Misfit Island

c68bc207576cb8ee01a02545d07cafd9
Image Credit

For most of my life, I have often felt like I didn’t fit in.  As a teenager, I felt like I was meant to live in a different time. I felt like I started to find myself towards the end of high school and in college, I developed an excellent group of friends who I felt “got me”.  Then, when I got married, I thought “this is it, I finally found someone who loves me, and all will be good”.  Then, came the infertility…as I watched other couples and friends start to build families, I again felt left out.  Suddenly, my friends were busy raising kids and even being around them was a painful reminder.  When we adopted the boys, I again thought “this is it”, but I quickly found that in a small community, many families already had their “groups”.  As Bolt began to really struggle, it felt further isolating.  Why couldn’t I have the American Dream?  We then picked up and moved across the country right when I was just starting to feel like I might have found a community.  As I have said before, the move was the right decision, but also reactivated that feeling of isolation.  Then, well, you know the rest.

Interestingly, in the past few months, I have really connected with the adoptive families group at church.  It was feeling so alone that really allowed me to step outside my comfort zone for new friendships.  However, with that, the feeling of not belonging has been emerged its ugly head again.  While I now feel like I found a group of women who understand what parenting a kid from a “hard place” looks like, I look around the room and still feel so very much like a misfit watching couples mingle with other couples.

The other challenge I find, that churches are designed around families.  You look around a service on a Sunday morning and are surrounded by families.  I stand there in worship and often find myself overwhelmed by how alone I feel.  I have one son who sits who his hands over his ears and both regularly excuse themselves for a bathroom run.  I worry that people are judging me for the behavior of my sons.  Part of me wants to shout from the rooftops, “I am doing the best I can”.  Then, as I joined the sparsely attended singles group I hear that the church has so many groups that it can’t “publicize” groups that don’t feed a majority…

All while these thoughts are going through my head, I can’t help wondering if these experiences are teaching me empathy for the lonely…the left out…the misfits.  I must take hold of the truth that we all have our own stories and those stories can either make us or break us. I don’t know the future, but I also believe that God can make beauty from ashes.

st,small,215x235-pad,210x230,f8f8f8.lite-1
Image Credit

Drowning

Let me just start by saying, I am writing this from a really raw place.  Yesterday I received some news that set my healing process backwards and plunged me back into a state of confusion and anger and grief.  It is like the scab that was beginning to develop was ripped off, along with several layers of skin.  My two deepest sorrows – my ex-husband’s infidelity and our infertility have merged into this mess that feels like it may destroy me.

I have talked about how prior to adopting the boys, we (as in my ex and I) struggled through the lonely road of infertility and then several failed in-vitro fertilizations.  What I didn’t explain is that our infertility was what they call “male factor” meaning that I was seemingly healthy, but my ex was told that without scientific intervention the likelihood of him ever fathering a child was slim to none.  We spent about 9 months in the thick of IVF without success.  I subsequently gained 30 pounds as a result (something I have never been able to lose) and developed polycystic ovarian syndrome…a condition worsened by weight gain, but also makes it harder to lose weight.  So, for the past 10 years we have not used birth control in hopes that one-day God would grant us a miracle.  Bolt and Messi did not heal that hurt that the infertility caused, nor did I expect them too.  I had always wanted to adopt, but I had also wanted to experience pregnancy and a newborn sharing the traits of the man I loved and myself.  When my ex left, I closed the door on us ever becoming biological parents.

Yesterday morning I awoke to several messages from around the country asking how I was dealing with “the announcement”.  It was several hours before I would find out what this “announcement” was and yes, you guessed it, my ex and the woman he left me for are expecting a baby that was conceived while we were still married.  One son found out via Instagram (since my ex posted it before he had actually spoken to both boys) and the other found out from a phone call, but I had to find out from everyone else.

shattered
Image Credit

So, if you ask me how I am doing, the answer is “not well at all”.  This has triggered so many things in my heart and soul.  It has reopened the barely healing wound of the affair and divorce.  It has opened the scar left by infertility.  More than that, the rejection I faced from my ex, I now feel from God.  They posted what a “blessing” this baby is and it feels like a rubber stamp on their affair and God’s way of saying that he blesses it.  I know God doesn’t, but how could he reward their infidelity with the most beautiful gift…a child?  Talk about kicking a person when they are down.

I am sitting here alone tonight while my kids are 3000 miles away on a vacation with their grandparents.  My ex not only didn’t have the balls to at least email me in compassion over our shared grief and story, but he let me find out through the web of social media.  He also told our sons when they were on vacation and when they weren’t with me to help them process and understand.  The boys claim to be excited, but in their voices, is an undercurrent of confusion.

I feel like I am living in some nightmare.  This isn’t my life.  This announcement was absolutely my worst nightmare.  I feel like the God who had taken me into his lifeboat to rest has thrown me overboard and now I am drowning.

drowning
Image Credit

 

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.

2a1de6a35df01b35c2be66ba124e89c8--lost-in-life-suddenly
Image Credit