A day on the calendar that got crossed off not too long ago marked the three month mark of my return to work. I even got a “Congrats on making it 90 days!” email from my the job I started once my maternity leave was over. The need to celebrate feels appropriate as this hasn’t been the easiest or smoothest transition.
Compared to other developed nations, the maternity leave standards in the United States are pretty barbaric. Just as I was settling into a good routine and starting to enjoy the mom life, I had to figure out how my career fit into the picture. I had a brand new, very promising, job opportunity that I was grateful for…but I was also nervous and a little guilty over the reality that I would be throwing my energy into an entity other than the home.
I lamented for many days over how women were forced to choose between their family and their career…and about how vicious the judgement is whether a woman stays home with the kids, or works full time, or tries to balance both. I hear it everywhere,
“She could have been something. At least now she has it easy at home.”
“She can’t possibly give her kids the kind of attention they need with that job.”
The lip pursing. The head shaking.
I will be the first to admit I’m guilty.
There is no perfect lifestyle that all mothers must aspire to. Yet we are consumed by a social media culture that tells us otherwise.
I’ve spoken with great, false, confidence about my life choices – all the while looking for affirmation from my peers. And when another’s were so very different, I could not help but feel threatened.
Sigh. It’s exhausting.
All of these thoughts were constantly spinning in my head as I trekked to and from work, pumped in treatment rooms, washed bottles and made new ones for the next day upon returning home when I just really wanted to collapse on the couch. In the beginning, I missed my old job a lot – not necessarily because it was so great, but because it was so familiar, like a second home. I also freaked out constantly over Things I Could Not Get Done (this has now become an official running list and therefore deserves the status of a proper noun). I worried over how Z was doing with my parents and got a little sad every time I came home too late to put her to bed. Everything around me seemed too, too new and unfamiliar.
I read a lot of articles and heard people tell me that the sense of mourning was normal during big life transitions. The sense of loss I felt over all that had passed and my slowness to warm to my new circumstances were not unique. Validation was sweet. It was nice to know I was not the only one with misgivings about the working-new-mom life chapter.
Yet there was so much more to this season. It really feels wrong to write it off as simply a transition period, to focus on only the sad parts. Or the parts in which I felt like a total, unglued mess. In all honesty, there were a lot of really, really wonderful parts.
Vlad and I am blessed with an amazing childcare arrangement with my parents, so much so that I never truly have to wonder if Z is OK. She’s better than OK with them.
My new job has led to an incredible expansion of my skillset as a nurse over the past months and has also allowed me to meet some phenomenal people. I am challenged with the work I do, look forward to my days there, all while simultaneously still working “normal” hours and not coming home totally wrung out as I did when I was with the Emergency Department.
I have been challenged by the lack of free time that is suddenly present in my life and am therefore learning to be very intentional with the hours I am given. Having Zoya has opened my eyes to how precious time is and how quickly it passes. I consider this a blessing because it is definitely possible to go through all of life and not have this realization until its very end.
There is a very fine line between acknowledging a season of mourning and wallowing in self-pity.
It is easy to move from being real to being real bitter.
I confess that I have enjoyed a good wallow on more than one occassion. Now I want to choose joy. I want to savor it all, even the not-so-sweet parts. I certainly want to find better ways to spend my time than playing endless comparison games or agonizing over my life choices.
This season has been a kind of non-stop merry go round but looking back at it via this post, I can confidently say that I’m not mad about it. Some days have left me entirely exhausted…but also in awe of the wonder that Z is, of the strong teamwork that Vlad and I have developed over the past months and how it has strengthened our marriage, and also of just how much I can handle when earnestly drawing on strength from the Lord. A poor attitude can contribute to exhaustion just as much as a busy day can, if not more, so I am learning to let go of the little stuff and take the crazy in stride.
So when people ask me how being a working mom is going, I’m going to be honest and say that it’s really freaking hard. And there are days I want to quit it all (not just the working part). But hard is not synonymous with bad, or wrong or remorse. Going back to work has been far from a regrettable choice. Assuming the title of both Mom and Registered Nurse simultaneously has been the catalyst to professional and personal growth that I would not have seen otherwise. I am very interested to see what is in store for the family as Zoya gets older and I establish myself with my current company.
As I am writing this, I am laughing out loud over picturing myself as the Disney cartoon Pocahontas in her canoe, having braved the rapids and waterfall, majestically waiting to see what’s around the river bend. Except in real life I am probably closer to Meeko the raccoon…dark circles around the eyes, constantly looking for snacks, and always getting into some sort of situation. Oh well.
More calendar days will get crossed off. I don’t know what’s next but I’m sort of eagerly anticipating whatever it is while also relishing the now. It’s a pretty sweet little spot.
When I initially began my blogging journey, my goal was to put the spotlight on women who inspire me, challenge me and are all around fabulous individuals. With pleasure, I share with you my very first interview of a dear friend and mentor – the wise, loving and glamorous Sarah Thompson. She took the time to sit down and share how Hope, her gorgeous and equally glamorous daughter, came to be part of the Thompson clan through the miracle that is adoption. Her story is an incredible testimony to how the love of God is reflected in a family unit.
G: Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking the time for this sit down. To kick us off, tell us about yourself and your family.
S: Heyyyyy! I am a stay at home mama and a pastor’s wife and a perpetual volunteer. I’ve been married to Jeffey for 17 years and we have three kids, Judah, 11, Elias, 8, and Paulina Hope who’s 5.
G: I know (through our past conversations) that your involvement with the organization Safe Families was instrumental to constructing your family unit into what it is today. Tell us more about what Safe Families is and does.
S: Safe Families for Children is a compassionate movement to keep kids safe and families in tact. They are available in moments of crisis for families with a network of support and temporary hosting of children while their folks get back on their feet. They are a preventative service to keep kids from out of situations where abuse or neglect might occur and come in before foster care might be an option. It’s a super cool organization. We found it while we were in the process of adoption, hoping to care for kids in need while also getting to learn how to love a child from different genes with different backgrounds.
G: Talk to us about your story with Hope. How did she come into your life and what ultimately led you to the decision to adopt?
S: I found out I have PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) when I was 16 and so had known for a long time that having biological children might be a challenge for me. We jumped through a 1000 hoops over the course of several years to get pregnant with Judah. I didn’t want to go through that again and we started our adoption journey.
Right when we had completed the process, I found out I was pregnant with Elias! You hear about stories like this from time to time, but it’s actually super rare! It was a huge surprise. And we had gotten really excited about adoption at this point and so decided to continue to pursue it for our third child. We chose domestic adoption, because there were so many kids right here that need homes! Our only stipulation was that we wanted to keep birth order, so to have Elias be a big brother too.
We were chosen by four different birth moms over the course of a year and they all chose to parent themselves. This was a hard year for us, though we were soooo glad and grateful that these birth moms were each able to come to that decision in a positive way. To keep our focus on the prize, we started hosting children through Safe Families!
We were blessed to keep four kids at different times over the course of the year, the shortest being for just a day and the longest being three months (which was the longest a child would stay in a host home through Safe Families). This was challenging in a completely different way and also a huge blessing. Our case worker at Safe Families knew we were waiting to adopt and so when there was a baby girl who’d been in the program whose mom had decided she wouldn’t be able to parent, she got in touch with us. Safe Families goal is always to keep families intact. They are not an adoption agency, but of course sometimes extenuating circumstances make it difficult or impossible for a family to continue to raise their child. This was one of those very rare occurrences.
We met with Paulina’s birth mom and hit it off right away and she chose us to parent Paulina! We found out about Paulina one day, met with her birth mom the next day and a day after that brought her home. It was a whirlwind after all the waiting! And after she’d been in our care for six months we were able to make Paulina Hope an official part of our family!
G: How did you go about sharing your decision to adopt with Judah & Elias? With extended friends and family?
S: Our family and friends had been in on our journey with us from the beginning, through our struggle with infertility and coming to the decision to adopt.
Life takes a lot of support, you know?
We needed a community around us for the ups and downs! We are so grateful for our families (church family included) and friends.
With the boys, we have always been open that God sends kids to families in different ways: sometimes through a mom’s tummy and sometimes through adoption, where, for whatever reason, a mom or dad can’t give the best care to their child and chooses to love them by putting them in the care of a family that can give them the care they need.
G: I’m sure its impossible to pick just one “best thing” about adoption – but share with us some of what you feel are the greatest parts of it for you and your family.
S: Having Hopie (as we now refer to Paulina Hope)! She is a jewel, a precious, precious gift. She is a tangible expression of God’s grace and love for us. While we were so far off and so different from God, he chose to love us as his children. It’s a far smaller jump for us to love a child with different genes/background and we are completely humbled and honored to do it.
G: What would you say was the greatest challenge? How did you overcome that challenge?
S: The waiting was hard. But that’s life for everyone, right? Whether we’re waiting to get pregnant or get a job or find a life partner or whatever: the process is the same. Rely on the Lord and trust his perfect timing and provision.
Sometimes God wants us to want him more than we want his provision. Sometimes we are not ready for the thing we are asking for and the wait brings us closer to it. But whatever it is, God’s ways are better than our own.
Secondly, we leaned on our friends and family. We were so blessed by the love and support of others. And we practiced what we wanted by serving with Safe Families.
I’d say there’s a lot of other challenges in adoption too, like learning to really love a child that in some ways is just completely different than you, or how to have a relationship with the birth family, or how to incorporate our child’s culture into our family… it is a lot. But we did our homework and researched and asked a lot of questions before we ever laid eyes on Hope.
G: Does Hope know her story? If yes, how did you tell her? If not yet, how are you planning to explain it to her?
S: Yes! Most domestic adoptions are open adoptions, meaning we can know her birth family. We knew Hopie’s birth mom loved her so much and still desired a relationship with her, even though she couldn’t take care for her. Plus, it is generally seen as healthier for a child to grow up knowing and feeling like adoption is normal and just a part of their story. So we started telling Hopie her story before she ever understood the words. And we talk to “Mommy Shay” (as we refer to her birth mom) every week, on the phone/FaceTime or over text. Paulina Hope is blessed to have lots of family that loves her and wants the best for her!
G: What is one thing that you wish people would know or understand more in regards to adoption?
S: I wish people would stop saying “gave up” or “put up” their child for adoption. It isn’t giving up to choose adoption for your child. It’s choosing to love and to put the child’s life and needs first. And by using language like [“gave up”] we are perpetuating a stigma that it’s a bad thing or worst case or something to be ashamed of. It is not. It’s a beautiful thing.
G: Do you have a Biblically centered view on adoption/foster parenting that you could share? What encouragement can those that are hoping to enter into this role or are in it currently draw from Scripture and the Gospel?
S: It was Matthew 19:14 where Jesus says “Let the children come to me” that first piqued my interest in adoption. God’s Word is living and active and never returns void. So here’s a bunch of scripture that helps to form my view of adoption:
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”– Romans 5:8
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”– Romans 5:10-11
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” – Ephesians 1:3-10
“But when Jesus saw it, he… said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. – Mark 10:14-16
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”– John 14:18
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”– James 1:27
Now for some fun questions…
G: Its summer in Chicago! YAY – finally! What are some fun activities that you and your family have done or are looking forward to?
S: We LOVE being a city family and taking advantage of all Chicago has to offer. We go to the beach. We bike the Lake Shore path or the 606. We head to the Chicago Botanic Garden at an attempt of a more peaceful day. We hit up a lot of playgrounds/parks – Maggie Daley is awesome, but Oz Park and Welles Park are a couple of other favorites. We try to get museum passes from the library and go to at least one museum every summer. We usually hit up Lincoln Park Zoo a few times. We go to Lickety Split for the world’s greatest frozen custard and Miko’s for Italian Ice! And the Chicago Park district has a ton of really great affordable programs. I could for sure keep going. There’s a lot to do and see in this city!
G: What is the funniest thing your kids have said to you this week?
S: Hahaha! They say funny/gross stuff all the time! But out of the blue Hope said the other day, “Stop calling me Mr. Ham!” No one has ever called her Mr. Ham. We all died.
G: Describe your perfect way to unwind after a crazy day.
S: Hit a yoga class, go home and have Jeffey already put the kids to bed and sit and read or watch a show with him and one of the stellar cocktails he makes. Then have sex and still make it to bed by 11pm. Lol goals
Final thoughts from Sarah:
It’s amazing to think about how I’ve seen God’s overarching faithfulness in my life. His provision and perfect timing has guided my every step and led me to be the woman I am today: mom, wife, follower of Jesus. Some times have been really hard! But God has ordered my steps and proved himself good again and again.
Got more questions about Safe Families or how to get involved?
So, let’s talk about this blog thing. I’ve gone back and forth with myself about it for years now. Like – is it still cool if everyone is doing it? Does anyone out there even care about what I write? What if I offend someone with my posts? On the other hand, if I don’t see this through it might be something I regret. Add in the constant pressure of my perfectionism – I want the perfect title, layout, everything. And I want it now. No idea that comes into my head is ever somehow perfect enough. How much time have I actually wasted thinking instead of doing? I don’t know.
I was just living my life, musing about blogs every so often. Three times a week I raced around an Emergency Room working as a nurse, which both fascinated and exhausted me. I loved having “daily adventures” with my husband, whatever that meant. I tried hard to be intentional with my friendships. I enjoyed delicious food (both the making and eating parts), figuring out new places to travel, and bargain hunting for treasures. I did all of this while maintaining some pretty high standards for myself. Whether it was what I wore or how I plated my dinner, I wanted it to look like the picture I created in my head…and by golly, I was going to achieve it even if by the skin of my teeth.
Enter Zoya. She busted into my life in the most unexpected way possible. I mean, I knew I was pregnant and the end result would be a child. I did not, however, know that she was going to enter the world 2 months early. Me getting sick, leading to her birth, leading to my recovery and Zoya’s month long residence in our local NICU caused me to have a whole paradigm shift when it comes to life. It was no longer as I knew it. Things I once prioritized were no longer of any importance. A two pound thirteen ounce human being flipped my life upside down and caused me to reevaluate every part of it.
In the days that followed Zoya’s birth, especially the days in which we first brought her home, I began to realize that the perfection I so craved in my daily life was not worth it. Whereas pre-baby Galina could white knuckle her way to some impossible standard, post-baby Galina was always tired and had her hands full. Literally. Babies come with so much stuff. I began to understand and savor the messy, imperfect new life.
So this is where you currently find me.
Those who know my writing have always been pretty supportive. I remember my dad once telling me “writing is best when it is about what you know.” That stuck with me for all time.
This is what I know at the moment: everyday I face a juggling act of marriage, motherhood, career, friendships. Add making healthy lifestyle choices (while really just wishing for a Netflix and chips marathon) and the pressure of measuring up when looking in the mirror (body positivity or not…we all know the beauty standard is high up there,even at a few months post-partum). Our world is blaring messages about woman power at me from every direction – from picture perfect Instagram ultra moms to female corporate giants taking on gender bias – I am left to wonder where I fit in. And, more importantly, figuring out how to look at all of this through a filter of faith? How do I live my life as a
fundamentally flawed, yet unapologetically fierce, God-honoring woman in the millennial generation bent on perfection?
I ask myself this question daily. And I know I am not the only one.
How blessed we are that Christ declared, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We are then called to boast in our weaknesses, our imperfections, so that God’s power may be magnified. The quest for earthy perfection leaves no room for God’s transformative work in our lives. This is something I am learning about daily. I have never seen surrender as so beautiful before.
This blog is not going to be about one thing. Instead, it will feature many things that comprise life for me. Things I know. Imperfections made glorious by grace.
This blog is NOT going to be about putting on the pretenses of a perfect life. There are enough glossy, insecurity inducing blogs out there. I want to get real about stuff that matters, like motherhood, faith, and marriage… and have fun with the stuff that doesn’t matter too much but girls like anyways (read: makeup).
Here goes nothing. *cannonballs into the deep end*