Dear Jenny,

Breathe.

One. breath. at. a. time.

Did you make the right choice?  I think so.  I don’t know that it will ever be as simple as – yes or no.  How can you label choices from your heart as being correct or incorrect?  How can you ever really know without seeing all the infinite scenarios play out when faced with a choice and the subsequent choices which follow?  How do you ever really find peace when you’ve battled your heart and mind at the edge of a cliff of no other alternatives?

Keep writing.  Even in the moments where you feel vulnerable and weak.  Even when you want to delete your entire blog.  Each time.  It will be a therapy for you of immeasurable proportions.  Somehow clicking the “publish” button and sending your thoughts, frustrations, and joys into the abyss is soothing…freeing.  Attempts thus far at finding a guide in this new land have been unsuccessful.  You’ll learn that it’s hard for someone to guide you when they’ve never been there themselves.  Instead, you’ve been creating a map as you go even though your deepest desire is for someone to seek you out, place the map of this land in your hands, and teach you all about it.  The map you’re creating is rough.  Not entirely accurate.  Changes are made to it often.  And you continue to explore with determination even when faced with unimaginable exhaustion and uncertainty.

Guess what?!  Justin sleeps through the night now.  Without crying.  I know!  I’ll just leave you with the good news.  I’ll spare you how long it takes.  Just be patient.  What’s a few years – or five – in the grand scheme of things if you know you’ll eventually get an entire night of uninterrupted sleep…multiple nights in a row?!  See, I told you.  Great things in your future.  Sleep.

Guess what else?!  Your socially awkward inability to carry on a decent conversation with people begins to fade.  A little.  Okay…you’re still socially awkward but at least you’re not mute anymore.  It only took social workers placing you in a room with your husband and another married couple and telling the four of you to duke it out over who gets to adopt Justin.  You’re the one who told off the social workers.  A lot of people were shocked over that one.  The mama bear was awakened.  There’s less inhibition for small talk now.  I guess something good came out of that.

You’ve learned some serious endurance.  Serious endurance.  It’s probably best I don’t share how. Remember – deep breaths.

Soak in the moments of joy.  You’ll need them to sustain you through the drought of frustration. Embrace the opportunities to snuggle your kids even when you know there are a million other things that “should” get done.  Just keep the house straightened for the social workers.  Don’t obsess about it. They’ve learned you care about the kids and they won’t take them away from you if it’s slightly messy – despite your encounter with your first social worker after the weekend you were sick.  Deal with the boys where they are at right now.  It’s what they need.  Don’t try to make them hit “age appropriate” milestones so the social workers can check off a box.  It will do more damage than good.  Let them progress slowly and in their own time.  You’ll reap the benefits later.  I wish I had figured this out sooner rather than much later.

Do not let your desire to be a perfect mother consume you.  Regardless of what anyone says, these boys have hurdles created by their past. As much as you want to take on the entire emergency room of their problems, it’s just not realistically possible by one person.  Even you.  One day, I hope I can forgive myself for not being able to care for all five of the boys – but I’m not there yet.

I think one of the biggest lessons of all is learning to forgive.  Forgive yourself for not knowing all the answers.  You’re trying your best.  I know that.  Forgive others for their ignorance.  They simply don’t know any better.  Forgive those who have hurt you.  It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Matthew 6:14:15

THE biggest lesson you’ll learn is to love regardless if you are loved in return.  The boys’ lack of affection – the inability for them to show love to you on any regular basis – will tear you apart in a way I cannot even begin to put to words.  Forgive them.  Remind yourself that you understand the situation whereas, they do not.  Wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them even after they’ve pushed every button known to them to set you off.  They’re testing to see if you’ll love them regardless.  They’re testing to see if you’ll abandon them just like their birthmother abandoned them.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but they need confirmation that you’re going to stick around.  Sit on their bed and read them a bedtime story even when they spent the day in tantrums.  They need to be reassured that you’ll calm them and guide them in their times of frustration.  They didn’t get it when they were babies.

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  Matthew 5:46

You’ve developed habits for coping with stress and fatigue.  Some good.  Some…not so much.  Coffee and chocolate are not the answers – as nice as they make you feel.  I know coffee was a must in those never ending moments of waking up at 5:30am after only having slept a handful of non-consecutive hours each night.   I don’t have an alternative to avoid the eventual twitch you’ll develop in your eye from drinking waaay too much coffee each day but I do know, for the time being, it made you able to function and survive off of so little sleep for two years.  (Forget I said two years.  Take it one night at a time.  You do make it to the other side and there are even some surprise nights at a hotel for you gifted by your mom and husband where you slept a blissful night’s sleep without Malaki or Justin waking you multiple times throughout the night.)

Keep reaching out to Les.  I know he’s under a tremendous amount of stress at work but you will learn that his heart is with you and the kids at home.  He’s trying his hardest to finish up this master’s degree to benefit the family.  I know how hard it was to not have him around for two years as he worked ridiculously long hours and when he was home, he was studying.  He didn’t want to do it as much as you wanted him around more.  He learns to express himself better in the future.  He learns how to truly help you.  The two of you grow closer through all your daily struggles and he becomes sincerely your best friend and supporter.  He’s an amazing man.

I don’t know if I should say stop seeking someone to vent to beyond Les or not.  It hasn’t worked out so well thus far.  You’ve reached out to five professionals at this point and they responded in either shocked silence or advised you to use a reward chart (trust me – I’ve used every imaginable reward and consequence system at this point).  I’m still in the beginning stages of a realization so I’m not sure how this is going to play out but so far it’s working.  Let go of trying to make the boys conform to your rules. They rebel something fierce.  You’ll go through the Period of Time Out.  It’s ridiculously long. Ridiculously frustrating.  And…DOESN’T WORK.  As soon as you realize you have to work on yourself instead of them, miracles happen.  They calm down.  They start to follow directions better.  It just all seems to be coming together.  For now anyway.  Take to heart the words from St. Seraphim of Sarov:

Acquire a peaceful spirt, and thousands around you will be saved.