2017 - Friendships & Belonging

Last week I opened up and shared how tough last year was on my marriage! But here I am about to write honestly about my friendships and the community I am a part of and I am terrified.I want to start off by saying that this post is not about calling people out or challenging people in my life who have been supportive to our journey.I feel called to share my experience, the good and the bad, and that will always be laced with my humanity. I am not perfect and have not handled a lot of things in a good and honest way. I am working on restoring and healing and this post is a big part of that. If you read this and are upset, please reach out to me!We moved to Colorado 4 years ago with bright eyes and open hearts. We quickly met a lot of amazing people (which is no easy feat when you go to a church as big as ours!) and we started making fast friends. Will and I had moved from our college town where we had built relationships over 4 years with friends who knew us so well! We naively thought that making friends in our 20s would be similar to making friends in college.Looking back now we can see how much we wear our hearts on our sleeves. We open up really easily and while I personally think that is so important to building friendships...I am learning that vulnerability is not the norm! We tend to be intense (but guarded) and (brutally) honest and it is received in lots of different ways!It is really easy to get to know people when you share similar interests and do not have the responsibility of parenthood. After being in Colorado for a year, we started the process to get approved to adopt. At the same time most of our friends also decided they were ready to become parents. It was a really exciting time!Our friends got pregnant and we talked about raising up our kids together. They all had their beautiful babies and we were all  still hopeful that we would be parents soon. However, it took us that year to realize that we were signed up with an unethical adoption agency that ended up taking our money and left us with nothing.When your friends have children and you are struggling with infertility and the long wait that comes with adoption, every pregnancy and birth is bittersweet. You are so excited for them to start their families, but at the same time you feel your longing for a baby of your own more and more. It breaks you down little by little to the point that you cannot even bear another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. But you soldier on!You throw baby showers and you volunteer to babysit and offer up your love and support! You go to 1 year old birthday parties and watch all your friends takes photos with their babies and it pushes you away. You see the playdates and the pool parties and the gatherings on Instagram and Facebook and you sit at home and cry. You are not included because you don't have that one important criteria that binds all your friends...

you are not a mother

You don't have a positive pregnancy test or an ultrasound to prove that you are expecting a baby...just mountains of paperwork and endless hope.So I pulled back and started investing in other friendships. These friends were younger and only just either dating, recently engaged or newlyweds and I did not have to worry about being left out because nobody had kids. But these friendships had their own challenges.Will and I have been married for over 6 years now...and yes that might not seem like along time compared to most; but our needs and wants are different than a couple who has only recently been married. They are not thinking about becoming parents just yet...where as we are on the precipice...waiting to adopt and not sure how imminent it might be! So as much as I wanted to invest in these friendships...part of me held back.How would a newlywed support us as new parents? Would they understand the sacrifice we would have to make with our friendships just trying to survive with a newborn?And our friends who now have toddlers and older kids...would we still be left behind once we adopted? Would I finally receive those wanted invitations or would we be forever living on the outside looking in?Its one thing to feel so incredibly supported by prayers and well wishes (keep them coming!) but its another thing to find a friend who will get in the trenches with you...those friends who have already walked the path we are taking...or the friends that are there for you in your lowest and help talk you out of your despair and hopelessness. With all the hardship we have faced with building a community over the past 4 years, we have been blessed by a few. Some of them share our experiences and some of them do not...Infertility can be debilitating and life-destroying. It can destroy your marriage, impact your friendships, and warp your entire identity. If you have been blessed with a family and know someone who is struggling to start their own...be sensitive and be present. Do not go out of your way to isolate them any further. Don't just think of them often but be there for them in the ups and downs...because man its a constant rollercoaster!For me, infertility has taken away my sense of belonging. In not being included, I have felt unworthy and unwanted. My value was entirely in how my friends saw me...and not being a mom with them almost destroyed me. Adoption will always set me apart. I will never have the shared experience of growing our child and bringing them into the world. I do not get to control what impacts our baby before they are given to us.Over the past couple of months I have realized that my story is different than most. I am no longer looking for acceptance and worth from others...but from the creator who has all things in his own time. I am investing in the people who have been a part of my messy and broken story...and I am grateful for them! 

Ashley xoxo