to get off.

So when June rolled around, and I knew we only had six more months left of waiting to be chosen for an adoption, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first thought was that if, by some miracle, we did get chosen for an adoption this year, then our child is already in this world now. Somewhere. The other thought was that, if for some reason, we did not get chosen, then the agony of the waiting game was already half over now, and the pain would not last much longer. Needless to say, it was the latter thought that seemed much more realistic.

This is not to say that we have given up. Far from that. Every night still, we gather our boys for nightly prayer and every night, we pray, "Please help us and all couples struggling to have children and waiting to adopt." It is not only our prayer, it has become our mantra. We continued to use social media to try to spread the word of our desire to adopt, although in this past year, our facebook page saw very little traffic. We would bring it up in conversation with our family and our friends, and a handful of them are encouraging, but in most cases, we simply get no comment. I'm sure that to most, our desire to adopt again after so much time has passed appears as our own little fantasy world.

And such was the response two weeks ago, when we began telling others that yes, it is true, we really are going to adopt again. We are matched with a birthmother and if all goes as planned, we will be holding the child that we have been waiting for before the summer ends. At this point, we have no good reason not to be optimistic. And nobody is more surprised than we are.

So, while this wonderful news has been met with judgment by some and denial by others, I can see only mercy. Mercy shown upon me and my family by our loving God who has walked this adoption and infertility journey with us, and who has placed these things on my heart, and who I know will lead us to His desired end, whatever that may be.