My friends Mike and Kristin Berry at Confessions of an Adoptive Parent recently gave me the opportunity to read Kristin’s new book that just released this week:
I met Kristin and Mike last year at the Refresh conference in the Seattle area last year. The conference was not just a drink of water for my parched soul — it was like jumping into the deepest, most refreshing pool you could imagine.
As you all know, it had only been a few months since we had returned Z to his biological mom. I was still quite heartbroken, and hadn’t gotten an update or photo of him in weeks. And so when I saw that this couple was offering a workshop on how to have working relationships with biological parents — I was all in.
At their workshop, I found out they are adoptive parents to 8 (8!!!!) kids. (Some of whom are now a little to old to be called kids.) I got a glimpse of their story, and later asked for their advice on salvaging any relationship I could with Z’s mom. I figured if anyone had advice to give me — it would be them! Through this year, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know them better, and helping out on a few of their projects.
So when they offered me the chance to read Kristin’s newest book — a memoir about becoming family to one troubled little boy — I jumped on it. I figured I would love it, and be anxious to recommend it to my foster/adoptive community.
And I was right. I did love it. And I DID want to recommend this book to my fostering/adoptive friends.
But I was wrong about one thing. This book is not just for fostering and adoptive families.
This book is for every single mom who has ever wondered “Am I enough?”
Am I enough to handle my child’s behavior?
Am I showing enough love in all the right ways?
Am I truly the right parent for this kid?
Here is the crux of their story:
Kristin and Mike were asked by a birth parent to adopt their two kids, Alexander and Camille. It didn’t take long for Alexander to show signs that something besides normal adoptive issues was going on beneath the surface. But it took years of difficult and traumatic parenting before they finally got a diagnosis. Alexander has a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
We foster parents are trained to know that alcohol is the most dangerous drug for babies in utero. Oh yes, crack and meth — those suck, don’t get me wrong. But with those drugs, a brain is usually able to find work-arounds. It can recover, at least in most cases. But with substantial alcohol exposure? A child is born permanently changed, without any hope for a cure.
They are literally born broken.
Now what I expected from Kristin’s memoir was a lot of facts about FASD, and facts about adoption, and “this hurts but you should do it too.”
Nope. Nada. Zilch.
What I didn’t expect was to get sucked in immediately to a tender-hearted, vulnerable story about motherhood in all its glories and all its failings. And when I mean sucked in, I mean, “Forget housework, forget Facebook, forget blogging or my Netflix shows.” I mean, “I’ll just read one more page” — then 3 chapters later look up from the book (aka black hole) I’d been in. THAT kind of sucked in.
Besides the fact that she is an expert storyteller — and really, don’t we all love great narrative — there were these moments where audibly sighed and went, “yep . . . me too.”
While Kristin has endured far more in her experiences parenting Alexander and her other children than I have, so much so that I even wondered how they’ve managed to hold on, I still found a voice I could relate to. A tender, resilient, vulnerable and transparent voice that says, “This is hard, but there is hope.” Her voice made the book.
I knew better than to allow myself to react, but I did. I was horrified with myself as I responded out of my own hurt and rage.
That was the theme of my day. Emptiness. I felt like someone drained me like a decanter of stale coffee. I wasn’t just running low; I was empty. Not empty enough to be free from tears I discovered too late.
My breath caught and the room started spinning. “No.” I whispered. The shoe slipped out of my hand as I stood and walked out of the room. . . . My fingers brushed the bassinet. Out of habit, I placed my hand on the quilt that lay inside. I began to pray for the unborn daughter. I froze, my heart constricting with the realization of my mistake. My chest felt so heavy I thought I might crush beneath the burden. One tear fell and then another. I fell to my knees, hands grasping at the emptiness around me. With each heaving breath, sadness spilled from me. “No, no, no, no, nooooo.” My hand rested on the eyelet hem of her bed. The fabric felt as cold and empty as my heart.
I can’t always be patient. I am not always kind. I’m not quite as good as I wish. Even my faith is fickle. I desire to be gentle but my edges are rough. My self-control only lasts for so long. Yes, we are strong and mighty but in our humanity, we also have a frailty.
Yep . . . me too.
There are so many books already on the market that moms can relate too. Few of them extend a hand to foster and adoptive moms, and let them know they are understood. Born Broken does just this. It shares all the poignant nuances of loving a child who did not come from your womb. A child with an uncertain future. A child you may keep, or may give back. A child who is forever changed due to choices or circumstances of their previous life and first family.
So yet again, I found myself nodding my head, silently agreeing.
His screams turned to sobs and then just tears. I wiggled my arm through the rungs of his crib. The tightness of sorrow gripped my chest as he grasped my pinky with his tiny little fingers. That night I cried too. I pictured Alexander’s momma, far away. I thought about my own mom just one room over, supporting me and loving me, and I wept at the thought of losing her. I thought about my daughter, knowing I would wake up to see her smiling face, and my heart ached at the thought of being separate from her. I couldn’t imagine what these children must be feeling. I had no solution. I had no words. I found myself in the middle of a storm with no calm in sight.
It is through my [child’s] brokenness that I have seen my own fractured spirit magnified.
I felt blank and tired and emotionless. I felt like no mother at all. This isn’t the way I planned my life. I planned love and adventure and joy. The joy was gone. . . . I was certain that God had made a mistake. I wasn’t the one he meant to raise these children. He couldn’t have possibly entrusted me with them. I was just messing it up one day at a time.
Yep, me too.
So you might be wondering . . . is this book for me?
Well, the answer is YES, if you are . . .
-A hurting mom
-An adoptive or foster parent
– A parent to a difficult child
– A mom who sometimes feels like she’s not enough for her kids
-A parent who had to make really difficult decisions for the wellbeing of their children
-A parent of a special needs child
-A friend to an adoptive/foster parent
-A couple considering adoption or foster care
-Someone who occasionally cries at night because having kids did not go as you hoped or expected
But if you are . . .
-A perfect parent
-Someone who would rather do mountains and mountains of laundry over reading a good book
– A potential foster/adoptive parent who truly does not want to understand what adoption can be like
. . . Well, then I think it’s safe to say you guys get a pass on this one. (Although, I have to say, I doubt any of you guys really fall into one of those categories. Clean, folded clothes, afterall, are highly overrated.)
For the rest of you — Here’s the link to check out Kristin’s book. And while you’re at it, you may want to check out Confessions of an Adoptive Parent on Facebook. They are launching a new online community of support for foster and adoptive parents called Oasis Community. If you are looking for support on your journey, you’ll definitely want to take a peek.
I hope you all enjoy reading! And, um . . . . good luck on that housework! 🙂
I received a free digital copy of this book in order to review. All opinions are 100% my own.