It happened for the 4,356,837 time today. As my four (not 10, not 21, just four) children and I stood in the checkout line at Walmart with their new flip flops in cart, someone behind me decided to say it.
“Wow! You sure have your hands full!”
We moms typically don’t know whether this is a compliment or not when you hear it. Until you see the body language and facial expression that accompany the much over-used line, you are immediately put on guard. We don’t have time to evaluate you. We are with our children.
I turn and look to see a nice thin, tall hippy/earthy looking woman in her fifties who has the look of being happily single her whole life and terrified of kids. She was scowling.
Yes, I looked. No ring.
Only a look of horror on her face as she took in the view of my little brood, looking down her nose with lips pursed tight.
She surely has cats. Lots of ’em.
I put on a smile, so as not to scare her, and rattle of my well-rehearsed standard response. God calls us to be kind, especially to strangers.
“Well, better than empty. At least they’re full of life!”
Don sweetest smile.
Turn back around to my kids.
It was then,
“I just can’t even imagine… WHAT possessed you??”
Yes…she did. I couldn’t make that up.
She said possessed.
I took a deep breath to reel in my inner Madea. I know the hair standing on my neck had to show, and the raising of my right eyebrow couldn’t be helped.
I turned again, using my happiest sarcastic voice…
“What possessed me? As in…demons?
Do my kids look like the product of demon possession to you? As for possession, these four are the most amazing people in my life and worth more than any other POSSESSIONS that I have. No demons involved in that. I actually have REALLY good sex with my husband. And often. Thanks for asking such an interesting question. That’s a first for me.”
She started to sputter, almost choked even, disclosing her experience with her brother having 5 boys and it just looked like so much work, and she didn’t personally understand “the draw”, but she was sorry.….Oh, goodness.
I looked back one more time.
“It’s really fine. Have a great day.”
And then as it was my turn to check out, and all four were working together to unload the cart very nicely, the poor cashier smiles at me… and says…
“You sure have your hands full!”
Oh. Lord. Help…
Poor innocent, unaware, little Walmart employee.
I put the smile back up. “Ya know, EVERYONE has their hands full. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. It’s up to you what you choose to fill them with. I choose THEM, every single day.”
She thought it was sweet. I didn’t look back at kid-free-scowler, but I’m sure she had some sort of interesting response.
I DID hear the couple behind her giggle, for the second time.
So in defense of our full hands, moms, let us all remember that not having them would only give us empty hands to fill.
Maybe with a life consuming career. Look up the definition of consumption, will ya? I don’t want life consumed, although I know those who love theirs.
How about 700 cats like this lady. Maybe just one or two cats? Or how about be a lover of dogs so you can approach a mother at Piedmont Park walking her adorable baby in a stroller, with the dog along, and fawn over the K9 while ignoring that there is an adorable little person right there that is actually more valuable. Oh wait, because they aren’t as important to you.
And we have pets. Well loved pets. It’s the section of the childless crowd that values their pet over small PEOPLE that get to me.
Ladies, we could be making bank. Empty hands-not-full could mean fistfuls of money!! If each of our spawn didn’t cost $5,439,345 to raise like all the websites say. We are REALLY missing out on that cha-ching.
You really don’t want to get me started on possession and the American need to fill our lives with stuff instead of… LIVES. Possessions, over people. Because if we had more, we’d never be able to take them aaaallll to Disney!?!?
You could just have empty arms without them, and fill them with whatever man you want. History has shown that does not lead to the most FULL-filling lifestyle.
And, mothers, let us never EVER forget the women who have empty arms not by choice. Who ache to hold the hope and warmth of a unique and precious immortal soul in the shape of a child who calls her Mom.
A disdainful comment of “You sure have your hands full.” is a downright attack on them, the moms who are moms but hands are not full. Those who would give anything and everything they can get their hands on, to fill their arms with the life and chaos we experience every day in our children.
So, rock your full hands, mamas!
Look at them in wonder and awe… see their strength and value.
And I encourage you to come up with a really great response. Memorize it, know it, and own it. Be prepared for the 1,000,001 of times it will be said to you if you have more than the standard two children.
Because until our society values these small people over possession, OUR choice to fill our arms this wide and full will be critiqued and commented on, shocking this possession obsessed culture day in and day out.
For extra evidence to defend my point, here are my parents, with all 10 of us children, 8 children-in-law, and over 20 grandchildren (2 more on the way!). Do they look like they need pity? They made huge sacrifices for us. And I am so, so thankful for it every day.
THIS right here is what blessed looks like. Don’t ever doubt that.
To be fair, I have a career, I love our pets and I absolutely enjoy extra money and shopping.
It’s valuing these possessions over children, when they’re not even your own, that makes fire spew from my ears. There has always been a small portion of the population who disdain children, but it’s growing, my friends. Our children need to hear us respond in confidence, valuing who they are.
Comment with your favorite response to the remark, “You sure have your hands full.” I could use some fresh ideas myself.
UPDATE: After being asked a few times today why the statement “You have your hands full!” is offensive, I spent some time thinking about it and wrote a follow up.
I have been a birth doula for almost 7 years now and have attended around 250 births. I signed up to support women and their families through one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime and to hold them up with my own body and soul through their first moments with a new human being.
I prepared myself for the toll it would take on me. Exhausted muscles, worn out limbs, sleepless fogs and aching of my heart from things unexpected.
You know what I did not prepare for? The trauma and hurt that I never expected to walk so many families through?
The devastation of “Birth Firsts.”
What is a Birth First?
It is the stealing of that moment, the first time it is said…
Our child is BORN!
That moment when new parents, whether it is their first, last or any in between, get to tell the world that their child has made it into their arms. For many it is a huge moment… like the kiss at the end of the wedding ceremony. For some, they get the kiss out of the way and get on to the party. Others have waited for that moment, that kiss, and dreamed of it their entire lives. Neither is wrong, but it depends on the couple themselves to decide how important it is to them. Not the guest. Not the friends and family.
As a witness to births, I see couples go through deciding how, when and who to tell first. It can be a huge deal to them, or sometimes not. Often there are some politics involved, especially with the variety of family antics we all experience. At times there are boundaries that need to be respected, maybe some family and friends need to be held off for awhile so the new mom and dad can feel ready and confident to face others after a private time of “cocooning in” with their new little person. Some moms are taking photos and posting it to Facebook within 30 minutes, some wait until 2 days after the birth.
All of these are within their rights. They deserve to make that decision. Often they don’t get to.
This is what I also get to see. The moment they realize that someone else has trumped them. A friend or family member has let out the “Birth First”. That private photo texted to two people is suddenly sent to an entire email list or posted on Facebook and tagged.
It happens so fast. Within minutes, cell phones are ringing, text messages pinging and Facebook page is blowing up with congratulations while mom still hasn’t had a chance to catch her breath and dad may not have even held his child yet. The moment was taken. They can’t get it back.
Often the stealing is unintentional. It can even be well meant and come from a place of pure joy and love for the family. Actually, new grandparents, aunts and uncles are high in numbers of guilt on this one. Their joy is genuine and the harm was not intended. Yet it is there. I get to be in the room and see the hurt and betrayal felt by parents who don’t get to announce their own child to their friends. They are almost always hurt, they feel cheated. They are blindsided. Trust me, intentional or not you do NOT want to be the one to cause that for them.
Over the years and families I have learned a great trick. You see, as a birth professional, I am even bound to not talk to others in the birth community. I follow HIPAA guidelines. It gets tricky when someone gives birth and their three friends, who I also served through their births, want the inside scoop. My answer is to always smile and say, “They were amazing and the birth was beautiful. You should ask them about it!!”
It’s not my story. Not my glory. If you have had the honor of being in the birth room or waiting room for a birth, I encourage you to do the same. Respecting their privacy is a great way to show gratitude for the honor of being included in the experience.
True, some parents aren’t that concerned about it. They don’t mind you telling for them. They may be relieved to have one last thing to do and feel honored that you are so trigger happy that you post before the cord is cut!
ASK THEM FIRST. Be sure that you have clear permission to talk to others, text others, post to the world. If not, DO NOT.
So here is a little help for you.
Birth Announcement Etiquette:
If you know that someone has given birth, but they have not announced it THEMSELVES on Facebook it is inappropriate to congratulate them, thus making the announcement that they may have been withholding. It doesn’t matter if you are family, friend, coworker or part of their fan club.
You are not Perez Hilton. No one needs to “FIRST” their birth. Please wait until the new parents themselves have shared the information to congratulate them. It is an amazing gift to respect their time together.
Respect their privacy, please.
That is all
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I had to come up with something, even if i was just going to share it with myself. Something poetic if only to justify my day to myself.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Ruckus destroyed a project.
The Brainiac and Big Sister had been working on for hours.
This happened while they were both downstairs working on their responsibilities in our home… one ironing and one loading dishes. They were being GOOD, and obedient, pleasantly working without complaint. They didn’t deserve their work destroyed yet here we are.
Same story, different day.
So I go through the routine, but he doesn’t get it today any more than he did yesterday or the day before. There is no remorse because there is no empathy. There is no click in his brain of understanding that he has ruined their work or why they are upset. He needed those legos. Now. That is all that exists to him.
Ruckus is a sensitive kid. He is caring and loving and full or emotions. They just don’t work on the same level of awareness that the majority has. So we work on this. Often.
How do we do it? How do we show the heart of the matter to these little ones who don’t have the capacity to put themselves in the place of others. They don’t “do” outside their own box well. Their box of understanding is as intriguingly limitless and bursting with potential as it is small and restricting, to those of us who can’t see inside of it.
His heart is there.
His feelings are there.
They are boxed up.
He sees what he did. He recognizes that it was not ok. It is done and he has moved on to something else. His logic tells him to do the next thing. The whole incident is outside of his box now. It’s up to me to work it back into his frame of reference.
So we worked through that today. For awhile. I see glimmers of hope and I know we’ll get there. Not today, not next week, but I have seen the amazing other side of these people, the ones who surf a different spectrum of viewing life. I know my son will turn out as a wonderful man. God made him to be. Without a doubt.
It just requires some serious dedication from everyone in our family and everyone around us. To work inside a box, and also nudge him outside of his box.
Still, sometimes as moms of spectrum surfers we need an outlet, if only to blow off some steam in a different direction that doesn’t point toward our kids. Steam can burn. We all no that.
We need to let it go in a way that doesn’t close them in.
Back to my opening sentence. I had to think of something. Something to decompress and let go of this situation and the angry response that well up in me, threatening to ruin any headway we have made with the Ruckus.
It felt good and I’ll share it with you for a little snort and chuckle. Here it is. My garbled attempt at throwing together a few words, with no time for rhyme or reason. Just words. My attempt at being one of those clever wordsmith types who throw together phrases that say something important, but not.
A Meme Artist, if you will.
With snorts and the spitting of coffee and rolling on floors type. I want the time to do that. That may never be me. I’m not that funny, yet here is today’s offering. My 15 minutes of free time:
Teaching empathy to an autism surfer is akin to Climbing an Eiffel Tower constructed entirely of Legos One leg glued to the other with a mix of glitter glue and E6000 adhesive
Flopping along like a mermaid out of water, A weighty sloth on my back.. arms wrapped round my neck twice
Little paws flopped heavily over my eyes.
This would happen, of course, the only way it could,
With my hair bedraggled, no makeup, and teeth unbrushed
Wearing the stained, beat-to-threads kinda dress that is
Only meant to be seen around the house dress, While suddenly finding my nostrils plugged with the baby wipes
The ones left over from the last time I changed my 8 year old’s diaper,
Which was a really bad one.
Because as you know, if you know me at all, I always smell poop. Every where I go. I smell it.
I was not sure if more than five people would read that last post. For someone who hasn’t read what I have put out over the past, I am aware that it doesn’t make sense. That it may not seem like a big deal or need to be said. For me, it did.
Also, I felt strange and awkward all day like someone who passes gas in a room full of people and then has the audacity to raise their hand and claim it. Yeah. I did that.
Then they stand there bashfully waiting to see who will gawk and head out the door and who will give the high-fives.
So, if you are reading. ((high-five)).
I meant to write that blog post months ago. In fact, we had a plan for me to stop taking births last December and prepare for adding foster children to our home. In the plan was freedom and time to write again. I stopped taking births, for the most part, but then life happened and after all these years of waiting and preparing….
Children didn’t happen last winter.
It wasn’t God’s timing, even if we had planned it with Him in mind, which we did. It wasn’t going to happen on our timeline.
What stinks is everyone and their sister’s best friend and cousin asking how things are going. No, it doesn’t bother me that they ask. It’s being told one more time,
It’s ok, honey… All in God’s timing…
It feels so dismissive, doesn’t it? There is nothing left to say once someone has played the “God’s Timing Card”. As if nothing else matters and nothing else can change this.
That’s because nothing else does and… we can’t change this. We really can’t.
These are not the words I’ve wanted to hear. In the past I must admit that I have felt good about my ability to adapt to this “God’s Timing” business. I have practice. Patience may not come naturally to me but I’ve had serious learning sessions.
I tried to marry a guy at nineteen. We had our future planned. I didn’t marry him until we had two years apart, not even knowing if we would speak again. We were married at twenty-three. He still is everything I needed. No way did I understand what I thought I did when we were younger. The timing was better than mine.
I tried to have a natural birth once, twice, even an third and fourth time. That first baby was breech with her feet down and would not budge. The second time all was well and only VBAC was discussed, until a car accident that injured my back. Permanently. That next time I was pregnant for almost forty-three weeks. My last, I labored for forty-three hours, fourteen of that on pit. Still, all 4 of those kids were c-sections.
I was the one who wanted homebirths. I was up for having 8-10 children. Surrender makes us whole and changes who we are. I would never be who I am if I hadn’t handed the timing of my other children, and all expectation over to Him. He knew better and His timing prepared me to serve and encourage other mothers. I could share my story of surrender and how amazing and powerful letting go can be. His plan was what I needed.
We bought a house that was practically unlivable. The plan was to fix it up and flip it to make a profit… to move to a farm with many babies. Then Dave Ramsey happened to us. He hit our budget like a wrecking ball and we have never been the same. We are ten and a half years out and still building this house bit by bit. With cash.
We’re so close. I’m going to share about that soon. I can’t imagine having done this any other way, now that we are this far in. I am blown away by the tiny provisions that have kept us present and open with this house project. We truly are Making Room For More.
We attended a church for eight years. In fact, we moved into the city and bought this little hovel to be a part of the building team to start it. We were invested. The last four years of that, I knew we didn’t belong there. We love the people. We still visit and hold them dear. But I knew to my core that we were not where God wanted us. I tried to leave. I begged my husband to leave. I had to wait for him to feel it, too. It took four long years. Four.
The thing is that we never would have ended up where we are, if we had left when I asked to. I felt anger and frustration, and that is what made me want to leave. I didn’t understand that was God asking me to look for more and that it wasn’t about the situations as much as His plan to make me uncomfortable so I would give up on looking at people and search for the bottom line of finding Him. We joked about trying any and all kinds of denominations, in hopes of finding what He really wanted. If I went back all those years and told myself that it would be Catholic… I would have side-eyed myself and ran away. For realz. That took time. I am thankful for those years. We are where we are called to be.
I’ve done surrender in so many ways, with a heaping serving of Extreme Patience Makeover. I have felt like a veteran of this “all in God’s timing” business. I thought I had it down. Heck, I even thought I had reached a point of enjoyingthe unpredictability of it all. I was all for it.
I was wrong. I’m still learning it. Still growing. Because in this case, I don’t like it.
We had expected to be ready and approved over the last winter for adopting through DFCS. At least we had hoped to be. The reality is that we have gone about this in such a different way than most foster families would. Our big plans and preparation are what have dictated this longer timeline.
It’s the house. Again.
You see, we started with a 2 bedroom/1 bath bungalow of 1150 square feet. We have added 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, an office, a laundry room, a reading nook and a storage room. It’s substantial. It totals 1350 square feet in addition to the original house.
Why does this matter? That’s not about the adoption…
But it is.
The addition is new construct. For us to be approved to home foster children or adoptive children, we have to have a Certificate of Occupancy from the city. See, that would not have been a big of a deal if we had simply been renovating a home. Oops.
That is why you may know people who have done this and did it quickly. That is why our process may look confusing, long and drawn out from the outside looking in. Even dramatically so.
Yes. I am aware that I can be dramatic. Especially about this.
Once we have that approval, we are likely to have children within weeks, even days. It’s just getting that little piece of paper, and that requires passing every inspection, even the big final one. It even excavating/landscaping the back yard. Really.
I have friends who have listened to me rage about this. I do’t know how they put up with me. I try not to, but I feel the pout and whine come on like an expectant mama who just wants that wait over and to feel the baby in her arms. I haven’t been doing the patience as well as I should.
Thankfully, I have good friends. They are so gracious.
Ultimately, we really are not that far off track. I should be thrilled. And I am. Really I am. God’s timing seems to be about a year after what we pictured. That doesn’t sound that bad, right? Yet it has been an up and down year of releasing our plans and trusting him, only to pick up the timeline again and forge forward with everything we have. And I mean everything.
I am Verruca Salt. I want it NOW!!
It’s not that I just want my way, and I see these children and something for ME. It’s not a selfish need for another baby. It’s that, just like a woman who is growing a baby… I am expecting.
In August of 2012 I had a earth shaking realization, a moment that hit my like a Crossfiter’s biggest kettlebell and settled with a vice grip on my heart that still remains.
I was sitting with Lil Bit playing and dreaming of her as a big sister and what that would look like. That is when it happened.
I did the math.
As I held my three year old, I realized that if we were looking at welcoming a newborn and 2-3 year old in 2 years… Now mattered.
Suddenly reality ran through my veins like an earthquake. Thunder and lighting, racing pulse. Eyes wide open.
My. Child. Could. Already. Be. Born.
My heart almost exploded and the room spun around me. It was all at once as thrilling and as terrifying as seeing two lines after peeing on a stick. It was real. Once I knew it, I could not undo it. A fierceness came over me that moves me forward. The whole family feels the empty space of where those children will be.
My prayers changed. I pray for our children differently. Feverishly. I hold my breath on holidays wondering if they have been born, if someone said “I love you” today. And if they are somewhere, who is holding them? Is anyone? It’s cold out, are they warm? Are they hungry?
And the one that really gets to my mama heart,
Is someone hurting them?
This is hard.
It is one thing to be waiting on a baby who is safe and sound in my uterus. Now, I have no idea. In all reality, considering the statistical odds… our children are not likely to be safe and sound. We can’t do anything for them, but get this house done.
We have chosen not to go through lists of children available for adoption. There will be no adoption books to look at, and our family won’t make a cute display of ourselves to show. It is a completely different process. We don’t get to choose.
We will prepare our home to treat children like gold. Like the royalty they are, as precious little souls with potential for greatness.
We will get a call and have only hours to pray, decide and prepare. We will take who we are given. We will fill the need.
But in doing that, we will be opening our arms to children who are hurt. They almost HAVE to be hurt to end up in the broken system that we have chosen to go through. The system that will bring them to us. They will be removed from their natural parents. They won’t have a choice. Those parents may not have a choice.
What keeps me up at night, scheming for ways to get this house done faster, is knowing that pain and hurt will happen, for them to actually make it to our home. Pain, rejection, confusion. Abuse. We can’t save them from that. We just have to wait to catch them when they fall into our open arms.
And it rips at me heart, but only in a way that keeps me bringing it back to God and begging him to get with the plan and hurry up. But he won’t and I know that is best. He knows that it’s best. I need to get with HIS plan.
There is some incredible good in the last year of unexpected waiting. Now that I’ve put away my pouting, I’m aware that we needed this.
Two years ago we were completely focused on the adoption aspect of this. Now our hearts have shifted to openness for fostering to be the main goal, always with the hope that adoption is welcome. That is a huge shift.
We are prepared to lose these children.
Do you want to know why?
I realized that they could be alive. They were having a life that I was not a part of and I could not be there for them. Do you know what that means?
It’s not about me. It’s not my story. The story belongs to these children.
It. Is. Their. Story.
So what will it feel like if we have children who are returned to their biological families after six months… after a year… what will we do?
We will cry. We will ache. We will thank God that we got to be a part of their story, because someone was going to be.
If their story was that they would go back, it’s not about us. That is out of our control. If they were going to have that six months or a year somewhere, anywhere… it could have been with a different family. And it could have been horrible. Maybe they will be returned to an environment that is still tragic. Maybe their future will still hold abuse that we cannot protect them from.
They still had that time. All we have is that time. We can’t control their story. We can only present ourselves as available for them and hold an openness to loving on all terms.
Short term or long term. We are wide open for that.
These are the things we have learned, that we have processed through in this extra time. We’ve wrestled and prayed. We’ve waited. We’ve built a home and we are almost there.
We can now predict to have children in three to six months.
And it is safe to assume that they are alive now. Someone is.
So please don’t wait. Pray with me. Pray for them now.
And pray for all the others. The ones who won’t fit into our home.
Pray that we get this together and ready for them. Pray that we will be strong and open when the call comes for children to be at our door in a few hours.
Because, that’s all going to happen.
In God’s timing…
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