Who Am I?

He would get these far-off looks in his eyes and he would say ‘Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan’. I just wish I’d realized at the time, he was talking about MY life.” – Lucy, referencing a conversation with her father, in While You Were Sleeping

This has been a recurring theme in my life.  I am a planner and, yes, a little bit of a control freak.  I think God has a sense of humor about this character trait in me and has allowed my life to live in a perpetual state of detour.  The last time I remember anything go according to MY plan was when my then husband and I bought our first house in 2004.  You see, grew up a “typical” white, middle class, Christian girl.  I graduated from high school, went to a Christian university, met the man who would become my husband, got married just before my senior year, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, got my “dream job” as an ICU nurse right out of school, bought a house, and got a yellow lab.

A few years into our marriage is when my life on detour began.  For us, the next natural step was children, and we started trying, with the plan that 9 months or so later a baby would emerge at the beginning of the summer and we could spend that summer learning to be parents.  Instead, what transpired was one of the darkest periods of my life as not only did I not get pregnant, but a year later found out that our only option to conceive was through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), which we did, hopefully, three times, without success.  It was a brutal two years and we emerged broken and hurting and angry with God.

In 2008, about 6 weeks after our last failed IVF, in a moment of clarity, we felt God lead us to international adoption.  I did the research and found an agency to work with and chose to adopt from Ethiopia.  Initially, the plan was for a “waiting” infant and toddler (waiting, as in a child already in an orphanage in need of a home).  Oddly, our agency had recently place a lot of children, and only had two children under the age of 5 (which is what we were approved for due to our age) available.  We looked at their profiles, talked to people who had met them, and soon accepted the referral of the two boys who would become our sons, then aged 3 and 4.  We foolishly believed the process would be smooth sailing and would have the boys home around Christmas.  By the following January, we still had no date in sight, so for my birthday in February, I made my first international trip, solo, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I spent a week getting to know my sons and it broke my heart to say goodbye, not knowing when they could come home.  It wouldn’t be until September of 2009, one year after we accepted the referral, that we would travel to Ethiopia to bring the boys home.

Many would think that bringing the boys home would be the beginning our “happy ever after”, but adoption is messy and hard.  We brought into our home two boys (nicknames used), then aged 4 (Messi) and 5 (Bolt), who spoke no English, and had spent years living in an orphanage.  The first few months were exhausting, but we were hopeful that with a lot of love, we would all settle quickly.  That didn’t happen and we began the journey of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and reactive attachment disorder (RAD) with Bolt.  Years into therapy, I was sitting talking to his therapist as we both began to question that we might be dealing with something else as well, autism.  Sure enough, about 18 months after that conversation, Bolt was given the official diagnosis of autism.  We then spent the next year trying to find therapists and providers to work with him and hit road block after road block.  I remember asking his psychiatrist what he would do in our situation and he told us he would relocate to another state with better services for those on the spectrum.  I spent the next month doing research and talking to people who are experts in autism and was basically told some of the best states for services, most of which were on the East Coast.  A month later, we put our house on the market and travelled to Pennsylvania to interview for jobs.  We both accepted jobs on that trip and found a house to rent the school district we had already chosen.  We returned home, our house quickly sold, we packed up everything, and began the cross-country journey in January of 2015.

As far as the move went, it was absolutely the right decision for my sons.  Both have flourished in Pennsylvania.  The school autism support has made a night and day difference in Bolt’s coping skills and social skills.  For Messi, he has developed friends and found an awesome soccer club.  I, on the other hand, really struggled with the move and found my introvert tendencies fully blossom in an area where I knew no one.  My job as an emergency room nurse was no longer fulfilling and I found myself angry and withdrawn and almost paralyzed by fear in social situations.  By October of 2016, I realized that I needed to do something for myself and began seriously thinking and praying about going back to school.  In early December, I was accepted into a master of public health (MPH) program and found the fog I had experienced since the move begin to lift.  Little did I know that while I was busy finding myself again, my husband was finding himself…with another woman.

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Life on Detour

When the grenade was launched into life a few months ago, I suddenly found myself with a racing mind and heart.  Interestingly, I found myself full of stories about the journey the boys and I are in, some of heartache, but also of humor.  I hope to chronicle the ups and downs of this unexpected detour.

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March 23rd

March 23.  The day that the world I thought I knew flipped upside down.  I don’t remember a lot about that day.  I remember I got this fun elephant mug from The Rainforest Site and I took the picture you see here and put in on Instagram.

Elephantmug

I remember talking with my hubby about my grad school assignment (I am studying for a Master of Public Health) and getting excited about our ideas on how to change the healthcare system. I also remember that I had recently lost some weight and was debating on whether to share it with him, but I did anyway. It was a normal day…or was it?  I am sure one of the boys had soccer and the evening was probably chaotic.  Then I remember getting in bed and my hubby and I were actually going to bed at the same time, which had been a rarity of late.  I remember him laying flat on his back and feeling the ocean between us as I watched our big, fat cat, Tigger, jump on his chest.  It used to be that I would lay on his chest for a few minutes as we talked of our days and he would rub my back, but as I looked over at him that night, I didn’t feel welcome to do so.  I tried to chat for a few minutes, but something was wrong, so I turned on my right side (the way I always slept) and felt my heart begin pounding in my chest and this question burst out of my subconscious into present moment and I asked him “are you cheating on me?”.  My heart was beating rapidly at this point as I waited for the answer.  It didn’t take him long to respond with “do you really want to talk about this right now?” (a frequent response to my need for late night conversations) to which I responded something like “yes, now is as good as time as any”.  He then made the strangest comment, “I have never cheated on you in Pennsylvania and in response to your question from a few months ago, the answer is yes, I want a divorce”.  

What went on for the next few hours were tearful conversations with my dad and crying and confusion and then returning to the bedroom and asking him to leave the room as I thought and processed.  I then figured out a time and way for us to go to therapy and I went up to the office where he was sleeping and told him of my plan, to which he responded “no, It’s over” over and over again.  Finally, I looked at him with complete clarity and said, “there’s another woman, isn’t there?” and he said “yes”.  It took minutes more to get out of him who it was and it shocked me…it was someone I had known casually for years, who lived across the country, was married and had lots of children (lots, as in more than 10), and also the woman who coordinated our adoption 7 and ½ years ago.  He then told me that he was leaving me for her.

March 24-26

I don’t remember the timeline of the next 24 hours or so, but I do know that I tried to sleep and finally gave up and finished an assignment that was due in 2 days (don’t ask me how I did it) and then got up and tearfully got ready for my ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) class that I HAD to do that morning and as I left, I told him that he and she were ruining 20 lives between our two immediate families.  I cried all the way there and talked to my family and best friend on the way home and later called to say I couldn’t work that weekend, but it is all a little foggy.  That evening we plugged the boys in with a video game or movie while we hashed out the story and details and his plans.  It turns out he thought he could take one of our sons (our more “challenging” one) and then let the other one choose who to live with while he had her move out here with some of her kids and move in with him.  I am not sure on what planet he thought taking one or both of our sons and moving them in with the other woman and some of her many kids, was a good idea, especially considering most of our kids were adopted.  So, ultimately, I gave him a few options – move out to a place on his own and we would share custody 50/50, have her move out here with some of her kids and I would have custody, but he could come spend evenings with them and weekends while I worked, or move to be with her and I would retain physical custody of our sons.  Surprisingly, he chose the latter…and he made this decision less than 24 hours after we started the discussion.

The rest of the weekend, I spent in tearful conversations with family and friends.  My first instinct was to return to the West Coast, where we had relocated from just two years prior.  However, after talking with the boys and family and friends, I was reminded on how well the boys were doing here and why we had relocated in the first place (more on that later).  So, I made the difficult decision to remain in Pennsylvania, a place where I had developed few friends and didn’t know where we would get the support needed to continue.