During National Adoption Awareness Month, I will introduce you to numerous guest bloggers, highlighting many parts of the adoption journey. Keely Waller was one of the badass mamas who answered my call on Instagram. She’s not new to writing about adoption and when she told me that she’s an advocate of self-care in adoption, as a mom and in life, I knew she spoke my language. If you’re into this stuff, too, I know you’ll enjoy what she has to say.
By Keely Waller
Adoption is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve gone through the process twice now and have two beautiful, perfect daughters that I am so grateful for. But there were days I felt like quitting and throwing in the towel. There were days I was angry because the process felt cruel and unfair. There were times when everything felt reckless and out-of-control, which was an uncomfortable feeling for my type-A personality. Of course, this would be taxing on anyone. But for those of us that come to adoption after infertility, we’re already exhausted, weary, and healing from loss and heartbreak. We launch ourselves into yet another process that is volatile, emotional, and never guaranteed to be successful. Maybe all of that is the reason the process is so rewarding, too. Of course, our children are the best gifts we’ll ever receive. But after you’ve survived and made it through, there’s liberation in the process. There’s a renewed strength and resilience for life. Because if you can go through this, there’s nothing you can’t do. At least that’s what it felt like to me. It’s such a triumph and beautiful process and unfortunately, that very much includes fear and heartache. But it will change you. It will change your life.
Amidst the chaos and unknowns, I quickly realized how important it was to take care of my physical and mental health. Stress is sure to wreak havoc in our bodies. It breaks down our immune system, clouds our mind, and rids us of sleep. I felt deep, physical heartache which is an aching of the worst kind that nothing can fix but time. I’ve always been an advocate for self-care. But after four tough years through infertility and two adoptions, it has taken on a whole new meaning for me. And it’s more important to me than it ever has been before. And it’s much, much more than luxurious bubble baths and getting your nails done. For me, self-care is an all-encompassing caring for my physical and mental well-being. Here are a few ways to love on yourself through the toughest times.
- Time. I know, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. Infertility took so much time that we quickly jumped in to adoption. I was desperate for a sweet baby in my arms. But I was emotionally frail, heartbroken, and grieving a loss when we started the adoption process. If you’re coming from a place of infertility, consider taking some time to heal and re-group before springing into adoption. Honor those feelings and know how truly valid they are. They deserve their own time and space. I feel it’s important to come in to the adoption process with all your strength, might, and an open heart.
- Talk about it. If you’re anything like me, we bottle up all our feelings and stuff them away because sitting with them is just too painful. And hey, we’ve got things to do! But here’s what I’ve learned after seeing a wonderful therapist for 2.5 years: feelings will always surface if they’re not dealt with properly. Sure, you can stuff them away for a while and keep moving forward. But they’ll come back and the pain will still be great. Find a trustworthy therapist. I went to FOUR therapists before finding “the one.” I dreaded this task every single time and nearly gave up. But, I knew I needed to talk about my emotions. I knew that I couldn’t deal with them on my own. It was the greatest decision I ever could have made for my mental health.
- Find your tribe. By “your tribe,” I’m referring to those that understand what you’re going through and all the unique emotions and situations that come with infertility and adoption. For me, this tribe was on social media. It may sound superficial, but my biggest and most refreshing support came from an online community that I didn’t know existed. There are Facebook groups, such as Mighty Mamas by Adoption, filled with women who understand. This was extremely healing and validating for me, and I only wish I would have had this kind of support earlier.
- Do things you love. Before infertility or the adoption process consumed your life, what did you love doing? When we see “self-care”, we so often think it’s mani’s and pedi’s and shopping sprees, but self-care is so much more than that. What makes you happy? How can you simplify your life and mental clutter? What fills your soul? What makes you come alive? For me this was spending time outside, hiking and kayaking, which I hadn’t done in months. I started reading more and having quiet time for myself. I took a couple visits to the mountains – my favorite place. I took long baths and splurged on more expensive baths salts just because they made me happy. I cried whenever the emotions flooded me. And I let that be okay. And slowly, but surely, I felt my heart heal.
- Be okay with saying “no.” You have the power to say “no” to anything that makes you less happy. For me, during this season of life, baby showers were torture. You can say no. Pregnancy announcements were cruel. You can control who you follow and limit your time on social media. Dinner dates with girlfriends who all had kids and constantly talked about kids and pregnancy was painful. You can say “no”. Extended family holiday gatherings where nosey, distant aunts and cousins that constantly asked if you were pregnant yet were dreaded. You can say “no”. I said no a lot. Just for now, be selfish. Guard your head and heart.
- Make extra time for your spouse. In this journey, your spouse is the only person who is going through this with you. The only person that understands the infertility. The only person that sits down to research adoption and interview countless agencies with you. So often when we feel stressed and angry, those feelings unload on our spouse. Because they’re safe and we know they’ll love us no matter what, but it still isn’t fair. Make extra time together. Don’t talk about adoption or infertility. Just connect with each other. Go camping, go on a hike, go to the bookstore, visit a winery. What did you do together before you got married? Do those things. A lot. Reconnect.
Caring for yourself should be a priority. Society has taught us that this is selfish. But the world needs a happy, healthy YOU. Your spouse needs you. Your (future) child(ren) needs you. I can take care of my family so much better when I feel happy, loved, and cared for. You deserve it. You are worth it.