A Few Thousand Diapers Later: A reflection on my daughter's adoption

When my oldest daughter was ten months old, I bought diapers for her for the very first time.    

Ten months!  Do you know how amazing that is?  I'm not even sure that I do.  We never paid a dime.  Her diapers were gifts.

More so when she was an infant but even now, too, Piper's teachers comment on her cute outfits and extravagant hair bows.  

"Where do you get all of her clothes?" they ask.  Well, let's be honest.  They come from her grandparents.  They come in big brown boxes on the porch from her family in Texas.  They come in little pink bags, tied with fancy ribbons and a note that says, "Just because," from coworkers and friends.  

I rarely buy her clothes, and her closet is still overflowing.

I was humbled as we began the adoption process, when money would literally just show up on our doorstep or in our mailbox.  There were days when I would find myself in tears, unsure of how to respond to such generosity but very sure that we didn't deserve it.  Almost a year after bringing Piper home, I was once again overcome by the goodness of our loved ones.  I know that diapers are seemingly insignificant, but I also know that most parents don't wait ten months to buy them.  We were, and still are, so blessed.

The night that Piper was born will always stand out to me above all others for many reasons, but one thing is still particularly striking.  My parents had already waited for hours to see her, and when they finally were able to come upstairs at the hospital, my mom burst into tears.  In fact, I don't think she really stopped crying all night.  At one point, I said something like, "Mom, this is a happy day!  You don't have to cry!"  She responded,

"I know.  I have prayed for so long that I would love her just as if she were your biological child, and I really, really do."

She was always meant to be part of our family.

I knew it during the adoption process, I knew it the moment she was born, I knew it when I was buying diapers for the first time in ten months, and I know it today as she is opening her weekly mail from her family in Texas.  As her parents, we would love Piper regardless of any circumstance, but the continual outpouring of kindness from those who are dearest to us has proven to me that she belongs.  She's our daughter, but she's also a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, and a friend.  She is partly loved by others because we are special to them, but she is also loved because she is special to them.  

Whenever we tell people our story of infertility, we often get responses such as, "That must have totally sucked.  I'm so sorry."

Yes, it did "totally suck", in more ways than I can begin to articulate.  But no, I'm not at all sorry.  Had I become a mom at 22 like I wanted to be, I would not be a mom to Piper.  The timing of life events is commonly beyond our grasp, but it is always perfect.  Somewhere in Oklahoma in 2012, a teenager had to become pregnant, and simultaneously, we had to be waiting for a child instead of already holding one in our arms.  The waiting was excruciating, but I do not have an ounce of regret in retrospect.

Biological children are wonderful, cherished, and exciting.  I know this because I have one, and she is everything I had hoped she would be.  But there is something unique about adoption.  Piper is loved from so many angles, and it is precisely because her birth mother loved her so much that she was able to put her into another woman's arms.  I hated the writing of her story as we were going through it, but now, I'm so grateful that the Author penned it the way that he did.  Not everyone gets to experience the beautiful gift of adoption.  We did, and we will never be the same because of it.

And We Made It: Success Stories from a Parent with Imperfect Parents

I originally posted the essay below on Blogger in 2013, immediately following the birth of my oldest.  After reading back through it four years later, all I can say is that it's still completely true.  In fact, it's probably even more true with the addition of another child.  These years are tough and good and exhausting and beautiful, and the tendency toward feelings of inadequacy is ever-present.  But I made it through imperfect parenting, and my kids will, too.  There is grace for today.

*** 

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I'm only about twelve weeks into this parenting thing, and I already feel like a failure.

Sometimes I look at the piles of laundry sitting in our bedroom and think about how they never existed just a few months ago.  Before baby, I could get all of our laundry washed, folded, and put away in a day.  Now it takes me that same amount of time to deal with one load.  Never mind that I haven't made dinner in weeks (I'm not counting Stouffer's lasagna).  I blame it on the fact that the little one doesn't take naps for more than 20-30 minutes at a time.  (Did I mention that I also failed at BabyWise?)


I look at the other babies being dropped off at daycare and admire the tiny Ralph Lauren logos printed on their onesies.  I think about how we can't afford designer clothes, and I try to forgive myself for letting her run out of diapers last week.  
Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder when I started wearing messy buns every other day instead of fixing my hair.  Then I feel sorry for my husband, who didn't think he was marrying a slob four years ago.

Right now, she's just a baby, but soon the time will come when Piper is off to her first day of kindergarten.  And I won't be the mom who makes her a cute themed breakfast or cuts her sandwiches into dinosaurs.  There will be moments when I wish I was.  But for one, I'm not a crafty food person.  For two, I'm struggling to get both of us out the door on time now, and all I have to do is buckle an infant into a car seat.

I'm not SuperMom like I had hoped.  Mostly, I'm just super tired.  The house isn't as clean as a museum every minute anymore, I'm a hot mess 90 percent of the time, and we can't give our baby the absolute best of everything that the world has to offer.  On the days when defeat and inadequacy lurk around every corner, I remember how I grew up.  I am reminded of the way that my parents raised my brother and me, and I know that everything will turn out fine.

I wore hand-me-downs through at least elementary school, maybe longer...

...and I made it.

Sometimes, we ate amazing home-cooked meals.  But sometimes, when we asked Mom what we were having for dinner, she would tell us to go look in the refrigerator...

...and we made it.

We didn't eat gluten-free, sugar-free, or any other kind of "free" that otherwise restricted our diets (although eating for free was always good)...

...and we made it.

Occasionally, Mom was running behind (probably because she was doing something for us), so I would be late to gymnastics practice.  I would have to do extra push-ups or crunches...

...but I made it.

There were days when a friend of mine would come over while the laundry was still sitting on the couch in piles.  My friend and I would joke about "whitie-tighties" and "granny panties" and then we would move on with our teenage lives...

...so obviously we made it.

I drove a mini-van in high school and didn't get a cell phone until I was sixteen.  100 percent not cool all the way around...

...but I made it.  

We lived in a smaller, one-story house for our whole lives, and my brother and I always shared a bathroom.  I hated that he left water spots on the mirror, and he hated that my hair got stuck in the shower drain...

...but we made it.  

My parents couldn't afford to send us to the most expensive private schools where we would get the very best education.  Regardless, my brother was a National Merit Scholar...

...so you can see that he made it.

The thing is, I'm probably going to keep feeling like a failure, but only as often as I let myself.  My mom and dad weren't perfect, but they did a darn good job.  So, at the end of the day, there will always be parents who are doing all of this better than me, parents who can provide more for their children.  I can't do it all and I can't be everything I want to be.  But I know the One who can.  And I know that because her life is in His hands...

...she is going to make it.
 

Breakfast on paper plates with bedheads ... because that's how we roll.

Breakfast on paper plates with bedheads ... because that's how we roll.

Everyday Faithfulness

I turned 29 last week (for the first time).  Future birthdays will now be termed, "My Second 29th Birthday", "My Third 29th Birthday", etc., depending on my age.  

For years, I became mildly depressed when I considered turning 30.  It just seemed so ... old.  In my mind, people figured out their life in their twenties and then raised kids and worked like crazy and did "boring adult stuff" after that.  Though it seems silly now, I dreaded my 30th birthday because it signified that life as I knew it would be over and the slow march to a retirement facility would begin.

Piper and Mom Hold Hands

So, on my 25th birthday, I cried because 30 was, at last, closer than 20.  Then, I dried my tears and made my "30 Before 30 List", an agenda of all that I believed I needed to accomplish before my life would theoretically end on May 18, 2018.

I somehow managed to achieve a good chunk of the goals.  I had another kid, saw Blake Shelton in concert, visited three new states, grew an herb garden, got a tattoo, took a cake decorating class, baked an apple pie from scratch, started a college fund for my kids, read 25 new books, and bought a gun (I know how to shoot it, too, so watch out).  

A few of the items got scratched off the list.  I don't really care about getting my master's degree anymore, and I probably will never donate my hair to Locks for Love again.  At one point, I wanted to learn to drive a car with a stick shift, but if we're being honest, I'll probably never have a reason to know how to do that.  Goodbye, Items 1, 15, and 18.

The next category of ambitions are the ones that I could potentially accomplish within the next year before I turn 30.  These include camping for real (not "glamping" in a cabin), fly fishing, and skydiving.  

For the last few goals, I have resigned myself to the fact that they will likely not happen in the next 350ish days, and they might not happen in the next 10,000 days, either.  I won't be finished with school by the time I turn 30, and I may or may not ever write a book and/or qualify for the Boston Marathon.  These three ambitions were particularly tough to release.

***

One of my favorite podcasts is called "The Happy Hour," hosted by Jamie Ivey.  In this podcast, women are invited to chat with Jamie about "the big things in life, the little things in life, and everything in between."  These "girlfriends" usually discuss the big things, though- things like starting their own businesses, publishing books, and adopting babies.  I'm always simultaneously inspired and defeated as I listen to them.  When each podcast ends, I find myself thinking, "Wow, these ladies are amazing!  Also, I don't do anything cool with my life."

A couple of weeks ago, Jamie had a friend on her show who discussed the problem with "comparing the beginning of your journey with someone else's middle or end."  I do this ALL. THE. TIME.  {Please tell me I'm not the only one.}  There is no actual rule which states that I'm a failure if I haven't done certain things by a certain age.  Foolishly, I have created such rules for myself where no timeline even exists. 

Perhaps life is simply a constant flow of ordinary, everyday moments that eventually add up to something great.  

***

Nana and Piper

My grandmother is dying.  She has lived a long, generally healthy life and is deeply loved by four children, eight grandchildren, and a steadily growing number of great-grandchildren.  When I look back on her 85 years, I'm not sure that there is anything in them which the world might define as "success".  She wasn't a great athlete or novelist, and she and my papa weren't wealthy or famous.  

But, for decades, Nana chose to be faithful in the mundane, to follow the plan that God had for her in the small moments, and to serve her family.  Now, as she is dying, she is leaving behind a legacy of kindness and generosity for the world to memorialize.

This is what I want my life to be.

At the end of my days, I hope that people say of me, "She was a devoted wife, a loving mom, a gracious friend, and a hard worker."  I long to arrive at the gates of heaven and hear Jesus affirm, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

For a moment among specific circles, I might be remembered for qualifying for the Boston Marathon, for graduating at the top of my class, or for publishing a book- these things that people (including myself) often consider "big" and "important".  But ultimately, I pray that I am known as a woman who walked the road of everyday faithfulness, choosing joy in the thousands of little and equally important moments that fall between items on a bucket list.