Private Adoption

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.

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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)

Picking a day to celebrate

Adoption is anticlimactic, I’m not going to lie. Of course it has its amazing moments and I wouldn’t change any minute of what we went through to adopt Jackson but it definitely had its ups and downs. Many of you reading this know our story but for those who don’t, here’s a recap:
• April 6th, 2013 – day we got the call from the adoption agency saying we’d been chosen by the birth parents – we were in shock – was it finally happening – amazing, amazing day!!!
• April 14th – a week before Jackson’s due date and a day before we were to meet the birth parents – was told the birth mom had gone to the hospital to get checked out. Didn’t hear any more news that day – anxious day!
• April 15th morning – day we found out our son had in fact been born the day before but that they weren’t sure when we would meet the birth parents. Told to drive back to Toronto from my parents instead of going to meet birth parents – extremely anxious! Also didn’t have any boy names ready so spent the drive going through names.
• April 15th afternoon – day we were asked to turn around from Toronto and drive to London to meet birth parents after all at the hospital – nerve-wracking yet exciting!
• April 15th nighttime – we met Jackson’s birth parents and families for the first time in the hospital and instantly hit it off. We also met and held Jackson for the first time which was incredible and heartbreaking at the same time. How do you act in front of the birth parents when it’s one of the most painful days of their lives? Left hospital feeling incredibly heavy and wondering what tomorrow would hold when it was time for Jackson to go into a foster home.
• April 16th – met Jackson when he arrived at the foster home. Told him his name. Incredibly beautiful moment but then the realization of holy cow, we’re parents? We had 9 days notice! Lol. Then the realization Jackson was placed in a foster home for a reason – to give us time to prepare but also to learn from this amazing couple who had fostered 94 newborns before Jackson and taught us everything we needed to know about formula, diapers, etc. Of course we have tons of people in our lives to help us with this but it was really appreciated.
• April 27th – day that Chris, his sister and I drank margaritas and painted his nursery while listening to music and dancing. We were parents!!!!
• May 4th – the day we brought Jackson home – beyond amazing but it also meant that there were 10 days left for the birth parents to change their minds.
• May 15th – day the waiting period ended. The day we’d been waiting for. The day we’d saved our champagne for and the day I had to go to bed at 7pm and skip the champagne as the stress caught up with me – talk about anticlimactic haha.
• Jan. 29th, 2014 – day I opened the mail and received what looked like the adoption finalization record for Jackson dated January 22nd. We were told it wouldn’t happen until closer to April and the agency hadn’t been notified yet so again, a very anticlimactic day. We couldn’t celebrate as we weren’t 100% sure it had happened.
• Jan 22nd, 2015 – celebrating the 1st anniversary of the date our son’s adoption became finalized in the Court. The day we can all truly celebrate as a family!

Adoptive families celebrate many different days. We will always celebrate Jackson’s birthday as that’s definitely the most special day of the year but we wanted another day to celebrate as a family as we didn’t know him on his day of birth. We originally thought we would celebrate his ‘gotcha day’ – the day we brought him home which is also very special but again, it was still part of the waiting period. The day we are choosing to truly celebrate as a family that will always have positive thoughts is the day our adoption became finalized – January 22nd!!!!

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.

GUEST POST: An Adoption Journey?

Journey?

Adoption Journey. That’s what our esteemed P.R.I.D.E leaders called the adventure that we were all about to embark on. A room full of attentive couples, wide-eyed and eager to begin their journey. Journey. It’s a gentle word, passive and quiet. It conjured up images of running through a peaceful meadow of wild flowers in bloom with my future child’s hand clasped in mine. It brought to mind playing in a gentle ocean surf with my future daughter, building sand castles fit for a princess. It painted pictures of laying in the tall grass on a hillside beside my future son, discovering all the elephants, ice cream cones and angels erupting in the cottony clouds above.

Yeah. Journey’s not the right word.

On Your Mark…

At the end of an intense P.R.I.D.E weekend, my husband and I skipped home, arms full of reading material, completed assignments, and the encouragement of our course leaders and fellow students. Our green P.R.I.D.E certificate was more than a check-marked necessity, it was the green light we’d been waiting for to embark on our very own adoption … you know.

The outset wasn’t bad. We signed up with an adoption practitioner in Toronto; a seasoned, no-frills veteran in the game who sits at a desk in a 200 square-foot room overcome with paperwork. We willingly opened up our past lives, our relationship, our medical records and our home to all the authorities whose job it was to deem us as suitable parents. We registered with four agencies in Ontario and got approval to register with agencies in the United States. Everything, and everyone, was working for us. Or so it seemed.

Get Set…

The agencies in Ontario were open and welcoming when it came to accepting our registration fee, charging us twice that for an hour consultation, and demanding that they needed five more profile books, in soft-cover, if you don’t mind.

The real trick was to get them to keep us posted, answer our emails and return our phone calls. Have we been presented to anyone? Has anyone expressed any interest in us? Have you given us a second thought since we signed that last cheque?

We decided to focus our attentions on the agency we had registered with in Miami, Florida. After looking at our profile, they decided to take us on, despite having limited space for Canadian couples. They spent an informative, two-hour consultation on the phone with us, and assured us that, if we were patient with them, finding us a newborn baby was only a matter of time. That was in July, 2013. On November 15th, we got a call.

Go!

We’d been chosen by a young woman in Panama City, Florida, to adopt her baby boy, due on the 6th of December. We arrived a week before the birth to meet her and spend some time getting to know each other. She was shy, but soon came out of her shell to show us a sweet, witty side that endeared her to us. She was happy for us, thrilled that she could make our dream come true, and vowed that she was firm in her decision, that the biological father wanted nothing to do with the baby, and that we would be heading home to Canada with a newborn son for Christmas.

The day finally arrived, a little early, on December 3rd, 2013. We were invited into the delivery room. My husband cut the umbilical cord. We settled into the hospital room right next to the birth mother to spend the required 48 hours post-birth time requirement until the papers were signed and the baby was discharged from the hospital into our wanting arms. We took the night shifts, more than willing to let our dream-maker sleep and recover. She visited with the baby during the day and seemed to be committed to the adoption plan.

We had the baby – and loved him with all our hearts – for about 45 hours. As we were packing our things and discussing what we would do our first night at the rented condo with our son, the director of adoption from the agency came in and told us the bad news.

False Start

Apparently, the birth father had taken a renewed interest in the baby, despite the fact that he could not be found for the previous six months.

He arrived with a support group for young, black fathers, all sporting red t-shirts and angry scowls.

We never saw the baby again and were completely devastated… and actually sad for this lost child. The last update we received was that children’s services swooped in and placed him in the foster care system, where he remains today.

Journey? Not quite.

Back to Your Marks…

As we packed up the truck and hit the long road home to Toronto, I started to think of all the amusement park rides I’ve ever been on that may lend a more appropriate title to what we had just been through.

The Zumba Flume log ride? No. Too slow, too peaceful, and only one sudden drop that only threatens to soak you through-and-through but never lives up to its promise.

The Ferris wheel? No. Too consistent, reaching heights that evoke nothing more than a few butterflies dancing gaily in your belly.

The Loop-to-Loop? Hmm. Getting closer. A wild roller coaster that whips you around at dangerous speeds, dangling you upside-down for eternal seconds, threatening to steal your pocket change and the Beaver Tail you just ate.

The Tilt-a-Whirl? Relentless. Nauseating. You’re trapped in a big strawberry or tea cup which spins individually in dizzying circles, while the base of the ride spins mercilessly around and around and around…

… yep. That’s it. The Adoption Tilt-a-Whirl; a sickening, cruel, spinning ride that leaves you with weak knees, indigestion and the overpowering desire to pull down the blinds, lay in bed and wait for it all to pass.

Ready… Set…

It’s a distant memory now, as I sit here, listening to my two-month old son sleeping, cooing like a pigeon until he starts to growl for one of his eight meals of the day, which should be soon.

The second call came on December 17th, 2013. We had been chosen by a young birth mother in Ft. Lauderdale, who wanted to see the profiles of couples who had been through a difficult – ahem — journey.

Quinn Isaac was born on January 16th, 2014. We arrived home in Toronto with our son mid-February and have spent the past few weeks introducing him to our family and friends. It is heart-warming to watch him being passed around from one set of loving arms to another, never complaining, happy to be enveloped by such a warm, welcoming village in which he’ll grow, learn and thrive.

So, here we are, at the beginning. The real beginning of our adoption journey.

GO!

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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’!

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!

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.

What’s the right way of talking about adoption – adoption terms explained

Before the 27 hour PRIDE course on adoption, I had it all wrong.  I used to say a mother ‘gave up her baby for adoption’ and lots of other terms as I just hadn’t been exposed to the correct terminology.  I thought I would write this little blog to help people with talking about adoption.  If you do get corrected by adoptive or birth parents, don’t be offended, they’re just trying to help educate.

CORRECT USE

INCORRECT USE

Birth or biological parents Real parents, natural parents
Parents People like Chris and I – we are his parents now
Adoptee – child who was adopted Own child
Birth child Own child
The birth parents made an adoption plan The parents gave their baby up for adoption
The birth parents loved their child so much that they made an adoption plan The birth parents must really not have loved their baby to give it up.  (Side note – we never want our son to hear this – his birth parents loved him sooooo much that they knew making an adoption plan was best for him). Or the birth parents must be really young.  Every adoption has different circumstances and it’s not always that the couple is young.
Open adoption – child has some type of access to birth family (could be in person or through email/phone) – beneficial as the child can understand his/her background more Open adoption being a burden to the adoptive parents.  We love the fact that our son will get to know his birth family and will have all the access he needs to his family history.  It would be hard to not be able to answer our son’s questions in the future if we didn’t know anything about his birth family.
Was adopted Is adopted

When in doubt, just ask!