After giving up my profession to become a wife, a mother of one, then suddenly seven made life very taxing for me. I soon came face to face with a challenging question. How did my identity become so obscure that I lost track of my hopes and dreams? Believing that I did not have any time left in my hectic schedule to accomplish my goals, I slowly began to lose perspective of whom and what I was about. My life became filled with doctor's appointments, therapy sessions, counseling, grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, dance classes and swimming lessons.
I anticipated my various new roles but they were not quite the way I imagined them. Adopting four children seemed like a really noble idea but the reality was that its profound vertigo-like existence of seemingly insurmountable ordeals, trials and triumphs followed by more trials was very challenging for me. Its intense effect led to my struggling with the choices I had made in life.
First I chose to marry my husband, who I knew would be transferred from the city where we lived at the time of our marriage. This meant giving up a job that I loved, and that family and friends would now be two thousand miles away. This marked the beginning of my abandoning many of my aspirations and dreams without any insight into all the other wonderful things that would emerge as a direct result of that. Outwardly I expressed the joy of being a newlywed; inwardly I mourned the loss of my friends and colleagues and then quietly expressed my thoughts through poetic writings.
Two years after marriage, my first child was born and this was a joyous time for both Bill and I. Remembering his own childhood and having been raised like an only child, Bill did not want to inflict the same ordeal on his child. He was the last of three children, born eight years after a sister that preceded him. He brought up the topic of adoption when our son was five months old. We had discussed adopting prior to marriage, so when our son Trey was ten months old, we started our state-mandated parenting class. It was at these classes that I first viewed the photos of our four beautiful daughters. The children's photos were in pairs of two, so naturally I thought it was a family of two. Upon inquiring about the two children, I was told it was a sibling group of four. I certainly was not interested in adopting four children, but I could not shake their precious little images from my mind. On occasions I would inquire about the progress of finding a home for the children. The answer was always the same: Most people were interested in one child maybe two but not four. After months of prayer and soul searching William and I decided to bring them home.
After our daughters came home, life was far from what I imagined it would be. My beautiful daughters had some struggles of their own. Moving from the house they had come to know as home was very traumatic for them. They were not equipped with any training or experiences to make the transition easier. With limited self-expression the older children acted out their fears and frustration by throwing temper tantrums and bullying their younger siblings. For the most part our household was in constant commotion. I became very focused on wanting to makes things better. Pretty soon I took on their issues as my own. There were numerous difficulties, from struggling to adjust to a new home, to dealing with abuse from their past, to learning difficulties. Through it all I learned to love them and took measures to make life better for them. Simultaneously, I bemoaned the fact that they were not the perfect children I dreamed of parenting and to add to my already precarious situation, I became pregnant with our sixth child.
I gave birth to that child soon after we consummated our adoption. I now had six children ages zero to five years, after four years of marriage. Time to do the things I loved was now non-existent. I was compelled to eliminate all other activities that were outside of home life. This, however, had a profound impact on me. I slowly became conflicted. Having to meet the needs of my household was overwhelming; yet I had to do it, convinced that if I faltered it would mean that I failed my children. I held firmly onto my preconceive idea that if I give them my all there would be a miraculous improvement. Instead I became frustrated, then discouraged and resentful. No longer tactfully problem solving, I began to focus on all the things I wanted to do and no longer had the time to do. I stopped taking pride in my accomplishments, even though I had made great progress with my children. Every negative encounter I had became magnified. I felt that they were a direct reflection of my community and their views of me and my family as a whole.
Having lost focus of the things that were important, I no longer took pride in the things that a mother found fulfilling, like teaching my five older children how to read fluently by age five, despite some of their academic challenges. I was now finding it very difficult to help my youngest daughter with her reading. In the past, teaching my children was worth more to me than its weight in gold. Not wanting to give into the misconception that giving up my profession to become a homemaker had some how robbed me of myself, I started to reflect inwardly. Where did the vivacious, cheerful, fun-loving side of me go? I loved my family! Could the inner struggles I was having be as a direct result of my choosing to dedicate all my time to them? I needed them as much as I needed the woman I was. They needed her too.
Paging through my diary, hidden within the pages of the many poetic entries was my hopes, fears, my love for my children, lost love and dreams for the future of forgotten hurting children, all the things that made up the core of who I was. Then being the dreamer and risk taker that I was, I compiled my very personal thoughts and submitted them to a publisher in the form of a book called Fantasy/Controversy or My Reality.
Having taken this fascinating journey through my struggles, I now had a new understanding of some of the challenges that mothers of large families, adopted and foster families have. These struggles which sometimes included giving up social events, having a full calendar of appointments, and frequently having to carry all the children grocery shopping, were very humbling for me. While it thought me to become more reliant on my creator it also changed my dreams and goals, for they now incorporate other foster and adopted families. I know who I am. I also know the value of having others around to help and offer support. I also know the importance of taking time to replenish myself. For many adopted mothers, this is currently not apart of their lives, but I would very much like for it to be, even if it comes in the form of post-adoption services. I dedicated my poetry book to hurting children everywhere so as to hold unto this dream of making a difference in the lives of hurting children. I hope to accomplish this by donating a part of my royalties to agencies that provide services to adoption and foster families.
Life-altering circumstances changed the direction of my life and momentarily robbed me of its joy. If one person can benefit from it, then living through it is worth it. It was my struggling, loving and advocating for my children that has rewarded me. I am now mindful of the things that are most important, for I have been blessed in ways I never thought I would be.
Ruth Garnes' Fantasy/Controversy or My Reality can be purchased on line from Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com and from the Publisher at Publish America.com. For more information about the author visit her web-site at http://home.earthlink.net/~rgarnes.
Ruth Andrews Garnes was born in Belize the second of six children. She moved to New York City at age eighteen. After studying nursing she worked in the emergency room in Bellevue Hospital. She currently resides with her husband and seven children in the Houston Texas area. Having always had a heart for hurting children she adopted four sisters. Through her writings she hopes to be able to make a difference to hurting children everywhere by giving a voice to their struggles.