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Episode 61

Surviving the First Year Home: Advice For Adoptive Families

Melissa and Marisa

You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Melissa Rush. And I’m Marisa Butterworth. And we’re talking about how to survive the first year after you’ve brought your child home through adoption. And it’s kind of a big one. It is a big one. And it’s something that Marisa is very familiar with.

My husband and I brought Harper home, like you said, 2012. She was five months old when we brought her home. We were not expecting a baby. I think a lot of people when you adopt, you just anticipate a little bit of an older child. I had two biological children before that, so my oldest son at that time was eight and my middle son was five.

And we anticipated when we started the process that she would be a little bit closer in age to them. But that’s not how it worked. That wasn’t God’s plan. And so Harper came home five months old and it was like kind of, I don’t know, like a shock to the system for me, at least. I can’t speak for my husband.

Maybe he was like more, well prepared, but I don’t know. Like my boys were like getting their own cereal in the morning, like, not waking. They, they were early risers. So like the 5 a.m. call time when they’re like, Hey, we’re awake, it’s time to get out of bed. 4 hours. Yes, you literally I am a side story, but like I was awoken to like marker all over the phase, nail polish, like all over, you know, these are what these are the things that my kids, you know, continually, you know, did painted your nails when you were asleep, you know, their nails and thankfully no marker on my.

Okay. Yes, I was visualizing I was visualizing you waking up with your nails painted and mark her face. I was like, oh, my gosh. Wow. I mean, I’d have to be a heavy sleeper. I was I wanted to make that happen. But they were like at a news stage finally where they woke up, they got ready for school.

They were kind of out of naps. And I don’t know, I kind of forgot what it was like to start over with a baby. And then, you know, obviously we’ll talk about it here coming in, but all the additional layers of what that looked like when your child is adopted from another country. And you know how that all how that all played out.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s like a pretty big change, especially if you’re not anticipating it. Did you guys still have babies? Duh, right? Yeah. Okay. I mean, we didn’t. We by the time she came home, I mean, it wasn’t some, like, more local adoptions. It’ll be like, hey, next week you’re flying to Florida and picking up your child and our I mean, we knew you had some time, so we had had baby showers and had like stuff.

But I mean, she was our first girl, so it was definitely all the like fun girly stuff that we were getting and, and like kind of hit reset on that. So yeah, our first year might look different from other first years where maybe their child or children are older, maybe it’s a sibling said. But I hope today that like the advice is advice that I have and it’s maybe hard one advice because I wish I had it or did it is is something that I hope is universal no matter, you know what, how old your kids are, what it looks like, what the issue is or issues that you’re facing or challenges maybe I’ll say

instead. But just no matter what, when you add another child into your family, it can be complicated and challenging. Yeah, absolutely. No matter how wonderful. But all those things too. Yeah. No matter how a new child enters your home, it’s going to be it’s going to be an adjustment. Yes. So something that like you said, I mean, obviously with the domestic adoption, sometimes it can be like that.

It can be like, hey, you know, be there in a week. This is what’s happening. Or maybe even less time if your baby’s born early or whatever totally works out. But something that is kind of unique about international adoption is that generally you have a bit more time to prepare. You know, you’ve known your child’s name and face for usually like months before you’re actually able to bring them home officially.

For families who are preparing to bring their kids home or child, what are some things that they can do to prepare in that kind of. I’ve got to imagine that’s kind of a stressful period. It’s, I mean, I’m only speaking for myself. So maybe someone listening is like, oh, that’s not how it was for me. And that’s totally fine for myself.

It was exciting. Like, we finally knew who she was. She wasn’t a waiting child, so that part was a surprise for us. We could, you know, start planning for her in in more real ways or what felt real for me. So at that point that’s when we like started putting her room together, those kind of things. But if I could go back and give myself advice back then I would have started doing some planning on like equipping us as a family unit at that point on how to cope with things that we didn’t know.

You know, it’s hard. It’s hard to prepare for something you don’t know it same, same having children biologically, especially your first child, you’re like, okay, they’re sending them home with me. You know, it’s hard for me. It was like, no matter what, you’re like, Oh my gosh, they’re trusting us with a child. So, I mean, like the research on their country, all of that stuff should be happening.

I am we’ve talked about this before on the show. I’m a huge proponent of counseling and therapy, making sure you and your spouse are doing well. I mean, honestly, because it’s going to shake you to your core like it can really get in there. I have yet to talk to a couple that hasn’t had some marital stuff that’s gone on.

So getting that that anything you can line up ahead of time, getting it set, making those appointments for your hair to get done, for you to go work out for you to whatever that looks like. So it could be somebody coming to you because you’re nesting at home and working on attachment or it can be setting up with your spouse that, you know, I want to I need to go on walks.

I need to I need to focus on some self-care. It’s kind of the last thing that you think of because rightfully so, you’re thinking of all this stuff for your child. But I would say in hindsight, I wish that we did a better job of preparing us, our kids, like how to cope with this, because we like I said when we’ve talked about this, I mentioned post adoption depression.

I ended up having that. It’s something that I kind of prepped for. And I didn’t I didn’t know. The other thing I would say too is like setting up. So our hope would be that you’ve connected with other adoptive families, but setting up like a call with them, like asking them, okay, what was this like for you? What do you wish you knew?

Because I’m not I’m not an expert. I only have my own life utilizing like our AGCI team because they’re walking through this with so many people asking them questions. What would you do? I mean, we I mean, it’s incredible. Like we kind of bombard you with information, but really digging into that side of things. I mean, I could keep going forever, but not assuming you can do this alone.

Absolutely. And I think it’s really hard because obviously it’s such a huge, huge transition for your adopted child. Like. Right. They’re leaving their first country language, culture, all the things. But you also have to if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t fully be there for them when they need you. And so I think sometimes, especially I think as women, we feel like I can’t I don’t have time for this.

I need to be here for every moment. But taking 30 minutes to go on a walk or to just be by yourself or whatever and kind of recover and then be able to show up and be present. Like that’s going to be good for everyone. And I’ll note I’m still bad at this today, so it’s ten years later and I still have to work for it.

But I would say I’m a little bit better at asking for help. I’m a little bit better at prepping for it, like I’ve taken what we will call a baby step ten years later. But it’s just stuff that I wish that I did, that I wish that I set myself up for, and not that it ruined anything that I didn’t, but I think that it made some things harder that didn’t need to be because things are going to be hard whether you’re dealing with like a language barrier.

I mean, that’s something you can be preparing for, obviously, too. Like if your child is coming from a different country, you need to start learning their language and not making the assumption they will learn English when they come here. It’s just it’s naturally going to happen, but it’s something that you need to do and or whether that if their maybe their death may, you know, whatever it is you need to be figuring out how to do your best because there are so many things you can’t control.

And that’s what I think about like in that first year of like all the things that are like, oh my gosh, this is crazy. You can’t control how they’re going to react. You can’t, you know, all the different things. You just don’t know what it’s going to be and you can’t perfectly prepare for it. But you can take these steps.

There are things that are within your control, and I think that those are important. Anything that you can do like that is super important. So yeah, one language is such I mean, think about it like if you are adopting internationally and you know, okay, we’re committed to the Columbia program, we’re adopting from Columbia, start taking Spanish lessons like just it’s also fun.

It’ll like just show everyone that you’re fully I don’t know, I just think it’s a great, great thing to do. And to be able to even just at a super basic level, communicate. Yeah. And you’re becoming your family is becoming, you know, honorary Colombian. Yes. Yeah. Like, I think it’s super important to embrace these because you’re bringing that they’re not the expectation shouldn’t be that they’re going to just become American like they’re always going to be their heritage that doesn’t ever go away.

And so you have to bring yourself into that. And you can’t rely on your child to do that for you, you know, or to teach you things, especially if you’re adopting an older child. Like it’s never their responsibility, you know, to be the ones that teach you. They can share who they are with you. But culturally, no, they’re not the ones to do that.

So yeah, you have to start taking that on. And, and the, the best thing to do would be to do that way before you even get to this point. But let’s say you’re here and you’re like, this is the first time you’re hearing this and I’m and start it now like it’s not too late. No. Even if you didn’t even if you like, look back and wish you’ve already brought them home, do it now like you can start all of that now.

And what, like a wonderful, beautiful opportunity to get to be like, okay, yeah, let’s learn how to make a rape us. Let’s take us Spanish lessons as a family. Let’s figure out what the major holidays are and make that part of our put it on our calendar is start experiencing this one. Oh, it’s totally fun. Okay. So thinking back and again, I know this was a while ago, but like the first week home, that’s got to be kind of a whirlwind.

What’s your advice for families like what to expect in that kind of initial transition? That’s a really good question. So like last question I would say is like the prep. Yes. Like you’re prepping yourself. You’re doing as much as possible. You’re getting things on the calendar, you’re spending time now, you’re in it and there’s no turning back. So like I would say that first week you are releasing yourself from any obligations whatsoever.

Keep in mind you are like most likely you’ve come from a different time zone. You may have children that were that came with you to adopt or may be at home so they could be dealing with the time change. Your adopted child is going to be dealing with the time change, even if it’s 2 hours ahead, even if there’s something about that coming home that’s like, oh, my gosh, you just need to like let go of your schedule.

In my opinion. Then don’t hold yourself to anything. Don’t do not make plans. If you have friends. Like I had great friends and I honestly, I can’t believe I’m admitting this because I’m looking at you. And yeah, like I was like I had joined mops for my second child and I’m like, I will take meals from anyone. Like, Please, God, I need your help.

Set that up ahead of time. Do not be afraid to advocate for yourself, especially that first week, but keep it if people are willing to keep it going like two or three times a week. But advocate for that ahead of time. I should mention that. Enjoy those meals like I want to help. Yes, let them Doordash something to you.

Do it yourself. Like whatever it is you need to take the cooking, the cleaning. Unless that’s something that happens to relax you. But even then, you’re just there. You’re. You need to be sitting on the floor figuring out what your new family looks like and sleeping when you can, like resting, allowing your child to rest. You know, your our daughter.

I mean, she was a baby, but we quickly found out she is like the most extroverted person that you’ve ever met. And she was that and who she is now. I have met her. You have? You can confirm she is she’s wonderful. She is so for that for us, we figured out quickly like, oh, we need to leave the house now.

That didn’t mean I was like out showing her to everyone and like having people talk to her and touch her and all that kind of thing. But that meant I took her to Target. I, you know, I had some time. She was happier being out with people. She loved her siblings. So you being sensitive to whatever their personal need is.

And when you stop and just take that moment for that week at least, I would go longer than that. If you can, just to relax, be together, hang out, get to know your child, bring it all down and, you know, just take expectations off of yourself, off of your child. And just like treat it like you. Would any major life change that you need time, that they need time, that you need rest and just enjoy.

How beautiful that first week home is. It’s exhausting. Yeah. And I mean, everybody’s stories that I hear are different, but just, like, sit in it and that’s hard. It sounds easy, but just sit in that and take that. Take those like to do lists and burn them at least the first week. Like you can’t live like that forever.

But yeah, you know, just to spend that time and let yourself. Yeah, and that’s such good advice. I mean I feel like we just as a society, we’re so focused on like the bounce back and just like getting right back into your routine and schedule and all of that. And it’s okay to you know, for a few, even a few weeks or however long you need to just like this is a huge change is oh totally relation and your life is going to look different forever and you’ve got to figure out what your new normal is and maybe let go of some things and welcome some new.

Yeah I love that you say that. Yeah. And you’re going to have so well give yourself the space to do that. If you set it up ahead of time, give yourself that space and that permission. Because then when you get, you know, down the road a little bit, you’re not going to feel like you failed at something or you didn’t fail or you’re not winning, you’re not failing.

You’re just living in the moment. And I’m so bad at that. That’s why I am, too. That’s why I mean, my husband is so good at that. And so, I mean, these are like learnings really for me that I didn’t naturally do. And I mean, it’s one thing to be forced into it and it feels a whole lot different when you given yourself permission ahead of time.

Totally. It’s like it doesn’t feel like you’re. Oh, man, I. I didn’t get that laundry done and I didn’t I was going to make I bottle these fresh vegetables that I was going to prepare this and now they’re rotting like, Yeah, well, don’t do it, do it. Don’t even buy the vegetables. Your kids are going to be buying whatever meals people bring.

Like, that’s what you’re going to get if you find yourself like, Oh, I don’t have anything to feed my children, they’re going to be fine with whatever you find in your freezer that you throw in. Like it’s a week, it’s and you don’t have to be parent of the year. And this is I’m speaking to mothers and fathers, not just moms.

Whatever your family looks like. I’m speaking to the adults here, like and that includes like working. Do not work. You do not. You know, you need to just be home. Yeah. Like I said on the floor, living it and figuring out what your family looks like. And you don’t do it in just a week, obviously, but it’s a solid start.

Yeah. So once the dust kind of started to settle and again, I know like we’re talking about the first year, this is not like, oh, after a week, everything’s great. And now we’re on this routine and but what kind of as you kind of adjusted, you’re like, okay, this is our this is our life, this is our family.

Which surprised you about now being a family of five and, you know, with your youngest child obviously being brought home for adoption. It’s a good question. A lot of things did. And honestly, like I joked with you about this before, but there is a lot that I don’t remember of our first year and not because of the like time it’s been, but probably because of how hard it was and not to, like, scare someone off.

It’s it’s but it’s hard. It’s like anything that’s worth, worth doing. Yeah, it can be really hard. So, I mean, it’s such a good question. I, I would say that there were like stages in, in how I approached things like, like seriously, I would say the biggest and first adjustment was really just like adjusting to a family of five for me, going from two kids to three and they outnumbered.

I was outnumbered and I guess like it’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but like that was my breaking point where I realized I couldn’t have things exactly the way I wanted them or control things the way I had wanted to. So I don’t know how else to say it in a nicer way, but for me, something kind of had to break in me where I was like, I’m expecting too much of myself and I can’t do all this.

I just can’t. And that’s okay. And but it took me some time and counseling to get there where I was like, okay with it. And I realize that. And that’s like something I wish that I, I had heard like from other families, I wish I took more seriously and that that was fine. Like, who cares? It’s so much better on the other side when you’re like, My house doesn’t have to be perfect.

My kids don’t have to be, like, groomed. Well, maybe they didn’t get a bath today. That’s fine. I’m like, Yeah, my I mean, now my kids are just, you know, crazy, but I don’t have to put on some kind of front. Maybe that I’m like, Got it all together. I was also, I should mention, like at the time I was a pastor’s wife, so there was maybe another layer of expectation on me and that was put on me.

I also put on myself that I had to like eventually get back to church and eventually show up and look like I kind of had it that I’m okay. And I now at this point in my life, I completely well, that’s a boundary that I have that I don’t have to show up pretending to be anything. Yeah. And I think as like you’d mentioned before, like as Christians, sometimes we put that on ourselves and then or, and or people put it on us that we have to like put some kind of show on.

And so I tried doing that at the beginning and then just realized that there was no possible way, like I couldn’t survive. Yeah, I was surprised on a, on a positive and I was surprised by how and this isn’t everyone’s story and this should not be the expectation, but how perfectly our daughter fit in with our family and how my how immediately my boys adored her and never stopped.

I mean, they I mean, now they’re ten and 15 and almost 18 and they fight. And so it’s not the expectation that it’s I don’t want to ever communicate something that’s false. Yes. Yeah, yeah. False. But my boys adored her. She was a delight. She had other things that were hard. But I was surprised, like and I loved that.

Like, that was such a pleasant, beautiful thing to feel like for us. Our story was that we felt like our family was very complete in that moment. Like, Oh, we were just waiting all along and we had waited about three years to bring her home. And that was really difficult. But when she came home, it we just especially when she, like, entered our into our home, when we were a complete family unit, it was like, oh, God, just we had to just wait for her.

Yeah, it that’s it wasn’t I don’t know. I had lots of like crying and gnashing of teeth, like, Lord, why have you forsaken me? Where’s our child? We’ve waited too long. I can’t take this. And those are all her. Yeah. She wasn’t born. She literally wasn’t born yet. And that’s not everyone’s story. But for us, that was like I was like, Oh, God, your timing is perfect.

Yeah. And so, like, I loved acknowledging that. And even, like, looking in the back of the car, like, we had a minivan at that point and looking back and seeing like, oh, they all are like those kind of things that are these happy moments that you’re like, Wow, I can’t believe that was the longest labor and delivery and that I’ve ever experienced.

And wow, look at like what? Like in my back seats. Like I have this amazing, incredible family and I’m so lucky that here they are, like here, you know, with all the messy stuff and maybe Harper just, like pooped up or back in the car seats totally demolished. But like, but that was like, I don’t know, it just was such an incredible surprise, like a delighted kind of surprise.

And, you know, you make sense, like, oh, I have to go now to see the international specialist and she has to have tests around when she gets home. And a lot of people return with, you know, maybe you just don’t know you don’t know what your child’s has going on or maybe you do know some of the things.

But a lot of times you end up either way, you’re in at the doctor’s office. And so I would like I said I would still protect that first week unless your child is very ill. Obviously, of course, you get home and you get them to the doctor right away. But, you know, just to like have some time and space to just be and enjoy that.

And then yeah, I just, I don’t know, there was a lot I didn’t expect on the good end. I also just, you know, didn’t expect to not ever sleep again. So there’s that. But yeah, lots of good surprises and things. And my boys helped like loved helping out and you know, like bringing her things, playing with her, like entertaining her, holding her.

They, like, rose to the challenge in ways that I didn’t expect. And I think it’s unhealthy like that. Expectations shouldn’t be put on your biological kids to or previously adopted whatever your family looks like. Your kids that are home already staying home. Yeah. They’re they shouldn’t have any expectations put on them of what that looks like. But so that was pleasantly surprising that I was like, Oh, look, you guys are actually good big brothers.

You fight all the time, but you adore. You’re like united in your mission to spoil your babies. Dozen or so. Yeah, they still mostly do that, but it’s not as she wants more. She’s like, not okay with them growing up and, you know, having lives. I’m not even like with her. Well, my heart was just like swelling hearing you talk about that, because I think it’s just something you’ve thought about and prayed about for so long.

And then to finally just I love that visual of everybody in the back seat, like all safe with you and your family. Finally, what a wonderful memory it was. It is it still I still have that moment sometimes while they’re back in there fighting, it’s all in one seat, like one row in the car. I’m like, Oh, boy, they’re screaming and hitting each other.

There’s still there’s definitely the moment of like, oh, my, what have I done? And there’s also like, Oh, look at my little mess back there. It’s like they’re mine. It’s both. You can hold both. Yeah. I also just so appreciate you being vulnerable and just kind of sharing how you had to really surrender, because I think, yeah, there’s just so much we it’s like external, internal, all the things we feel like.

I and to some degree blame social media, but we feel like we have to have people affect everything families, kids, their brains, the things most people that’s not real, real. And I, I felt that pressure and this, you know, social media is new ish. Yeah. And so it’s interesting, like my friends that are maybe newer moms living under that, like, I don’t know that banner of perfection, like, oh my gosh, I’m so glad that I kind of learned that I couldn’t be that a long time.

Yeah, because no 110 0100, my gosh. And that’s not real. Everybody knows it’s not real. But you also I don’t know. For me, I see it and I’m like, oh, so pretty. How did they do that? How do they do that? And I mean, one thing, I mean, I’m getting off topic, but one thing is a lot of them have help.

Yes. Whether it be family or a nanny or babysitters or whatever a lot of influencers do. It’s not real guys. It’s not. And they would be the first to acknowledge it’s not real either. But you put out you want to put out this like beautiful highlight reel. Yeah. Yes. And you just don’t have to. I mean, if you hear anything, it’s like you don’t have to be anything you’re not.

Yeah, absolutely. And if you don’t know where you are yet, then that’s okay too. You just have to like, do your best and let let a bunch of stuff go and ask for help. Yes. And don’t even do your best. I’m like, don’t just it’s okay to just, like, be okay. Yeah, I think that is maybe the best.

I think that’s what we’ve all got. Yeah. To just be okay. And that’s why this is called surviving the first year. All right? Not that maybe you should be your goal. Yeah. Don’t. You’re not going to crush it and then duck like and there’s going to be lot diseases. You’re not crashing a ding, ding, ding. I mean, and that is my season right now.

But I that I don’t know. It was hard for me, though, admittedly, to let that stuff go and, you know, if I can encourage any parent right now, it’s like it’s okay. You don’t have to. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we’ve kind of talked about this a little bit and obviously hindsight is 2020, but if you had if you could go back to your family ten years ago, what’s one thing you wish you could have known that you maybe would have done differently?

That’s such a good question. And I read it because obviously we plan for this. I read it before and was thinking about it was like, gosh, there’s so many things that I wish that I could have known, but I mean, this isn’t anything dramatic. The one thing that I just kept coming back to was like, I wish I knew it was going to be okay.

Yeah, yeah. And just trusted. I mean, it sounds kind of I don’t know, campy to say, like, I wish I trusted the Lord in this or, you know, but just to trust that God had this in his hands, knows what’s going to happen, knows what this is going to look like, and that he’s going to equip you as you go.

So that means that I didn’t have to know everything that I that I didn’t have to be perfect, that I wasn’t going to be the perfect, perfect mom, but I’m going to be the best mom for my kids. And that’s going to be okay at the end because I tend to, you know, you’ll have something that gets to you that maybe it’s just me, but I’ll like be I’m okay, I’m okay.

And then I’m not okay. And so for me, like going in with post adoption, depression and trying to figure out what was happening and why, I was crying a lot and all that kind of thing, you know, you know it. But also I was worried about like how that would affect my kids, how that would affect my new daughter, how how that would look.

And it’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Yeah. So that’s I mean, it’s nothing deep or anything, but I think that is deep actually. You know, I think like no, I think it’s so hard and you know, you want to be like living in the moment and present, but it’s also every I mean, I try to say that to myself just in day to day life, like when I’m having a hard time, like this will pass.

Yeah. This isn’t going to be this way forever. Like, that’s the only constant in life. Yeah, exactly. And so as and we’re not saying this is easy, we’re not like, just give it up to God. And it’s like that’s part, like there’s work to be done. But at the end, God’s got this and there and you don’t have to be everything like you just can’t.

But I sure tried it for a little while. It didn’t last long. I sure tried. Oh, so we talked about what you wish you had known. What’s something that looking back, you’re like, yes. Like we did that, right? Oh, I don’t know. I mean, listening to our gut is what I would say, especially like I talked about at the beginning of this, all the prep stuff and you’re reading all the things and you you’re hearing from your social worker or you’re doing the classes and do these things.

Yeah. And then when your child gets home, they’re an individual. And so going back, this this is just top of mind because I just said it. So it’s nothing super interesting, but like taking my daughter out to Target realizing, gosh, she seems like she’s unhappy being stuck in the house all the time. I know this is what I’m supposed to do.

Yeah, but I’m going to try something in a safe way to see how she reacts. So there are a reason that we put you through these classes. And, you know, there are many reasons, I should say, that we do this. With that said, and if you have questions like you have the resource of your social worker, your post-adoption and specialist, all of these people they want to hear from, you literally do.

It’s their job. They love it. They’re passionate about it. So, you know, call them up, email. I’m like, Hey, I’m thinking of this. What do you got for me? And so we were really fortunate that our social worker was really involved for like a few months into, I mean, almost like six months and that’s not a normal thing.

But she was super involved and, and helped me. But she’s a great sounding board. But she also she’s an expert, but she also gave me permission to be the expert of my own child. And so after you’ve spent some time getting to know them in safe ways, that does not mean like, let’s say Harper was older and I can tell she’s extroverted.

That does not mean enrolling her for camp and sending her off because she’s extroverted. This is what I would do. If that is obviously that’s not the answer. Or maybe not, obviously, but that’s not the answer. But does that mean going to a park? Mm hmm. Okay, that’s great. Maybe it’s not super crowded. Or does that mean, you know, you’re still there?

Maybe the whole family goes. There isn’t a concern for them of what this looks like, but whatever that might look like, as some, you know, maybe take your original idea and scale it back a hair. Yeah. And then trust your gut. Yeah. And, you know, like you’re the parent at the end of the day and you’re going to make mistakes.

Yeah. And you’re going to do things right too. And, you know, just letting that happen at a certain point and trusting the training too, that you received. And if you don’t know something again, ask for help. Like, Yeah, it’s totally okay. I can’t say that enough. Myself and most people I know are horrible at asking for help. I know.

Why are we all so bad at asking for help? Because I don’t know. Like we all know when you have a friend that adopts has a baby is going through a hard time, loses, you know, a spouse, a parent, whatever, we all are like, want to help? Yeah, but you feel like, oh, I don’t want to put that on them.

I don’t want to. Oh they’re going to think that’s annoying or they don’t have, they’re busy, they don’t have time. People are just like literally, I mean, yeah, they’re always waiting in the wings like, yeah, please, how can we help? We don’t want to be overbearing, but like we want to bring you meals. We want to take our dog in a walk, clean your house, whatever you let a madam let them see your dirty house.

Let them see behind the curtain. Because first of all, it doesn’t matter. And second of all, their house is dirty, too. Yes. Yes. Like I had a friend when I was a young mom right before, actually not too far before we brought Harper home that I like, went to her house. I won’t call her out. I don’t even know she’ll listen.

But I went to her house and it was messy. It was gloriously messy. And she unwittingly gave me permission to. To have a messy house. And so let him. And you might be doing them a favor, too, of like isn’t perfect. Let him clean your trash can. Let him like that’s like the gross is the gross and they want to do it.

Let him do it because you know, they’re learning something. God’s using them. Yeah. And teaching them something and teaching you something. And that’s how that’s how we get better by serving each other and learning from each other. So let it happen. And if you’re like, Oh my gosh, I’d never do that. That’s so gross. Check yourself right now.

Yeah, I’m like, they call you out to yourself. Yeah. Like, if you have that reaction you need and you’re adopting or you’re a parent or you’re a human being, you’re a human being, check yourself right now because we are not meant to do it by ourselves. Like we are not built that way and we shouldn’t be and that shouldn’t be that expectation.

So side rant. No, it’s, it’s super important. It’s super important. And I think that’s something we all can actually I want to challenge everybody listening to this, like if you’re a parent or not, like what’s something you can ask for help of your life? What’s something you can take off your plate like, yes, ask your spouse for help.

Ask your friends, ask your children. Ask what’s something you can yes and ask yourself why you think you have to do it. Like what in you thinks that you’re failing if you don’t? Yeah. I mean, I literally have to ask myself this. Like I’m taking the challenge as well. I take, Oh no, this is I say for everyone, it’s for me, it’s for me.

And then we’re like, okay, well, you know, you guys are out with so just do it and see. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised though. I’m going to do it. I am going to do it myself, too, because I get back into that habit of like, I can do this, I could take care of it and then I crash.

Yeah. So, you know, it’s been times. So obviously this podcast is about the first year and that can be, you know, just difficult, obviously beautiful and wonderful and life changing, but but also hard. What’s like if you had to think like one thing that kind of got your family through that first year, what what was that? That’s a really good question.

One thing or if it has to be too well, you know, on my mind and then we want to know I mean, I would say the support of others coming around us, whether I wanted them to or not, I would say therapy for real. No, like getting in. That saved me from lots of things like getting in and talking to someone, I would say.

I mean, I’m going on too long. There’s no or than when. No, I want the full list. I want a full I would say being honest with people about where I was, because when you speak out, it takes some of that, some of the lie that you’re believing, if not all of it, it takes it away and you hear it and you’re like, Oh, that’s so first of all, like, if you have good friends or if you’re talking to the post-adoption that your post-adoption specialist or your social worker, if they’re normal, good, healthy people, they’re going to say, oh, my gosh, like, oh, you can’t expect that of yourself.

That’s too much. Like, that’s and I did have that too of like and I had people that cried with me. And I want to like, I don’t want to gloss over like it was it was so beautiful. It was it was the best year having Baby Harper toddling around was like, she was that cute as she was and is the best thing ever.

She’s amazing. But adoption is hard. Having a new child is hard. You add that layer, it is so hard. So for anyone that’s like out there listening right now, maybe you’re in the middle of the first year and you’re like, Yeah, this is fine. And Good. I’m a disaster. I can’t even like letting somebody cry with you, just telling them whether it’s your spouse, but maybe someone else, maybe a friend reaching out, just crying like it’s.

It doesn’t mean that that’s. Something’s tragically wrong. It’s really normal. Yeah. And fortunately and fortunately, like, all of it. But just to have a good cry when it happens and acknowledge the reality of how hard it is, and then also when the beauty comes along, make sure you acknowledge that too, of like even if it’s a fleeting moment, even if it’s like you got everyone in your family fed today consistently and you fed them a complete meal like they had.

Yeah, the food groups were all represented in their meal today and that’s what went well. Like how that little moment where you celebrate that, it sounds like kind of silly and ridiculous to even say out loud, but I, I mean, I’m that person now at this stage in my life where I’m like, I got to celebrate. Those things happen.

Yeah, you did. I literally did. The other night, I was like, Jesse was gone, and I got a meal on the table and, like, the kids ate and had, like, something remotely healthy and they all ate. It was a win. And I really was like, I mean, it’s kind of a deal, but I was like, It’s not well done or It’s not like but just like, yeah, I don’t know, like giving yourself the kudos that you need at the same time that is, that is like a balance.

That’s a real job. No, it’s actually I was going to say there’s like a proven science behind. Oh, that I didn’t even know of, like taking when you feel like, you know, when you have those moments, you know, they’re not all the time, but where you’re like, you’re dancing in your kitchen, making dinner with your family and you’re, like, happy.

Like, take a second and look around and soak that in. Yeah, because that actually makes you. Yeah, you’re as a person, it makes you like recognize the joy in your life and all that there is to be grateful for. Not to say that there aren’t really, really hard things. Oh, not to say you’re not going to have garbage moments.

Yeah, you will. You will. You’re a person. But like, that’s gold that like you got to soak up those little things, maybe have a gratitude journal. Right. That you know. And it could be. Yes, I showered today. Oh, totally. That is my victory. I’ve written that down before. Okay, like, I’m glad we’re together. Yeah. Like, when to hear today?

Yes. Oh, seriously? Yeah, I took my makeup off tonight. That’s been something that I’m like, score. You’re doing so well today. Labor has a pat on the back. You are. And now everyone listening. Now they’re like, Wow, this is really cool. I stand. But I mean to like echo what you’re saying. Like, I grew up and I don’t know, like there’s this movie called Pollyanna that I grew up watching.

It was like an old Disney movie and like the whole thing was that she played the glad game. So anything hard that came along, she played the glad game. So I took this with me into adulthood and realized at some point that you can’t glad game at all. So I’m like, okay, a healthy thing to take from old Pollyanna.

Was that like, yes, you have to definitely sometimes search for the happy. So if it is like, oh, I just had a glass of wine while I’m cooking this, I feel relaxed for 5 minutes. This is great. Yeah. Then that’s your win. And also at the same time, like you just said this earlier, like it’s the both. Yes.

And also, I’m acknowledging that this is this is maybe the hardest year of my life. Yeah. And there are times I don’t know if I can keep going and I’m just here to tell anyone listening. You can keep going. Yeah, but, you know, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Yeah. You don’t have to trudge through alone, so.

Yeah, that’s the I mean, that’s the long way of saying how we got through it. No, I love that. I love that. It’s like, basically, you don’t have to do it alone. Recognize you can. It’s both and, you know, hard and wonderful. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect. No one is no so too close. Like, do you have any resources that you recommend for new adoptive families?

Like, if you’re listening to this right now and you’re like, you’re in, you’re in it, you’re really you’re in the middle and you’re in the middle of it. Yeah. So I would say I thought about this a lot because I at first was like, I’m going to come up with all these great resources that I’ve done, you know, all this research on.

And the bottom line is that when you’re in the middle of the hard, you do not have the capacity to do a ton of work. Yeah. For yourself because you are like literally trying to survive at that point. So I would say my, like my resource to recommend is just one piece of advice that you try to do.

One thing that day. So if you’re having a day where you’re like, I can’t keep going, maybe all that is sending an email to a friend or a text or just saying, I’m having such a bad day. I’m having so, so, so many things go wrong. Yeah, that could be an email to a pastor or, or, you know, like I said, I will mention again, like set up counseling beforehand.

Yeah. For yourself. Yeah. Because then when you get to that point, it’s not. So if you get to that point, it’s not so hard. Maybe you’ll find out like, Hey, I’m doing counseling, I’m six months in and I’m doing pretty okay. And then if you haven’t already set that up, it’s so much harder to get there. You’re like, Where do I even start?

So you can’t. It’s like, there’s too much happening inside of you to take something else on and it can take so long to get to the point where you finally make an appointment for yourself. Yeah. So that’s why I say that. To do that earlier, you may you may be thinking like, I would never do that. I don’t need that.

I don’t care. You’re either way. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be great and do it before they. Yeah, yeah. And then that resource is just there. So if that means texting your counselor, your utilize the resources that we have at AGC. So for me that was like a giant notebook because it was ten years ago I had I had like two giant notebooks, I had like all the paperwork notebook and then I had all the resources notebook pull out the resources they’ve sent you, whatever you have access to read something, even if it has nothing to do, like with what you’re going through that day.

Sometimes it’s just like a reminder of like, I’m okay, like, this is normal, okay? Like, I’m not alone in this. This is how it looks or it’s a memory jog of like, Oh, I do remember, I remember reading this. I remember talking about this. I remember this from my class and. It can be just a moment that recenter is you.

So, I mean, I would just say that one thing. Make it something easy. Don’t try to tackle it all at once. Rely on your prep at the one. Do one thing that day that could also be going on a walk. Yeah. Eating something delicious. Making yummy coffee. Like just the one thing, whatever that looks like that you to do to take care of yourself.

So I. I’m sorry. Like, if you wanted, like, no hard core, hard hitting journalism, no one, no outlet for me there, like no desire for that. But like, yeah, that was what I just like kept thinking about is like, oh, that. Everything felt so hard that first year. Like, I remember walking around our kitchen and like, I was there for something and I couldn’t even remember what I was there for.

I just, like, walked around and, like, stopped. It was like, why am I in here? I don’t even know. So that’s where you’re at. You’re like, I can’t even I’m trying to do all this stuff. I’m trying to figure this out. So, yeah, that’s I’m like, Oh, there’s nothing there. No, you’re not going to do it if you haven’t done it before.

It’s just get it. And no, if you didn’t do it before and you need help, it’s you know, there are quick still quick resources. You still could reach out to steer. You know, social worker, postage and specialist like that is a quick call like help, I need this. Yeah. So yeah. And now we have podcasts. We have. Yeah, we can you can just like Google something of like and there’s lots of people out there that have gone through what you’re going through and gotten through it and know what you’re how you feel.

Yes. You’re not alone or email us. Email us. We want to talk. Yeah. If you I mean, honestly, like you can I don’t even know if our like if all of our email addresses are online. I don’t think they are all together at all. God’s children dot org and we’ll get that. And if you need help, I’m going to say that right now, especially for your first year, if you’re like I just listen to this podcast.

First of all, well done for doing something for yourself. Yeah, I hope it helped. I’m sorry if it didn’t and but email us. Yeah do it or this is like why we do that. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. We want to hear from you and we want to help. Well, thank you, Marisa. Thank you. So enlightening. And as always, a joy to talk to you.

And we get to be in person. I know you guys are just hearing us, but I’m like looking into her beautiful eyes. I was thinking the same. I’m like, live eight years. I don’t want to see you. I know I can feel isolating. We both work remotely in a remote environment, so it’s so nice to see you. Well, thank you all for listening to Together by AGCI.

I’m Marisa Butterworth. I’m Melissa Rush. And we’re honored that you took time today to like, just hear what we had to say seriously and if you want more information about All God’s Children or the work that we do, we’re at All God’s Children International type it and it’ll pop up and we’re on Instagram and Facebook.

And I think our Instagram and YouTube, we’re all over the place. So if you go on to Instagram, it’s like at All God’s Children International to find us and we try on this program, whatever we are. So all on this podcast, radio program to bring you stories of hope, but we also want to bring you real life things and we hope that you all enjoyed it.

And if you have somebody that’s adopting or if you’re looking at adoption or maybe you’ve already been through it, or maybe you just want somebody to hear how hard it is of what you’re going through, like send it to your parents, please share this. And we’re honored that you would even think of that. And listen to us wherever you listen to podcasts, you can find us wherever you listen to podcasts and seriously email us at We’d love to hear from you. And I’ll add if you have something you want us to talk about that we’re missing, let us through. We would love to, like, figure out how to work that in and it may not happen like the next episode, but we take those seriously. Take it seriously. Yes.

Okay. Yeah, thanks. Talk to you next time.