Insights from a 40-something still paving her path to parenthood
Last fall, several friends shared with me that Yatom, The Jewish Foster and Adoption Network, was accepting applications for their second cohort of people eager to expand their families through foster and adoption. I was already familiar with this phenomenal resource – in fact, I applied once before and was not accepted at the time. Which makes perfect sense now when I look back and see the big picture of my curvy, bumpy path to parenthood.
If you are like me at all, if you thought you knew your path to parenthood with absolute certainty only to realize that you don’t, that detours have turned your path sideways, or even backwards, and seemingly away from your parenthood goals, I tell you this – you don’t have to know your path. You just have to trust that your life will align with the right children, at the right time, when your paths intersect.
Let me explain – I truly never expected to be in my current position. I grew up that girl who always wanted to take care of everyone else. I became a babysitter as soon as my parents would allow it and neighbors would hire me. I was able to soothe my cousin’s colicky baby and get him to nap on my chest, when all he did was cry otherwise. I knew I wanted to be a mom, no doubt about it! I wanted a boy then a girl, since my older brother is the best. I even knew what I wanted their names to be, honoring my grandparents who they would never know in person. I assumed I would meet my future husband, the father of my kids, in college and continue my path to parenthood. I was that girl – the cheerleader in high school, the president of my sorority pledge class in college – you know, that girl, on that path. None of those certainties of my youth included me being single in my 40s, rocking my roles as godmother and aunt Alli but still never mom to anyone other than my rescue pups. This was not the path I dreamed of as a child, as a college student, even as a 30-something!! How did I so massively detour from my path?
After a tough break-up from a long-term relationship, my dreams for parenthood were still clamoring to be realized. Even though I continued the tremendous privilege of being involved with my ex’s daughter (and still am, many years later, as her godmother – how truly blessed I am!), I dove head-first into the path of fertility treatments, found a Jewish sperm donor (yes, they DO exist!) and didn’t blink before beginning the IVF path. Was I “old” to be doing this? You bet! In fact, I was labeled a potential “geriatric” and “high-risk” pregnancy instantly. Was I scared and exhilarated? Absolutely! Did I think it wouldn’t work? Not really. Because, of course, motherhood is my path.
Following years of injections, medications, poking, prodding and failed attempts to get pregnant, it finally stuck, and I heard a little one’s heartbeat from within my own body. I will spare you the expletives you can hear on that video, the words that snuck right out as I processed that sweet little heartbeat – needless to say, it was quite a powerful moment. But, as is often the case with first pregnancies, and pregnancies in “older” women, that exquisite experience was short-lived and the pregnancy did not sustain. Time for yet another new path, apparently.
In true post-traumatic style, I immediately redirected my path into certification to foster and adopt. My amazing social worker was supportive, encouraging and, within a matter of months, helped me complete the expedited coursework, answer the pages of questions for my home study, and enter into discussions about a little girl who needed a foster home. This little girl had already placed in my area but was ready to move into a different foster situation, and was available to meet me as soon as I finished the last few steps to complete my certification. So, guess what I did…
… I panicked! Was I ready to open my home, my life, to a little girl who had likely been through more in her few years than I had in four decades? Turns out, I wasn’t. Apparently, I was wrong about my path. Again. After lots of tears and raw honesty, my social worker and I agreed that I needed more time to grieve and heal from my IVF journey before proceeding as a foster/adoptive parent. So I re-routed my path once more and focused inward.
Which brings us to the fall of 2017. Without hesitation, I again applied for the Yatom fellowship. And I was accepted. The doubts crept in; sure they did – do I really know this time that my path is foster/adoption? Do I really know that my path is not more rounds of IVF? Could I trust that I knew my path, at last? Then it hit me … I don’t know my path for certain AND that’s OK!
Perhaps that biggest lesson in my ever-changing path to becoming a mom is my realization that it is OK to embrace the changes rather than judge myself for them. I am most successful when I seek support and guidance in navigating that fluctuating path. I can bravely run towards the detours and unanticipated obstacles that pop-up and shift my direction, even if they scare me while I’m sprinting toward becoming a mom. That it all ends up exactly as it should – that faith, some feigned confidence and a lot of support really do get us on our “right” path.
It is OK to have a path that weaves and bobs, a path that includes human vulnerabilities, losses and grief that detour me in what feels like a U-turn but is actually just an off-ramp to a new route. I also know that following my journey to parenthood is messy, complicated and nothing of what I envisioned it would be. And that’s OK too. That it will end up exactly as it should when the time is right, and as I run TO the journey rather than push AWAY from it. Today, that journey is finally rounding the corner to a completed home study, completed certification to foster/adopt and an open heart for whatever lies ahead. And, thanks to Yatom, I have a support system that has taught me things I wouldn’t otherwise know, encouraged me on my journey and inspired me to keep moving toward the twists and turns of my path!
I also know that there are almost 20,000 children here in Arizona, waiting for a foster family to provide them stability, safety and love. And that there are insightful, educational resources like Yatom to walk people through the journey, help navigate the unknown and provide a community of supportive Jewish adults on similar paths.
As I step into the last few tasks of completing my Yatom fellowship, I walk away realizing that there is value in pushing through and finishing the certification, finishing the home study, finishing the adoption profile even if my path still feels scary. The strength comes in standing firmly in faith that my child, my children, will find me as I clear my path and head toward them.
To learn more about Yatom, please visit yatom.org – they are currently accepting applications through May 15, 2018, for their third fellowship program.
To learn more about my journey, and to connect with local resources for foster and adoption, please join me on Sunday, May 6, at 1 pm in the JFED Conference Room at the Valley of the Sun JCC in Scottsdale. We will discuss the path to foster and adoption, how it connects through our Judaism and how you, too, can begin your journey.