A year ago today we walked through a rural Ugandan village for the very first time. With one daughter in our arms and the other by our side we began to absorb a bit of their culture. Our family's culture.
Tony: It's hard to believe it has been exactly a year since Emily and I met our daughters Catherine and Norah. It was an incredible day we will never forget. In the moments before I first held them the anxiety and excitement of meeting my two daughters completely took over my mind. I forgot about how tired I was after travelling for more than a day to reach them. I forgot about all of the waiting, paperwork, and struggle Emily and I went through to get to that exact moment in time. I forgot about any other worry and fear in my life. All I could think about were the two little girls who sat in the van parked 50 yards away and how soon we would be face-to-face.
One thing so amazing about life one year later is that thinking about seeing Catherine and Norah still does the same thing to me. I love coming home to them each day. They make me forget about everything tough I'm going through. All of my stress, my fears, and everything I am struggling with is suspended temporarily when I get to hug them. I am completely out of my mind when I see my girls. Today I remember that July 8th of last year was just the start.
Emily: One year ago was just the start. And how far we have come in just a year. Not all moments have been as blissful as the time we first sat together on Ugandan soil, but the good outweighs the bad sevenfold. The anxiousness and excitement we felt while waiting to greet our children for the first time quickly faded to pure joy as the meeting we had prayed over played out as if in our most perfect dream.
Now let me acknowledge that the stories of first meetings are as varied and unique as the adoptive families that tell them and the emotions experienced during those initial interactions are all valid and normal. Pure euphoria and complete awe is not written into everyone's story. Fear, timidness and awkward conversation is as often present as joy and connectedness. Our back-stories and circumstances color our first meetings as they should be. Although there can be many similarities, each adoption story is one of it's very own. At the time of initial introductions some children are too hurt and fragile to embrace the love of a new parent(s) and some adults are still plagued by doubts that they can fully connect without the instincts of biology. I want to be among the truth tellers in adoption and say that this is NORMAL. No matter how that initial meeting goes you all push forward, because to quote Jen Hatmaker,"...when God said He sets the lonely in families, He meant it, and He doesn’t just transform the “lonely” but also the “families.” He changes us for one another. God can create a family across countries, beyond genetics, through impossible circumstances, and past reason."
Our initial meeting is one that we reflect on with utter gratefulness. Tony and I stood under a large tree with tears in our eyes as the final seconds ticked down before we caught our first glimpse. I remember waving my hand in front of my eyes as if I could somehow dry the tears that pooled as a reprimanding voice inside my head muttered, "you're going to scare them". I took a deep breath as our girls came around the back of a van and into view. They looked amazing! In that moment I thought my heart would burst, and then it happened...our oldest, Catherine, began to run towards us with her arms wide open! You guys, I cannot even tell you what life felt like in that moment. We were living a dream. And just when I didn't think my heart could be any more full our tiny 3-year-old, Norah, who was carried over to where were stood, so sick and frail, the girl who wore a frown in almost all of her photos, reached out for me from the arms of a social worker. If there were not photographs to prove it, I'd say I imagined the whole thing. It was too perfect. I am in awe of the goodness that was poured onto our family that day.
We spent the next minuets getting to know one another and filling the air with simple chit-chat. I think we were all in awe of one another. I have shared with many people that there is one big thing I under estimated when envisioning our first meeting with girls. I knew that Tony and I loved our girls completely before we'd ever met them, but I didn't realize is that they were loving us with the same kind of love before they'd ever met us. I tell people it's a miracle. It is a miracle.
Today we celebrated the day we first met the best way we knew how. With frozen yogurt! July 8th of this year did not contained any out of body experiences or so much happiness we thought we might faint; instead it was a pretty normal day for our family of four. And that makes me smile, because that miraculous day a year ago was the jump start to our family's togetherness. While we hope for more over the moon moments, life as a "regular old family" is feeling pretty good.
Today we want to share 5 TEDTalks which have driven us to conversation and left us feeling more curious and inspired. TED: Ideas worth sharing The antidote to apathy- Dave Meslin "How often do we hearthat people just don't care?How many times have you been toldthat real, substantial change isn't possiblebecause most people are too selfish,too stupid or too lazyto try to make a difference in their community?I propose to you today that apathy as we think we know it doesn't actually exist,but rather, that people do care,but that we live in a worldthat actively discourages engagementby constantly putting obstacles and barriers in our way." The power of vulnerability - Brene Brown "And shame is really easily understoodas the fear of disconnection:Is there something about methat, if other people know it or see it,that I won't be worthy of connection?The things I can tell you about it:it's universal; we all have it.The only people who don't experience shamehave no capacity for human empathy or connection.No one wants to talk about it,and the less you talk about it the more you have it.What underpinned this shame,this "I'm not good enough," --which we all know that feeling:"I'm not blank enough. I'm not thin enough,rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough,promoted enough."The thing that underpinned thiswas excruciating vulnerability,this idea of,in order for connection to happen,we have to allow ourselves to be seen,really seen." Massive-scale online collaboration - Luis von Ahn "How many of you had to fill out some sort of web formwhere you've been asked to read a distorted sequence of characters like this?How many of you found it really, really annoying?Okay, outstanding. So I invented that.(Laughter)Or I was one of the people who did it. That thing is called a CAPTCHA."
Violence against women - it's a men's issue - Jackson Katz "I'm going to share with youa paradigm-shifting perspectiveon the issues of gender violence --sexual assault, domestic violence, relationship abuse,sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children.That whole range of issues that I'll refer to in shorthandas "gender violence issues,"they've been seen as women's issues that some good menhelp out with, but I have a problem with that frameand I don't accept it.I don't see these as women's issues that some good men help out with.In fact, I'm going to argue that these are men's issues,first and foremost." Your body language shapes who you are - Amy Cuddy "So social scientists have spent a lotof time looking at the effects of our body language,or other people's body language, on judgments.And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language.And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomeslike who we hire or promote, who we ask out on a date."
Do you have a favorite TEDTalk? We'd love it if you shared.
Tony: Today is the one year anniversary of "the call". At this point in my life it is by far the best phone call I have ever received. I will never forget the moment I saw the adoption director's name on my cell phone. Or the mixed emotions of fear, nervousness, excitement, and total anxiety as I answered. At the time it seemed like we would never get the call that we could travel. We are terrible wait-ers.
A lot of things have changed in a year. Duh, right!? I mean things look, sound, and feel completely different around here these days. Am I stating the obvious? As I reflect on this day exactly one year ago it's clear we are in living in a different world. For example, while I type this post I hear the same children's song for the fifth time as the girls keep playing it over and over again in their room attempting to sing along. Annoying? Of course. And I'm okay with that. There are days I find myself starting to getting frustrated, or even angry, at the girls, so I constantly try to remind myself where we were a year ago. I would have given anything to hear Catherine's cute accent and Norah's jumbled up lyrics. Don't get me wrong...I still yell at those little turds some nights, but it's with much love.
I also really enjoyed reading through our original post about getting the call last June. Especially the part about The Rocket Summer song. It's a good reminder that I have (and will!) go through a lot of hard times in life, but if I hang on tight enough I will get through.
Emily: Oh, the call! Tony is right, we are terrible at waiting. What a relief it was to see what we hoped was a light at the end of the tunnel. I know others who have navigated the adoption process with much less complaining and impatience. They seemed cool, calm, respectful of the process and understanding. You guys, I think I seemed crazy.
A year removed and the night we got the call is still a bit of a blur. One look at our silly, smiling faces (picture snapped as documented proof of our joy which we can share with our girls to build our family's back story, whip out when one of them screams, "You don't care about me!", or glaze upon when The Parenting Olympics makes us want to throw in the towel) and I begin to wonder if we had any idea in our moment of exhilaration and temporary relief just how hard the next steps would be. In the words of our youngest, "Silly, Mom. Silly, Dada".
I enjoy reflecting back on this time in our lives. It is certainly much easier to put words to these experiences now that the emotional roller coaster of last year is a memory. Much of what Tony and I experienced on the trip to bring our family together required more mental processing then I expected. Starting our family was hard work, yo! While some moments during our adoption process will continue to remain private, and some are best discussed face-to-face, others are ready to be shared in greater detail now that the fog has cleared. We hope over the next few months to do exactly that. As we approach the one year anniversary of some amazing moments (ok, some are completely cray-cray and some are pretty mundane) we are excited to post about how they have shaped/are shaping us and our family.
So happy anniversary of "the call" to my little family. May we continue to have moments of goofy happiness as we think about how cool it is living life together!