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Nothing can prepare you for the transformation that is required to take care of another human being.
In December 2011 I left the company I co-founded with two partners. The decision didn't come easily—I made it after nearly seven months of weekly executive coaching sessions, and my personal therapy helped me see that the only way through was to get out. I announced my departure in October and then walked through the days feeling like I'd cut off my own arm. I had no financial safety net—no savings, no trust fund, no lucrative job waiting for me.
Then I got an email from an adoption agency about a little girl who needed a home. I'd applied in the summer and the wait was supposed to be two years. Alas, the universe had different plans. This little girl needed a home, and she had some special needs that made the situation extra urgent.
I'm not a religious person but it was the closest I've ever felt to a divine calling. I give full credit to yoga and meditation for cultivating openness within me. The decision to move forward on the adoption made no rational sense – my financial situation was precarious and I had no experience with a special needs child – and yet, I knew on some deeper level we were meant to be a family. I decided to trust that things would work out for the best. I leaned in.
I had to file new paperwork because the little girl was in Russia and my application was geared to adopting a child from Ethiopia. I had to do all of this while winding down my role in the old business and working like mad to set up a new venture.
The process took more time than planned. Bureaucracy moves slowly in the US and it's even slower in Russia. I hated thinking of my little girl in the orphanage, but there was nothing I could do besides file my papers quickly and then wait. In the meantime, I got my new business off the ground, signed on new clients and saved up money to cover expenses so I could take time off from work when I brought my new daughter home. I also worked on accepting the knowledge that I would be completely unprepared when my daughter arrived.
When I left for Russia, I was a single, fiercely independent, successful professional woman. When I returned, I was completely different: a single, fiercely independent, successful professional woman and a mom.
Nothing can prepare you for the transformation that is required to take care of another human being. Although running a small business and having pets taught me to roll with the punches and accept that perfection is the enemy of almost everything, it's not the same because you can leave both business and pets in the care of others while you go for a run.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it: This has been the hardest thing I've ever made. Every day, I go to sleep and try not to count the ways I could do better. And when I'm not managing doctors appointments and school evaluations ( or worrying about attachment and sleeping patterns), I'm trying to stay on top of client work and launching another company.
I've learned that I'm more passionate about work than I realized. I miss the 14-hour days because they fed my ego and I liked the work. Thankfully, I've been able to channel that drive into a determination to make this new paradigm work. It's going to take time and patience—and more leaning in.
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