Fellow warriors, it’s been a while since you and I have interacted in this space. And so, today, I thought I would share with you the journey I’ve been on, and more precisely where I’ve been this past year. This is a story only a select few know, and it warms my heart to be able to share it with you.
On October 15th, I published my first book, Awakening the Light Warrior Within. Years of work, healing, and writing were finally birthed into the world. I sat back, rather anxiously in the days that preceded my book launch as the story of my life and my former marriage made its way out into the world. The intimate details of which I have never shared before, not even with my own family. I sat there, in the silence of it all, holding my breath, anxiously waiting for someone to break the silence so that I could take my next breath. But the call that broke the silence in the days that proceeded my launch was not what I expected. It was a call from a social worker that would launch a chain of events that would change life as I had come to know it. But to properly tell this story, I need to take you back. Back to the year prior. There is a lot that comes to the surface during the process of writing a book; all of our old wounds resurface for closer examination and healing. And along with our wounds, what inches their way closer to the light are our dreams…including dreams that we may have pushed aside.
I fondly remembered my dream to have a family and my desire to have children, which was still very much present beneath the surface, tugging at my heartstrings. My ex-husband and I had talked about having kids, and while the plans and intentions were there, my dreams of a family had been packaged and stored. My marriage was far too toxic and unstable for me to bring a child into, and so I resigned myself to the idea of a family, acknowledging that it most likely wasn’t meant to happen in this lifetime.
Now, almost a decade later, as I began dating and met prospect after prospect with zero intentions of having children, I was filled not with dread or disappointment, but a renewed fire within me. I saw clearly what I didn’t want (another childless relationship or future), and with more certainty what I did want. A family. Truthfully, I didn’t know if I would find someone again, if I’d ever find love again. But what I did know with absolute certainty was that I had love within me to give a child. That even on my own, I could offer a child the possibility of a better future. And that was enough. I could do it alone, but more importantly, I was OK with doing it alone. That Friday, as I googled and made the various calls, I would come to find out that the process was currently closed, but that my name could be added to the list for when it would reopen.
The process wasn’t scheduled to reopen until 2020, and the process itself would take 3-5 years. Ok, I thought. I was in no rush and had my projects outlined before me. I was going to finish writing and publishing my book, perhaps get a second under my belt as I launched my career as an author in preparation for starting my family. It was perfect. It gave me time, and time was good.
All was good until a few months later, when I woke up one April night with tears flooding my cheeks. I had just woken from a dream in which I was giving work colleagues the tour of my new home, showing them the upstairs den and the items my partner had collected from his travels when I reached into a box and pulled out a sonogram picture and presented it to them. “This is the baby I’m adopting,” I said to them, “this is my son Elijah.” I awoke startled and emotional, reaching for my phone on the nightstand to write everything down. The next day I couldn’t shake how real it all felt. We’ve all had dreams that felt like more than dreams, but this was different. It felt like something more. The name Elijah became embedded in my mind. I research its meaning and origin only to discover that Elijah was the name of a prophet in the Bible. I should state that I have no attachment to the Bible nor the indoctrination of organized religion. My relationship to God was (and still is) a spiritual one of my own devising. But could it be this dream was a prophecy, a promise, a glimpse of what was to come? I knew nothing with absolute certainty, but it certainly felt like God was giving me a glimpse of what was to come.
A few days later, my dream still fresh in my mind, I received a call. The process was reopening, a year earlier than expected, and I was to present myself to an information session the following week. A panic stirred within me. Could this have any correlation to the dream I had just a few nights earlier? Nothing from this dream had faded, as dreams typically do. Instead, every detail remained vivid in my mind. At the session, there were no empty tables, no singles, no odd numbers. As I surveyed the room, I wondered if I belonged here. Yes, my family would ultimately look different, but it would be beautiful nonetheless. I reminded myself that I had tried playing by society’s rules, and that I was ready to do this my way. And in that moment, panic turned to excitement. I walked over to a table in the corner, smiling and nodding to its current occupants, as I fumbled through my bag pulling out my notebook and a pen. A navy blue notebook, with a faux leather cover, on which the following quote was embossed in gold cursive writing: “There is nothing more powerful than the idea whose time has come,” by Victor Hugo.
A few moments later the presentation began. They talked us through the difficulty of this process, the difficulties of caring for children that came with their own baggage and the help that they would need; the difficulties and challenges that came with caring for children that weren’t biologically ours. Children that often still had contact with or knowledge of their biological families, some that even held the risk of being returned to their biological families after a placement and match had been made. With every story, they succeeded in removing our pink coloured glasses and popping our rainbow balloons about the fantasy we had all envisioned. Then they proceeded to tell us about the large number of small children, even babies within the system that required placement. “Babies?” I thought, instantly pulling up my dream from a week prior. She, the speaker, a woman with a kind face and a soft voice, went on to tell us about couples that had received calls during the day, advising them of a baby that was waiting for them and that they’d need to present themselves at the hospital to pick up the child before the end of the day. It really could be that fast she explained. She advised us that those of us who would like to proceed would have to present ourselves for a pre-selection the following Wednesday, for which a form was available at the front of the room, and that should we not be able to present ourselves for the pre-selection interview, we would need to wait a year for the process to reopen and start again. The speaker proceeded to detail the process to us, that at the preselection interview, each of us would be required to fill in a written exam, and that in the weeks following the interview, we would receive a letter advising us of our acceptance into the program along with paperwork for us to complete. Once accepted the qualification process would unfold, consisting of social and psychological evaluations, leading up to our approvals and the eventual match with a child, and that this process would take about a year and a half.
A year and a half, I thought? What had happened to the original 3-5 years they had communicated to me? Butterflies stirred within me, but I kept the details of this revised timeline to myself. I didn’t want to excite anyone around me or send them into a frenzy until I knew I had been accepted into the process.
The following Wednesday I left work early in order to arrive in time for the pre-selection interview. Upon arriving at the same building, one I know knew the direction to, I was greeted by the woman who had spoken to us a week prior. She accompanied me down the hall to a small conference room advising me that there would only be nine of us tonight, myself and 4 other couples. The others from that information session a week prior had decided not to proceed. I sat myself at the only available seat at the U-shaped conference table, where they placed a green file folder in front of me. In it where the contents of the written exam I was to complete but it wasn’t to be opened until we had been given the instructions to do so. I sat with my hands on my lap, staring at the folder before, scared to touch it or do anything that could jeopardize my acceptance. The speaker proceeded to explain how the evening would unfold. And that in a moment we would go around the table introducing ourselves to the room, explaining briefly what had led us to this process and why we desired to be parents. I looked down at the folder again, and wondered to myself, what should I say. Suddenly it was my turn, and I began to speak, my voice quivering. I explained that I was here alone obviously, as I shrugged my shoulders and the others in the room laughed;that I had been married before, in hopes of starting a family, but that it hadn’t worked out, and that after taking a few years to heal from that relationship, life had brought me to this moment. That I was here in hopes of providing a brighter future to children in need of one. I let my heart guide my words and spoke for a few minutes more, smiling at the other attendees. Before I knew it was time to open our folders and begin the written exam. I opened the folder to find line-filled papers; the presenter read scenarios aloud to us and we were to write our answer in essay format using the allotted time before she would move us on to the next scenario. We sat there for the better part of an hour, my hand cramping and sore by the end. And then, just like that, we were asked to close our folders and place them in front of us for collection.
As the presenter walked the perimeter of the table, she continued to speak, explaining that most likely only half of us would be continuing with the process and that upon review of our exams, each of us would receive a letter in the coming week advising whether we had been admitted or rejected. Rejections were final, she explained, and that should we be accepted, we could expect the process to take about a year. A year, I thought? Could that be right? She explained that it might even happen quicker, that there were only a couple of candidates left on the roster ahead of us which was the reason that the application process had been opened early. I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to hide the panicked look that I felt rising to the surface.
A week felt like an eternity to wait, to know if I’d be proceeding to build a family and welcome a child, or if those dreams would be crushed. It had only been a few days since my pre-selection interview when the email popped into my inbox. I quickly got up to shut my office door, and took a deep breath as I returned to my seat, my heart racing. I opened the email and began to read. I had been accepted, my heart burst, and enclosed were forms I would need to fill out and have returned to the individual undersigned. I scrolled to the bottom of the page when I found a dozen and a half PDF forms I would need to print and complete. Everything from questionnaires, to insurance papers, to recommendations from my employers, family, friends, and doctor. I got to work, and within a week everything had been completed and returned.
As I waited for time to pass I continued to dream about the child that was on its way to me. A little boy. One afternoon I sat with my friend Tana, in a hotel bar recounting the process and the dream I had been having. She was in town for a conference, and it had been a long time since we had been able to see each other in person. She suggested I create an email account for my future child, and that I type up my dreams and email them, so that one day my future child could read them and know just how loved and wanted they were before they even had arrived. I welled up with tears at the thought. It was perfect. I had just finished writing my first book, Awakening the Light Warrior Within, which was with my editor for review, and so I created an email address using the word “little warrior.” I sat at my computer typing up my dreams and thoughts, my adventure through this process, addressing each one to “my Little Warrior.”
Months passed, and with them, they brought no news. I hadn’t heard a peep since I had submitted my paperwork. But I trusted that God and the Universe had a plan, and truthfully, life was busy. My book was about to be born into the world, and with it, there was the audiobook to record, promos to prepare and the launch to plan. Time flashed by and before I knew it, it was launch night and I was signing copies for friends and mailing out books for those who couldn’t attend events in person. As I arrived home from my launch event that night, empty boxes in hand and my feet aching, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. There was still so much to do for the launch in the coming weeks, but for now I chose just to sit with this feeling. And marvel as I watched something I had worked so hard on make its way out into the world. I wondered what was next? What did God have in store for me? Possibly writing my second book, I tought.
I wouldn’t get to sit idly by for very long, as in the days that followed, I received an unexpected call. A caseworker, Mrs. Carson, had been assigned to my file and would be coming to conduct a home evaluation the following week. It had been 6 months since I had submitted my paperwork and since things had been quiet, but suddenly they were picking back up with gusto. The following 8 weeks would be filled with weekly appointments for home evaluations, social assessments, psychological assessments, background checks and more. These meetings took place weekly, often more than once for a week and for hours at a time. Each would leave me feeling a combination of exhausted, excited and petrified, if you can imagine such a cocktail. Everything culminated in the submission of my file for review and approval on December 16th. They explained that the information gathered over the previous weeks would be brought to a round table discussion and review in the coming days. On Friday December 20th, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon as I was packing up my desk and getting ready to head off into my Christmas holidays, my cell phone rang. My caseworker had just returned from the round table review and I had been approved. Next steps would be matching me with a child, she explained. My heart fluttered. There were no children in immediate need or placement she explained, and that we would be in touch in the new year. But in the meantime, she would drop off some additional paperwork and reading material that I could go through during my holiday break. Go enjoy the holidays she repeated, and we’ll be in touch in January.
I spent the next couple of days baking and cooking, preparing for Christmas. Usually, I would spend the entire month of December getting ready for the holidays, but the events of the previous weeks had put me behind schedule. In between batches of cookies, I cooked up lasagnas and wrapped gifts as I would be receiving 14 members of my family for dinner on Christmas Eve. On the morning of December 23rd I headed to the store for some last minute gifts and while I was out, I popped into the baby store ogling the baby blankets and stuffed animals. I decided not buy any and I wasn’t sure the sex of the child I would be eventually matched with, or their age for that matter. While in my heart I was still convinced I’d be receiving a baby boy, my family had put just enough doubt in my mind to keep me from shopping until I knew for sure. As I walked through a discount store picking up some last minute hostess gifts, my eyes landed on a matte black coffee mug, embossed on the front with white scriptive letters was the hashtag “#dadlife.” I immediately picked it up and placed it in my basket. Even though a child was months away, I figured I would use it someday, and until then I would wrap and store it in the cupboard until that special day arrived. On my way home I stopped by the hardware store to pick up a fire extinguisher, as it was the only item that had been raised as missing during my home inspection. As I walked past the paint swatches, my eyes landed on the neutral calming tones. I picked out a pale gray and headed to the counter. I figured I would use my vacation time over the coming two weeks to begin emptying out my office so that I could repaint the room and slowly begin converting it into a bedroom suitable for a young child.
As I walked through my front door, fire extinguisher in one hand and a gallon of paint in the other, I felt my phone begin to vibrate in my pocket. I rushed to put down the paint and pull out my phone to answer before it went to voicemail. “Hello?” I answered.
“Is this Mr. Di Pardo?” a female voice asked.
“Yes it is,” I answered, my heart racing as I recognized the number on the caller display.
“Hi, this is Crystal from Mrs. Carson, your caseworker’s office,” she said. “How would you like a Christmas present?”
TO BE CONTINUED…
If you haven’t read my book yet, I have good news. On March 20th, it is being re-released in both ebook and audiobook formats to accompany the hardcover version, which is available everywhere books are sold.
And to celebrate, I’m hosting a live talk on Instagram and Facebook on March 20th at 12pm EST about the Mechanics of Radical Acceptance. Because radical acceptance, self-acceptance, is where it all begins. It’s where transformation occurs, and where we learn to embrace the light.
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