You know how when you are going through the birthing process and you’ve been pushing for 3 hours (no? just me?) and you swear to yourself-and your husband-that you will never, ever, ever be doing this again because it’s the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced and then the baby is placed on your belly and you’re all “oh yeah, I’m totally doing this again.”?
Or when you’ve hit the 4th snag in your adoption process, this process that was supposed to take x amount of time is now taking 3x and you swear to yourself-and your husband-that you will never, ever, ever be doing this again because seeing the face of your angel so far from you and not being able to go there is the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced. Then you meet that little one and you feel heaven slam into earth and you’re all “oh yeah, I’m definitely doing this again.”?
That space in between, that’s an empty space. You’re drained of your energy, your commitment, your time. It feels like you’ve poured it all into the process and now it’s gone and you’re all, fuuuuudge this sucks. Then you get through it and switch to, “Well I guess it wasn’t that bad.” because now you’re full. Because you’ve completed the process and all of that energy resulted in something and you look back and you forget how empty you once were because now you’re just so full!
I am totally empty these days.
My energy, my love, my time is being poured into Miss A and I am worn. out.
I have friends who have adopted little babies/toddlers and they talk so real about how trauma has affected their peanuts even though they were so small. I adopted only boys over the age of 3 so it seemed not so big a leap to assume the boys remembered/felt their loss (this is not to say I didn’t believe my friends, only to say I knew my boys were feeling it because they could tell me). Then we started taking care of A and anytime she meets with her family she has explosive diarrhea and night terrors for 2 days. 2 days. Her fear, her trauma, her past is so visceral this not yet 2-year-old doesn’t tell me she’s scared verbally but boy is it obvious!
So I pour it on, oh I lay it on thick. “How smart you are saying please and thank you!” “You are so beautiful!” I correct behavior that was learned under the fight or flight mechanism and I look her in the eyes and say comforting words or give a firm redirection. I pretend like I’m super glad she found me in the bathroom when I was hoping for a few minutes alone. Well, I do all that when I’m full-after a date night with Zach or lunch with friends.
When I’m empty I talk less, she looks at me sideways. She’s smart-yes she is. She knows when someone is only going through the motions and so she’s on to me when I’m empty. When I’m empty it exacerbates all of her issues.
And so I’m empty.
It feels so unfair to my kids who get only half the mom they were hoping to get (to be fair, they often fill me up when I need it as well). It feels most unfair to Zach who, yesterday, woke up to me saying, “I’m not going to talk to you right now. Everything is fine, I just can’t right now. I love you, but I can’t talk to you.”
I am in the middle.
A few months ago-I was out of the process. Before foster care we were in such a good rhythm that I had forgotten what it was like. I was so full I was giving energy away for free, man, here’s some of mine-take what you need.
Despite being empty and exhausted and near tears a lot of the day I’m so thankful I’m here. Because it reminds me that everyone is going through something. It reminds me not to pretend like I know the answers when my friends who are empty ask why I’m so full. It reminds me to say, “You’re in the thick of it. Press on, mama, you can do it.” Instead of, “Meditate, pray, have a big glass of wine.” Those things help but they are quick fixes to a long, laborious process.
So if you’re out there, if you’re empty too, just know that we are in the thick of it. Know that I love you, I get it. Press on, we can do it.