I am easily overwhelmed. It takes only a perfect trickling of events for me to retreat to the shower for deep breaths and some rosemary shampoo, which is where Ken found me a few days ago – heavy eyes and sudsy hair. It was Saturday morning, and our little trio was home – in the same zip code! – for the entire weekend. Bliss was anticipated, a wide open margin of white space of which to tackle whatever we chose: housework? The zoo? An evening cookout?

What are you thinking? he asks – my soapy face is a book – and I had just been thinking that I wanted perfection, is all.

We’ve been sifting through loads of adoption paperwork lately, and I don’t talk about this process much because it has been very hard, very tricky, very heady. We are thinking and ruminating, and trying to use common sense and also faith, but are finding it impossible to do so in equal parts. Which side will win? The head or the heart?

It has been hard in the way that all transitions are, the kind where the timing is your own but also not your own, where you power through and make all sorts of progress in three days and you think, yes, we’re doing this, this is working, and then you encounter one imperfect detail and fall into a heap of indecision and doubt and promptly put the stack of papers on top of the refrigerator to collect dust for a few weeks.

The number of times I have hit snooze on the “Send paperwork” alarm: 18ish.

There is no perfect agency. There is no perfect adoption just as there is no perfect pregnancy, no perfect child, no perfect mother, no perfect human. We live in a world of deep imperfections, and yet, I am still surprised when I run headway into it. What is that age-old definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results?


But I just keep returning to the stack of papers. This means something, I think. I don’t know what, maybe that I am willing to fight for the process, or that I want to make a tiny step of progress, to cross the finish line where we are a family of four in a framed portrait on our dining room wall. Maybe it just means I’m hungry and I’ve spotted the papers on my way to the almond butter.

Did you know a jellyfish doesn’t have a brain, not really? They have a “nerve net.” They cast it around to sense things, like danger, or food. Their nerve net offers protection, peace, answers. It is here and also there. It surrounds.

I like this. I like the idea of a nerve net – of the refusal to compartmentalize head and heart, questions and doubts, common sense and blind faith. Of accepting the process as one long exercise in our collective senses: fixed eyes to the paperwork, tuned ears to the phone, open hands to an infant. A nerve net of hope, and endurance, and trust.

And so, like a jellyfish, I keep swimming, or floating. I keep casting my nerve net, keep making decisions, closing my eyes, doubting my decisions, holding my breath, asking questions, accepting answers, breathing in, wondering where this all might lead.

Breathing out.

  • I love the way you write – vulnerable and honest. I have watched, in the past year, two couples of dear friends bring their children home. It took years and prayers and logistics and tears and love. It’ll be worth it, friend.

  • We adopted our daughter, and while it was a very easy adoption, it was still one emotional upheaval after another. It is an overwhelming process, even when it goes smoothly. But, the reward is equally overwhelming. Our daughter is 4 1/2, we’ve had her since the day she was born, and I’m still not totally used to it. I still look at her and my heart is so overfull with love, wonder, amazement that someone chose us to be her parents. Someone believed in us so much that they gave us this precious perfect little person to care for, teach, love, and enjoy every single day.

    It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride, and the wonder of it will probably catch you off guard for years, and years to some, But, it’s worth it. So worth it. Take those baby steps to get through the paper work. I know it’s not fun or easy. It was gut wrenching at times to lay our lives bare for all to see in some of that paperwork. Scary to be judged in black and white like that.

    It will work out though, it really will. Every time something came back to us to do again, do better, update, and it felt like steps backwards, like getting further away from the finish line rather than closer…we reminded ourselves “It will be the right baby, with the right birth mother, at the right time”. And you know what, it was. Our daughter was meant for us, and her birth mother has been an amazing addition to our life.

    I know it’s easy for me to say, but it will work out, it will.

  • It’s not the same, I know, but some of these same feelings go through me as we continue to try for another baby in our house – trying for well over 2 years now, and I keep setting a stop sign on the horizon in the distance: there, we’ll stop trying on that day… but then we get to the stop sign and see there’s no traffic, no accidents, just a slightly bumpy road ahead (toddler years!) so why stop now? And we keep going.

  • Good luck on this journey, Erin. Thank you for sharing this little tiny sliver with us, reminding us to breathe. That the effort is worth it. And that everyone we read about has more going on under their surface than we could pretend to know.

  • Thank you so much. I’ve been holding my breath for days and this allowed me to exhale. I, too, am an easily overwhelmed perfectionist & trying to be gentle with myself about it :) Best wishes with the adoption process (I’ve been there too). Just one foot in front of the other at whatever speed you can handle. xo

  • I am here too. Making check marks on a seemingly never-ending list. Some days an adoption seems like it is within reach. Other days, it feels as though we will never make it through this process. Thank you for sharing- it is so comforting to know we are not alone!

  • Adoption is not easy, but neither is parenting. We have one son that joined our family through adoption and another we’re waiting to bring home. Sending the paperwork is a big step, but you will feel wonderful to have started the journey.

  • I love this post so much!!! I have had these same feelings trying to figure out some things in my life. So happy that you put my feelings to words. I felt peace just reading that I’m not the only one who feels this way at times…it helps me know i can move forward. Thank you! And the sweetest blessings being sent your way!

  • I love your writing style and your honesty. Sending good thoughts your way as you and your family consider various options and paths forward.

  • We’re deep in this world ourselves, having started off on an international search and now turning our focus domestically. Some days I want to lay on the floor and throw up my hands and roll over to the universe. Other days I stand up and check something off the list and stay the course. It’s all we can do to keep pressing on! Keep on keeping on Erin, the truth is in there somewhere and knowing I’m not the only one lost in these waters is refreshing.

    • We did the same, Kassia!!!!!!! Ethoipia closed prior to our paperwork approval, so square one for us. Keep up the great work, sweet friend – I know we’ll get through this. :)

  • Beautifully written as always. You share your heart so openly! Thanks.

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