Relentless Love

Lately I have had conversations and meditations on unconditional love.  Mostly from other parents who say that they love their children unconditionally.  It is not that I doubt their love or their statements about it.  I just prefer to think about it differently.

When I talk to a teacher and friend who also has an adopted child, we say things like “there is a reason they ended up wth us” or we talk of the special needs that adopted children often have in overcoming abandonment issues that someone not adopted with secure attachments does not have.  And I believe it to be true that my adopted kids are with me for a reason.  Not because my love is more unconditional that that of a natural birth parent.  But maybe because it is more relentless, driven by the longing that was never fulfilled in having my own natural children and all the hoops I had to jump through to have this beautiful family I call my own today.  And the extra work involved in walking my kids through some significant abandonment issues and self judgment that comes with having been left by someone.

I saw a quote by Jody Landers on mother’s day “A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”

Honestly when we adopted the kids I had no idea what I was getting into.  I simply wanted kids like I had never wanted anything before in my life.  The longing was relentless.  I did not come from a childhood filled with love and support.  I did not even know what those things meant in daily life.  So when we brought them home, I loved them and took care of them.  It was a full time job as sick as they were.  But I did not know about relentless love yet.  I knew about a love that made me feel like my heart would burst open and I can remember thinking I would do anything for them because I loved them so much.  It would be several years after we adopted the kids that I began to learn about a love that is relentless.  And I did not learn it from my children or through them although I practice it on them all the time now.

Relentless love came to me through my therapist more eastern than western trained.  He told me once that he prayed for something really hard to do and I walked into the yoga studio where he taught and then became one of his clients.  I did not trust anyone, was deeply suspicious, often suicidal, hurting in unbelievable ways, desperate for someone that would love me but sure that no one would – sure that there would be something about me that would drive this person away.  And over the years of therapy, he sat with me during my anger and bitterness.  What a gift to have someone sit with you while you are bitter and just let that be.  He fought with me.  He set limits.  He did unreasonable things like come to my house to work with me and help me get through things.  He listened as I perseverated over issues.  He fought with me some more.  He connected with me.  He would hold me while I sobbed, releasing grief I had held onto for years.  He would spend all night on the phone with me to make sure I was ok.  For weeks at a time.  He would encourage me to say all the mean horrible thoughts that occurred to me and the judgments I had towards myself – have me say them to him as me to remove the “I” statements and discharge it out not in.  I learned in that process that I really could say anything.  And I said really horrible things.  I let go of shameful secrets that I had held onto for a lifetime.  The shame of not being good enough and the things I did to get attention to see if anyone cared.  And I built trust.  I connected.  It has been a really complicated therapeutic relationship.  Most therapists would not physically fight with a client and wrestle the way we did.  And through it all he kept me safe.  Safe in the fighting, safe in a space to discharge all the trauma and self hate, safe in a knowing that no matter what I said or did he would be there, safe in limits that increased over time.  And wow do I struggle with limits.  If I refused to do any more work, he would insist and threaten to come over with his kids if I did not cooperate and do my work.  He has relentlessly pursued my liberation.  It has been like nothing I have ever known before.  I truly have never met such a person as him before and his incredible willingness to do whatever it takes and be fully present.

It was through those experiences that I began to practice relentless love with my kids.  I do things with them and say things to them that I know most parents would not.  I trigger their issues on purpose to make them work on their stuff.  Especially my daughter who is still going through issues related to rejection by her birth mother.  So I trigger her issues and then hold her while she cries.  She has been able to direct her self hate towards me rather than herself.  For example, instead of saying “I don’t feel like I’m good enough and that is why my birth mother does not want me” she follows a protocol that would have her say to me “You are not good enough.  You are not worthy of love.”  Directing it out not in.  Because I am not confused here.  I know my girl loves me and I love her.  It is about her discharging enough so that she can work through what she needs to fulfill her dharma, her life purpose.  It is about saying no, setting limits for her.  It is about teaching her that she has a choice about a great many things but not about doing her work on herself.  It is about telling her that I know she still doesn’t trust me and that I will know she really does trust me when she says in anger that she hates me.  Until then she is still working from a place of fear that I too will abandon her.  It is about holding her night after night even though she is a teenager now just because she struggles with being alone and this terrible grief.  It is about listening to her talk about how special it is to come from someone’s belly and be born to them and her not understanding why her birth mother doesn’t feel the same way.  And doing that with only the intention of holding space for her even though it triggers my own issues of worthiness around infertility.  It is a willingness to have a conversation with her that is so authentic and true.  That adopting them did not fill the hole in my heart, the longing, to have children born to me, to have that experience.  And to let her know that I understand that likewise, she has me as a mom and loves me but that this does not fill the hole the longing in her heart for a birth mother she does not really know and who was so unkind.  It is about opening up consciousness enough to be able to intuitively know what needs to be done and to do it without worry about what that will look like.

All of this shows up differently with my son.  His challenges to make his world work are different.  He has more difficulty understanding things.  Educational delays.  Emotional delays.  His work is often in maintaining his self esteem even though he reads at a forth grade level and does math at a first grade level going into high school.  It is making a fancy award for him for all his hard work so that he got an award right along with his sister because the school system here does not recognize the work of the kids in the special ed program.  It is about not letting him direct anything inward.  He used to get frustrated and hit himself in the head.  So then it was about not only making him stop hurting himself, but also changing the message.  So he would have to repeat several times “I’m sorry body.  I won’t do that again.  I will treat you with loving kindness.”  And persisting even though he resisted at first.  And keep on doing it with him until he no longer ever went to hit himself and he no longer said things about himself that were unkind – like that he is stupid, or that he can’t learn, or that no one likes him.  At times it has been taking him to NYC for healing even though he did not want to go just because it seems to help so much with his behaviors and turrets type symptoms where traditional western medicine can’t help.  A knowing and accepting that he does not respond to traditional therapy but one session of energy work can get him to open up and talk about how he loves his sister but he is jealous because she is in the main classroom at school whereas he spends most of his time in the special ed room.  His work is in recognizing these feelings, these limits, the effects these have on his view of himself.

So for me it is not whether love is conditioned on something.  I set structure, limits, boundaries with my kids.  And myself now.  The love can be unconditional, can still exist, even among boundaries and limits.  The love is a separate thing from what behaviors are acceptable.

I don’t know the next steps on the path.  For me.  For them.  I constantly have to work on surrender.  My guru Amma says that staying in the present moment and surrender are the same thing.  Its letting go of the story of the past and not projecting into the future but rather staying right here right now doing the next right thing.  So I don’t know the path for any of us – even when my mind says I do know or at least have a pretty good idea.

That love is relentless and that this is different from unconditional is clear to me but challenging to express.  I think it easiest to say that it is part of my dharma to help the kids pursue their dharma, their liberation.  We each came here to do something that only we can do.  So my work is different from theirs.  But like this therapist who taught me how love can be relentless, I am relentless with my kids and myself too really.  Its about going to that next level wherever possible and knowing when its time to take a rest from reaching for that next level.  Making a rule and letting it bend or break if the circumstances warrant.  Being clear that the one steadfast rule is that we must do our work, we must fulfill our dharma.  I chose these kids by adopting them although I think our souls agreed to this arrangement lifetimes ago.  It is a knowing that no matter what the behavior is, we are all doing the absolute best that we can given our internal and external circumstances.  So a making space for behavior while setting limits around it.  But still seeing that divinity in the other person.  Or in myself.

This is a work in progress, an opening statement about it all.  I know I am doing my best and I know that I often fall short of the ideas I have about how good I should be at this for myself and for them.  But someone told me once that the greatest gift we can give our kids is to let them see us doing our work on ourselves.  I don’t know what it all means.  I do know that I’m working on it.  One moment at a time.

 

My Child’s Pain

It has been quite a while since I have written anything.  Life got busy and I had major neck surgery.  I am looking forward next week to getting out of this neck collar.  It has been hard, but the hardest thing I have had to deal with is my daughter’s pain.

Over the summer we located her birth mother and she had her first of many conversations with this woman.  She discovered she has sisters, two children that this woman kept, and a brother that this woman gave up for adoption as well.  She talked to her sisters, she talked to her birth mother.  The brother she may never meet although the universe decides these things.

After months of this woman telling my daughter that she loves her, can’t wait to meet her, wants to be a part of her life etc., she bailed.  She talked to me on the phone and said she had just been leading my daughter on, she has no room in her life for her, that there was a reason why she gave the kids up, and that she does not want to hear from her again.  And I had to break that news to my daughter who was, of course, devastated.

I held this sweet girl in my arms the best I could with a neck collar while she cried.  And it has been about two weeks and she has easier and harder times with it.  I’m thankful that I never took her to meet this woman as I think it would have made it even harder for her.

The cruelty of what this woman did is beyond my comprehension.  And I know it would not offer my daughter any comfort to tell her that while she feels some sort of connection because this woman gave birth to her, this woman does not think of her as her child.  And she is not her child, she is my daughter.  I brought her home from the NICU with her twin brother and they have been mine ever since.  I have cared for them when they were sick, looked after their every need, played with them, taught them, and most of all loved them.

My life has not been easy at least in childhood and my relationship with my parents was hard and I was on my own very young.  But nothing in my life has been harder than walking my daughter through this devastation.  I have cried more in the last two weeks than the last ten years.  There is just something about being helpless in the face of her pain – I could not stop what happened and I can’t put a bandaid on it.

I also think that when your child goes through something it brings up things for the parent about their own childhood.  So its twice the pain.  But also twice the opportunity to heal.

I let my daughter watch me cry.  I also let her see me do my own work on myself.  And this sweet 14 year old girl has a brother who struggles to understand things so he would keep talking about it trying to understand that my daughter was not going to have a relationship with this woman.  When I was about to ask him to stop talking about it and that he and I would talk later, my little girl looked and me and said “it is ok mom.  If I don’t hear and talk about the reality of it then I won’t accept it.”

So over the last two weeks there have been tears, therapy, more tears.  But my girl is smart.  She decided to explore what she actually likes doing for fun, what brings her joy, and to do more of those things.  She is starting to cook, to draw, and wants to learn to play the drums (I promised her a drum set).  So she talks about her sadness and anger but also holds space for the fact that something might shift in the future.  She refuses to say or hear anything unkind about this woman.  And my heart breaks a little every time she says maybe she will try again in a year or two.  But I know that she has her own path that she has to follow and it is not for me to say.  My job is to love and support and protect her the best I can.  But about this, it is her path.

It just took me aback at how much pain I experienced over her pain and how much it brought up for me.  And that I know is my work.

Life can be complicated.

Adoption Unfolding: Finding the Birth Mother For My Kids

Not being able to have kids of my own was a huge issue for me.  I went through a long, protracted, agonizing grief period.  I was angry at God and my body and filled with longing and despair.  It was something I longed for since I was small.  A family of my own that no one could ever take away.  I remember feeling entitled to this because things had been so hard and screwed up in my family when I was a child.  This continued well beyond the time when I adopted my kids.  I love my kids beyond words, that is separate from this longing that I experienced.

When we adopted the kids, it was basically a closed adoption.  We met the birth mother once and there was no communication between us after the day we first arrived in Arkansas to adopt the kids.  She had lunch with us and then took us up to the NICU to see the kids.  She left suddenly, I imagine because the pain was so great.

The kids have always known that they were adopted.  My 13 year old daughter has gone through many periods of longing to know her birth mother.  She was and is young and I did not really imagine that I would be dealing with her meeting her birth mother before she was 18.  That all changed this week.

My daughter again brought up the issue of wanting to know this woman who gave birth to her.  The desire, the longing, pulls at her maybe in a similar way to how wanting children pulled at me.  So this week I searched for and found her birth mother.  I spent some time crying while looking through this woman’s FB page.  I looked at her family, her husband, her daughter, her life.  It seemed like she had pulled her life together and was pretty happy.

So I sent her a message, sobbing the entire time not exactly sure why.  The message basically said that I’m the woman who adopted your kids and my daughter wants to know you.  I told her that I hold her in a place of immense gratitude, that I hoped my message would find her well and not cause her pain.  I asked her to contact me and welcomed her to look through my FB page to see the kids.  I was not sure she would contact me and hoped both that she would and a little bit that she would not.  Mostly that she would.  Then I told my daughter that I had found her and let her see her birth mother’s FB page and the message that I had sent.

I had no idea what would happen.  Would she respond at all?  Would she be upset?  Would my daughter be ok if she did not respond?  If she did respond, how would I feel?  Would my daughter prefer her to me?  Would my daughter forget me?  Would she still love me?  Questions that don’t need an answer for the most part.  They are patterns of not feeling worthy and patterns cannot be reassured.  So I took a deep breath,  One of the gifts I learned in yoga and the personal work I have done the last several years is that I can breathe into any kind or amount of pain and it will lessen, it will ease.

Yesterday afternoon the birth mother replied to my message.  She said she had wished for this day for many years, that she thought of the kids and us often.  She said she needed a little time to pray about it but that she was grateful that I had reached out.  I was surprisingly excited to hear from her.  Not just for my daughter, but for myself as well.  This too surprised me.  After sitting with it for just a short period of time I realized that I want to share them with her.  I want her to see that I cherished the gift I was given.  I want her to know all about them and know that I did a good job.  I want her to see that they are happy and well adjusted.  I want her to like me.  Then I did the unthinkable and told her all of that in a message.  She thought it was sweet and said that she never doubted the kids were wonderful and well loved.  We have not had any communication since that and I expect it will be a few days before we do.  I told my daughter about all of this with my husband who is having a really hard time with it all.  My son just doesn’t want to know.  He said, “look Wuddles, I’m fine and I’m going to be with you forever so don’t worry.’  He also said he is not interested in meeting his birth mother at this time.  But he is at a different stage of development and has challenges of his own.  He may change is mind, he may not.

So all of this is a lot to sit with, and here I am surprised again.  I have no fear that this is going to be a negative experience.  I know that my daughter’s innate nature and the way I raised her means that her heart is big enough for more than one person.  And so is mine.  I can see a world at some point where the birth mother and her family become a sort of extended family to my kids.  We share the biggest possible thing together, the kids.  Likewise, I know that none of that may come to pass.  My husband is upset and having a really hard time with it.  My son is on the fence.  I have no idea whether the birth mother’s husband and family know that she had these kids and gave them up for adoption and what them knowing might do to her life.  I don’t know what fears she may have and whether she is willing and able to face them.  There is a lot that I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have done so much work on myself and learned so much from my yoga practice that I can sit with not knowing.  My mind can spin fears and I don’t have to believe them.  I can allow my heart to be open enough for any of these possibilities.  I can sit in the contradiction and be ok.  I can breathe anytime it hurts.  I can feel relief rather than fear.  I can know that this may be one of the biggest gifts I can give my daughter, that she doesn’t have to wait until she is an adult to find this in her life like so many do.  I can wait while this all unfolds and not feel the need to rush to see how things work out.  I can be thankful for whatever this brings to my life and the lives of my kids.  I can watch all of this unfold and know that God sent me nothing but angels to bring us to this beautiful place where we can grow and experience ourselves and each other in a place of light and love.  I can do all sorts of things today that I could not do before I started on this healing journey.  For all of this, I am grateful.

Namaste.

Adoption: A Quick Look at the Beginning

I was talking to another mom today and of course we got to the topic of our kids.  It does not come up often anymore that my kids are adopted (twins) but today it did.  At some point in the conversation the woman looked at me and said “You took them both?”

It never occurred to me otherwise.  I guess I don’t often realize how hard the journey was when we first brought the kids home.  They were born at 27 weeks and weighed a little over a pound each.  They both had heart surgery at 5 weeks and both had BPD and ROP, one much more severe than the other.  They both came home on oxygen with monitors.  My son was in the NICU about a month longer than my daughter.

Our adoption process was quick.  One of the quickest I had ever heard of.  We started the process in October, the kids were born in October.  The adoption was finalized at the end of January, a mere three months later.

I spent six weeks in a hotel in another state.  My daughter was discharged a week after we got there and my son remained in the hospital for another month.  Every day I took my daughter to the NICU and I took care of both of them during the day.  Then at night I took care of her.  I could not wait to get home with them.  I was so happy all the time.

I would stroller her around the hospital stopping people constantly asking them “isn’t she the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?”  Everyone agreed.  And my heart would ache at night when I had to leave my son there.  I enjoyed being with them all the time.

Coming home was a challenge.  We could not fly commercially because of the oxygen tanks and the fact that we could not get a direct flight.  The doctors did not want them in the car seats for as long as it would have taken to drive (probably about 10 days with all the stops we would have had to make).  Angel flights came to our rescue and got us home, for which we were really grateful.

Maybe it was because I had never had one kid so I don’t really know how it would have been easier.  I can’t imagine my life any other way than the way it is.  I also could not see at the time that they were all that sick.  I was so certain they would be fine that I never questioned it.  And it never occurred to me that the kids would be split up.  I have always thought it a gift that they have the same biological and adoptive family.  We have always talked openly about being adopted and we saved everything from their birth mother for them.  We take it out every year when we celebrate adoption day so that they can look at it.

Our kids are comfortable with the fact that they are adopted.  I overheard someone giving my daughter a hard time about being adopted and they said to her that she did not grow in my belly – like it was an insult.  She looked at him and said no, she did not grow in my belly but rather she grew in my soul.  Best answer ever.  And indeed they did.