Saturday, February 21, 2009

Questions of Faith

I've been loathe to let myself blog much these days. I've got a bad case of the dreaded Referral Fever, where all you do is wake up in the morning and wonder if this will be the day where everything changes. Poor Papa Dog. Every morning he brings me a cup of coffee and is met with my chirp of "Is she coming today, do you think?!" And every night I say "Well, maybe tomorrow then." Although lately it's been more like "Spfttttttt!, there's never going to be a baby, is there?" Papa Dog recently diagnosed me as a "bladdict," because all I seem to be interested in doing any more is tearing up over others' waiting posts or tearing up and shouting hooray over successful court date posts or spending long periods of time staring at the computer screen with my chin in my hand as I consider attachment posts or marriage posts or multiracial family posts. It's strange that my most intimate conversations seem to be going on completely in my own head, as I try to digest the very thoughtful musings of women I've never met.

Sometimes I wish I had a stronger sense of religious faith to lean on during this whole process. I'm agnostic, or "Unitarian?" as I apologetically told our social worker during the home study, hoping she wouldn't immediately mark a big giant red X by our names. I was one of those people who really feared the home study. And then, horrors!, our social worker did a bum rush on us where she called 45 minutes before she was due to arrive and said she was in the neighborhood and could she just stop by then. So much for running the vacuum! We'd prepared all these dainty plates of food, and Papa Dog had made cookies, and when she arrived she would not accept anything to eat or drink. Not even a cup of coffee. And she was wearing very shiny, very high black heels, while I had inexplicably failed to put on socks, let alone shoes. And she dropped the name of the mega church she attended in Fort Worth within the first five minutes of conversation. We were toast!

I thought I had special reason to be squirrelly about the visit. I'd had very wise, reasonable people suggest to me beforehand that I ought to just leave out the whole history of my mom's depression and her eventual suicide when it came time to talk family history. "Say she died in a car accident," one friend suggested. "That sounds better than admitting she was a train wreck." (I love this friend, and she me, so forgive us for leaning on sarcasm when discussing sadness.) I was so unsure how to handle what was apparently such an unmentionable reality of my past, and started worrying that the truth would somehow sabotage our adoption. Papa Dog, wise and generous, told me a lie was the absolute wrong way to begin this very sensitive process, and could only cause further anxiety down the road. So I decided I had two missions for the home study: I would always tell the truth and somehow, I would not cry. (The older I get, the more I find myself growing into a sentimental fool. Rare is the movie in which I don't tear up, and that includes Step Brothers and Sex & the City.)

Well, one thing they don't tell you about the home study is that more often than not the person coming to your house will be incredibly warm and empathetic, and that she will not just inquire into the existence of working fire alarms and your thoughts on higher education, but she will ask you questions that you have never even considered. Like, would you tell your child if she had been a product of rape? We were both so stunned by this question because we simply hadn't imagined this scenario and then my eyes started welling over and Papa Dog had to tag off while I composed myself and then we proceeded to really wrestle with the question. Then the social worker posed an enraging hypothetical scenario about what we would do if our black child, who was clearly gifted in the arena of math and science, wasn't fast-tracked by the school like her similarly talented white peers. Now I can get a little growly when it comes to advocating on behalf of the people I love so I started spluttering about suing the school system and rant, rant, rant I went until Papa Dog gently pressed his foot onto my inexcusably bare toes, telling me to take it down a notch. And so I promised the social worker that I would always live in a house with a private room where I could get all my hollering and frothing out of the way before inflicting it upon others. All this to say, the social worker does not present you with rote multiple choice questions with clearly right or wrong answers. These were HEART STUMPERS.

But the most alarming part of any home study is when THEY SPLIT YOU UP, as if only then could they ferret out the holes in your story. So off Papa Dog went to the back yard, where he would pretend to relax in the sun with the cats, and I was left alone with this very kind-eyed woman, who proceeded to ask me about my parents. And then, because I am a ninny, I started crying again, and told her some about my Mom, and then she started tearing up, and she told me that she understood manic depression very well because her ex-husband also suffered from the disease. And so I figured as long as she was crying, then I could stop apologizing, and we just proceeded to talk and talk and it was kind of like the best therapy session ever, and when she left, she said she couldn't wait to return in the future for the post-placement visit. Now I'm not saying all home studies are so fuzzy and productive, but man, this lady rocked.

I've gotten off track. What was the point of all this? Oh right, faith. Flip through any adoption blog roll and it quickly becomes obvious that the community is largely, loudly Christian. (Incidentally, me and the old man both come from Catholic backgrounds, but prefer to worship at the altar of breakfast tacos come Sunday morning.) I remember on the second adoption meeting we went to we were seated at a table with another couple, all of us just staring awkwardly at one another. I asked the woman why they had decided to adopt from Ethiopia and she crisply replied that "God put it on my heart." And that was all she said. And I didn't know what to say back to that.

See, as far as I know, God didn't put it on our hearts to adopt from Africa. What did happen was we received an infertility diagnosis that knocked us to our knees and then had the honor of watching one of my closest friends go through a successful, beautiful adoption experience that introduced her to her two exquisite daughters from Ethiopia and my father's girlfriend of 20 years is black and that gave me real courage about my ability to create my own multiracial family and well, Papa Dog is a big nerd and hasn't stopped reading about Ethiopia or calling it the cradle of civilization since we filled out our application forms, and, if I'm really going to go there, the truth is I've gotten to the point where I don't want to have sex around the time I ovulate each month because, on the off, off chance, I don't want anything messing with our adoption. Maybe all that was put on our hearts by God. I'm not sure. But it's all part of our story, which is long and immense.

Sometimes it can feel a little embarassing to be an agnostic in the adoption world. You might even feel a little nervous outing yourself. I finished reading a perfectly fine novel this morning that had an extraordinary passage towards the end. The main character Holly, who can be a little judgmental and a little rigid when it comes to people behaving in the RIGHT way or the WRONG way, and in this respect sadly reminds me of myself, was coming to terms with her relationship with God:

"More and more often these days, though, Holly found herself thinking that perhaps what God wanted was not to be feared or obeyed or even worshipped—but maybe God just wanted to be wondered about. Wasn't that at least a possibility? Why else would this all be so confusing? Why else would there be so many different ways, and so many conflicting ideas, everybody so convinced that they're right and everybody else is wrong, and the people without anything unwilling to even look for something, because the people with something seem so darn unappealing? Who knows, maybe it is a gift to be able to believe in God and still get tripped up on the how.

And the journey from "knowing" to "not knowing" wasn't the same thing as losing your faith. It wasn't the same as believing in nothing, either. Even if it might look like that from the outside, from the inside, Holly knew for sure, it was different. Faith should take you further and further into life, and give you a way to engage, somehow, with the mystery behind it all, and if she was going to live a life without the comforts of dogma—and yes, she missed her dogma sometimes, the warm soft blanket of complete and utter certainty—well, the least she could do for herself was figure out a way to go forward."

So this is me, going forward, trying my best to trust that one day the phone really will ring, and it will ring with news of a child, and that there will be much rejoicing, and that that night, before we go to sleep, I can turn to Papa Dog and say, without really knowing what I mean, "Thank God. She's here."


Julie said...

Wow. Excellent post. As a former Catholic turned agnostic, I could have written this (if I had been a much better writer, and braver than I am). I remember when someone came out as 'atheist' on our adoption agency's forum. There was an audible gasp. I have experienced more proselytizing this year, than in my entire life. I feel like a second string adopter. But enough about me.
I am so sorry about your mom.I am so glad you had an empathetic social worker.

Julia said...

I can't wait for your book, I'm pretty sure you couldn't write something that I wouldn't enjoy reading.

Meredith said...

I hope we find out about our baby girls on the very same day in the very very very very near future. I also agree with Julia about enjoying reading everything you write. Girl, I look forward to your posts as much as I enjoy Chunk from Goonies.

Stacie said...

Amazing post. I love your honesty.

Lori said...

Tears, tears, tears. So beautifully written. Just so you know: I *am* a Christian but in the beginning of our blogging journey sometimes felt intimidated (is that the right word?) by the tone/mood of many of the adoption blogs by other Christians. Some weirded me out. Some challenged me. Some made me mad. And some Sundays (um, maybe more than "some"), we worship at the alter of VooDoo Doughnuts and Stumptown Coffee.

I'm so happy that your homestudy was such a positive experience. Ours was too. Many of these social workers are angels. Truly. I'm so glad you got one.

(Meredith's comment cracks me up. LOVE that woman).

Gretchen said...

Wow. Meredith looks forward to your posts as much as she loves Chunk? THAT'S BIG TIME. Look how important you are to all the rest of us??

I love this post. I love the way you shared yourself, I love the words you used, I love the honesty, I love the book quote. Hell, I even love you.

Gretchen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blog Shmog said...

I found your blog from Lori's and just wanted to tell you that I absolutely love your honesty and totally get how you could feel "weird" in the adoption crowd as an agnostic. I am a believer in God and Christ but I've struggled with my beliefs my whole life. I love hearing from others who struggle with their own beliefs too because it makes me feel like I'm not the only one. Thank you for a beautiful honest post.

Ellen said...

I love your honesty and candidness. and I love all of the comments. I am a Christian but I think my reasons for adoption line up more with yours. Thank you so much for being real!

I will continue to read and enjoy your blog!!!

Jana said...

oh gee, i left this looong comment earlier and it isn't here....maybe i accidentally deleted it? i'll try to write it again tomorrow. appreciate your post. :)

mama becca said...

Oh man! I think I love you! Really, really love you! Your honesty is so needed... like Lori, I too am a Christian but geez, this adoption environment can be brutal with the rights and wrongs. I posted a few months back, just a little thing about gay couples being allowed to adopt (which seems so obvious to me) but I got swiftly attacked and now many "christians" won't even approach me in person, not to mention read my blog. So i believe in jesus... so much... not even sure why... but oh how i love all kinds of folks and love hearing your story and your journey... and you, lady, are real. I much prefer real. Can't wait to follow you here... can't wait to see you meet your baby.
with love,

Jessica said...

What a voice you have! Really, how could anyone as self-aware from you not pass the home visit with flying colors? I hope to celebrate that good news call with you sometime soon!

Christine said...

Love the quote from the book, very nice. It makes God sound like how any human person would want to be treated. Rather than judged to be....whatever people believe, it is nice to be wondered about. I like your outlook about faith, I can totally relate and it is nice to have someone put it into words so very well.

I am so sorry about your mom, it's so tough. I'm glad your SW was able to make your homestudy work so well for you.

You can write, love your voice.


coffeemom said...

LOvely post! I think we are all so insecure, few admit it. But I think this process of adoption is so difficult and consuming and out of your control and intrusive and hard and ultimately wonderful that anyone would be hard pressed to stay totally confident and secure.
And I think we need voices like yours to remind us. And I don't think that there is one way or type of family that should adopt....and I suspect we all feel nervous about many posts (the Sally field syndrome: will they still like me when they see whats real or really important to me?). I sure do. and I guess I'd be considered a religious blogger too...we are, finally, Catholic and it's terribly important to us. But even with that, it's always nerve wracking to write a post that is very Catholic because I know I will put people off....but it's really true that if I'm posting it, I"m thinking or stewing about should I not? That would be less "real" for me. So, I post. And I feel insecure. Just like you. We all want to be accepted....I think maybe we all just think it's harder than it is to be so.

Ah, keep posting! And your referral, it's gonna happen! Promise. But it IS hard to wait! Hang in there. M

Anonymous said...

I got your blog from Lori and Ted and just had to tell you how much I appreciate it. We are technically catholic, but other than believing in God, I'm pretty sure I'd become something else (or nothing?) if it weren't for my husband. I often don't write what I would like to on my blog for fear of conflicts. I do feel a little second string in the adoption world, which is silly, but sometimes I just can't handle the shouting from the rooftops. Thanks so much for this post - it was so well written and much appreciated!!
HeidiD in CT

More Dorrs said...

I came over from Lori's blog too...wanted to say thanks for this post. It is nice to read people's honesty on blogs...this journey is not all roses and sunshine, and I appreciate those who are honest about the wait and the experience!


Little Ethiopia(n) said...

I've read this entry 4 times in the past 2 days. Did you mean to start up a "I'm a Christian but not one of the Loud Ones" support group with this blog? Because it seems you did! My name is Kat and I'm a Christian. But I have to admit I have been really intimidated by the Big Christian Bloggers (and I don't mean "fat"). I just sorta think God is cool and loves all of us the same way but apparently my views are wrong. I was genuinely startled by the way The Albertson's were attacked 'in the name of God' when she posted her views on gays adopting. I haven't written about religion on my blog at all --either for or against--because I don't want it to be an issue one way or the other. Or maybe I'm just too afraid to share my particular beliefs. Thank you for being brave enough to open up and start our support group. What book is that quote from? How can a quote like that come from a mediocre book? And b/t/w... can you give us any hints on what your book is going to be about... fiction, non-fiction, political? I agree with the rest of the comments... your writing makes my day. Thanks...

Ms. Fricknfrack said...

Wow. Where were you when I was waiting for my referral? I love your writing and will happily be following your journey.

Jana said...

Okay, I'm back.

Love and appreciate your post. And your writing, in general.

Some things I tried to write last night and hopefully can reiterate:

1.I am so, so terribly sorry about your mom.

2.The comment that lady made--"God put it on my heart" may or may not have been sincere, but comments like that, in contexts like that, can be so marginalizing, "churchy," and just plain self--righteous. Which brings me to--

3. Christians, and I am one, often do a craptastic job of imaging Jesus. I know I do. It's disheartening. We are supposed to be the Body of Christ, but we screw up a lot. I think that is part of the mystery. And when I say that, I don't mean to dismiss or excuse ickiness in Christians.

4. I like the quote. For me, belief in Jesus has had very little of "complete and utter certainty." It's had lots of doubt. Lots. My "spiritual journey" could be titled "Jana is hanging on to her belief in Jesus by her little bitten-off fingernails." And yet I do believe.

5. I think we had the same SW, though I can't remember her name. If she IS the same one, she DOES rock. I hated for her to leave.

6. There are a lot of very vocal Christians round here, and I can TOTALLY see why one who didn't share such beliefs might feel awkward about trying to be a part. Totally. I am so glad you are part of this little community and really appreciate your honesty. I look forward to your posts.

(There are probably like 97 typos here that I'm going to find as soon as I post this.)


Stacie said...

I am loving all of the comments your beautiful post has generated. I was very tired when I commented - thus the basically one-liner, but I had to come back and say that we often felt the same way. We are Christian, but we are raging liberal Christians. :) Anyway - during our first homestudy we were not part of a church and didn't go regularly - it was a weird moment when our SW asked about it. Thankfully she handled it well. (Even more thankfully, we found a raging liberal Christian church to call home since then.) We also traveled with a mom who was decidedly agnostic and was wonderfully vocal about it - I honored her for that just as I honor you for this post.

missy said...

i'm so glad i found your blog. i love your honesty and the way you process faith, adoption, pain, and life in general. your blog makes me think of a quote from the critically acclaimed movie "never been kissed" "damn girl, you ARE a writer!" i guess i'll be up late tonight reading old posts. one of the most consistent things about my faith has been my struggle to believe. so many questions! thanks for being honest about your own questions and beliefs.

Meredith said...

GIRL! I did not even know the conference call was yesterday. I thought it was TODAY. Shooooot. I am glad it gave you hope and has now given me some hope. Glad I missed all the beeps to learn from you wait times have not gone up. You are the best. Will you be my facebook friend?

Meagan Brown said...

I commented to you privately in email, but now I'm back to say that I'm SO glad to see so many comments here as it assures me that the word is out that THIS blog is THE one to read. More than that though, you are tremendous and I'm thankful we live in the same town and our kiddos will even get to play together. We can't wait for that!

InventingLiz said...

Wow, this is my first visit to your blog, and what a post to start with - I LOVED it! I am also agnostic, raised Catholic, and am constantly surprised at how much religious language there is in the adoption world. Part of my process for choosing an adoption agency was first ruling out all the agencies with god, angel, etc. in the name!

Anyway, I will definitely be back to read more of your wonderful writing.

filoli said...

"I was so unsure how to handle what was apparently such an unmentionable reality of my past, and started worrying that the truth would somehow sabotage our adoption."

I am having a hard time deciding on what exactly to say...because despite blogging, I do want an element of privacy and there are things that I am not comfortable discussing in open forums. Maybe that will stop, maybe that will fade away, and I will no longer care. In the meantime, hidden in a comment I will say, I understand where your mom comes from, and am deeply sorry that you have lived in the wake of such an illness. It has its own effect...and here you are a survivor pushing forward with life and hope...I struggle with statements of "calls" and "put in my heart" because I feel it undermines the grace we have to choose, the faith, the free will, to me it all adds up to a logical inconsistency that does nothing more than attempt to make me feel better about life/choice/loss, but I don't want it, nor do I need it...

so I guess all I really have to say, is something that someone else much smarter and deeper than me, someone who knows a thing or two of depression...who I find a bit of a touchstone (no I am not going to Virginia...although lord knows I do)...

“When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope”

Henri Nouwen

best wishes bright beating heart while you pound your path to find your little will make it.

Jebena said...

First, I love your blog!

Second, Okay, I'm one of those loud Christians who's family is adopting because the LORD did lay it on our hearts to do so (it if was up to me, I would have purchased that new Mercedes-Benz in Germany that I saw a few years back---and would have bought the cute pure-bred puppy)...but nooooo, that's not what our money, HIS money would be used, we are adopting from my dear old Grandfathers home country.

Back to thought...yes, I'm a Christian, and I'm also a woman, with a chip on her shoulder with the behavior of many folks who call themselves Christian yet don't walk in a Christ-like manner.

Such revealing of hearts became evident to me during the Presidential election with the behavior of the "right-wing" Christians I have fellowshipped with every Sunday for the past five years....boy, the racism (I attend an all white church on Sundays)...that came out of their mouths would have made a weaker person run and never look back...and no, Paster Jeremiah Wright is not folks at the Luthern Church I attend, please get over it!

All this to say: YOU DO YOU! Your blog is YOUR blog. You must break free from chains of people and allow yourself the right to write as little or as much as you desire the cyberworld to know (I ain't telling folks much about my family because cyberworld is crazy and at the end of the day, I'm protecting my children at all cost)!

Anywho, It's late, my brain is on sleep-mode but my heart wanted to tell you WELCOME to the Adoption Blog World!

Claudia said...

This is such an interesting post, and it's made me think...
I live in the UK, and it's almost impossible to convey just how hugely, hugely different the religious environment is here. This place is capital-S Secular (despite the fact that we have a state church and the US doesn't). So... my husband and I are Christians. I do believe in a God who I think *is* worth worshipping. But the culture here is so different that I feel the same kind of marginalisation that you do, I think - just in reverse! And I think that it doesn't help anyone if we keep quiet and pretend we believe (or don't believe) along with everyone else. So I really appreciated your post.

(By the way, the 'God put it on my heart, end of conversation' comments drive me NUTS. That is so not an answer! This makes me want to say - God gave you a heart but he also gave you a BRAIN... use it!)

(By the way part 2 - I would also echo everything that Jana wrote!)

rebekah said...

I am late to this party. And I know you have moved on to the most excellent thing of RECEIVING YOUR REFERRAL! And I am so glad to have found you now so I can follow along.

But I am still processing your faith post. I, like many here, wish I'd had the guts to post something like this. It took me what seems like many months as we started the process to realize that there were many, many who came to adoption in a way that was not put on our hearts. I too avoided the agencies with leading names. I also felt like a second string adopted. And I never realized what Julie has said, that there has been so much proselytizing in this process, even when you try to avoid it.

It makes it harder to be comfortable in my own journey/ questions/ ideas about my own faith.

I was raised in a religion that specifically says - do NOT proselytize. So I don't get it. I find it insulting and offensive and it makes me feel like crap.

I also have a mom like yours, although as far as I know she's still alive. Oh do I get what you're saying about that! I've used it as my way to understand how my child does and will feel about losing his mom. I know that feeling and how deep it goes and how it's with you every day of your life and I intend on using it for the better.

I've really gone on and on - but your post is so inspiring and confirming. And I so look forward to following along.

Bridget said...

Wow. I really needed to read this today. I'm so grateful to Julie for posting a link to your site. Ditto on being a former Catholic turned agnostic. Ditto on most everything you said. Man, was I FREAKED about meeting w/ our social worker....Man who I STRESSED about lying about dark ugly secrets. In the end, I did not, but oh how I wanted to. I have felt sometimes so very alone (especially in the instance of faith-confused) that it is beyond refreshing to read your post. I am now your one billionth fan, I think. And if I ever I make it down to Austin (it's still on the short list!) I'm looking you up! I'm in Boulder, so vice versa! And, oh yeah, CONGRATS ON YOUR REFERRAL! I am so happy for you. I don't know you *really*, but I feel like I do....
Thanks for your honesty and being brave enough to put it out there.

rebekah said...

Ok, now that I've vented my true frustration and processed more, I am back to say a few more things. Sometimes I hear the most profound comments and hardest questions from those in this adoption world that are far more religious than I. I am finding incredible deep similarities with women whose religious views are as foreign from me as possible.

I don't know any more than that - it is still a mystery to me.

Jen said...

You are an amazing writer. So candid and honest. I think it would be a rare family that did not have skeletons in their closets. Mine, it's a sister. I was not sure how our social worker would handle it. Can't wait for your next post. In the meantime, I am going to keep reading older posts.

Tam said...

I love this post. You said everything I would want to say. And the people above me said everything I would want to say. So all I have is, I love this post.
Congratulations on your referral!

(another Gladney adopting mamma)