Making Space


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For those of you who don’t know, we’re in the process of getting certified by Los Angeles County to adopt a child through the foster care system. That’s a picture of our CPR/first aid training (if you’re looking to do it, we highly recommend Ron Calloway).

Whenever I post about some new phase of our progress, I inevitably get 20 well-wishing texts, thinking that we’re bringing a baby home tomorrow. I forget that most people have no idea how this thing goes. There are about twelve million steps: paperwork and meetings and doctor appointments and rabies shots for the dogs and replacing windows because there are no regulation screens and and and…

We’ve been slowly chipping away at it for about six months. Staring at the final hurdles, I found myself feeling paralyzed. I kept landing in an overwhelmed face plant on the bed.

One morning, I decided to throw myself into it guns blazing and just get the thing done. I sat down with my trusty legal pad and looked objectively at every item on my list, with the intention of prioritizing and then attacking it systematically. It was immediately clear to me that the thing I needed to do most was to make space– in the garage, in Tariku’s room, in the disastrous kitchen cabinets.

Most of all, I needed to make space in my heart. I needed to make space in our life for another child.

One of the hardest things about the adoption process is that there’s too much time to overthink it, and a million legitimate reasons to get cold feet. Scott and I looked at each other every night and said, “Are we crazy? This parenting thing just got a little easier. It just got fun. We’re traveling. We’re going out in public without a scene. He’s in a great school. We relax now while our kid cannonballs into the deep end and swims the entire length of a pool. I don’t even have to get my hair wet anymore! And now we’re gonna go F it right up?”

We’re asking for trouble. No, really, we are. We know exactly what early childhood trauma does to the brain. We’re looking to adopt a boy around 3-5 yrs through the foster care system, who will inevitably carry trauma, loss, and deep grief. And then there are the risks involved, which terrify me. The worst being the possibility that the child will not be able to stay with us, which can happen. Sometimes I think we should just call a stop to all this immediately. And then I wonder if I’m having genuine reservations or I’m just scared.

Phew. That’s a lot. Even writing it gives me a stomachache. No wonder I was feeling paralyzed.

In the midst of all this, I happened to read Marie Kondo’s absurdly popular and totally psychotic organizing book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Yes, it’s that book that suggests you talk to your clothes.amess2

Well, I did it. I took two whole weeks, working all day every day. Everyone pitched in. We took everything we owned out of every drawer and cabinet and closet in the house and mostly we just gave it all the hell away, if only to avoid having to put it back. It was miserable.

It was also exactly what I needed. I’m not sure it changed my life exactly- check in with me in six months and see how we’re doing. But I did have ample time to reflect on what we truly needed and wanted, and what was important to us.

As I worked, I left space. I cleared drawers and left them empty. I left empty hangers in Tariku’s closet.

I wrote our child-to-be little notes as I went. In some cases I actually printed them on label tape and stuck them to drawers. I thought the visual reminders would help Tariku start subconsciously making space of his own.amess

I wrote:

We love you little brother!

This is your dresser!

In the garage, I created a bin for keepsakes and put it next to Tariku’s. On the bin, I wrote:

Welcome. We love you. We are waiting for you.

The current update is that we’re probably just a few short weeks away from completing our certification, which will make us eligible to get a placement at any moment, although it could take a while. Whenever it happens, the empty drawers are ready.

As I organized, I told myself that if after all that work, I found I ultimately didn’t want to go through with this adoption, that would be fine too.

Instead, I looked around and it was clear to me: we have a beautiful home, full of so much love and music and joy. We’re not at all crazy to want to share it with a child who needs a home. It’s okay to have ambivalent feelings. It’s okay to be scared of the unknown. It’s okay to start getting excited about it, even though the road ahead may be a rocky one.

And just look at all this room in my heart, after all.


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19 thoughts on “Making Space

  1. I have had some similar thoughts about adopting again (though we are far from it, if it ever happens). Maybe I need to give Marie Kondo a try 😉

  2. WOW! I would say that little book proved to be pretty life changing already. Thank so much for sharing your journey. Good luck.

  3. As someone who is just starting the adoption process (and currently drowning in paperwork), this made me tear up. I read the tidying up book, but I haven’t been brave enough to implement it, but perhaps I should!

  4. I feel so much hope when I read your posts. I have a child with sensory processing disorder and reading your book made me feel like I belonged…and that sometimes we have to fight for what is best for our children even when everyone else has an idea of what is right for them. I am so pleased to hear that you will give another child a chance to belong to your incredible family and enjoy the presence you both bring as parents. All the best to you.

  5. You have managed to put into words so many feelings that I have encountered in my parenthood journey and dreams of adoption. What a wonderful post. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for sharing these honest thoughts, desires and fears. My wife and I have been hoping and planning to become foster parents for over a decade. We have taken the classes 3 times and yet never made it past that point. We both want it, but then as soon as we start to really make progress I am paralyzed by fear and I put it off just a little bit longer. I want it so much and yet I am so scared. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish you all the best in this journey.

  7. My husband and I are in the exact same spot. Our two children are 9 and 6. They’re at school, in soccer, we’re involved in church. There are no diaper bags, strollers, car seats, midnight feedings. But there is still space, space for more kids. So we started the foster-adopt process. And then I freaked out. We did the classes, we sat through hours of instruction on how to care for drug exposed babies, the problems that come with littles who have been traumatized more times than most of will experience in a lifetime. My heart is breaking for these kids, but I’m terrified about what this means for our little family here, safe, loved.

    So I pull out the paperwork and I look at it. I think about filling it out. I start filling it out. I want to finish it, most of the time, but I’m scared. Scared to death! I don’t know when we’ll finish, but I’m pretty sure we will and then we’ll do our best to care and love and live for as long as we’re given.

    Thanks for letting me vent!!

  8. We finalized the adoption of our son with LA DCFS in June and have been fostering a daughter for almost 16 months. Because the need is so great in LA county, you won’t wait long after certification! Our son arrived 5 days after we were certified and it was our third call. We were even waiting on the “list” when we got the call for our foster daughter. Loving a child and living with the constant fear of losing her is still so real to us. You are right to get ready for the roller coaster ride of excitement and fear!

  9. I’ve *loved* both of your memoirs – and just finished “Everything you ever Wanted” a few days ago. I happen to be an adoption counselor, so from that perspective, I’m just curious what changed from the way you ended EYEW with LA County. I’m glad they opened up to your desire to foster/adopt, I was just wondering what it took for them to change their mind.
    Thank you for writing with such honesty – it is so refreshing : )

  10. Jump in with both feet don’t overthink it ! 47 kids later and #2 #12 and #47 are our lucky numbers!
    The love we receive outwits the heartache . Good luck!

  11. Hi! Found you through the glorious interweb. My stomach flip flopped a gazillion times when I read your post. You see, we were you, just a few short months ago. We have one 8 year old boy and 18 month girl. We competed the process to foster/adopt down here in San Diego county a couple years ago. One surprise pregnancy later (with a missed placement due to said pregnancy) and another half year catching up on licensing, classes, a new home study, we were back on the list in February. We had the same age range listed for the first missed placement but then our social worker suggested we broaden our ages and see who God places in our family. Talk about terrifying. Five short weeks ago, we got the call we’d been expecting/hoping for/dreading from our social worker…We have a placement for you. A safely surrendered newborn. You have two hours to decide. My husband rushed home from work, both of us shaking and crying and talking at once. It was happening. We immediately knew it was a yes. I too had just read Marie Kondo’s book and made space for a new person in our family. We went to the NICU our angel was staying in for her methadone exposure. We fell in love and the rest, as they say is history. We are currently her foster parents but being safely surrendered guarantees we’ll be her forever family come spring 2016. We’re currently working to wean her off methadone, working with ot and pt to help manage withdrawal and have run the emotional gamut of fear, joy, exhaustion, you name it. Our family motto right now is “We can do hard things.” Because we can. Together. As a family. Because, truly love is so much bigger and amazing when we open our hearts to the unknown. Good luck in your process, in your placement, in opening your heart and your family. Thank you for your courage in putting your real emotions about fostering out there. All the best.

  12. We thought about adopting through foster care but ended up doing foster to adopt instead. Which means you could basically never get an adoptable child. It is hard. Beautiful but hard.

  13. Such a great read and rings so many bells with me! We are waiting on approval after a nine month process. Kind of scary to think that we could get a child placed with us in the next few months……the house is soo not ready. Good luck to you, and all those eagerly and nervously waiting!!

  14. I always tell people that adoption is nothing like the play Annie. My parents adopted 7 kids from 5 different countries and the initial adoptions process is only a tiny part of the overall complexities. Infinitely complex but beautiful. If you want to know way more about our story, I just posted on my blog about returning to Colombia with my sister after she was adopted from there over 30 years ago.

  15. As a parent who has adopted 3 kids from foster care (in two adoptions several years apart; one was a teen, the other two were 4 & 5), your fear is not unfounded — but it’s been my experience that the more prepared (scared!) you are, the better you can handle reality. Reality is not all rainbows and kittens, but it’s nothing like the strychnine-in-the-well stories either. (Anne of Green Gables reference)

    Anyway, all that to say, I love the fact you’re sharing your real here on your site. This is my first visit to your blog and I love this post. 🙂

  16. Thank you for writing this! We are currently making room in our home for a sibling group of 3-4. We painted our girl’s (3 &9 years old) room this past weekend and we are working on going through all their things to get them settled in a shared room. It is good to hear from someone else about the fear of upheaval, and the anticipation of new joys. I was sent here from See Jamie Blog, and this is my first visit to your site. Thanks again and I wish you the best on your journey!

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