“Our house is filled with hate,” I choked out in sobbing gasps sitting on a dock with new friends. We were sharing stories at a writers’ retreat last weekend, and I meant to start with where I went to college and how I was a theatre major and when I met the love of my life in a coffee shop playing the guitar with his hat pulled low.
“Our house is filled with hate,” I said. There's too much trauma. We are not okay. I laugh-cried about the challenges of creating family out of brokenness and how I'm tiny shattered pieces and failing everyday. Teaching three kids from three different continents to be siblings feels beautiful one minute and freaking impossible the next.
After infertility and IVF and adoptions we’re supposed to take our children, go home, and live happily ever after. But happily takes work and ever after feels long. Turning strangers into siblings is harder than snapping together Legos, and most days they’d rather take their toys and go . . . anywhere else.
“We've ruined lives,” I said. “We have a counselor coming to the house to help because every day is hard, and my kids are destroying each other, and all I'm doing is making dinner and watching the destruction.” I can’t fix the hurt, and I feel helpless.
After I fell apart on the dock and let some of the pain leak out, we climbed back up to the house, and my new friend Allison stopped me just outside the door. “You are enough,” she said, as she pulled me into a hug that was more than a hug: it was a commissioning. She held me tightly and looked into my blotchy face and said you are enough.
This is what moms do for each other. We commission each other. We declare strength over one another as we raise these babies against unspeakable odds.
I needed her to tell me that.
The counselor came yesterday and my kids played in the yard as I shared all my fears and frustrations. And then as I stood in the kitchen and listened to my child spill hurts in the next room, I felt hope and a tenderness return to my heart that's been so numbed by the days that wear me down.
- - - - - -
We signed the kids up for a Fun Run this morning. (I don't understand how "fun" and "run" can go together. Let's not go rhyming words willy nilly. Why not Shun Run?) We had to leave for the race at 7am, when it was still dark, and I did not have coffee. But I was motivated by the idea of making my kids get exercise, because someone told me exercise and family activities are important.
When we arrived I panicked because all the other parents were running, and I had it on good authority (my brain) that this was a KIDS ONLY race experience. I gestured to my Doc Martens and shrugged apologetically. "Of course I totally love running but, sadly, wore inappropriate footwear. Darn." The Race People warmed up the runners with Zumba, and my son stood there like "this is not really happening, and if I stand completely still I will disappear from this reality."
The runners took off, and I moseyed over to the finish line at a leisurely pace. The five-year-old beat the eleven-year-old by several minutes and the eight-year-old with my DNA shuffled in almost dead last, then asked me if his face was turning blue from lack of oxygen. The five-year-old has bragging rights for a year and the eleven year-old can't. even.
Fun Run, that's a wrap.
Okay, but seriously, what can motivate a five-year-old to beat an eleven-year-old? I think it was who she was running with. My friend Jenni ran next to her and spurred her on, saying, “Don’t give up! Let’s keep going!” And my little one kept moving when the older ones slowed to a walk and lagged behind.
We finish well when we run races together. (Clearly I’ve switched to metaphorical running at this point. I hope you get that. Me and my Doc Martens made for moseying aren’t running unless the zombies come for us.)
Creating Family is so hard. The journey to partners and kids is exhausting and then we find out the hard work has only just begun. I'm in the middle mile of the marathon, the part of the race when you think you won't make it and you're tired. And last weekend someone gave me a cup of water and screamed my name. “Melanie! Keep running! You are enough!”
Do you need to hear this, too? You are the right mom for these kids. You are enough.
I am right beside you spurring you on. You’ve got this. We will run the race together.
P.S. If you enjoyed this essay, don’t miss our podcast episode on Motherhood + Loneliness