Open Adoption

A letter to my son during the adoption waiting period

We have only met once but it was love at first sight.  I am not yet 100% sure you will get to come home with us and grow up in our loving home but I pray that you do.  I know that no matter what happens you will be loved by many, many people.

There are only 8 more days until we will know for sure and all I wish is the best for you whatever that destiny may be.

We think about you every day so even though we can’t have you in our home yet, know that you are definitely in our hearts.  Jackson says Baby Zack every day and ‘brother’.  It’s really sweet.

Although 8 days seems like a lifetime right now, we know it will pass quickly.  After all, vacations of 8 days always seem so short don’t they?

All we can do is keep our fingers and toes crossed and wish your birth family all the support and love we can give during this tough time.  And promise to them that if everything works out, we will honour our open adoption commitment to them.  We want you to know where you came from and how this adoption is completely built on love.

So while I wait, I will keep dancing to my music cranked in my kitchen and binge watch Nashville after Jackson goes to bed.  I will enjoy sleep while I can.  And I will pray that everything works out the way it’s supposed to.

Love,

Shannon (hopefully mommy)

Top 10 List of Things to Do While Waiting to Adopt

hourglass-vector-237661Waiting for ‘the call’ telling you you’re going to be a parent?  How often do you refresh your email, make sure your phone is on and check in with adoption agencies to make sure you haven’t missed ‘the call’?   I know I’m guilty of all of the above but also knew I had to keep myself busy while waiting for the call or I would go crazy.

Here’s my top 10 list of things I did while passing time waiting for ‘the call’. We got the call 6 days before our son was born so I was definitely glad I’d done some of these things ahead of time.

10.  Research daycare options – you might not have much notice and may need to go on waiting lists as soon as you bring your little one home depending on how long you take off and where you live.

9.  Make a list of the necessities you’ll need to make it through the first few weeks – as we went down the private adoption route and knew the birth parents could change their minds during that first month, we tried to buy as little as possible and only focused on the necessities.  Even after the first month, we found we really didn’t need to buy a lot and took all the hand me downs we could get.

8.  Read books on parenting and/or adoption – my favourite was ‘No Biking in the House without a Helmet’ as it was a real-life story about a family who adopted internationally and was quite comical.

7.  Update your adoption profile book.   Have you been on the market longer than planned?  It never hurts to get some advice on your adoption profile book and make some updates.

6.  Research playgroups or classes you may want to attend.  There are a lot of free groups to join so look it up on the internet or ask other moms in your area.  Only being able to take 9 months off for adoption leave, I wanted to enjoy every minute of it and get to know other moms.

5. Network with other adoptive parents or people waiting to adopt.  Waiting for ‘the call’ knowing you’ve done all you can do is has so talking to others in a similar boat or hearing success stories can be a great way to pass the time.

4.  Work out – build up your core muscles.  This was a mistake I made – I hadn’t worked out in a while and all of a sudden carrying my 10 lb son up and down stairs every day did a number on my back.

3.  SLEEP IN!!!  I was told this a thousand times but it’s so true so enjoy it while you can.

2.   Go out on dates (if you’re saving money for adoption, find inexpensive dates such as going for a walk, playing a game while drinking some wine, cooking a nice romantic dinner).

1.  Enjoy life and know that everything happens for a reason. 

My Family

According to Webster’s dictionary, a family is a). a group of persons of common ancestry or b). a group of people who are related to each other. Most definitions of family include mention of ancestry and being blood related but not my family. My family isn’t one that the majority of people understand right away. My family description took my husband and I a while to understand when we first heard the concept. My family is my family and I love its uniqueness.

Let me describe my family. My family consists of my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, parents-in-law, nephews, grandparents, husband, son and lots of extended family who we see quite often and love spending time with. It also consists of my son’s birth mother and father. His birth grandparents, aunts and uncles, half-sisters and many more. My family is an open adoption family. My family consists of tons of people who love my son and who love and support Chris and I. We are so lucky. Blood doesn’t make a family strong; love does.

Let me give you an example of our open adoption family. Chris and I saw both of Jackson’s birth parents this weekend. Friday night we attended a fundraiser for the pregnancy crisis centre that his birth parents went to. Because of this centre, Chris and I became parents to the most amazing baby boy almost one year ago now. At our table was Jackson’s birth mom, papa, aunt, two great aunts and two of his birth mom’s friends. Each person we met gave Chris and I a huge hug. One aunt told us to call her ‘aunt’, right away welcoming us into her family. It was like any family dinner talking about Jackson, work, the drive up, etc. We were asked when we were coming up next so they can see us again and have a big gathering. When we left many hugs were given.

The next day we hung out with Jackson’s birth father. He invited us to his family reunion this summer wanting to give us lots of time so we can plan to be there and meet his whole family. Hugs were also exchanged.

I’d be lying if I said the whole situation is easy. It’s extremely emotional. You feel like eyes are always on you watching your every parenting move. You feel like eyes are on you watching how you’ll react to Jackson and his birth mom interacting. You feel like everyone in the room is watching to see if you truly get along like you say you do. But we do. This is our family.

What Philomena taught me about open adoption

In today’s world, there is no family ‘norm’ anymore.  Kids can have divorced, single, same-sex, bi-racial, foster and/or adoptive parents.  Family members may be estranged.  An adoptee could have his biological and adoptive families in his life.  A foster child may outgrow the system before getting a family.  Not everyone is accepting of all of these family types but more and more they are being accepted and becoming the new ‘norm’.  I found myself explaining an open adoption over lunch one day this week.  I explained how my son has contact with his birth family and that when he’s older I hope he has a good relationship with them and feels free to ask any questions he has but if he doesn’t want that, I’ll respect his decision.  I know open adoption makes some people uncomfortable and some see it as an intrusion on the adoptive family.  It is a pretty new family type and will take time for people to get used to.  Well last night I watched Philomena and it shed a lot of light for me on explaining open adoption and inspired me to write this blog.

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For those of you who don’t know about Philomena, here’s a short summary.  Philomena is based on a true story of a woman in Ireland who got pregnant as a teenager and whose family sent her to live in a convent.  After giving birth, she had to work every day for 4 years to repay the nuns, only seeing her son one hour a day until the dreaded day when her son became adopted without her ever getting to say goodbye to him.  She held this secret for 50 years and then decides to enlist the help of a journalist to find her son.  (Note: If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want any spoilers stop reading this now J).  With the journalist’s help, she finally finds out who her son is and that he died a few years prior.  She also finds out the nuns were selling the babies to wealthy American families and then burning the records.  In the end Philomena finds out her son had also tried looking for her and ended up being buried in Ireland close to his roots which finally gave her closure.  The NY Times has an article with more details behind this true story http://goo.gl/Fk9ueX.

While watching this movie was gut-wrenching, especially as an adoptive mom, I love that we have an open adoption with Jackson’s birth family.  I get that this situation is different as Philomena didn’t want her son to be adopted but even in the adoptive world, birth parents wish circumstances were different so they could choose to parent.  Philomena spent 50 years just wanting to know her son was OK.  I like that Jackson’s birth parents can have peace of mind knowing how Jackson is doing.    If the nuns had just let Philomena know her son was OK, adopted by a lovely couple and living in the U.S., she probably would have slept better at night.  Every open adoption is different – not all birth parents want direct contact with their child as it is quite heartbreaking but getting pictures and updates helps reassure them of their decision and lets them know their child is OK.  Philomena thought about her son every single day and it makes me so sad to know she lived with that wonder for 50 years.   Family health history is another huge benefit to having an open adoption.  We received the health history at the time Jackson was adopted but staying current with this information is also important to us. Lastly, as we tell everyone, can you ever have too many people who love you?  Jackson is one lucky little guy with all of the people who love and care for him which is really amazing to see.

This week a sportscaster, Dale Hansen, came out and defended a gay NFL prospect in a very open and honest speech.  You can see the speech here http://goo.gl/SvxqoM.  It’s one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard and in it is a line I really liked.  He admitted being around a gay guy can make him uncomfortable as he doesn’t understand his world.  I get that open adoption is uncomfortable for some people and my advice to you if you are one of these people is to admit it makes you uncomfortable but not judge it or be quick to think it’s horrible for the adoptive family.  It’s just a new ‘norm’!

The dreaded transition to daycare

Mmmmmmm drinking a latte while it’s still hot. I guess that’s one thing I have to look forward to when I go back to work?!

I’m sitting in a Starbucks after just dropping my son off at a 2 hour daycare transition visit. I’m not going to lie, it was way harder than I could have ever imagined. I love my job and am looking forward to going back but man, I’m going to miss him like crazy! I know he’s in good hands but it’s still hard learning to trust others with your pride and joy.

Last night I couldn’t sleep and started reflecting on my last year. A year ago Chris and I were meeting potential birth parents hoping for a match not having a clue that in only a few months we would become parents. With 6 days notice we didn’t have much time to prepare or do research. Luckily we have awesome family and friends who were a big help and made the transition easy.

I had a major to do list (I’m obsessed with lists for those who don’t know me) of all the things I was going to due while off.  Last night I realized I barely did any of it and yet for once I don’t care. I have no regrets! In my 9 months off I met a great group of women who have babies around Jackson’s age whom I got to see at least weekly. We spent lots of time with family and friends. We traveled A Lot and have amazing memories.  We did fun things like Baby Aquafit and going to the Aquarium but most importantly we spent time together becoming our own little family (including Marvin of course).

I didn’t organize our filing or keep the house super tidy. I waited to join a gym until just recently. I wrote a lot less blog posts than I thought I would and I spent more money than planned. But I have no regrets. I did work on Jackson’s baby book and we made time for his birth family as I know those will be important to him when he’s older.

So I go back to work Friday and besides feeling sad to miss my days with little man, I know I had an amazing time off and I’ll just value our time we have together now more.  And as I keep being told, I’ll get to go the bathroom alone and I got to buy my son a ridiculously cute backpack and lunch bag ;).

Ready for daycare

Hang in there – your ‘HAPPY’ is coming! Staying strong during the holidays.

The holidays can be a really hard time for people trying to have a baby or adopt.  I know – I went through it for 4 years.  My dream had always been to announce Chris and I were pregnant at Christmas by people unwrapping a picture of our ultrasound or an ornament saying something about Baby’s First Christmas with the following year on it.  I’d also had the dream of telling Chris on Christmas Eve somehow (not wrapping the pregnancy test though as that would just gross him out lol).  I was one of those people who thought we’d get pregnant on the first shot and I could plan every step of the way – wait, that’s not how it works?!

I knew adoption could happen fast but if you’d told me at Christmas last year that I would be a mom in less than 4 months, I’m not sure I would have believed it.  I know everything happens for a reason and a lot of time I think our journey happened the way it did to throw a curve ball at me and teach me you really can’t plan everything. This is our first Christmas with Jackson and looking back at last Christmas, I can’t believe all of this happened in less than 1 year!  We are so lucky and blessed to have the most beautiful, amazing 8-month old son.

Have you ever had those moments in your life where all of a sudden it dawns on you how lucky or happy you are?  I’ve been happy since the day Jackson came into our lives but it was in August when it really hit me.  On August 26th, 2013 I was sitting on the lawn of the Molson Amphitheatre (Toronto) listening to my favourite band Mumford & Sons perform my favourite song ‘I Will Wait’ and in that moment I knew life was perfect and I was the happiest I’d been in a long time. I Will Wait was my theme song when I needed a pick me up during the adoption wait.  I still smile and dance every time I hear it.

To those of you waiting, I hope 2014 is your year and that you have a special song to get you through the tough days!

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!