Saturday, August 25, 2012

Adoption's Like a Marathon

First, I have an announcement to make.  My "mom brain" transplant is fully complete.

Earlier this week I totally forgot about my hair cut appointment because it was new parent night at SVdP (a million apologies, Sara!) and this morning I forgot my Garmin for my long run.  Seriously, these are things I just do not do.  Or didn't used to do.  Sigh.

Next, today's 20 mile training run was on a super hilly course, and it's notorious in my running group for being a real killer.  I was a bit nervous because our trip to Ethiopia put a little wrinkle in my marathon training plan (as in no running for almost two weeks), but today's run was fantastic.  The weather was perfect and I had great company; we motivated each other up and over all those hills.  And we finished our run in a very respectable time.  (Thankfully everybody else had their Garmins!)

So I thought today would be the perfect day to share my thoughts on my two of my favorite things--adoption and running.

I'm not the first to say this; people often use the "marathon" analogy to describe something that requires perseverance and dedication.  But as a marathoner and an adoptive parent, here's my perspective on how adoption really is like a marathon.

The paper chase was marathon training.  As we gathered each document, it felt like miles in the bank that prepared us for the long road ahead.  There isn't any glory or excitement in putting together your dossier, it's just something everyone has to do before they toe the line for the actual event.

Going on the wait list was like qualifying for Boston, but still wondering if my time would be fast enough to actually register.  You *think* you'll be matched with a child, but so many of the factors are out of your control.  How many families on the wait list ahead of us are waiting for an older toddler boy?  How many other qualifiers who will register for Boston ran just a little bit faster than I did?  Are there even toddler boy orphans in need of a family?

Getting the referral call was like hearing the starter's pistol at the race.  So exciting!  You set off full of exhilaration and anticipation; probably going a bit too fast, expecting a bit too much.

Pretty soon, when the adrenaline rush of the start begins to wear off, you remember this is a long race.  You also have your first thoughts of "can I make it to the finish?"  But you reassure yourself with reminders that lots of other people have successfully run this distance before you; if you're lucky, you've run the distance yourself before, and can draw confidence from that experience.  You rely heavily on the experiences of other adoptive parents to keep you going.  You spend lots and lots of time reading their blogs, picturing yourself parenting your adopted child.

Waiting for a court date was the middle miles.  You still feel strong, but the process is definitely wearing on you.  You're starting to feel the first twinges of fatigue.

Passing court?  Well, that's the big, steep hill on the elevation chart you've been staring at for months, wondering if you'll make it over the top.  For those who've run Big Sur, I'd say passing court was like cresting Hurricane Point.  The world is absolutely beautiful from up there, and you descend feeling like there's practically nothing between you and the finish line.

Except there is.  There's still lots of pavement ahead.  And probably a few more hills.

Court is also the 20 Mile marker.  You're really only halfway there; the second "half" of the race has just begun.  It's only a 10k--a relatively short distance to you--but you don't feel like running a 10k.  You just want to be done.

Waiting to be submitted to Embassy was like running Miles 22-24.  Regardless of the terrain, they're always the hardest.  It's hard to focus, hard to keep going.  Sometimes it's hard to remember why you ever started in the first place.  Miles 22-24 are definitely more than just two miles long.  You swear to yourself that you will never, ever do this again.  It's too hard.  You're probably whining.  A lot.  But you know you just have to dig deep and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Then you reach the final miles.  You've been submitted to Embassy (left, right, left, right), they've reviewed your case (left, right, left, right) and the finish line is in sight.  It's hard, so hard, but you just keep going because you have a great reward at the end.  And it's even better than a cold beer or a shiny finishers' medal; it's a beaming little boy.  You think about that boy, constantly, to get you to the finish.

Then the Embassy clears your case.  You did it!  You either hobble over or scream gleefully through the finish line (I've done both) and the glory is yours.


And even if you crossed the finish line and burst into tears, still swearing you'd never do that again (Hello, 1998 Chicago Marathon and your 84 degree heat!), within about five minutes you're thinking about your next marathon (yes, even at Chicago I did that). 

Because as tough as it was, it was also the absolute best thing you've ever done in your entire life.

And it's changed you, in a very good way.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome analogy! I'm currently going through something that is a bit of a challenge, although nothing like what you've accomplished, and your words were right on time. I finally managed to catch up with your first week(s) home, and wowza, you guys have come so far! Right now, Eli probably clings to Brad, kind of like a male bonding thing, but Moms are something special, and when Eli comes to see the special kind of love that only Mom can provide, things are sure to change. :)