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.


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

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  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’!


Adventures in Parenting – Our first family trip


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.

Adoption – the amazing rollercoaster journey we’re on

Moving on to adoption, the primary topic of my blog, my hubby and I are almost 1 year into the process from when we started our home study.  It sounds strange but I actually enjoyed the home study process.  Getting to talk about what my hubby and I loved about each other, what types of parenting techniques we wanted to use and hearing more about how each other was raised was very insightful and I believe brought us even closer together.  The downside was all of the paperwork we had to do and by all I mean TONS and TONS!

When we first started our journey, we were set on adopting a child, up to age 4, from Bulgaria.  Why Bulgaria?  We’re asked that a lot and really the answer is there aren’t a lot of international countries anymore and Russia and Bulgaria have the shortest wait periods but Bulgaria is cheaper and tends to have less fetal alcohol issues in their children (so we’ve heard).  We then attended PRIDE, a mandatory adoption education course that’s 27 hours.  Wow, 27 hours you’re saying?  Sounds grueling, doesn’t it?  Well it may make the difference between my husband and I dealing with adoption all wrong to now being able to handle numerous situations, including how to talk to your kids about being adopted and how parenting an adoptive child IS different than parenting a biological one.  We also discovered that we wanted to try private adoption in Ontario so we could get a newborn and so the child could have the potential of an open adoption with his/her biological family.

Fast forward to now, November, and our path has changed yet again.  We are now in the process of getting approved for public adoption – adoption through the Children’s Aid Society.  The reality is private adoption is heartbreaking and the #s of babies being adopted privately is really dwindling (and it’s expensive).  We’ve made it to the top 2 two times now and then weren’t chosen by the birth parents – not to mention the fact that birth parents have 28 days after the child is born to change their minds.  I believe birth parents should have this right, it’s just heartbreaking for the adoptive family, esp. if it happens a few days after the baby is born.

At the end of the day the waiting process is difficult no matter which option we choose and to be honest, we just want a child and it doesn’t matter where they come to us from.  We just have lots and lots of love to give!