Parenting

Every mother’s body tells a story

Every mother’s body tells a story.  Here’s mine.

My body looked the same 3 years ago before kids as it does now with 2 kids.

Mine has caused me to get nasty looks from numerous other moms who don’t know me.

Mine has caused both men and women to come up to me and ask what my exercise routine is upon seeing me with an infant.

Mine has caused one stranger to come up to me and out of the blue say ‘that child can’t be yours’ when I was out walking my 6 week old totally throwing me off.

Mine has caused two women in my neighbourhood to ask my husband how I’m so fit with an infant and once they heard our adoption story start saying hi to me.

Mine says I have high metabolism that runs in my family not that I’m super fit and only eat healthy foods.

Mine tells the story that I adopted two beautiful boys.

I’m not writing this post to brag about not having to lose the baby weight or about my body but rather to kindly remind people that before you judge another person based on looks (either good or bad), just remember that you don’t know their full story.

I write this post to all you moms who have some post-baby weight that you just can’t shed, a C-section scar, depleted breasts from breastfeeding or stretch marks – just remember how you got that way and how you brought a little miracle into this world.  Your body tells a story that many women such as myself will never get to experience.  And my body tells a story that many of you moms will never get to experience.  My children were born in my heart, not in my belly.

So please, before you give a ‘fit’ new mom a nasty look or think she’s self-absorbed trying to get back into pre-baby shape, remember, maybe this mom adopted, maybe this mom is jealous of your post-baby body curves and experience she will never get to have or that maybe this mom just has amazing metabolism and really did shed the baby weight instantaneously.

The Journey to Adopting our Sweet Zachary

Our sweet Zachary is now 12 weeks old so I figured it’s about time to share the story of how we were lucky enough to be chosen to be parents for a 2nd time through adoption.  I always find writing about our adoption stories tough because although we are over the moon to welcome another son into our lives, for Zachary’s birth parents comes pain and sorrow over this loss.  We will be eternally grateful to them and admire them so much for putting Zachary first.

Without talking much about Zachary’s birth parents (that’s Zachary’s story to share if he wants down the road), here is the amazing journey that brought our sweet, sweet boy into our lives.  This story was definitely a rollercoaster ride filled with highs and lows.

We were told it was harder to adopt a second time since a lot of birth parents choose couples without kids and while Chris was anxious to put our names into the ring in the fall of 2014, I was a bit hesitant.  I was in a great place at work, I’d wanted to put savings aside for the process and life was great.  I did agree to start the adoption process with Chris in December as the paperwork takes a while.  By February we were adopt ready and I was getting the ‘itch’ to have a baby again – it amazes me how fast it can come on.  Too bad we were told it would take longer this time around.

At the end of February I received a phone call through our Canada Adopts online profile from a birth mother due in 2 weeks.  She lived in another province so I needed to call an adoption practitioner with experience adopting out of province.  To make a long story short, this adoption didn’t work out and while on the phone with the adoption practitioner to discuss it she asked if we had one of our adoption profiles we could send her.  She wanted to present us to a couple the next day.  We felt like it was a long shot and perhaps her just wanting us to feel hopeful again.  Normally birth couples pick an adoptive couple within a couple of days so after 2 weeks of not hearing anything we figured they had either changed their minds or chosen someone else.

The Highs

Fast forward to March 24th – I’m at a pub with my best friend enjoying a nice big glass of wine when at 10:00pm my phone rings.  It’s the adoption practitioner.  She asks if we’re really adopt ready and when we leave for Florida.  We were leaving that Friday (3 days away) to have one last trip before Jackson turned two.   The bizarre thing about it was that was exactly what had happened with Jackson’s adoption – we had a trip booked to Florida when we heard the news we’d been chosen.  She said the birth mom of the couple we were presented to was in labour and while we hadn’t been chosen officially, she was pretty sure we were the top choice.

I run home and wake Chris up to tell him.  Chris is pretty out of it when he’s woken up and didn’t really understand haha.  He had thought the birth couple had chosen a different route.  It wasn’t until the next morning that he started asking questions.

The official phone call came at 2pm on the 25th.  Zachary had been born on the 24th and we were officially chosen [insert happy dance combined with holy cow we are about to be parents of 2 boys, 23 months apart].  The next step was to drive to Ottawa on the Thursday to meet the birth parents and make sure they did want to move forward with us.  We were all set to cancel Florida but everyone wanted us to take the trip, especially since Jackson had asked ‘airplane day?’ every day that week.  Talk about a chaotic 10 hours – we had to find a sitter for Jackson, take the dog 40 minutes away to where he was staying while we were in Florida, finish the laundry, pack for Florida, tie up the loose ends at work so we could go on vacation, tell my boss our news that I could be leaving work in just a couple of weeks (gulp!) and think of baby boy names (the last one was the fun part!).  The good thing about the adoption process is the adrenaline you get and not needing to sleep. Plus, why not start to get ourselves prepared for little sleep with a baby right?!

The meeting with the birth parents went really well.  They’re amazing people and we instantly felt a connection to them.  It was definitely a nerve-wracking process still as you don’t want to say the wrong thing or do anything to have them change their minds and the whole time you’re worried they will.  The interesting thing we learned was one of the reasons they picked us was because we are in an open adoption with Jackson and they saw how happy he looked in our pictures.  They also liked that we travel.  We then drove back to Toronto Thursday night, Chris drove the babysitter across Toronto to her house and I finished packing.

Needless to say Florida was a much needed break and great to spend some last one-on-one time with Jackson before becoming a big brother but it was also a very nerve-wracking week.  Birth parents sign adoption consents 7 days after the baby is born and then have an additional 21 days to change their minds.  We were still in the early days with a long road ahead.

The Lows

This time the adoption waiting period was absolutely brutal.  I can’t imagine what the birth parents go through during this whole process and in our case some second thoughts on their end were happening.  Because of all the uncertainty and having Jackson at home, Zachary stayed in an extremely loving foster home in Ottawa until the waiting period was up.   We did get to go visit him and received email updates with pictures.

During this waiting period, our lowest low of our two adoptions happened.  We were going to see Zachary for a 2nd time when we were told it might be best to drive back to Toronto from Ottawa as things weren’t looking good.  Chris and I were devastated, especially as there had been a possibility we would bring Zachary home that day, had all our gear in the trunk and had told Jackson about ‘Baby Zack’ coming home so he’d be prepared (luckily he hadn’t come on any trips to Ottawa at this point).  We got into the car and started a somber drive home…….for about 20 minutes and then pumped the tunes and sang and danced (well I chair danced, Chris does air drums) and knew that if it’s meant to be, it will be.

Sure enough, after two more grueling weeks it was meant to be.  We drove to Ottawa the day the waiting period expired with our fingers and toes crossed that our phones would not ring with bad news and they didn’t (yippeeeeee!).  On Thursday, April 23rd, with Jackson, we went picked Zachary up and brought him home with us.

Having Zachary in our lives was worth every minute of the process and we couldn’t be more in love.  Jackson is the best big brother and we are so blessed to be lucky enough to have such two amazing boys so close in age.  Everything really does happen for a reason.

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)

The Dreaded Waiting Period in Adoption – Waiting to See if Birth Parents Revoke Consent

My husband and I recently adopted our 2nd child through Domestic Private Adoption.  While I still have to write our success story, I wanted to share a couple of posts I wrote during the waiting period.  Here’s one from day 13 of the 21 day waiting period (which starts 8 days after the baby is born and the birth parents sign consent).

8 days left!  8 days left!  8 days can seem way too short for a vacation yet way too long when you’re waiting for news.

Chris and I are on our rollercoaster ride yet again trying to adopt a 2nd child – maybe this is incentive for me to finally try the Leviathan rollercoaster at Canada’s Wonderland this summer.
I’ll spare the details of this adoption right now until things are more final but I just wanted to share what the waiting period is like for those out there trying to adopt.  I’m not going to sugar coat it – it sucks!  I wonder if it’s similar to child birth – after time you forget about it and are all ready to do it again.  Either we forget how we felt during the waiting period the first time around or this time is much harder.
There are definitely good days and bad days and each day I struggle with how positive to me. I’m generally a very positive person but some days I’m worried about being too positive and getting hurt. On the other hand, if something doesn’t work out I tend to dust myself off pretty quickly and focus on the good in our lives and what the future holds.
Right now everything is day by day for 8 more days.  Our family starts our mornings with high fives and my two-year old son doing a dance knowing there’s one day less in the month long waiting period.  Some nights if I need a big glass of wine and to watch 5 straight episodes of Nashville on TV, that’s what I do. Anything to get my mind off the waiting.
For any of you currently in the waiting period, not every day is hard.  I’ve had way more easier than harder days and up until this Monday with 9 days left of the period it hasn’t been bad.
Good luck and I’ll keep you posted!

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

Inequality with EI for Adoptive Parents

The countdown is on – I go back to work in less than 2 months having had 37 weeks off (35 paid for through EI).  I’m constantly asked why I’m going back to work early.  I love my job and am looking forward to going back to work – having a full income again won’t hurt either – but I wish I could say I chose to go back to work early.  Instead, my response is always ‘as an adoptive parent, I’m only allowed 37 weeks off with EI.’  I’d say about 90% of people can’t believe that adoptive parents aren’t given the full year – yes, we don’t need recovery time for our bodies but what about missing out on the 9 month bonding period of carrying a child inside of you?  We had 6 days notice before becoming parents and the first month was the most emotional time of my life not knowing if the birth parents would change their mind.  Doesn’t that deserve some recuperation time?  Finding the right daycare is also very stressful as lots of parents went on waiting lists while pregnant.  Not to mention the daycare costs for a child under 18 months is quite high in Toronto.

The Adoption Council of Canada recognizes the need for adoptive parents to be treated the same as biological parents.  An article from 2011 by Patricia Paul-Carson summarizes the issues adoptive parents face below and why more time is needed.

The issues and concerns that adoptive parents face that are distinct to them are described below. Not all adoptive parents must deal with all the issues listed below; however all adoptive parents face some of them.  They include:

  • Extra time needed to bond with an adopted child and for the adopted child to bond with the adoptive parents;
  • Dealing with expected and unexpected health issues of the child;
  • Establishing a relationship with the birth parents;
  • Post Adoption Depression;
  • Dealing with Grief and Depression Regarding the Ability to Give Birth;
  • Helping the Child Adapt to a New Culture;
  • Time to Travel Abroad for International Adoptions; and
  • Breastfeeding of an Adopted Baby.

Source: http://www.adoption.ca/ei-benefits-for-adoptive-parents

I wouldn’t change how we became parents for the world but I’m also sad to know my time off with my son is dwindling and just wish I had the option of being off for up to one year.

Please help and tweet @OntYouth and @OntMinLabour to raise awareness for this issue and move forward in gaining equality for adoptive parents.

Adventures in Parenting – Our first family trip

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You always hear traveling with kids really changes things and yup, I’ll believe it now.  We just had our first family trip where we flew out east (Nova Scotia and PEI) for 10 days and it was an AMAZING trip but definitely different than when it was just the two of us.

#1 – first of all, we didn’t sleep.  Now I’ve had trips with not sleeping on purpose (i.e., going out in NYC or Cancun) but lately Chris’ and my trips usually involve coming back very well rested.  This time we had to come home to get caught up on sleep.  Why didn’t we sleep?  Our son is a very noisy sleeper (I mean he grunts and snores and sighs haha) and moves around a ton (even lifts his legs up and slams them back down) and of course we were in the same room the whole time.  At home he sleeps in his nursery.  Totally worth the every second we didn’t sleep but not sure we could have gone much past the 10 days.

#2 – we are very punctual people.  I’ve been told you always add a grace period to people with kids and now I know why.  50% of the time I’m ready to go out the door, I get greeted with a massive poopy diaper.  Punctuality is starting to go out the window.

#3 – learn to change a diaper on your lap.  We flew Porter and it had very small bathrooms so we changed J’s diaper on our laps.  Luckily we didn’t have any poopy ones – whew!

#4 – learn to change a diaper in the backseat of your rental car when the seat is slanted.  This became a 2 person job if it was a poopy diaper.  I also learned that change tables are sometimes kept in the wheelchair accessible stall in washrooms.  It makes sense to have a bit of privacy but I never would have guessed that without asking.

#4 – flying with an infant is really not that hard.  At least not when they’re really little.  I’m sure it will be different once he doesn’t want to stay in one place for long.  I was really worried about his ears and having something for him to suck on.  He slept 90% of the flight and didn’t notice the change in air pressure at all.  The vibration and the noise of the plane really helped with putting him to sleep.

#5 – Add an hour or so to every trip.  We did a lot of driving on our trip and became quite familiar with the backseat of the car.  We would pull over to feed J (which usually takes at least 30 mins) but when we could tried a scenic lookout or a bathroom break where we’d switch off.

#6 – powder formula is great on the go.  We were using concentrate before our trip but changed to powder since we didn’t know if we would have access to a fridge.  We got a formula dispenser for $5 at Loblaws so we could have 3 bottles premeasured.  We then brought 2 water bottles that we kept the sterilized water in.  If we could have access to a fridge and freezer we would pre-make 3 bottles that would fit in our bottle cooler and last for up to 12 hours.  Our son goes from 0-100 when he’s hungry so the quicker we can have the bottle ready, the better.  We use Playtex Nurser bottles with bottle liners so all you need to clean while traveling are the nipples and lids.  We bought dish soap once there and cleaned them in the bathroom sink every night.  We brought a few extra nipples and lids so we didn’t have to worry about also trying to find a place to clean them.

#7 – babies in restaurants.  We were really lucky in that only one restaurant gave us a dirty look when we showed up with a baby.  Jackson paid them back by having a really stinky poop in the middle of our dinner haha.  We would either have him in his car seat or stroller and quickly learned to take him out as soon as we got there and hold him.  Then once our food arrived, we could put him back and he’d be content.  We also learned to ask for the bill early on in case we had to bolt.  Usually we got an hour in at the restaurant before J would get restless.  We still went to romantic restaurants as we were celebrating our 5th anniversary and didn’t let that deter us.  J was great and the staff and customers usually loved seeing a baby.

#8 – my how the entertainment changes.  J became our entertainment.  He was just starting to coo and giggle and Chris and I spent most of our time staring at and admiring him.  It was amazing entertainment.  On the other side of the entertainment, we were usually back in our hotel rooms pretty early so learned we should have taken some cards or games with us.  Summer TV just wasn’t cutting it.

#9 – shyness starts to wane.  When it comes to your child, you’re willing to ask people for a lot more.  Like to move things or open locked doors to get a stroller in.  In our case, we needed sterilized water for his bottles so we got used to asking restaurants and inn keepers for either a kettle or access to the hot water for tea.  Not a big deal but I’m one of those people who gets shy around strangers so that started to change.  We also let all of the places we were staying at know we were bringing a baby and they were great.  One inn even had a welcome package for us and a pack and play all set up in our room.

#10 – there are still excursions you can do with small children.  We went clam digging and it was a great experience.  I wore J in a sling where he slept the whole time.  We met some great people and had some delicious food.  We like to try local excursions and just looked for one that was suitable for J.

#11 – enjoy every minute and take lots of pictures.  Although J slept for most of our trip, Chris and I have great memories and loved being able to go on a trip with our beautiful baby boy.  We spent our 5th wedding anniversary on our trip and loved that we shared it with our son.

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

IMG_0067 According to Wikipedia, ‘Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity.‘

Chris and I are coming up on 4 years of trying to be parents.  Looking back, in a 4-year span a lot of things can happen.  Someone can get a university degree; meet their perfect someone, fall in love, get married, have 2 kids;  switch jobs – a couple of times; move cities – a couple of times – you get the picture.  When I think of our 4-year wait in this light, I’m pretty darn impressed with how patient and positive we have been :-).  Luckily we have a lot of people in our lives giving us awesome support during this dreaded waiting period.

To help me with the wait, I recently reached out to fellow parents (bio and adoptive) on Twitter to ask them for advice on how to pass the wait and what Chris and I should do while we’re still childless.  Here’s what I heard back:

  • ‘Sleep in and sleep lots’ – heard this one A LOT!!
  • ‘Go out for dinner’
  • ‘Travel’
  • ‘Get my MBA’
  • ‘Learn to cook’
  • ‘Do a marathon’
  • ‘Spend time with hubby and friends’
  • ‘Read success stories’
  • ‘Document the journey’
  • ‘Be an advocate for adoption’

Tim Elder who I follow on Twitter has this great blog on passing the wait – http://www.infantadoptionguide.com/7-things-while-you-wait.

All great advice although not sure doing a marathon will ever make my list things to do – I’ll settle for a 10km :-).

Thanks again to our family, friends and journey followers for their great advice and support.