10.30.2017

the end of a childfree era.



I'm surrounded by a pile of pink...ice cream sheets, gemstone comforters, and a cheesy 1950's style poodle nightlight...all of which our foster girls excitedly picked out this weekend after a big talk about their first sleepover visit to our home. A talk in which we tried to act like this was normal...that it's normal for kids to spend hours on the weekends with near strangers, picking out bedding for the room that will be theirs in a few short weeks.

With each visit during this slow transition from their foster home to our fost-adopt home, we've tried to steer past the words "adoption" or "mom" or "dad" or "move"...all these words are loaded for kids who have been in the system for a while. But, they're smart. They know...and this is not their first go at a potential adoptive family. They can feel the change in the wind, and each day we see them, they ask, "Can we live at your house forever?" and "Are you gonna adopt us?".

And we can feel the change, too. Standing at the brink of parenthood: finally knowing our girls' names and faces and personalities, preparing our home for them, and yet not having them here just yet. It leaves this little gap of space and time for feelings to creep in. A gap between everything we've hoped and prepared for, and the joy and tough work that will come once we're all living within the same walls.

Mostly the feelings in that space are elation, joy, compassion, and love. We've been preparing for this big change for years, and we couldn't want it anymore. But, with every major life change, there's always something you worry you'll leave behind.

When we started talking about fostering years ago...back before we even got married...we had a list of worries. We spent six years building a small, happy life...walking through each concern and realizing we could handle it. Our worry list dwindled down to one: Our pets. Anyone who knows us personally knows we are The Crazy Pet people. Our lives revolve around our cat and dog. And we love it. So, naturally, we had a lot of worries about shifting some of our focus to human kids. Would it be fair to open our small home to two kids at the age of peak rambunctiousness, when our critters have known nothing but quiet and snuggles? Could we still honor the furry little beings and their needs in our day-to-day life, if suddenly two new beings in our home required lots of focus and attention?

Ultimately, we hoped we could overcome any challenge that might come with integrating kids and pets in one home...and that our family, kids or not, would always be an animal loving group who could honor both people and pets. And I know it's possible. I see it out there.

But, in some moments, especially as we get close to placement...I feel like I'm trying to soak up the last few sweet, simple days with our pets. Our critters are healthy and still in middle age...but as a sensitive soul, I suddenly feel so aware that pets don't live to be 80. Perhaps I'm grieving the moments with them I know we'll lose by expanding our family and hearts. Or maybe...feeling guilt in realizing that in our pets' lifetimes, our home will never return to the quiet sanctuary they love. That someday I'll have to say goodbye to them...and will I say that goodbye knowing I was fair to them? That I'd honored their presence in our lives and home, even with this big shift? That they knew how much they were loved?

When I confided in a friend about this recently, she reminded me that the beauty of pets is that they're fully present. For our pets, their "present" will now include a busier mom and dad...but also two new little friends who are so excited to love them. And, that after a few months of adjusting, the pets will see our girls as an expansion of us...two more humans who will spoil and dote on them.

I keep reminding myself of her words...as well as our hope that in this major life change, we can also give our animals and our community the gift of raising two little people who will spend their lives respecting, loving, and caring for animals in need.

Maybe this is all a bit heavy, or overthought. It wouldn't be the first time I'd really waded into the thick of it when dealing with change...and I know not everyone is an animal lover who can understand these feelings. But it must be normal to have some guilt or grief about pieces of your life that will change, especially the pieces of your home or life that touch other lives (animal or human)?

Parents of children...did you feel guilt or grief at any point in your decision to have children?

Parents of animals...have you ever made a major life change, and felt guilt over how it would affect your pets?

I'm not wrapping this one up with a bow. It's just me, closing my laptop to go snuggle our dog for a bit before making up the kids' beds for the first time...hoping I'm not the only one who's felt this way, and knowing it's all probably going to be totally okay.

6 comments:

  1. My husband and I adopted, then rescue fostered babies when our daughter was only 5 months old. Each time we got a phone call and said yes to the unknown that was arriving on our doorstep, I felt like I had to mourn the loss of my daughter's only-child-ness. In the end, we weren't meant to adopt any of our fosters and got almost 2 years of mostly only-child-ness (minus a few months of fostering and subsequent heartbreak). Oddly, every time we had a new addition, and even when we adopted our son 3 months ago, the sadness of what we were losing was overshadowed by what we gained. I bet you'll find that you have all new incredible moments between your girls and your critters that will be different but equally beautiful.

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  2. I don't think you're overreacting at all! Jon and I were just talking about this the other night, as we discussed how we have to be better about maintaining (and, in fact, increasing) Charlie's training in preparation for the baby. I know he and the baby are going to be partners in crime and that adding to our family will only mean more love for Charlie to both give and take - and dogs really do find the first as fulfilling as the second! But I sometimes feel mean when I institute new rules for him designed to make our lives easier when we're juggling the dog and the baby. Of course he doesn't understand that that's why he's being asked to sit and stay more - but I know and I feel guilty!
    -Betsy

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  3. We're expecting our first baby in April, and I've been thinking a lot about how it will affect our two dogs. They really are "our babies," and I think that's hard for a lot of people to understand. It's difficult to voice this concern to others who feel that it's "just a dog," or "just a cat." Good for you for putting this out there, and it's totally an okay feeling to have :)

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  4. Our pets are our life. We don't make even the smallest decisions without considering them and their well-being. We often contemplate vacations, long weekends away, or even sleeping in on a day off but we know those things aren't as simple as pack and go. Recently, we've also been throwing around the idea of fostering and/or adoption. We're not quite ready and maybe never will be. But, what we do know is that our furry family members would be such a great way to teach a child compassion, empathy, and unconditional love. So while you might not have those one-on-one moments with your pets all the time, you will have the comfort of knowing the'll be giving your girls security and love like they've never known.

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  5. Thank you for this post. I also have a cat and a dog. I’m not close to parenthood, but in the vague “what-if” way that I’ve thought about it, these same concerns have crossed my mind. It’s comforting to hear I’m not the only one, and you have written it in a lovely way. On the other side of the coin, I loved growing up with pets, and they loved having as many friends as possible. Hopefully your girls and pets will feel the same way! Keep us posted :)

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  6. Can totally relate! I have had my cat since I was 10, she is not 18 years young and still kicking. We are expecting our first baby any day now - we had a few day stint in the hospital over the weekend and I was literally brought to tears thinking about my sweet old kitty at home not knowing how her life might change. Your feelings are normal and totally justified, but I am also sure your girls will love on your pets, and that your pets will bring them comfort in this big change.

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