When I was at the retreat this weekend there was, of course, a lot of talk of husbands and kids. I have a large number of them. Not husbands, thank God, just children. I got asked, again, how I managed to talk Joe into adopting that large number of children. I have been asked it many, many times. Not to stereotype anyone, but statistically, wives seem to be the driving forces behind the idea of adoption. There are husbands who first lay out the idea, don’t get me wrong, but it’s wives who usually come to me and say “Help me talk my husband into this just ONE MORE TIME!”
While it is absolutely true that I have been the driving force behind each and every one of our adoptions, I didn’t have to talk Joe into it. Mostly, because I can’t. Please don’t think I didn’t try. Tess’s adoption was a true lobbying effort. We were supposed to be done. I had PROMISED. And, let’s be real, her medical needs scared Joe. I tried everything short of signing paperwork for him. I made sure he met other people who were parenting kids with congenital heart defects. I read him research. I even hung Tess’s tiny picture on our refrigerator. He just smiles at me, tips his beer and says “Stop it, Becky.”
It never works.
The man does not budge. I’ve had to accept that he isn’t going to do it just because I yell an enthusiastic “Let’s go!” Joe has to get there at his own pace. From the outside, our marriage looks like I run the show. In some ways, he does look to me to do that. In fact, it often causes a fight. When there are this many kids, I need someone to take the reigns sometimes. He does that, just sometimes not in the way I would have. Then, because I’m a control freak, I yell at him for that too. I am not easy to live with. He has had to accommodate for that.
Marriage is a balancing act. I learned that through my lobbying, and in many other smaller ways during the last twenty years. If we were an automobile, then I am the gas and this man is the brakes. The car can’t run without either one. We balance each other out. When he has absolutely said ‘no’ to something, I am mad. I am hurt. I tell him that. Sometimes, I tell him loudly. Sometimes, I even question if we want the same things in life. Sometimes, I’ve even questioned his faith.
That’s not fair of me. It’s not fair at all.
I’ve had to realize that if we added a child to our family because I lobbied hard, or the children lobbied hard, then that wouldn’t be good for anyone. Not our current family, not the new child, and especially not our marriage. In fact, it would be absolutely terrible for our marriage.
Realizing all of this has been a long time coming. None of my lobbying was ever what made the difference. In fact, it had the opposite effect. It drove him away from the idea of ever adopting again. Duh. No one likes pressure. So, while I may tell him how I feel, I’ve given up on the hard lobby when it comes to anything in our relationship. In other words, I’ve grown up.
When I wanted to adopt Gigi, and everyone knew that, I had to continually say “Joe isn’t where I am.” During this time of not being in the same place, our lovely Social Worker, Jessica, came for a post-placement visit for Cate’s adoption. These are the visits where she checks on everyone in our home, especially Cate, and sees if we need any support. She can combine these visits though, and use them to start a new home study for another adoption. When she came, Joe and I had been in deep discussions about Gigi, and whether or not we could give her everything she needed. The visit was coming to a close and Jessica stood up from her chair at the dining room table, gathering her paperwork. She looked at both of us expectantly and said “Is there anything else I can do for you?” I looked up at Joe, silently pleading with him to please, please, please tell her he actually did want to bring Gigi home, to us.
“Nope. Thank you. We’re all set.”
He wasn’t there yet. That moment was like a punch to the gut. I had to accept the fact that maybe he would never get to where I was. It had happened before. He does have an excellent sense of what we can handle, and when. As we approached Tess’s open heart surgery, I said nothing. There was nothing more to say. Yes, there were discussions about children who wait, there always are. I see the files of 20-30 kids a month who wait, and wait, for families. I can’t advocate without talking to someone about it. My heart often aches. It’s important to have a safe person to share with. I shared. He listened, just like he always does. I don’t really know what changed. You would have to ask him. Shortly before Tess went into the hospital, he said, “I think we should do this. I think we can.”
It may take him awhile to get where I am, but when he does, he is all in. That’s so important. Both of us have to be all in, all the time.
Week before last, he put his name on the official paperwork “accepting” Gigi into our family. While the moment is documented here for her, the actual acceptance had come long before this. It came in the moments we began learning about Deaf culture. It came in the moments we both started learning ASL. It came in the moments when we accepted that we may spend even more time inside the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit that we’ve both come to love and loathe all at once. It came in the moments when we said “Our daughter is technically deaf AND blind.” It came a long time ago.
The children haven’t figured out that lobbying doesn’t work quite yet. Recently, Bowen started talking about how he needs a “small brother.” He means a brother with Dwarfism, like him. In fact, he wants to name him “Baby Junior Bowen.” Every time there is a boy with Dwarfism waiting he says “That boy be my Baby Junior Bowen?” The kids usually jump on board. “Yes! Yes! One more time! Let’s do it again.”
I stay out of it. Joe knows what we can handle and when. I just laugh as he has to say to them “Stop it, Kids.”
–FullPlateMom, who, if she’s being real, loves it that they never, ever stop. Tiny advocates, every one.