Monday, March 3, 2014

broken to burdened

(Brace yourself; this is a long one.)

If you read the blog Friday, you saw some of the questions people have asked me about resigning. You also read some of the answers to those questions that I don't recommend. Today I'll be answering those questions as openly and honestly as possible, and later this week I hope to share some plans for next year. I'm not sure why I feel the need to explain myself; maybe because I want people to know that I am still sane, I'm not a flake, and my school district is amazing because they allowed me to get through some pretty crazy baby situations.

I can't explain every bit of my crazy decision, but I can say say this: My heart is changed, my priorities are realigned, and my calling is becoming more clear and focused.

All of the rapid realignments can be traced to three definitive events (and all of which happened during a volleyball season, for the record):

1. Brody's difficult adoption
2. Brecken's 9-week premature birth
3. Losing twins in DRC to dysentery

Brody:

Brody and Brad, snuggling a few days after we met him

We received the call about Brody almost exactly three years ago, and from that moment our spirits climbed and crashed in a multitude of different ways over the course of five long months. We spent much of our time during those months praying, but also fearing that he would be taken from us for reasons that would be difficult for us to understand. Even while hoping to get great news, we pictured him being driven away from us, back to Kentucky to his birth dad, who was in jail for trafficking meth and who had never been interested in being a father, even though he already had a biological child in another state.

During that time, I had to take a few days off because my heart was in such a mess that I didn't know what to do. And then I had to take more days off to make an emergency trip to Kentucky, to attend a good ol' boy-style court proceeding. In the hearing, birth dad and his mom tried to prove that Brody was in "grave danger" with Brad and I. Once we got there, we weren't even allowed to sit in the court room or defend ourselves. Instead, we were sent to a small room with members of birth dad's family. Talk about awkward.

One summer night while we were waiting for the court to make the final decision about Brody's future, Brad--the realistic one--said to my parents and me, "We need to be realistic. There is a very real chance we will lose him. It's difficult to terminate biological rights--as it should be--even if someone has made some very bad decisions. We just need to be ready to say goodbye." It was what we'd all been thinking, but we didn't have the guts to say it out loud.

Brad always has the guts to say what needs to be said--and to not say what doesn't need to be said--and that is what makes him so incredibly admirable. I like to pretend things are going well and will continue to do so, so hearing what was probably true was quite a blow. I cried myself to sleep that night and several others.

I continued working at summer weights, open gyms, and volleyball camps, even while my heart was breaking and I was longing to hold Brody and relish his presence as much as possible. My school district and assistant coaches were AMAZING in helping me through this time, but it was very hard for me to have a clear mind through all of the craziness. And I believe that hurt the volleyball team, although I could do nothing about it but try to be present when I was with them.

A few days after that, we got the call: The judge had ruled the birth father "unfit" to parent, but we should expect an appeal. So we waited again. We didn't have full relief that Brody would be able to remain with us until midway through volleyball season, when we finally got confirmation that no appeal papers had been filed.

He was ours. For good.

Brecken: 

Brecken, all 3 lbs, 13 oz of him.

Brecken wanted out of the womb early. 11 weeks early, to be exact. He wanted out the afternoon after I'd spend three long days in a hot volleyball gym, stressed out by coaching good girls, but girls who needed more volleyball experience in order to compete with great teams. My water broke that evening, and the next I missed another team camp while on hospital bedrest, leaving my new assistant coach to take the reigns (shout out to Brianna Kelly and Jacqueline Snyder, who are so GREAT!).

While in the hospital, I also missed one of my player's phone calls about her commitment to play at MSU. That's a big deal, and although I texted her a congratulations while under loopy drugs, I was still unable to communicate my sincere excitement. These sorts of moments are the things that change teams and individuals, and I missed a lot of those moments.

Fast forward to Brecken's birth, 9 weeks early. I was released from the hospital while he stayed there. I attended the first weeks of practice while my newborn son was in a hospital 45 minutes away. School started a few weeks later, and because I needed to save my sick days for when Brecken came home (after all, nurses were taking care of him in NICU), I went back to work. I left my house at 6:30, taught school all day, went to practice until about 5:45, drove home to say a too-quick "hi" to Brody, then went straight to the hospital so I could make it there by feeding time, 7 PM, when I could hold him for a few minutes that day. (And did I mention that I pumped during my conference hour, lunch break and right after school. That equals ZERO spare minutes.) Other parents with babies in the NICU probably felt sorry for Brecken in the way that I felt sorry for babies whose parents were never visiting them. Except this time, I was the absent parent.

Brecken came home on a monitor five weeks later, and I took about every other day off from school to be with him. This left me coming to practices and missing some games and vice versa. Not the best way to coach a team, and although I had amazing assistant coaches who took over in my absence, the season lacked consistency while I lacked sleep.

When it came down to it, I had to choose what was best for my family, and I had two kids who desperately needed a mom. Even so, I missed a lot of time with Brecken, and I probably missed even more time with Brody. I hadn't been able to hang out with him the entire time I was in the hospital. His 16-month little self couldn't handle being around all the cords and wires in the hospital room. And after Brecken was born and I returned to work, I felt compelled to visit Brecken at certain times to give him love and cuddle time to help with his development. Essentially, I split time between three kids: Brody, Brecken and the volleyball girls. Each of them got slighted.

Life is important, and I was missing it.

Losing the twins: 

 

This past fall, we were in the middle of our second adoption. We were thrilled to have a referral for twins. We had their picture on our wall. We were choosing names to add to their given names.

Then we received word that dysentery was reeking havoc on the orphanage, and the twins had been moved to protect them. We worried and prayed. Then we learned the move out of the orphanage wasn't enough: The twins had died. We received the devastating phone call on a Monday night, right after I'd gotten home from a volleyball game and laid my head on a comfy pillow in my cool, clean and safe house. Suddenly, nothing else was very important. So we had lost a volleyball game. There were thousands of children losing their lives in the US and abroad because they don't have adequate food, medical care or clean water.

Clean water, which we put in water balloons and throw at each other for fun. Clean water, which we all drink in America without giving it a second thought. It's hard to reconcile that without being debbie downer. "First world probs," I want to say to every high school kid who tweets about the heat in her Mercedes being out. "First world probs," I want to tell the athletes who have to work out in a hot weight room.

But I know that's not right, because I was once that high school athlete, complaining about using a huge fan instead of having AC during hot summer practices. And, if I'm honest, I am still a big baby who wails about leaky shower heads, walls with the pee of a two-year-old dripping down them, and the unfairness of life.

I went to school the Tuesday after learning about the twins' deaths, only to leave school early and try to refocus for the game that evening. I spent time with my kids at home and prayed for children abroad. But I knew nothing would ever be the same for me. I coached that night in a daze of questions: "Why dirty water, God?" and "Why do we get to enjoy volleyball while others don't even get food?"

I knew. This was my last year of coaching volleyball. How could I explain to my players that there are thousands of things that are more important that volleyball? I was one of those players once: A girl who loved volleyball. And I still do, but it will never be the same.

And how could I risk being partially absent--in spirit or in body--with the development of Sweet C's case? After all, we could receive permission to travel and bring her home right in the middle of another volleyball season. That would have been my fourth interrupted volleyball season, and that--yet again--would not have been fair to the players.

Sweet C!
My heart has been rapidly realigned and my purpose reconfigured. I can't spend time stressing about volleyball when I know there are bigger problems that I might be able to play a small role in solving, there are two (hopefully three, soon) kids at home who need their mommy to be "all there" when she's there, and 30-some volleyball players who need a coach who can be fully present.

My broken heart created my burdens. A couple of difficult adoptions have rocked my world. Brecken's early arrival changed my perspective. Losing twins broke me. These are my burdens. And they are clarifying my calling.