My Epic Summer – Part 3 (finally)

Our third major milestone this summer was marking the one year anniversary of Iris’s adoption.  It was the quickest year of my life.  We arrived home last August just after her 7th birthday.  Here is the first picture we saw of her:

We thought she was beautiful from the beginning!

Part III – What my second adoption taught me.

#1 – God has a plan

Yep, even this time around he did.  I have spent a great many years dreaming about going to China to adopt a little girl.  By the time we got around to the adoption, China was a 5 year wait unless you went special needs.  I wasn’t mentally ready at the time to add another child with special needs to our house.  I just had a major mental block there.  That’s because God intended to send me to Africa to get Mesfin.  When our hearts were open to another adoption I just knew China was where we would go.

I’m so thankful that I listened to God’s plan.  And it wasn’t easy.  When you dream of a child for so long as I did a daughter from China, it takes time to make the mental switch to another country.  I had to mourn this daughter that I yearned for so much.  She wouldn’t be.

But God knows the desires of our hearts and even though I had put it all aside, He was just asking me to wait.

#2 – Sometimes adoption actually DOES save a child.

Although I believe that no one should go into adoption for the sole reason of saving a child, AND that children are better off with their biological parents in the country of birth if possible, I can’t ignore the millions of children that sit in orphanages with little or no future.  In Russia and Ukraine, 16 is the age that you are forced out of the orphanage.  15% of the kids commit suicide, 60% of the girls end up as prostitutes, and 70% of the men go to prison for major crimes.

Parts of China do their best to help a child be successful after the orphanage, but the ones with special needs are hopeless.  Iris would have little chance of getting married and would face much discrimination in the workplace.  Iris has a mild knee deformity that causes her leg to be slightly bent.  That’s it.  But she wasn’t perfect enough.  We have friends in Ohio who adopted a Chinese 11-year-old with spina bifida and she wasn’t allowed to go to school.  They felt her handicap was too great.  She sat in a diaper and wheelchair all day, every day, never leaving the orphanage.  What would have ever become of her at 18?

We are called to be a father to the fatherless.  Adoption is an answer.

#3 – The journey can be the easiest in life

Yep, that’s right.  We were so prepared for another major adjustment, yet Iris sailed right in like she owned the place.  We are so similar that I think it is more likely I was kidnapped for 12 months, kept drugged, impregnated, and then gave birth to this girl as opposed to we just randomly picked her out from a stack of files.

And the sarcasm my friends.  It is a wonderful gift God has bestowed upon me and she is also brilliant at it.  How is this possible?  The Chinese are not particularly known for their biting sarcasm.  I’m telling you, she came from my DNA.

#4 – Wounds remain

Iris’s sorrow is over choice.  Through tears she has told me that adoption is just so hard because she didn’t get to pick any of it.  She promises she would have picked me if it was possible, but it is all so scary because no one ever asked her what she wanted.

Iris also spent the first 5 years of her life with a foster family.  Then the governing agency said it was time for school and so she left that family and went to an orphanage for school age kids.  Then they chopped off her long hair.  I hear that story often.  She misses them.

Both foster parents continued visiting her at the orphanage once she left.  They called her and brought her gifts.  But they did not prepare her well, for she was even unsure if she came out of her China momma’s belly.

No, I told her, there was a mom that had you in her belly and she had to give you up.  Then when you were two days old you went to live with your foster parents. 

I don’t want to talk about it, she replied.  I don’t need to miss two mommas that gave me away.

When she was told she would be coming to America, Iris called her foster parents and says they cried, exclaiming We don’t want you to go!  Of course the mother said that because she would miss her.  But what Iris heard was I am so mad at you for going!  No matter what I tell her, she will not believe that her foster parents still love her, instead believing they harbor a lot of anger towards her for leaving.

#5 – Forever will never be long enough

I know you just read this about Mesfin, but it’s true.  Every project in school where they do a time line or a biography and I can only come up with a year, five years, of memories makes my heart hurt.

On her birthday I will always remember that there are two mothers in China that ache for Iris.  One that felt her grow for 9 months and one that spent 5 years clearly covering her with love.

I get the forever.  And I will do it to the best of my abilities in dedication to the women who came before me, for a shorter time, but loved them both as deeply as I do.

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My Epic Summer – Part 2

Our second major milestone this summer was marking the 5th anniversary of Mesfin’s adoption.  Five years doesn’t seem like a long time, yet I can’t really remember a day that Mesfin wasn’t with us.  Not only that, but he was almost 6 when we picked him up, so he has still logged in more time in Ethiopia then in America.  He seemed so old when we saw him (his paperwork said he was only 3 – hahaha) so when I look at this picture I can’t even imagine he was that little.  Those are not my memories.

The day we met Mesfin.

The day we met Mesfin.

Mesfin has taught me a lot about myself.  Some of it is really ugly I might add.  His adjustment was difficult and I in no way handled it with grace. This blog isn’t addressing all the yuck that bubbled out during that time.  I’ll save that for later.  Or you can adopt yourself, make a mess of it, then call me and I will reassure you I did it too.

Part II – What my first adoption taught me.

#1 – God has a plan
We filled out our paper work for a child under the age of 4 because Will was 5 and our agency was very firm on their policy not to break birth order.  Our referral sent us a picture of the beautiful boy above and gave us a birthday making him 3.  As I mentioned, he wasn’t.  We met his birth mom and she told us his birthday and that he was about to turn 6.  Say what?  There might have been some freaking out as we huddled in a small guest room at the orphanage, during rainy season, with not enough clothes (I just couldn’t fathom bringing a sweatshirt to Africa – stupid), while the city carried out random periods of blackouts to use less energy.  It gets dark in a city with no power.

When we arrived home I mentioned that the adjustment was difficult.  Not just for Mesfin, but for Will too.  He would go to bed crying “I never told you I wanted a brother.”  But a few weeks after we arrived home Will told us “I’m so glad he’s older.  I was praying for a brother that was older because I really like being the baby.”

Mesfin is such a perfect fit for our family now.  It’s took so much time for us to realize that while we were trying to control the situation through paperwork and what we felt was best, God had a young man picked out for us and he was bending information to put him with us.  God’s plans don’t always work out in such a way that makes sense to us, but He is always orchestrating the details of our lives.

#2 – Adoption isn’t about saving a child

I’m going to say it:  A child is better off with their biological mother in their native country than anywhere else.  But our world is broken so it can’t always work out that way.  Mesfin loved his life and it was brutally interrupted by adoption.  He had a mother that loved him and there was no way to reconcile the massive issue of HIV in Ethiopia.  For him, it was so much more like a kidnapping.  The rivers of gratitude weren’t flowing when we arrived home.  It was more like being dragged through the sewer system.  Adopted children have no choice.  They do not owe their parents anything.  Not love, not gratitude, NOTHING.  It is with love that we enter into this and that is our choice, so we owe them that plus a lot more.  Not the other way around.

#3 – This journey can be the most difficult in life

Living with a grieving child was beyond what I expected.  Mesfin’s first full sentence he strung together in English was “I already have a mom in Ethiopia so you will never be my mother.”  What does someone do with that?  Well I locked myself in the bathroom for a long and fruitful cry.  He had moments of anger, violence, uncontrollable sobbing.  All emotions to the extreme.  We hated each other a few times.  I recall crying out to the Lord I’ve wanted to adopt since I can remember!  Why would you give me a child that hates me?!  The grief for Jon and I was ever-present.  Our motto was “Love is a verb.  Fake it ’til you feel it.”  There were times I prayed for a way out.  (remember I said above I did not handle this with grace and beauty) When we enrolled him in kindergarten school had already started and I sat down with the teacher to talk about Mesfin.  The first thing she asked was “Tell me what is so great about Mesfin.”  I blanked.  Couldn’t say a word.  I was in such a state of emergency dealing with our house that I was unable to even see the good.

It was an honest full year of struggles.  Gradually getting better, but I don’t think I let my guard down until after that first year.  It can take some time.

#4 – Wounds remain

Although Mesfin is a happy and fully a Zabrocki boy, there are wounds that will always remain.  Sometimes I forget he’s ever had a life before me, but he doesn’t.  Last year I asked him if he was ready to go back to visit Ethiopia and he said “Mom, you just don’t get it.  If I go back I will want to look for my mom, but she will either be dead or, if I find her, I won’t be able to talk to her.  Either situation is unbearable.”  Loss never disappears.  It just softens over time.  There will always be a hole in his heart for the life he had before me.

#5 – Forever will never be long enough.

He is my son.  The love of my life.  Sometimes I want to tell people I had an affair just so that I can claim him as my biological son.   Mesfin is loved no differently.  In some ways I love him more fiercely than the others because of all that he had to go through and because of the crazy sense of protection I have for him.  I don’t want people to see my “adopted” son.  Just my boy.  Beautiful.  Serious.  Funny.  Smart.  Sensitive.  Clumsy.  Silly.  Handsome.  Oh to have the chance to go back and tell that kindergarten teacher what is so great about Mesfin.  There is an endless list of things.  I think about his Ethiopian mom so often.  I can. not. imagine.  I’m sure if she was sitting in front of this computer, writing about her son, she would also say forever will never be long enough.  But for reasons out of everyone’s control, I get the rest of forever.  That is so heartbreaking, and beautiful, at the same time.

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My Epic Summer – Part 1

This summer brought about three major milestones.  Jon and I celebrated 15 years, Iris checked off her first year as a Zabrocki, and Mesfin rang in year #5.  Big events around here.

Since I am now an expert in all things wifely and motherly (insert sarcastic laughter here) I’m beginning the first of three blogs detailing things I have learned and experienced from the above three people.

Part I – What 15 years of marriage has taught me.

 

Jon and I!   (Look how serious our friend Jenn is in the back.  Yes, she's picking out a beer, not buying stock.)

Jon and I!
(Look how serious our friend Jenn is in the back. Yes, she’s picking out a beer, not buying stock.)

#1 – I am not his Holy Spirit

I know, it’s hard to believe.  Three years before we adopted Mesfin, I was ready.  God said go and I said ok.  But first I needed to follow Jon around the house on a weekly basis to let him know what God had said and that his signature was going to required on multiple pieces of paper for MY adoption.  Shockingly, that ended in a fight.  Jon was not as convicted as I was.  His reply “You can pretend that all this crap is helpful to God, but you’re not my Holy Spirit.  This is just called nagging.  If God can convince you, then he can convince me.  Let it go!”

Hmmm…I pondered.  Can God actually convince people to do things without my assistance?  I decided to say nothing more and just pray about it.  It took four months, but once I was out of the way, God managed to finish the job by himself.

Note:  I’m still working on this.  I fail to believe that God can convince Jon to shut dresser drawers or Will to keep his shoes tied or Emily to clean her room or……well, you get the picture.

#2 – Have sex

I’m not going to say much about this one because my in-laws do read my blog.  Let’s just say it’s hard to stay mad at someone if you are naked.

#3 – Give up what doesn’t join you

I am not saying here that you stop being you.  Don’t let go of those things in life that you enjoy or the friends that you have.  Not all people and events need to unify you into one, but evaluate what just might bring you apart.

When Jon and I were first married we had very separate lives.  It happens when you tie the knot at 28.  I had a really great guy friend at work and we spent a lot of time together.  Jon got a new job shortly after the nuptials and he was working endless hours.  I began to find myself sharing more with my friend then my husband.  He became my emotional support.  The negative impact of Jon’s  excess working and my emotional attachment to another was a realization we came to at a marriage retreat.  It took some deliberate effort for me to pull away from my friend and for Jon to step up his support.  Jon also decided on a new job that wouldn’t take him away from his family 6 days a week morning to evening.  Was our marriage falling apart?  Were we fast tracking it to divorce court?  No, but we were heading in the opposite direction of the sweet spot that our marriage has certainly become.  We were heading apart, not together.

#4 – Build him up

No matter how manly your guy is, he wants to hear that you respect him.  Saying things like “Thanks for working so hard for this family”  or “I am proud of the father that you are” goes a long way.  And why not?  It may sound a little contrived at first…something you might hear in an after school special…..but if it’s from the heart he will appreciate it.  I was surprised when my husband once confessed that the weight of providing for his family sometimes kept him up at night, mainly because I spend very little time thinking about money and my house, and health insurance, and all the material things needed to run the Zabrocki corporation.  I’ve discovered that he’s not the only man with the strong desire to be a good provider.  It’s time to let them know that you think they are.

#5 – Laugh

On our last road trip my son Mesfin looked up at the two of us and remarked “Every time I look at you guys you are laughing about something.” Best. Compliment. Ever.  And we are.  We have learned to make light of almost anything.  Spend an afternoon eavesdropping on us and you might think we are the most insensitive people ever.  Yet it’s the opposite.  We love this big mess of a family to the point of suffocation sometimes.  But folks, there are days that if we aren’t laughing, we would be crying.  Not kidding.

And laugh at yourself friends.  You are not that cool.  Last month I did something so dorky (no full disclosure here) and my husband made fun of me for a solid 10 days.  Constantly.  I finally questioned my own laughing fits considering I was the butt of the joke.

Well that ends my wise and essential wisdom on marriage. (again, insert laughing at myself here) Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my epic summer!