February 24, 2016

Perky Gym Girl & the Angel in the Steam Room.

steam room

Both my children are Guatemalan. I did not give birth to them.

My daughter came home when she was six months old, and although my son’s adoption started first when he was a newborn, he didn’t actually get home until he was almost four years old. His adoption was the battle of a lifetime.

While fighting to bring him home, I was also fighting to keep my marriage together. I knew that if my marriage ended so did my son’s adoption, if I wasn’t careful.

I can hang on a bit longer. I can tough this out. I had to do this for my son.

But, finally it was too much. I packed up my daughter and moved four hours away to my parent’s home. I then commuted eight hours back and forth to work every week and told no one what I had done.

If anyone found out my address had changed nonetheless my marital status, my son’s adoption would be indefinitely delayed, and maybe even halted completely.

Against all odds, three months later my son finally came home. I thought the almost unbearable pressure would be instantly relieved the moment we landed on U.S. soil, but much to my dismay, this turned out to be only the beginning.

Having a child is extraordinarily challenging under any circumstances. Whether giving birth, adopting or bringing an older child into your family, it is never what you expect it to be.

However, bringing home an older child from a third world country with a language barrier to a home that is not yours while separated from your husband, trying to also juggle a child the same age who has been the only child her whole life all the while commuting eight hours a week to work turned out to be a challenge so far beyond what I was capable of handling.

When I say the adjustment was rough, that is an understatement, and to say that everyone was adjusting better than mommy is no exaggeration.

My stress levels were through the roof so much so that I joined a local gym, not to work out, mind you, but because with my membership came two hours a day of free child care. Couple that with the pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room and I became a virtual gym rat.

I would drop my children in the child care center and go cry in the corner of the Jacuzzi.

What had I done to my life? I was positive my son would never be able to recover from what he was being subjected to so soon after being taken from the only family he’d ever known.

My cries was filled with desperate pleas to God for answers, Buddha for peace, Ganesh for help with these insurmountable obstacles and to any and all angels for signs that we were all going to be ok.

This was my daily routine. This is how I maintained my sanity.

All I had to do every day was make it tear-free through the car ride with the kids to the gym then past the always smiling, totally gorgeous, completely perfect, not a care in the world, disgustingly happy, Perky Gym Girl at the front desk. Just the sight of her everyday was salt in the open wound of all my family’s challenges.

Whew, made it past her another day. Let the breakdown commence.

On this particular day I am crying in the Jacuzzi as usual, when oddly enough I noticed a very cute swimsuit on a girl coming towards the Jacuzzi. Thinking it was a sign that I needed some retail therapy, I made a mental note then continued with my hysterics. As the woman got closer, I realized it was Perky Gym Girl and she was coming my way.

Dear God no!

I needed to cry, not put on a mask for the outside world.

She greeted me as she made her way into the Jacuzzi. I could tell she wanted to chat.

I cannot do this!

“Hi! Cute suit! Enjoy your break! Have a great day!” and I was outta there. I quickly made my way to the sauna for more crying.

My two child-free hours were meticulously planned at the gym. One hour in the pool and jacuzzi, 15 minutes in the sauna, 15 minutes in the steam room then 30 minutes to shower and pull it back together before picking up my children.

Perky Gym Girl had thrown off my schedule. Now I was really crying, praying, pleading and calling out to God for help, in the sauna, with the glass door for the whole world to see.

At least there is cover in the steam room. I slip in quickly, sit down and begin to sob when I hear, “Oh my God, are you ok?”

Yup, you guessed it, Perky Gym Girl now has her hand on my shoulder and is trying to comfort me. I am officially in steam-filled hell.

I quickly pull it together and apologize, and then make a sad attempt to cover by saying “You have the best job ever. I want to spend my lunch break in the steam room.”

Perky Gym Girl responds “Yes, this is a totally cool place to work. They are very caring here. They know I’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while so they are really encouraging me to relax, get healthy and stay stress-free.”

Then I say “Oh yes, been there. It can be challenging.”

Perky Gym Girl replies “Ah yes, I wondered where your children were from and if they might be adopted.”

Oh Universe, really? I cannot do this right now. I cannot be the rah-rah adoption cheerleader and spokesperson right now. I can barely hold my shit together to get the mail. I cannot do this right now!

I finally replied, “Yes, my children are Guatemalan.”

Perky Gym Girl then responded “Oh my God, I thought so! How beautiful! I was adopted at the age of 18 after living in 22 foster homes starting at the age of nine.”

As she spoke, I stared, speechless at the young woman I’d judged for months.

I saw my reality in her. I witnessed darkness transformed into light as it’s mixed with deep love. Perky Gym Girl became an exquisite being of light, an angel, right there in the steam room.

She was my sign that when you ask for evidence that you are going to be ok, you then have to open your eyes and heart to the signs that you are embraced in the Divine’s loving energy.

My world was transformed in a split second that afternoon in the steam room.

I knew we were going to be ok. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I knew we were going to survive.

We were in this journey together, my son, my daughter and me. We would learn to love one another, then hopefully meet others in the steam room of life to share our love, light and all that we’ve learned.


Author: Christie Del Vesco

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: BCC Leisure Centres/Flickr // Jonny Clow/Unsplash

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