Thursday, November 29, 2018

Childless at Christmas - A Survival Guide


Erma Bombeck stated: "There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning and not be a child."
For a couple battling infertility, the statement could read: "There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake on Christmas morning to a house empty of children." I know this is true for me, because I have lived it. When you are a couple with empty aching arms, Christmastime can be brutal.
For those who are hurting and hoping, they are not alone. According to RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, 7.3 million Americans deal with infertility. I am one of them. My husband and I have been married for 18 years and I have never become pregnant.
Here are some ideas to help your holiday season be merry rather than miserable.
Create a list of things you enjoy doing together.Pick one item each week and have it be your special holiday of the week. Take time to focus on one another and enjoy things you cannot do with children — like late night movies, fancy restaurants, an overnight at a favorite hotel, sleeping in followed by a late morning breakfast. Remember, even though you don’t have children, you are still a family. In a RESOLVE fact sheet series about coping with the holidays, founder Barbara Eck Menning says, “You're as entitled as anyone else to have a tree in your home, even if there are only two presents under it. How about throwing yourself into the search for, or the production of, a special present for your partner? It's a way of saying, 'Baby or no baby, we love each other and we’re a family in our own right.'”
Sometimes you have to protect yourself when you are in a great deal of pain. If family gatherings are too much right now, then excuse yourself from the event and make other plans together or with other couples who are dealing with the same challenges. Those who love you will understand and be supportive.
Seek out and serve children. For some couples, being around children brings hope. If this is how you feel then find ways to be around children. Offer to babysit for parents who need to do some gift shopping. Ask to hold a family member’s baby. Children in foster care are always in need of clothing items — coats, boots and gloves — and love new toys. Hospitals greatly appreciate clothing gifts for premature babies in their NICU. There are children hoping to be adopted from foster care who would love to have something special at Christmastime. Take toys and clothing items to a local homeless shelter. With so many children in need, there are many ways to nurture children and many children who need that nurturing.
Remember to take care of your mental and physical health. Holidays are stressful for everyone, but when you have the added challenges of infertility the stress is compounded. Helen Adrienne, a psychotherapist, suggests couples seek out a yoga class or get a massage to help with the stress. She also states,Whether on your own or with professional help, if you successfully decide and declare your decisions about the holidays, you set yourselves up to minimize the impact of family/holiday stress on your bodies. And beyond the logistics of who and what, there exists a further opportunity to nurture the marriage. Now is the time to explore techniques of mind/body relaxation that you can enjoy together. Besides being on the same page, feeling loved and understood is palliative and has a positive impact as a stress reducer.” Go to her article titled "Dealing with the stress of the holidays" to learn more.
Seek out others who understand. Whether in person or online, being connected to couples who are going through or have gone through what you are, can really be a lifeline. Connecting online was a big key for me. I found commonality and developed special friendships. Here are a few of my favorite blogs/sites which tackle the infertility topic — The R HouseLDS InfertilityBeyond the Rain. I share pieces of my infertility journey on my blog Another Small Adventure and my most tender writings on my other blog I AM.
When you are dealing with infertility, it is hard sometimes to not feel “left out.” While attending a church activity for children in our neighborhood, a leader read a book titled “The Crippled Lamb” by Max Lucado. By the time she was done I was in a mess of tears and had to escape to the restroom. The story is about a little lamb named Joshua who has a crippled leg. Joshua feels left out because he can’t be like the other lambs in the field. He develops a special friendship with a cow named, Abigail. Abigail helps him see that “God has a special place for those who feel left out.” I have come to know this for myself. I hope this special time of year brings you great peace and hope and the knowledge of your “special place”.
This article appeared in the Deseret News December 2012.

Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption. She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies. You can visit her blog here.

Creating Christmas Traditions


(*Written for Forever Bound Adoption December 2014)
Many years ago when Brad and I were dreaming of starting a family I had big plans.   I of course was going to be the perfect Mom and my kids would be incredible.   Here we are, married twenty years and many of our "big plans" have changed to meet reality.   Turns out I am not a perfect Mom but I do have some pretty incredible kids!  I have grown up and learned a couple of things here and there.   One great lesson has been tradition making.   For many years after we were married we still followed our parents traditions when it came to big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.   You know the trading off which side of the family we would go to for Christmas Eve, kind of thing.   Then after our daughters blessed our home we began to realize we needed to start establishing our own family traditions.

Maybe you are in that place where you are looking for special traditions you can implement into your family.   Here are a couple of our favorites during the Christmas Season.

Christmas Stories
Our book basket overflows with children's Christmas books in December.   But my very favorite is called "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado.   It is a sweet story about a little lamb named Joshua who has a leg that doesn't work as it should and he has spots on his coat of wool.  The other lambs in the field tease Joshua and he feels left out and alone.   Joshua makes a special friend named Abigail who is a cow.   She stays with Joshua in the barn while the other lambs to off to feed in a nearby field.  Joshua gets the opportunity to see the new born baby Jesus and learns God has a special place for him and other who feel left behind.   It is a tender story for me as I could relate to Joshua's feelings.    I first heard this story during a church activity for children.  At the time Brad and I were trying so hard to adopt and we had an adoption fall through.   When I heard the story read to the children it felt like a special message just for me.    It gave me hope!    Each Christmas I share this sweet story with my kids and I share how I came to love this book.   One year we created lamb ornaments for our tree.  I am including a paper piecing pattern in case you would like to read this story and do this project with your children or children you love.



Cute Lamb Paper Piecing Pattern.
Great as a Christmas craft to go along with Max Lucado's book "The Crippled Lamb".

Christmas Eve Nativity Craft

A few years ago we started a new tradition.   Every Christmas Eve we gather together, pray together and watch a short version of the story of Christ's birth.   We then present our children with their wrapped Christmas Pj's but we call them their "swaddling clothes".  They LOVE this tradition!  After sharing feelings and thoughts we turn to the kitchen table where they kids are able to create  a small nativity craft. If you look around on Pinterest there are many options.   Here are a couple of ideas we have used the past two years.


Cute baby Jesus in a manger craft we used in 2012.
You can go here for a tutorial.

Simple Nativity craft .  Great for little hands.
We used this one in 2013.


I love the quote from Nicholas Sparks:
"Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people."  

This is how I feel about traditions....at first they seem so simple and ordinary but as laughs are shared, moments made, then memories are created.  It is a ever circling joy that keeps the family coming back to each other.
Enjoy creating those special moments and joyful traditions!

*Got a great idea for Christmas Traditions please share in the comments section!  We would love to hear from you!

 Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption. She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies. You can visit her blog here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Loving Ties~ Creating bonds and claiming your child.

Having been involved in adoption for seventeen years I have heard many  stories about adoption.   Once in a while I hear about an adoptive parent who is struggling with feeling their new baby is “their baby”.

There are many varying scenarios where this sometimes occurs.
The most common I see are:

  • Adoptive couple has one biological baby and this is their first adoption.  Their placement experience was different than their birthing experience and they compare feelings between the two.   
  • The adoptive couple thought there would be an instant bond but that expectation wasn't met.
  • The adoptive couple grew very close to the expecting birth mom making it hard to feel like the baby is “their” baby...they worry about hurting her feelings.
  • Placement had some unexpected events, conversations etc which has made bonding more difficult.

I am sure the list could go on but the point I am trying to make is how unknown variables can change the expected experience.

When our oldest daughter was placed with us it wasn't a direct placement.  Her Birth Mom chose to have her mother and sister be the ones to place Brenley in our arms.  We had two experiences right before we went into the room for placement and then one during the actual placement bringing very unexpected feelings and experiences.

Once Brenley’s birth mom said her goodbyes she left and didn't want to see us.   We were told when she was leaving she was having a hard time.   I had a rush of emotion come over me as realized in a very deep and personal way how much pain this sweet girl, we love so much, was in.   I know I don’t know what she felt but the experience I had felt like a gift from God...giving me a flavor of her grief.  It was profound.    It brought a different feeling to our excitement.  We were still very excited but it ushered a deep sense of humility.

During the placement some words were spoken which made me worry someone was going to come and take Brenley away from us sometime after placement.   We were told after Brenley’s birth grandmother and aunt left what was truly meant by the words but the feeling was there.   We had been through a failed placement just a few months before so the fear of losing this baby was real and almost tangible.  Thankfully we were blessed with an amazing and instant bond we nurtured and felt grow every single day.  However, the fear of losing her was always in my mind and brought about much anxiety which fed into a post-adoption depression.   I was extremely joyful but always worried.  This same experience for another couple may have made it hard to bond because of the fear of losing the child.

When our oldest son and third child was placed with us he wasn't a newborn.  Camden was 8 months old on the day of placement.  He had bonded well to his birth family and he loved them.  He still loves them.  
Bonding with a child who is a little older can take a little more time.   We did have a bond to him even before placement because we had been friends with his birth mother during her pregnancy.  We felt a connection to him through her.  But we needed to claim him.   We invited his birth family over to our home after placement for a placement dinner.   We showed his sweet birth mother his room and toys.   We made her part of his experience here in our home.  This was a special opportunity and really helped everyone in the transition.  Once everyone had gone home we got to be alone with our new son and we played and held him and loved him.   He was our son….and the bonding continued.  


Camden walked a month after placement.   We felt we had a baby for a few minutes and then he quickly became a toddler.   He was everywhere and into everything.  By 15 months old he was climbing out of his crib and with that amazing feat came poop painting all over his room.   It happened multiple times and it wasn't fun to clean up and it wasn't easy...none of it was.   Sometimes I wondered what on earth we got ourselves into.   But then I remembered my love for him and how he was meant to be with us.   Once again I claimed my child.   He is my little boy.   

If you are struggling with feeling the bond, you so long for, you need to assert and take time to make that bond.  Here are some things you can do:

  • We love those we serve….make sure you are meeting your baby’s needs.   Don’t make the mistake of letting them cry themselves to sleep...when their needs are met they know they can count on your...this helps their bond.   When you serve and give your baby what they need this helps your bond to them.
  • Both parents...take the opportunity to do skin to skin contact with your newborn. Allow them to fall asleep on your chest.  Once again this bonding moment helps both parent and child.  You feel the rhythm of their heart and their breathing and they hear and feel yours.   
  • Of course your baby is going to look like their birth parents.  Embrace those things you see.   At the same time look for similarities they may have with you...maybe it is the shape of their feet or toes, maybe it is hair color, maybe it is how big or small their hands are or a funny little look they give.   Love sees the similarities and loves the differences.
  • Swaddle your baby in a blanket and in your arms.  Don’t just hold them during feedings take lots of time with them holding them, rocking them, talking to them, singing to them.   Be in the moment with them.  Same with a toddler….have lap time, reading time, snuggle time.   Put aside the responsibilities of the day and be with your child.
Claiming your child doesn't mean the child isn't part of their birth family….it just means they are yours too.   Every birth mother wants you to bond and claim the baby they love and claim too.   They want their child to be loved and treasured….they want them to be yours in your heart and mind and soul.   And when you claim your child you are claiming those amazing people who brought them into this world.  This isn't a tug of war….this is family!
Every parent/child relationship develops in its own time and way.  Not matter if your child is born into your family or adopted into your family, if you nurture your love it will grow and expand until it fills all of those places in your heart and you belong to one another!

*Originally written for Forever Bound Adoption Agency Blog.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Celebrating Adoption ~Ideas for Couples and Families


November is just a few days away and we are seeing the sights of the upcoming holidays as we visit retail shops or go online to read blogs, visit Pinterest or shop amazon.   But November brings another reason to celebrate.  November is National Adoption Awareness month.   A whole month dedicated to the amazing work of adoption.   It seems so fitting to have adoption month come in the same month as Thanksgiving.   Adoption brings much to be thankful for!
So what can we do as couples and families to celebrate this precious wonder in our life?  
The list is long and the options are endless!
 Here are a few ideas.

Celebrating Adoption with Birth Families
  • Invite your child’s (or children’s) Birth Families over for a special “Giving Thanks for Adoption” dinner.   You could serve a traditional Thanksgiving type dinner or serve a favorite family meal
    Or use recipes given to you from your children’s Birth Families.
  • Serve and share your children’s favorite recipes with your dinner guests.    This would be something your kids could help with and would be a special gift to their Birth Parents.  If you wanted to go a step further you could create a “family favorites “ cookbook and give each Birth Parent a copy.   The kids could help create the book and decorate it themselves.
  • Invite Birth Family members over for an Adoption Family Fun night where you play games, watch movies and share your kids favorite treats.   Ask Birth Family members to bring their favorite family games and treats.   This is a great way to learn about one another’s family gathering traditions.
  • If your children’s Birth Parents live far away you could create a special care package with meaningful items to let them know they are loved and you are thinking of them during this special month.  You could use the cookbook idea or single recipes to send to them along with a homemade apron or treats.  Go with your personality and share what fits for them.

Celebrating Adoption in your home

·         Place adoption books, magazines and/or movies that mention adoption (for all ages) in a basket and place it in a common area of your home.   Read an adoption book a day to your child or children.   Watch the movies together as a family.
Here are a few of our families favorite Movies and Books:
Adoption Book and movie Basket.  Great way to highlight adoption at home.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
The Blind Side
Juno
Despicable Me
Man of Steel
Stitch
Annie
Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
Once Upon a Time – And Adoption Story by Ashley Bigler
The Very Best Thing for TJ by Halene Dahlstrom
My Parents Picked Me! By Pat Thomas and Lesley Harker
I Love you More than Tongues Can Tell by Znne T. Zwicker Megan by Jack Weyland
For the Love of a Child by Monica Blume and Gideon Burton

·         Decorate your home with adoption sayings, cute banners or special pictures of your children, your family and your children’s Birth Families.
·         Pull out picture books or scrapbooks and take time to look through them with your child or children. 
Here is the invite we are using for our adoption celebration.  



     


You can grab this printable here.
·         Hold a “We’re NUTS about Adoption” gathering.   Have a “Peanuts” style Thanksgiving dinner.   This could be just a family gathering or you could invite birth families, extended families and neighbors.   It could be as big or small as you wish.   Diana over at thecreativegirl.com blog shares some really cute ways to create a Peanuts style thanksgiving dinner.  From invitations to a popcorn turkey…she has gathered great ideas from many other blogs and put them in one place.    The ideas would work perfect for this type of event.  We are going to try this idea out this year.  We think it is going to be a hit! 


Don’t have children in your home just yet?
You can tailor any of the ideas listed to meet your circumstances or create something entirely different.   Here are a couple ideas:
·         Hold a “Grateful for Hope” dinner.  Invite people who are supportive of your efforts.   You could make it formal or hold a party style dinner.   Have fun and make it whatever you want.   This would be a great time to remind our family and friends you are trying to adopt and let them know how they can help you in your efforts.  

·         Create an adoption book club for a whole year or even just a book or two for November.   You can invite couples who have already adopted or make it a club for couples working towards an adoption.

November is a great time to advocate for adoption
Anytime you can help someone in your community understand what adoption really is about you are helping protect the future of adoption.   Here are a few ideas you can do in November or plan to do throughout the coming year.
  • Make a video portraying adoption as a positive option.  Create something touching and educational then share it on YouTube and other social media sites.
  • Create an adoption awareness week in your area.   This could include workshops where people can learn about the adoption process, a birth parent panel  and/or something fun at your local library where kids who were adopted can come and create a craft or have adoption related stories read to them.  
  • Hold a craft night for women who love adoption. Birth Mothers, adoptive mothers, adoptees etc  can come together to create and chat.
  • Write articles for a local newspaper or blog.   Share your story.  Personal stories touch hearts.
  • Help with school outreach.
  • Hold a 5K fun run.   This creates awareness and it something fun anyone can be involved with.
  • Hold an adoption open house where people can come and ask questions.  Invite local agencies and organizations to come and be part of educating your community.
  • Attend adoption activities sponsored by adoption organizations United For Adoption holds their Annual Adoption Conference in November.

The list could go on and on.   Do something that fits you and your situation
Some of my family’s favorite moments together have been while promoting and celebrating adoption.   Adoption is something each of us have in common and serving together for this great cause has brought us great joy!  

Adoption is truly something to celebrate!

Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption. She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah's Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies. You can visit her blog here.

*Originally written for Forever Bound Adoption Website.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Teaching children Gratitude.

*Originally written for Forever Bound Adoption Website.
Thanksgiving is a special time of year when families gather, memories are shared and new memories are made.   Many families take turns sharing what they are most thankful for as they sit around the table filled with savory dishes waiting to be devoured.   Having the attitude of gratitude is an important gift we can give to the children in our lives.   November brings a great opportunity to teach gratitude.   You don’t have to have children in your own home to use these ideas.   Teaching children in your extended family, in your neighborhood or in your church congregation, would be a great way to bless the lives of children around you.   Sometimes an Aunt or Uncle or special neighbor can impact a child’s life in a unique and special way.

Teaching Gratitude starts with words:   Saying “Thank You” often is a great way to help children learn to say thank you.   When our children were little toddlers we would hand them something they wanted and we would say “Thank You”.  It didn't take long for our child to start saying those words to us.
 
Thank You Notes:  Thank you notes written to our children not only teaches by example, it allows our child to feel special and begin to understand what it feels like to be appreciated.

Stories about giving thanks:   Keep a basket filled with books, magazine articles and/or movies for all ages that teach the art of being thankful.    We try to add a new book to our collection each year .   Visiting your local library is another way to add a few books to your basket for the season.

Special acts of service:  Look for opportunities to serve others in your family, extended family and/or community.   Helping others gives children the opportunity to give back and see how their service touches the heart of another.

November “Giving Thanks” packages:  Kids love to create so taking treats to a neighbor, or creating their own thank you notes, is a great way to get kids involved in showing gratitude.   This year we are taking these little turkey baskets filled with goodies and a note of thanks to some special people in the lives of our children.


Get the pattern here.

Go here to learn how to create the paper basket.


Trace, cut and chalk or ink the sides.
Glue together.  Don't forget to dot in the eyes.
Thanksgiving baskets ready to fill with goodies and a note of gratitude.
Thanksgiving is a great time to share a special note of thanks to our children's birth families.  Any of these ideas can be used to tell the special Birth Families in our lives Thank You!   I feel  there aren't enough ways to tell my children’s birth families thank you!   Nothing measures up to the joy they have brought into my life and into my family.   When I create something with my own hands and give it to them, it is my hope they realize my gratitude and love for them runs deep.   When my children create pictures (like a hand turkey) for their birth parents they get excited because it is something they did themselves.   What a great opportunity we have to share our love with these incredible people in our life!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!


Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption. She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah's Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies. You can visit her blog here.





Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Day I Played.


One afternoon I had just settled down into the world’s best recliner (seriously…best money ever spent at RC Willey) and was very ready for a moment to myself.   My little Spencer comes up to me for the millionth time that week and asked me to play Lego’s with him.   I really don’t want to….I just want “my time”.   But something about the way he is looking at me this time makes me realize he really needs me.    So I put on my super mom cape and go to the business of doing what moms do best…..sacrifice their time for their child’s needs.   At least that is what I was thinking at the time.

I sat down at the tiny red Lego table Brad and I made for our boys for Christmas. The tiny red chair, way too small for my backside but not too uncomfortable became my station in this world he created.   The playing begins….I decided to put some of my own imagination into it and the story started unfolding.   Spencer became Batman and I was just Brenda but I was helping Batman.    I starting introducing non-Lego toys into the play and things starting getting a little giggly.   But when I placed Joker on the Lego horse and then put a Littlest Pet Shop acorn in Joker’s hand and called it a Cherry bomb, Spencer laughed so hard he couldn’t talk.   I also saw the awesome silly humor and caught the laughing bug.   Before I knew it we were both laughing so hard we couldn’t play for a few minutes.   Then things got really crazy and the laughing became hysterical!   In that moment I was really truly present with my sweet little boy and having more fun and releasing more stress then I ever could by sitting in the world’s best recliner.   

I learned a great lesson that day.   It wasn’t me putting on a super mom cape and sacrificing my time for my child’s need.   The superhero was really Spencer.   He helped me relax, have fun and laugh away my concerns of the day.    He was taking his time away from his short childhood to include me in his imagination play.    What an amazing privilege it was to be invited into his amazing world!!!

I now look forward to our continued “game” in Spencer’s Lego world.  Best therapy ever!!!!
I love my Super Spencer.
Hero of my heart!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Overcoming

Sometime in very late January or early February I came home from work and Haley pulled me into the living room and poured her heart out to me about how badly she was being treated by friends and how much she just didn't want to deal with the pain anymore.   She cried harder than I have ever seen her cry and as I reach out to her and pulled her close to me and held her for a long time I realized she wasn't just totally heart broken but she was fiery hot with a fever.    She had a horrible cough to add to her horrible fever.   She was fragile emotionally and physically.   After talking on the phone with a doctor I learned how physical illness can make depression worse.   This  made complete sense and I wondered why I hadn't thought of it myself.   That night and many many nights following I slept downstairs on the couch so I could be by Haley.   Within a couple days I running a fever and coughing. By the 4th day the whole family was sick.   It was not a fun time in our home.   Haley and I had the worst of it.  We went to the doctor only to be told it was a virus and go home, rest and drink fluids.   It was the first time I think in my whole life  I called someone in my ward and asked for help with a meal.   And being the wonderful friends they are we were taken care of that night and a few nights following.

It was during this illness and intense concern for my daughter's health and well being that I had a breaking moment.   I cried harder than I had cried in a while.   I'm sure from the outsider's perspective I looked like I was crying only because I was so sick (which illness was a huge part of it) but there was so much more.  All the pain of all the trials from the past 12 months came down on me in a way I can't describe.   I think those feelings had been sitting there festering for a long time.   Feelings about all of my children's challenges, to my weight challenges, to the criticism I endured from others while serving in Young Women's, and difficult feelings coming from  the hurtful silence from those who should have come to our aid on our darkest days.    I was also letting out my feelings of sadness for all the things I couldn't give my children because we live too far away from everything.   And it wasn't just the distance... it was the financial struggle as we paid more and more towards doctors visits, ER visits and all things medical.  I felt locked into a life I didn't like anymore.   I wanted to give my children more experiences, more of my time and much sweeter memories.  I wanted them to have more time with Brad...be a little closer to help cut a little time off his commute.  I knew on that very day I was done, but I had no idea how to share all of these tender feelings with Brad.  I wasn't sure how to tell him how I knew if we continued to live here I would heading to a mental breakdown.

Somehow in the Lord's own way He was able to help me communicate to Brad my needs.   And Brad heard me but more importantly Brad heard Him.   And here we are about a week away from moving.  A week away from a fresh start in a smaller house which doesn't have everything we dreamed we would have but has everything we need.   I have seen the Lord's hand guide us and help us! I have felt His tender mercies upon my family!

Haley has greatly improved!!!   I can see the happy girl who fills my life with sunshine!   I also see a a girl who is a little wiser and is open with her feelings more often.    Our whole family has been making changes for the better and we are working together to overcome the stumbling blocks.   I am feeling joy again and I have hope again and feel excited about our future!  I am ready for this incredible chance to make a fresh start!   Fresh sounds beautiful to me!!!