this past weekend was my visit to ga and a retreat with other adoptive moms at created for care. the retreat focuses on sharing information between adoptive moms, providing resources, creating connections with each other and with God, and giving you some time to rest in a peaceful environment. it took a little poking and prodding to get me to go, but i am so eternally grateful that i did.
i believe it was oprah who once said that God speaks in a whisper - and that is definitely true for me. (at least until this weekend.) kierstin suggested the retreat to me last year and i really dismissed it, thinking dax would be too young and it would be too expensive. then when cherie mentioned it to me in 2012 i started to wonder why this was coming up so often. i figured i had better look into it a little more. after some research and listening to God - it just seemed meant to be and i decided i would go. i secured my ticket for the retreat online and picked out my breakout seminars. cherie and i watched for inexpensive air fare and decided to book our flights. kierstin offered to share her hotel room with us, so now our rooms were booked as well. it was all set. there was no turning back.
the time between when i made all of the arrangements and when the next to last weekend in march would roll around seemed to go quickly. before i knew it, it was time to pack my suitcase (which is always done the night before) and kiss my babies goodbye. i was not as sad leaving for the retreat as i was once i got to ga and realized i'd just left my 4 month old baby at home. i think the reality of it all hit me then. still, i was with cherie and she and i chatted away. she kept me busy and kept my mind off of it. ellen picked us up at the hertz counter at atl and the three of us began to make the trek through atlanta's down town core and over to lake lanier. i was thankful ellen was driving, since reading a map is not my forte. we hopped off an exit and found a cuban place for lunch. after some cuban coffees we were all back in the car and ready for the last leg of the trip.
we arrived to the resort just in time to check in to the hotel, sign into the retreat, pick up our nametags and itineraries, and be ushered off to our first break out session. my first session was a class on african american haircare. sweet baby dax does not have much hair right now, but i know (well i hope) that won't always be the case, and when he does have hair i want it to be well managed. this class was helpful in learning techniques with cleaning, conditioning, using various oils, styling with braids, cornrows, dreads, swimming techniques, and products to use when the kiddos do get into the pool to help keep the hair from drying out. i took good notes and got a lot of tips on products that we will try (since we never have enough product) once dax gets older.
after a dinner break we all headed to the main session in the hotel's grand ballroom. we were welcomed with a slideshow of all of the moms and their children they'd brought home from various parts of the globe. there were over 400 moms there mothering over 1000 adoptive children. pretty impressive. the main session with dr. susan hillis began by teaching us that we are perfume, we are mirrors, and we are treasure. for some people, myself included, it was hard to hear those three things - even though i wanted to believe them. i practiced over the next several days, just reminding myself that - i am perfume - i am a mirror - and i am treasure. its becoming easier to say and thereby easier to believe.
it was great to meet so many people that i'd only previously known online. it was amazing to see how people are really as open and honest as they represent themselves to be through their blogs. it was good to meet up and actually put a live face and personality with the blogs and stories i've heard. everyone was so fantastically amazing!
saturday began with an early rise. i had not slept much at all the night before. the reality of talking to a 4 month on the phone was just not that rewarding on my end. i just missed him terribly. i got up very early to go to an 8am date with God. the date with God was intended to help people reconnect with God and to listen to what he is trying to tell you - listening through a whisper - if you will. the various stations (as part of the date) were to have you go to a prayer wall where you would pray for concerns, a painting station where you would paint what God sees you as, a sculpting station where you'd sculpt what God puts on your heart, a tent for quiet time and prayers where you'd go and sit and be still just listening to God, a gold path at the base of the cross where you'd read scripture that was speaking to you in this time, or a world map where you could physically lie on the country that holds your heart and share your prayer. you could go to any station in the room, or you could visit them all - but you were only given 1 hour total. i started at the prayer wall, wrote a prayer for our adoptive hopeful friends and our birthson's mom and then proceeded to pray for every prayer that was written on the wall. after about 20 minutes at the wall i mosied on over to the tent. it was whispering my name.
when i got to the tent i immediately found a cozy spot where i could sit and comfortably rest. i thought this would be the perfect place for me to get answers from God. after all, in this quiet he'd probably sway my heart one way or the other for adoption plan number two. do we go international or do we adopt domestically or even through the foster system? will and i have not been 100% on the same page about it, so i was ultra curious how God would weigh in. i just sat back, closed my eyes, hung my head, emptied my heart, and listened. when i listened i could hear my own heart asking for what i want, but nothing else was shining through. i sat in silence. i was pretty sad that nothing was coming. i moved to thinking about my love of dax and my family - when there in the stillness - a light shined through my closed eyelids that made me stop and listen a little bit more closely. when i starred into the blurry figure of light coming through my eyelids all i could begin to think of was my adopted sister beth. (for a moment i was thinking why is beth here - is she going to help us decide which adoption we should pursue? - then the duh moment came to me and i realized this was not about me, it was about her.
beth came into our family before i was born. all i knew of her was that at my birth she was there with her long flowing blond curls and her sweet blue eyes full of excitement for her little baby sister to be welcomed into our family. to me - life before i was born was just unimportant. i never concerned myself with it at all. (well, until you had some school project that poked in to get some details to fill out a timeline or a worksheet.) i don't recall having any conversations with our parents with regards to beth's story - her history - as to where she was born - where she spent time before coming to mom and dad - or how she processed all of it. it was in this moment that i realized that her biology and her past was just never a concern of mine - and for that i felt great sorrow. i thought the right thing to do, when i found out she was adopted, was just to never talk about it again - and by doing that i thought i was saying - hey - i love you just like we were born from the same womb - and that's all you want - right?
but that was just not the right thing to do. instead of opening up, i shut down. even after we started plans to adopt a child of our own, i still never reached out to beth to get her take on things and ask her for advice. i never thought about gaining insight on her perspective. the one time i did ask her something about the adoption she just suggested (very gently) that we pursue an open adoption. in her statement at the time, all i could think about was standing in her kitchen, some 12 years ago, and listening to her story of finding her paperwork in a mess of holes, gaps, and inconclusive information. it was not until i was sitting under that tent that i realized the pain that she was feeling 12 years prior, and for all her years before and after that time.
i was never there, and i don't personally feel like anyone in our family ever really was. for me to feel like such an adoption advocate now, i felt almost two faced for letting this go on any further in our own family. i had to text her, not get it off my chest, but just to - as quickly as possible - start some form of healing and forgiveness. i left the date with God and rushed out of the hotel and kept walking until i found a quiet spot. i stood there and through my tears, i texted beth and asked her to forgive me for never understanding her loss and grief in adoption - and for that matter never trying to. it was a release of emotion and something that should have been said years prior. we did not know then what we know now about adopted children suffering the loss of their biological heritage (but i thank God for carissa woodwyk really explaining this to me), and i never once thought how uprooting, damaging, and scary that all must have been for such a tiny young girl. in a better understanding of the need to know your own personal history i want to do whatever i can to help her heal that wound, gather that information, and find that sense of acknowledgement and fulfillment that she so desires.
not to diminish any other portions of the retreat, but my other sessions on nurturing your marriage and domestic/foster adoption in the us were the ones i was most looking forward to. nurturing your marriage was something i really wanted to focus on because i want to make sure that dax (and our other future children) always have two loving parents who model sacrificial love for them. the session was open and honest and covered some delicate topics. everything fell on listening ears and i was eager to get home and tell will about what i had learned. we're in a good place that can only get better the more we focus on it and put into it. the session on domestic/foster adoption was a series of stories of adoptions and foster care journeys that were told by those who had experienced them first hand. each story was heart felt and chock full of similar experiences we'd had just recently in adopting dax. will and i have discussed fostering children and foster to adopt programs in the past, so it was good to make a connection with someone in this arena. this foster mommy has had over 126 children in her home! she is by far the expert on the topic. i left this session leaning more towards doing another domestic adoption in the future. i don't feel that will nor myself could emotionally handle a fostering situation because we do become so attached and in love with people so quickly. we'll sit this on the back burner for now and come back to it later.
so, even though this past weekend at created for care was a journey that i planned to take for my own self and my own child(ren), it was so much more than i could ever have imagined. this past weekend has given me the opportunity to make things right with my sister and my parents and help us all heal from a life long journey of living in a closed adoption. we're ultimately so thankful and grateful to God, beth, cathy, kierstin, bethany, and anyone else who suggested we move forward with an open adoption plan - and know that daxton will always know where he came from before his life "started" here in our home.