This Is Your Moment. How I finally became the mother my children need me to be (and you can too).

by elizabeth hunter on December 23, 2013

 

 

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No way around it. This post contains a dramatic piece of personal news. Instead of spending three paragraphs building up to the big reveal, I’m just going to tell you right here and now.  I’ve been absent from this blog because this past fall I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, which, honestly, is the single most surprising thing that has ever happened to me (I had literally no idea it ran in my family).  I could not leave that to tell you for the second paragraph

 

I have never been one to play games in my blog. I have spent these past months groping for the words, trying to find what I want to say about this.  I am still stumbling around trying to pull myself together. I’ve decided not to wait any longer for the words to come elegantly together.  There is nothing elegant about this experience!  It has completely exploded my life and my identity.  I wake up shocked every single day that “someone like me” (fit,  active, mother of four young kids) has cancer.  It has thrown into a million pieces in the air the person I thought I was. And I am still up here, in some sort of crazy & tortuous slow motion dance, waiting to land in a new solid place.  Waiting to figure out what it all means.

 

Obviously, breast cancer is an issue that all adoptive moms and women who have gone through fertility treatments need to pay particular attention to.  But that’s for another post.

 

Now I  need your full attention. Because there’s actually something even stranger than  cancer going on here. And this is the part that could make or break the outcome of your adoption and your journey as an adoptive mother or any kind of mother for that matter.  It’s something I only vaguely sensed during my four adoptions. But now its crystal clear.

 

When big challenges of any sort arise, when something or everything is on the line (it  strangely doesn’t seem to matter whether its infertility, adoption,  a perplexcing developmental challenge with a child, or illness)  what most people do is panic. Then fall into some version of victim mode:  “Why me? Why not her?  What did I do wrong? Why is my life so hard? What if it doesn’t work out?”  Hopelessness, despair, freaking out, temper tantrums, getting mad at your spouse, etc…  Believe me, I’ve done them all and then some.

 

During my four adoptions, I was way too busy stressing out and worrying that I’d never become a mother to notice: When you’ve had your fill of panic and despair, when you’ve completely moaned and screamed yourself out, when you’re so bored with your sad story you can’t listen to it one more time.  That’s when, if you’re lucky,  it slowly starts to dawn on you that there may in fact be something way bigger going on here. You start to glimpse this kind of ass backwards, elephant-in-the living room opportunity sitting there quietly waiting for you to notice it in the midst of the gooey mess of your life.  I’ve interviewed and worked with hundreds of women who adopt and I’m here to tell you, most women who adopt never get beyond panic mode.

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But if you’re reading this then you are probably not the average mom or mom-to-be.  And you may or may not have already started to figure it out for yourself:  No woman comes fully prepared to be the mother her children need her to be.  We are made or broken in crisis. Its not the easy times or the smooth times that set the course of our lives. We are defined and shaped by uncertain times.    The kind of life we are going to have.  The kind of mothers and women we are going to be for the children we may or may  not even have met yet.  People talk a lot about the pain of childbirth.  But becoming the mother you were meant to be happens on so many other deeper levels.  And it isn’t always pretty.

 

Its funny because there was a time when the fact that I have been absent from this blog for so long would be something I felt compelled to explain. Instead, ironically, this is the  lesson I want to share with you from my journey to the uncharted wild lands of radical & rapid personal transformation that some people like to call cancer.

 

Here are my three steps to handle setbacks and challenges with authenticity and presence instead of panic and victimhood:

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1.  Do it Differently. When challenges arise, ask yourself what most  people would be doing in your situation.  Then do it differently. If you want an extraordinary life, then don’t follow the pack.  Give yourself permission to put yourself first, take the time to tune in,  and screw what it looks like from the outside.

 

If you want to bring home your child by the end of 2014, in the current climate of adoption,  you’re going to need to make some fierce & creative choices.    The pack mentality will never help you in adoption. If you haven’t noticed, the women who adopt successfully and quickly often seem to be the exception to the rule.   Just breathing and giving yourself permission to do it your way is something 99 percent of women who adopt don’t ever think of doing.

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2. This is Your Moment. Recognize through the tears and the frustration:  This is your moment.  Everything in your life has been leading up to your facing down this challenge.  It sounds so simple, but just noticing ‘whoa! I’m having a big life defining moment here!’ can pull you out of panic and victim mode and give you the awareness to turn fear into power.

 

3. Surrender to the Wisdom of Uncertainty. There is nothing scarier than uncertainty. We women don’t like to feel out of control.  We like to feel competent.  But sometimes, like when you’re doing something crazy difficult like adoption,  you have to admit you don’t have all the answers.    But if you can  kind of be okay with the fact that yes, your life is never going to be the same. You are never going to be the same. And maybe it will work out the way you want and maybe it won’t.  And maybe this is not what you planned..  When you stop holding so tight to your dreams & desires.  You actually allow yourself to become bigger than you were before.  Because your past no longer defines you.  You open to new possibilities. That’s when cool things start to happen.

 

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And so I found myself at breakfast recently discussing shaving my head with my four children.  My hair has always slightly defined me.  I have no idea what life is like without long & flowing hair on my head.  And now I have four sweet children looking at me over the breakfast table and I have  a bald patch in the back of my head that showed up that morning and they are asking about and it can’t be put off any longer.  It is time to have the talk with them.

 

I’m nervous.  I pray for the courage to find the right words.  I pray not to bullshit my children.  I pray to be a braver woman than I am.  I pray, ‘Let me say something that will give these children their own brand of courage someday.’  To try to make something amazing out of even the craziest, scariest situations.

 

My voice is shaking as I start my planned speech: “Something really interesting is going to happen and I want you guys to pay attention so you don’t miss it. Because you probably won’t see Mommy like this again and its going to be very interesting.” I stumble on my words. I can’t do this. And at just that moment, my husband comes out and, without telling me, he has shaved his head!  And he makes a funny face and the kids all start laughing and the tension breaks.  Then my kids fill in the words that I cannot find.  “So you are going to shave it off because…it’s itchy Mommy?!”  Yeah, I’m going to shave it off.

 

 

Strangely we have stuck with our plan to homeschool despite getting this diagnosis in late August.  We are working on a language arts block called Saints and Heroes and we are starting the story of Saint Francis that week and unbelievably, two days before I read the following passage:  ‘Francis shaved his head so he could here the voice (of God) come through more clearly when he preached to the animals.’  I leave it simple, I don’t say I am shaving my head to hear the voice of God.  I just say, so this week we’ll be learning about someone else who shaved his head.  And like a miracle my oldest daughter says “That is so cool!  You are so cool Mom!”

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And that’s when I know:  bravery doesn’t come to us by ourselves, we have our angels, our guiding hands to pull us forward when we are lacking.  I also know it is in these moments that you start to see the sleeping giant, the better person that you always knew you could be if only…

 

…it turns out you don’t become a bigger person until something happens that requires giant faith or giant presence.  Until then, the giant inside you remains remains asleep.

 

So don’t be afraid to embrace the whole crazy uncertain adoption journey. Be creative, be different, be bold, be brave. You can do it! There are all sorts of forces out there to help you.  You do not have to have all the answers.  You do not have to be sure you will make a good mother. Just give yourself permission to listen to your intuition, and go for it.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire December 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Elizabeth, I’m so sorry for your current struggle, but impressed that you have been able to learn some important revelations from it. Thank you for sharing them with us. It sounds like you handled the situation beautifully in how you explained it to your kids.

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Smileymom December 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Dear Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight and for turning your struggle into an amazing journey that inspires, encourages, and teaches other mothers. You are right, that it is difficult to get out of panic mode when so much is riding on you and the responsibilities (your children and your family) that you choose to carry. Our journey has taught us a lot about faith and this ties right into it. I am praying for your physical, mental, and spiritual health and healing. Merry Christmas!

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Azaima December 23, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I’m so sorry for your news, Elizabeth. Been there (not the adoption part, but the chemo head part). Please check out cannabis oil as a nontoxic cure.

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Susan Whelan December 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm

“Nothing’s wasted on the writer.” http://crescentdragonwagon.typepad.com/

You are certainly the embodiment of that theory. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your truths. Much love to you and Tim and the beautiful kids this holiday season, nothing but good luck and healing for you all in the New Year.
XOXO Susan from the Census

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Jen December 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Elizabeth,

As the wife of a leukemia survivor of 10 years, I know how scarey a cancer diagnosis can be. I also know there is hope! As one who is on the other side of the IF battle (after 3 years of TX and 4 years trying to adopt with a failed adoption along the way) whose resolution is childfree living, I recognize your three steps as some I went through to become childfree rather than childless.

I wish you peace as you face what lies ahead.

Jen
Jen recently posted..I’m Glad That’s Not Me

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Amanda December 25, 2013 at 2:11 am

I so loved the bravery and inspiration you shared. What an amazing blog, even your photos are touching and made me want to cry. Such a gorgeous family. I know that going into the unknown has brought me to my deepest connection to Source. Sending you and your family prayers during this dark night, knowing that the Light will return soon. Merry Christmas as well.

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