Hearts of Adoption Options: A Tribute to my Daughter, A Birthmother

Birthmother Tribute and Adoption Circle devotion


As a proud Birth Grandma I would like to honour my daughter who is celebrating Birthmother’s Day on May 12th.

Almost 20 years ago as a very young person of 15, my daughter bravely faced an unplanned pregnancy. It was a very emotional time and she needed our love and support. She also needed help understanding what her options were. We were fortunate to find Adoption Options, where she heard about Open Adoption as one of the choices available to her. Open Adoption is what she chose as the best option for her situation.

I was and still am amazed by her strength, wisdom, selflessness and determination to give her baby the best chances possible in life. I saw the love she felt as she placed her baby into the waiting arms of the adoptive parents. And then I saw the love of the adoptive parents as they warmly embraced both their new child and my daughter, all of them together.

I’m so proud that she went on to graduate grade 12 with her classmates, and that she continued her education to become a social worker. She has since married and has two more beautiful children.

One of the wonders of Open Adoption is that she and all our family, are considered part of her birth daughter’s extended family. We regularly see one another. I think we all continue to be inspired both by her choice of Open Adoption and by what a positive experience it has been and continues to be. We are so happy that we all remain part of her birth daughter’s life.

Happy Birthmother’s Day my dear daughter.

“Thank you Adoption Options for being there when we needed you and for your continued support”.
Brenda, A BirthGrandmother

Adoption Circle Devotion by an unknown author

Thank you for each person in our circle.
Thank you for their courage to come and share their story.
Thank you that in this place there is understanding, acceptance and love.
Thank you for the happy stories for the excitement and the hope they bring for how we  validate and honor one another.
Thank you for your comfort when we grieve; when our hearts are breaking and our tears are flowing you are there holding us in your arms.

Thank you for Birthparents,
for their selfless surrendering of their precious babies, for their strength in silent suffering.
Please continue to heal their broken hearts and make them whole again.

Thank you for the Adoptive parents,
for their eager willingness to provide what others deeply wished they could for their love of family beyond the boundaries of blood.
Please give them assurance of their significance in their life of their chosen child and in the special bond they share.

Thank you for the Child,
for giving them life regardless of circumstance,
for calling them your child regardless of their home,
for loving them wholly even when they feel broken.
Please provide them healing where they hurt, and bring them peace with who they are.
Mostly, thank you for loving us and for showing us how to love.

May we be compassionate, may we be patient, may we be forgiving.
May we have peace.
Thank you for the positive option of open adoption.

Hearts of Adoption Options: My Role as a Birthmother

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Looking back over more than twenty years I still vividly recall my first Mother’s Day. My infant son had been lovingly adopted months earlier with an amazing family and I could not help but wonder about their day of celebration. Eight months later I was still finding it difficult to embrace my new title of birthmother. Observing others joyfully recognize their mothers that day didn’t help.

With all good intentions, my parents gave me a Mother’s Day card and this action sent me into a dark hole of angst. I struggled to explain that while I appreciated their intent I did not want to be acknowledged as a mother on Mother’s Day. This was a breakthrough moment for me. I began to understand that I needed to define my role as Birthmother, find my place and my peace with it.

Placing a child for adoption is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. Putting the needs of my child above the wants of my heart while my physical body longed to nurture my baby was not something easily managed or denied. Grief and loss brings almost unendurable pain that is difficult to discuss with others unless they have had a similar experience of profound loss.

Birthmothers often have difficulty finding understanding, sympathy and validation as they grieve a loss without regret for their decision. How can birthmothers be sad while comfortable with their decision? And how can they possibly ever achieve joy in their life journey? Most people cannot understand what appear to be counter intuitive emotions. This lack of acceptance and understanding may be the root cause for a prevailing negative attitude toward adoption as an option for an unplanned pregnancy. Unfortunately there is still a widespread belief that, for the birthmother and the birthfather, it is a difficult journey with few if any rewards.

So, how do we overcome the myths and misconceptions in order to build positive community acceptance for choices made by birthmothers and birthfathers thereby making adoption a valued decision? I believe it is through the personal stories of the love, commitment, empowerment and hope that come from making an informed adoption plan for their child.

Here are some of the life lessons that I have learned throughout my birthmother journey. If you are a birthmother or a birthfather you should know that:

  • You are stronger than you realize and will not let the judgment or ignorance of others define who you are. Trust your decisions and love who you are. Be patient with others and respectfully educate and inform. Utilize a healthy support system. Stay focused and motivated to achieve your goals and you will inspire others. One day your birth child will know you as a person who overcame life-altering circumstances to make a life of fulfillment and your child will be proud.
  • Show love, kindness and respect for yourself and everyone in the adoption circle, respecting each person’s role. Be thankful for and respect the parenting role of the adoptive parents. Support their style, decisions and the goals they set for their child.
  • Be proud of your story. It is unique and so are you. You choose with whom and when you share it. Recognize that it is also the story of your child and his or her parents so be mindful of this, respecting their rights to privacy and respect.
  • Celebrate your birthmother role on Birthmother’s Day—always the day before Mother’s Day as a symbol of being our child’s first mother.
  • You are not alone. Countless women have experienced an unintended pregnancy and made a choice that is right for them and for their child. While every story is unique, adoption has a long history. Your story can make a difference in helping to remove the words shame and blame within the context of an adoption decision. It can also encourage others.

During a radio interview I recall my birth son’s mom being asked if there was any resentment toward me as the one who gave birth to her son. Her gracious response was, “no, Sheryl has been through a challenging time and our journeys have brought our families together through shared loss, grief and ultimately the love of a child. I respect her and I appreciate her.” Wow, that is open adoption.

Fast forward twenty-seven years and meet my birth son who is an amazing young man. Gentle, grounded, humble, intelligent-----yep, I am proud. His strong, caring and hardworking family provided a stable and loving home with the direction and support we all need for a fulfilling life. Today, he calls me “mom.” Initially feeling uncomfortable with this, I confided in my birth son’s mom. I explained that I did not feel that I had earned this coveted title—she had and I did not wish to diminish her role. Wisely, she explained that we are both “moms” with two distinct roles. Neither takes away from the other. Both roles are equally respected, different and special. It was important to him that he demonstrated this truth by addressing us both as Mom. And, let’s face it, it is just easier in trying to introduce the connection. This was my AHA moment….the learning keeps happening and I love it!

If you are part of a birth family we invite you to share your personal experience.

With gratitude,

*photo c/o my good friend Robb Thompson photography

Do You Have Any Children?


In getting to know one another, there are questions in our society we automatically ask without thinking about the weight that they may carry. Recently I was asked one of these questions.

“Do you have any children?”

 I’m sure I looked very confused when I stumbled through my answer and responded with an unconvincing “no.”

I find it kind of comical that to this day I still get thrown off by this question. You would think that after 12 years as a birthmother I would have my answers all sorted out by now. Questions that seem to be simplistic can have many layers of complexities for someone who is a birthmother, and “do you have any children?” does not have a straightforward answer. I feel like I’m lying to people when I say no because that’s not accurate, but saying yes doesn’t seem to quite answer the question. I also know that if I answer fully and honestly, this can open the floodgates to a slew of other questions. I’m not ashamed of my decision to place my daughter. In fact, I’m quite proud of it. I think my hesitation comes from not knowing how others will react when I tell them that I made an adoption plan. People don’t know how to react. Should they show me pity? Sorrow? Sympathy? Happiness? I often find that I’m in a place of reassuring them that yes, I’m okay and proud of my decision, and although there is always sadness that comes with an adoption plan, it was and continues to be the absolute best decision for myself and my birthdaughter. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After talking to other birthmothers, I have realized that my answer to the above question is now “no, I’m not parenting any children”. The person asking won’t realize that I’ve worded my answer differently than what their question asks, however I can share honestly while having the power to reveal these pieces of myself on my own terms. I love sharing my story, but want to do so when I choose to share it. My story belongs to me.

I also think about the parallels between these kinds of questions for adoptive parents. Questions such as “when are you having kids?” is one that for families who are waiting to adopt or exploring adoption has an unclear answer. Adoption can seem complicated and confusing when compared to a straightforward, black and white world; especially to those who don’t understand the beautiful mosaic that is adoption.

So for now I’ll keep opening myself up to those who I decide to be vulnerable with, carefully answering questions in a way that feels comfortable for me in honouring my story, one chosen conversation at a time.

Nathalie R.

Marilyn Shinyei, Our Heart of Adoption Options

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Did you know that Adoption Options was Co-founded by Marilyn Shinyei and Anne Lea in 1984? Adoption Options has been the leader in open adoption in Alberta for over 34 years all because of one incredible lady, Marilyn Shinyei. Although Marilyn is now enjoying retirement we continue to have a close relationship with her. On many occasions we have families contacting us asking where Marilyn is and what she has been up to. We thought we should share one of Marilyn’s recent trips and projects with you. Marilyn, thank you for everything that you have done for us, birth parents and adoptive families; you are truly an inspiration and we miss you. We thought Valentine’s Day was the perfect day to share this story with others as it demonstrates the love you continue to give others who cross your path.

In January I travelled with 9 other Canadian grandmothers to Africa. We were all members of GRAN (grandmothersadvocacynetwork.org). Our trip was organized by the Canadian charity GIVE International and part of the money we paid to GIVE was used to buy supplies for a number of projects that we visited while we were in Uganda. These included schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. So we gave out school kits, paid for breakfast feedings in a slum (fed porridge and a bun to approx 400-500 children one morning) and at a hospital (food is not provided for patients or their families), paid for staff and supplies to create a mobile clinic in a small village (we also gave away donated toothpaste and toothbrushes there), bought staples for a home for disabled children, took donated clothes to a girls’ home and family kits to 21 needy families in a remote village (Kiryowa). The family kits contained a basin, a mattress, a jerry can, soap, salt, blanket, mosquito net and a cooking pot.

On our very first day a most exciting event occurred. By word of mouth it was arranged that almost 200 grandmothers came to meet with us in a rural setting. We have no idea how far some of them had to walk to meet us. We were able to break into small groups of about 40 each and every single grandmother got up to tell her story. It was very moving. We were so happy to be able to provide them with a small lunch afterwards.

But all of the above was covered by our initial fees. In addition we grandmothers had brought about $1250 USD to give away. So together we reviewed all the places we had visited and decided to give that money in a 60/40 split to the school in Kiryowa which we were impressed with and to Home of Hope, the home for disabled children. Many of the other projects have secure funders and were well supported. We had very little trouble reaching a consensus about where to place our money. In Africa all schools whether private or gov’t sponsored require children to have uniforms, pay fees and buy some supplies. Kiryowa is a private school which is serving a wide area of impoverished people. GIVE International has already helped this school considerably.

Home of Hope has an amazing story. Edith, the founder, had a child who became severely disabled with CP after spinal meningitis at 2 days of age was misdiagnosed as malaria. The family really went through a lot including rejection by both of their families as a handicapped child is seen as a curse upon them. There is a huge stigma. Eventually Edith became an advocate for the disabled and began to help others who were caring for disabled children. When her son died she decided to take in the 5 or 6 children she had been visiting. Before long people began dropping off children in her yard – children who had been hidden until then. She kept moving to larger homes until an Italian priest built the current facility for them. It is intended for 36 children and there are now 59 living there. She is quite the visionary. Her oldest child is now studying medicine and two others are in social work. She envisions a medical clinic at Home of Hope with her son staffing it. They are also expanding to build rooms for the children who survive to adulthood and will live out their lives there.

It was very difficult to visit the home. Many children had hydrocephaly. I saw a couple with microcephaly. One child was blind. Most could not walk and were lying on mats or in wheelchairs. Children with CP often suffer from seizures as well and when we visited we learned that paying for the anti-seizure medicine they required was difficult, although their pharmacist did allow them to run a tab and pay when they could. That is partly what motivated us to donate to this home.

Besides visiting the projects near Jinja, Uganda, five of us went on to Kampala to meet with local NGOs as this was, above all, a fact-finding mission. Lastly a different five of us chose to go on to Kenya for a safari. Seeing Africa for the first time, meeting magnificent Ugandans who are working so hard for their people, and then driving on the savannah in Maasai Mara amongst elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, baboons, lions and more — it was all spectacular!


Community Outreach Support

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A huge thank you to Alberta Culture and Tourism for supporting our efforts in Community Outreach, as our Community Initiatives Program (CIP) Operating Grant funding for 2016-2017 comes to a conclusion. 

With the support of this grant, we have conducted dozens of meetings, in-services and information sessions about open adoption with professionals and staff who support those facing an unplanned pregnancy, with a focus on our vulnerable population. These professionals now have a better understanding of adoption as a positive option and of the services Adoption Options offers. We have participated in several conferences and showcases where we connected with and provided adoption information to medical, social services, educational and adoption professionals and guests. The grant funding enabled us to reach out to over 250 agencies and organizations throughout Alberta and provide them with information and brochures. Our goal is to ensure anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy has accurate information about adoption as an option, and awareness that Adoption Options offers professional option counselling to support decision-making. 

The CIP grant funded 28 Adoption Awareness sessions in Alberta high school classrooms reaching hundreds of students, ensuring young people have accurate information about open adoption and counselling services available, so they can make an informed decision if they find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy at any time in their lives. Students engage in positive adoption language and understanding, reducing the stigma of adoption. High School Counselling and Wellness Centres now have brochures available for staff and sudents seeking information about adoption, option counselling and the support offered by Adoption Options.

Thank you to the Government of Alberta for helping us increase our community presence and connections in so many ways - raising awareness, advancing education, dispelling myths and creating important community partnerships. We couldn’t have done all of this without the support of the funding. 

 The CIP Operating Grant supports core operations and capacity building for non-profit organizations whose mission, outcomes and activities align with three priority areas:

  • Enhancing the quality of life of Albertans by providing direct programs and services that address social issues,
  • Creating equitable access to human, social and economic resources and services for all Albertans, and
  • Supporting community collaborations, involving multiple organizations to address broader human or social issues

Bill 206

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Alberta Adoption Advertising bill is to allow Alberta licensed adoption agencies to place profiles of approved and waiting prospective adoptive applicants on the licensed adoption agency website. Regulations are still to be developed prior to the approval of this bill. Please review the link below for the Alberta legislature for further understanding.

http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=bills_status... 11

Last year there was much discussion and media attention as this Bill regarding advertising legislation for the purpose of adopting a child or placing a child for adoption was debated and ultimately unanimously proclaimed in legislature. What does this then mean? A copy of Bill 206 is linked above. Committees are now meeting to discuss regulation development to support this change. As noted in the Bill, prospective adoptive parents must be approved and waiting with a licensed adoption agency and guidelines around profile postings will be developed and administered through the agency licensed in Alberta. Adoption Options fully supports this modernization of the adoption legislation with the understanding from our stakeholders that we need to ensure privacy and protection for all involved. Adoption Options is working hard to advocate thoughtful regulation development with Alberta Children’s Services. I have personally had many meetings, phone calls and emails with Directors from other provinces, agencies, stakeholders, community members, lawyers, MLAs and the list goes on. This includes review of other provinces adoption regulations and even a few states in the United States. All to ensure this is done effectively, carefully and is tangible.

There is much to consider. In fact, many media postings about this Bill lead the reader to believe that as of January 1, 2018 people can advertise for adoption. No! Penalties for those in contravention of this remain in effect. This would include anyone posting on social media their desire to place a child for adoption or be placed with a child through adoption. There is lots to be done still…from general education development and implementation, technology changes / development, legal requirements, and clear regulations for all to follow. I look forward to providing you with an update with this developing regulation change. We expect it to take time.

2018 will bring many changes for Adoption Options and we believe it will be an exciting and busy year! Stay tuned, as we will likely be seeking volunteer support to implement necessary changes coming.

Wishing each of you the very best.

We remain committed to ensuring best adoption practice always.

Sheryl Proulx BSW, RS
Executive Director

Hearts of Adoption Options

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I was at superstore today and that annoying “sign up for our MasterCard” guy approached me. Well, after a few minutes of me explaining that I already own one, he decided to comment on my two children and their ethnic diversity.

Of course, I could have just shrugged it off and walked away leaving his imagination to fill in the blanks. But it’s November— November is National Adoption Awareness month. So I decided to explain how we have been blessed with adoption.

“Oh, so you adopted this one and the other must be yours.” He said referring ‘the other’ to the child who looks closer to my genetic profile.

(I breathed out my feelings of outrage - he probably didn’t understand how offensive that statement was).

With a forced smile I explained, “They are both mine, AND we adopted both.”

He took a beat. I think it was his way of acknowledging his mistake.

Then he wanted to know how we were going to handle the ‘awkward’ conversation, “You know: YOU’RE ADOPTED.” And when exactly we’d tell the kids? “Probably when they’re a little older and can understand?”

I told him we already had that conversation. We had it when we met them at the hospital; when we brought them home. I have it every time I’m compiling my weekly emails; when ever I get a call/text/message from one of their TMs (Tummy Mom). Also when I put them into an outfit TM gave us or their playing with a toy from TM and always when we have a visit!

It won’t be a secret so it will never be a surprise.

I don’t think he was really listening to me because he then asked what we’d do if our kids wanted to meet their birth mothers.

With another forced smile I told him there wouldn’t be any ‘meeting’ their TM’s — they will already know them (we see them as often as we can). I even added how excited we are to be having dinner with our son’s TM this Saturday. She is up in Edmonton so we don’t get to see her as much as we’d like. Our daughter’s TM is closer so we have weekly visits with her.

He was shocked. “And that works for you?!!”


“But the kids are yours.” He said.

I nodded, “Yes, they are mine and I am mom, my husband is dad, we are their parents. Nothing will change that.”

He asked if there was any way the birth mom could take them back.

I assured him there wasn’t.

At this point he confessed he couldn’t understand why we’d keep the birth mothers in the picture.

My question is: why wouldn’t we? These are amazing woman — woman who’s only ‘short coming’ was finding themselves pregnant when they weren’t in the best place to parent. Woman who then made a truly sacrificial choice to find their child a couple who was.

These are the kinds of people we want in our lives — in our children’s lives. Having contact with TM does not diminish our child’s life experiences, it enhances them.

I really tried to explain this to the PC MasterCard guy.

In the end he confessed that he was asking all these questions because he knows someone who is thinking about growing their family through adoption.

To which I encouraged him to tell his someone that it is a wonderful experience. One I am thrilled to be a part of.

Ok, so ‘yeah me’ I’ve done my part to spread adoption awareness. You know it wasn’t easy to stay in that awkward, slightly off putting, conversation! But I did. Respectfully. And now, because of me one more person knows what a positive experience open adoption can be. And with any luck his ‘someone’ will hear about it too.

Aviva B.

Hearts of Adoption Options

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A child born to another woman calls me mama. The beauty and the tragedy of that are not lost on me, and I reflect on it often. November is Adoption Awareness month so I thought I’d share a few of these thoughts to help shed light on the this loving option. If any of you reading this have questions I am more than happy to talk about my experience, so please feel free to ask away. We went through the Adoption Options agency and they are a great resource for adoptive and birth families alike so anyone needing help for themselves, or if you know someone who needs it, I encourage you to contact them.

For my own story, the thought I keep coming back to is how full of love adoption is. Love has been by our sides through this whole journey. It started with the love I have for my husband and our desire to have a family. It was in the love that supported us through the pain of negative pregnancy tests, fertility troubles, long years of paperwork, interviews, and so much waiting. It was in the near blinding love I felt when I first laid eyes on my daughter (and every time since). It was in the beautiful, humbling love in Elora’s birth mother’s tears as her daughter was placed with us; full of pain for herself, knowing that despite that love, she didn’t feel she was able to give Elora the life she deserved, so she made the selfless choice. It is in the love behind the e-mails, videos, and the visit with Elora’s birth mother, as we continue to build our relationship.

I can never repay Elora’s birth family for the gift we were given but I can promise that I will spend every day for the rest of my life trying to be worthy of that gift and that Elora will always know how very much she is loved. Not only by her birth mother, her first mother, and her birth family, but by Jeff and I. By her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, other extended family, and friends.

It is a love that will only continue to grow. With every laugh, every snuggle, in every mid-night wake up, in every dream for the future. Each happy moment drives out the power of the painful ones from before the adoption, where waiting and wondering filled the days instead. Love shines the light that proves each of those painful memories was worth it because it got us here. Exactly here, with exactly her. Infertility is very hard, as I imagine an unplanned pregnancy is. But together, through adoption, love found a way 

Hearts of Adoption Option

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   I was 28 when we 1st started trying to get pregnant. Sitting in the waiting room of the fertility clinic is when we discussed adoption as a possibility. Following my 30th birthday is when that possibility started to look a lot better than the hormones and procedures that ended with no results.
   We picked an agency and started the process of getting on the wait list - for us that took nearly a year. 2 years ago we finally made it onto the active waiting list, I think we were spot #147 of waiting families. The average wait time is 3-5 years!
   We were approached in that 1st year about having our file shown to a family but ultimately decided that it was not an ideal match for us. I was really torn over wanting to step up and be the right family and yet felt really overwhelmed with all that would entail. I also was really not looking forward to potentially 3 years without a match - what if we passed up this up and never got another call again?
   So, we settled in for a year and a half of waiting. We finished our landscaping, went to Cuba, and tried to live in the moment rather than waiting for the future.
      This year on St. Patrick's day I got the call we had been waiting for! A social worker called to say we had been matched - we were the chosen family! All I could do was listen, I was crying too hard to speak. I called Trevor, my mom, family and friends, I felt like I was going to burst I was so filled with emotion.
   We met the birth mother the following week and then our weeks were filled with trying to get ready for baby. During that time I took supplements and pumped so that I could breastfeed when the baby arrived.
   At the same time, we kept in contact with the birth mother through emails. Looking back there were plenty of signs that the adoption wouldn't go thru, but we chose to focus on hope instead.
   May long weekend we got a text she was in labour so off to the hospital we went. After a long drive we got there to find out she no longer wanted us in the delivery room with her, so we waited. The baby was born and still we waited. In the end, we waited 12 hours only to find out she had changed her mind.
   I was absolutely devastated, and I'm so grateful Trevor was able to keep it together to get us home. I'm grateful to my mom, G, C, K, J, and everyone else that helped us pick up the pieces.
   I learned a lot about myself, Trevor, and our marriage through this experience. I can be strong even when I feel broken. I have a strong partner to lean on and keep me going. We have an amazing support system of family and friends who know that healing involves a lot of crying, anger, quietness, and knowing just how to be there for us.

So we're still waiting, and still have hope that that when it's right it will be right

Hearts of Adoption Options - Surviving Chaos Through Hope

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A friend and adoptive mom we met through AO asked us to speak at a Women’s Service at her church in December 2012. The theme for this pre-Christmas service was chaos and hope and at the time our son was just a year old and she thought our recent adoption story seemed to fit. Since we only had four minutes to speak, we decided to use a point-form format to summarize the 5 years previous to being placed with us. Perhaps this will be helpful to give hope to those in the adoption world going through their own chaos.

In the past 5 years of Chaos, the universe gave to us:

  • One heartbreaking mismatch for a newborn baby girl
  •  Two job changes
  • Three loved ones with cancer and on-going treatments
  • Four years of waiting for THE CALL, uncertain if it will be tomorrow or years away
  •  FINALLY THE CALL came… five more weeks of waiting…  (Will she change her mind? Will we be heartbroken again?)
  •  She’s in labour – a six hour drive to Lloydminster
  •  Hit a deer just outside of Edmonton
  • Called a tow truck, car is not fit to drive, luckily we were not hurt
  •  Took a $500 taxi to Lloyd, arrived at 4 in the morning
  •  False alarm – NO BABY, drive home to Calgary in rental car
  •  Two more weeks of waiting
  • Water breaks – we’re on
  • 40 hours of waiting… labour finally induced
  • At 10:25pm on November 20, 2011 our little miracle Dominic arrives, almost 4 weeks premature
  •  4 AM-He’s airlifted to the NICU at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton
  • We follow hours later in the daylight to avoid all animals
  •  While in the NICU we persevered through the 10 day waiting period when his birthmother could legally change her mind
  •  16 day stay in the NICU and waiting to finally take our boy home
  •  Figuring out how to be parents (still on-going)

How did we keep the hope?

  • Leaning heavily on each other and others - friends, family, colleagues, the agency, and finally a therapist
  • Wine for Ingrid, chocolate for Kelly
  • Trusting in the universe
  • Letting go of when, how, where, who
  •  Pharmaceutical intervention – sleeping pills (during the 10 day wait)
  •  Doing what we love – escaping to the mountains, golfing for Ingrid, gardening for Kelly, cooking together
  • Trying really hard to stay in the moment
  • Travelling – to distract and just get away from the waiting
  • Reminding each other that someone WILL choose US
  •  Looking for the positive and life lessons, rather than dwelling on the negative
  • Appreciating all the angels we met along the way – social workers, tow truck driver, taxi driver, nurses, volunteers
  • GRATITUDE-for our amazing family and friends, for Ronald MacDonald House and the NICU in Edmonton for helping us realize our situation could have been so much worse-Gratitude for AO and all the amazing people that have come into our lives through this experience

Sure, it was difficult AND we are so thankful we kept the hope. We have a beautiful, healthy boy and he is worth every chaotic second. Now that he’s a kindergartener the chaos and hope continues!

Kelly, Ingrid and Dominic

Hearts of Adoption Options - Negative Adoption Language

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I wish I could say that twenty-seven years after our birth grandson was lovingly placed with parents who were ready and able to raise a family hateful or ill-considered language is now in the past.  Not so.  When recounting our own adoption birth family experience I still get comments such as, “I could never give away my baby.”  Or, “we adopted a girl years ago----she was “unwanted.”  And even, “if that had been my daughter she wouldn’t be allowed in the house.”

I try not to judge the people who made these comments believing that if “they knew better they would speak better.” I wish the lady who thinks we gave away a baby could have sat with us through countless family meetings and sessions with social workers as we worked together to make a plan that was, quite simply, right for this unexpected but already deeply loved child. And, had the person who thinks adopted children are unwanted been in the hospital elevator with us as we left our baby behind she too might have stepped back with the others as people do in respectful silence for the emotions that rode with us: loss, grief and despair. Finally, for the man that would have shunned his daughter I would have him see the close, respectful and loving relationship between our daughter and her Dad.

As a practicing Christian my faith was sorely tested when I tried to take control of the situation by going into overprotection mode for both my daughter and my unborn grandchild.  In reality, we did not have any legal say in our teenage daughter’s decisions and we came to understand that our job was to be supportive.  Once I let go and let God take over I know there was a divine intervention that surrounded our family with the best social workers and health care professionals. And, ultimately, the blessing of our grandson’s Mom, Dad and big brother who welcomed him with love and compassion for our family.  Much of our “positive adoption language” was learned as the language of love from our grandson’s family.  I hope that the Christian cross wearing hospital nursery nurse who scowled at us and created difficulties saw and felt some of this divine intervention at work thereby softening her heart toward other young women making an adoption plan. If so, she might say, “I admire you for your strength and know that you do not walk alone.”

Friends, relatives and acquaintances do not mean to degrade adoption. They simply lack the knowledge that negative language comes across as judging the morality of others. It also diminishes the birth family’s heart rendering process of making an adoption plan that is in the child’s best interest.  As a birth grandparent I am forever grateful for the grandson whom I have had the joy of watching grow into the wonderful man he is while being lovingly embraced as an extension of his family.  And, I remain in awe of my then sixteen-year old daughter whose courage; sense of responsibility and love for her baby led her to Adoption Options. 

More birth families need to celebrate adoption by telling uplifting stories of love, compassion, healing and joy. This is how you change attitudes and language.

Hearts of Adoption Options: Waiting for the phone to ring

The week we’re just finishing brings up an odd load of emotions every year. I know I’m not the only one who feels it – it’s obvious my parents and brothers feel it too. I can tell by the way we ritualistically sit around the table and tell the same familiar stories – but laugh as though it’s the first time we’ve heard them. My baby brother will randomly whistle in a twangy, sweet vibrato and an unacknowledged silence will occasionally fill the room as we swallow down the sadness that somehow creeped into our throats.

Five years ago my husband and I were waiting for the phone to ring. We had been matched with a birth mother who was due to have her baby any day. She had anticipated the baby would come early, which hadn’t happened, so every twenty-four hours that passed felt like an eternity. Try as I might to find words to explain the anticipation, fear and excitement that fills your heart while waiting for the possibility of being a parent again – totally elude me. Our future was being held in the hands of a stranger – a woman who was working to find the strength to sacrifice her own happiness and ultimately contribute to ours. It is the most bizarre feeling; a constant bitter-sweet tang on the heart.

One morning as I was getting ready for the work, the phone rang. I sucked in a rush of air, had an intense, silent conversation with my husband, and answered the receiver. The voice that met me was not of our social worker, but rather my mother, who told me my grandfather had left the world in his sleep the evening before.

My grandpa was one of those men everyone felt they had a special relationship with – and probably because they did. He had a gift of letting you know you had a place in his life different from those around you and while I have a bucket full of cherished memories of being the eldest (and very spoiled) grandchild on my grandparent’s magical farmyard – it’s the years I spent with him in my twenties that have left the mark on my heart.

When my husband and I embarked on our grown-up life, we were living in a place a long ways from anywhere. The closest family to us were my grandparents. Alzheimers was claiming my grandmother, and the effects of it were also claiming what was left of my grandpa’s spirit, so I would drive the three hours to my grandparent’s home every other weekend to give him a break, plan my wedding and to visit. And visit, we did. Sitting on the couch, the news blaring on the tv and the smell of fried potatoes wrapping around me, I became great friends with my grandfather. We talked about everything – from the war to politics to professions to family. It was during this time I realized my grandpa was the most truly Christian man I would ever know. He was well aware God gave him a life He didn’t grant to most of the men he knew in his youth and he lived a life that truly reflected the respect he had for His decision. He had three basic rules he expected all of us to follow: Love God, work hard, and always put family first. The first time I ever heard the line, ‘God doesn’t make mistakes’, was when it came from my grandfather’s lips in reference to a subject most 80 year old men would refuse to even discuss. Those words never left me.

One year I was sitting beside him on the couch, swallowing down the tears, trying to tell him I had ‘lost the baby’ the night before. He reached over, held my hand, and matter-of-factly told me of the losses my grandmother and him had had in their years. He said to me, “there are other ways to for babies to come into your life, you know.” And I did know. My grandparents had two children biologically and two children through adoption. Not only were they pioneers in the oil and gas industry in a muddy, little town in the middle of no where, but also pioneers in the way of multiracial families – which in their time, was a big friggin’ deal. (I should make it clear that it may have been a big deal in their time – but not in their home. I grew up listening to my grandparents speak openly about adoption and was completely unaware of biases, race issues and ignorance – because it simply did not exist in our family.) We were taught souls come into your home, your life and your family because God wants them to be there and the differences between you only add sugar to this life. Even though my heart was dripping with tears that day on the couch over the loss of the baby I never got to have, I knew my grandpa was reminding me God doesn’t make mistakes.

So when my mother’s phone call came that morning, I wasn’t only devastated over the loss of my grandpa, but fully aware I would likely miss the goodbyes. I was going to miss the funeral of one of my best friends because the the baby was going to come any moment. I questioned God. I asked Him ‘Why? Why now? Why today?’ Not only was I consumed by the feeling of sadness – but of anger at the lack of control we had in our lives. Didn’t He understand I needed that man right now? Didn’t He know my grandpa was part of the club of people who knew what it was like to be in our position? I wasn’t supposed to be saying goodbye to him – but celebrating the life coming into our home with him. This had to be a mistake.

But the week went on. The phone never rang, the funeral was planned, the family arrived, the laughter, the tears and stories poured out. The sun shined, the birds sang (in a twangy, sweet vibrato) and we said our goodbyes.

On this day five years ago, the day following my grandpa’s funeral, we all sat around on the family farm in the warmth of the sun and the comfort of ‘home’ and experienced the kind of moment that would make my grandpa’s heart smile. I remember sitting there, with my feet up and family around me, thinking for the first time since we jumped on the adoption train, I felt peace.

And wouldn’t you know it, the phone rang.

No mistake about it.

Happy birthday, my Captain.

Miss you, my Grandpa.


Hearts of Adoption Options

Erin is the author of “A Mother’s Love” a Hearts of Adoption Options blog that was published on Birthmothers’ Day. Here is another contribution that she has allowed us to share. Grab the tissues...

So a thing happened today. My son behaved expectantly.

Not at first, but it happened.

I’m not sure that any family truly appreciates their pet the way they should. Life is chaos with children in the house and often our pets are just more of that chaos…loveable, furry chaos that helps us ensure our floors are never clean and our clothes are never hair-free.

However, pets play an absolutely enormous role in our lives. I was reminded of that tonight as my family and I sat with our golden doodle while she fell into her forever slumber. (It’s ironic that I just typed that because those types of references have been exactly what we’ve been battling all week.) She is not asleep, the Captain would tell you, she died.

You see, trying to prepare a six year old child with Autism that his dog - and his best friend - is going to die is an incredibly difficult task. There is no room for fluff and softness. There can be no metaphors, no magical places, no heavenly dog-runs - he needed to know where she was going, why she was going there and for how long she would be gone. The talks were raw and real; traumatizingly anatomical even. But the Captain accepted all the words thrown at him as information and went about everyday as though it was the same as the day before. He had no apparent appreciation for the depth of sorrow about to come his way. In fact, I was worried he would feel no sorrow at all. It probably sounds odd to hear a mother say she’s worried her child would feel no sadness, but our son has a natural lack of empathy; an inability to comprehend the emotions of those around him and often his emotional behaviour does not match the circumstance.

Until today.

Today my sweet Casey, the Captain’s best friend, taught him what loss FEELS like.

We try very hard to plan how things are going to ‘go down’ - but that’s never how it works. We had planned on leaving the kids at home when we took Casey to the vet - but the Big Kid, entirely hysterical, felt she needed to be with her in the car. With our built-in babysitter no longer providing her babysitting services, we were forced to bring the Captain along for the ride as well. Following this adjustment, we had planned on the children staying in the car while the parents took the dog in. (go ahead, report us.) This plan lasted right up until it was time to take Casey into the building. Suddenly the Captain, who had remained completely mechanical and detached throughout the entire day, snapped into action and refused to leave Casey’s side. The Big Kid then tumbled out of the back of the vehicle, refusing to leave the Captain’s side and so the four of us, heads hanging, stumbled into the clinic, our beloved dog in tow.

I’m not sure what that would have looked like to the staff who stayed after hours for us. I mean, who brings their small child in to watch a pet die?

“He has Autism,” I squeaked out.

“He feels he needs to be here.”

With a nod she led us into a room and put a blanket down for Casey.

As soon as the door closed the Captain started firing questions. “Hey-hey-hey…d-d-don’t you have needles that help dogs stay alive instead of needles to make them die?” he asked her forcefully. The assistant’s eyes instantly filled with tears and she shot a look my way. “I’ll give you some time,” she said before slipping out the door.

“That’s not how it works, baby,” I answered.

“I-I-I-I don’t want to be here, let’s take Casey home,” he spat tearless, but clearly uncomfortable. The Big Kid, inconsolable and yet still prepared, pulled her iPod out of her pocket and handed it to him. He sat in the corner and became engrossed in his game, seemingly unaffected by the tears of his parents and sister.

Shortly after, the vet came in and prepared us for our goodbye. As he stuck the plunger into her catheter, the Captain hopped out of his chair, stood right beside the veterinarian and surprised us all when a sound climbed out of his throat and through the air. He was crying. No, he wasn’t just crying, he was sobbing - broken and jagged as he begged Casey not to die.

This sounds horrific, I know.

It was.

And also, it wasn’t.

Today our Casey gave our Captain the opportunity to feel. Feelings, my friends, are a gift. How would we recognize happiness if not for recognizing sadness? In her final moments she blessed my son with the gift of realizing his love for her.

Today my son behaved expectantly.

Not at first, but it happened.

{goodnight, sweet Casey}.

-Erin Peden

Hearts of Adoption Options - Life in Limbo

We are “paper pregnant.” We share our experience because we know from our time with Adoption Options that we are just one of many families who have planted “the seed” and are patiently (or not so patiently) counting down the seconds until their family grows. We feel validated, encouraged, and celebrated by knowing we are not alone in our journey.

Adoption Options currently indicates that the wait for domestic adoption averages three to four years. We are currently in the midst of year three. The first year of our wait felt frenzied and emotional. I experienced my own “expectant mother nesting phase.” We prepared a nursery, took a parenting class, worked on a will, and attended the Waiting and Adoptive Parent Support Group more often. This was also a year of simultaneous and often overwhelming grief. Although we were relieved to be “paper pregnant,” we knew the wait ahead of us would be long. Invitations to baby showers and toddler birthday parties felt especially triggering. It often took me weeks to work up the courage and self-compassion to hold the newborn babies of our loved ones only to come home later and lose myself in my tears of longing. In moments that we lost hope for ourselves, we counted on our loved ones to “hold our hope” for us.

Year two of our wait was a very different experience. We somehow felt “closer” to becoming parents and made a choice to embrace our life without children. We recognized that many of the liberties we experience would disappear and we decided to make the very most of our current circumstance. We went on a bucket list trip to Africa, planned impromptu road trips, joined sports teams, and went for drinks with friends after work. We did all of these activities while choosing gratitude instead of resentment. This significant and intentional shift in our attitudes felt miraculous. It allowed us to live in the moment instead of constantly yearning for the future.

We are early in the midst of year three of our wait and feelings have evolved once again. Our match could be tomorrow; it could be a year from now. Regardless, we feel incredibly hopeful that that longest part of our wait is behind us. We are saving money, squirrelling away vacation days, and paying much closer attention to childrearing advice from our parenting friends and family. We feel anxious that we cannot prepare in the traditional way expectant families might. As we are unsure of the age of the child we will be matched with, we have not been able to buy much aside from a car seat. We cannot have diapers ready or formula selected. We cannot prearrange a leave of absence from our jobs. For a couple that prides themselves in being organized and prepared, our current limbo is not a place of comfort! Despite not knowing, there is a growing feeling of excitement this year.

In considering what we would want to share with families considering adoption, we believe that giving ourselves "permission to feel” has been an essential strategy for coping. One of the more challenging aspects of waiting has been the myriad of emotions that percolate with the pregnancies that swirl around us and the “almost matches” we have experienced during our time on the waitlist.

In the five years we have tried for a family, a number of significant people in our lives have had as many as three children in the time we have yearned for one. Some of these pregnancies were intentional; some were not. We have been conflicted with the often opposing feelings that arise when an announcement is made. Despite our absolute conviction that domestic adoption is the right path for us, infertility grief lingers. One of our most helpful coping strategies has involved acknowledging and embracing multiple, and often juxtaposing emotions in any given moment. We allow ourselves to be sad, jealous, and discouraged for us as we simultaneously pulse with joy and excitement for our expecting friends and family. We consciously remind ourselves that having conflicting feelings does not imply that we are “bad” people. Instead we choose to believe that acknowledging the challenging emotions honors our experience and our unique path to parenthood. We value that learning to tolerate and process dichotomous emotions will help to prepare us for our tremendous joy in being matched and overwhelming grief for the loss experienced by our child’s birth family.

When we are honored with the ultimate gift of parenthood through open adoption we will be able to say with certainty to our little one and to his or her birth family that the experience of our wait is an undeniable testament to how deeply we yearned for and are committed to our uniquely beautiful family.

Sending loads of love and light to all of the waiting families and to the incredible birth families that selflessly allow our dreams to come true.

Hearts of Adoption Options - A Mother's Love

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He needed to be changed, but I wasn’t ready to let go of him so I quickly swapped his diaper while he lay in my lap. His light blue sweat suit was just a little too oversized for his tiny body and the black silk hair on his head stood straight up. He was perfect. He was beautiful. And he had no idea he was the reason for so many tears.

“How am I going to tell her?” I kept asking myself, wondering how I was going to explain to my daughter that he was no longer ours. The brother we had promised her couldn’t come home with us and once again we were a family of three.

We had known this was a very real possibility before we even began our adoption journey, but the knowledge of potential pain never quite prepares you for the pain itself.

“I love you,” I whispered into his little ear. “I have to give you back, Baby. You’re not mine.” Choking back the sobs and fighting the urge to scream, I handed our precious cargo over to the social worker. My husband, Jay, slowly picked up the empty carseat and the two of us left the building.

There are a few moments after your heart breaks but before the sadness settles in where your mind tries to process the events around you. As Jay and I climbed into the car I was struck by the similarities between that moment and ten days before. Except that this time, we were on the other side.

Ten days prior we were filled with anticipation and joy and excitement.

“Hello you,” I whispered to him when his mother handed him over to me. I started to inspect all his unfamiliar features. He wasn’t the plump, pink, bald baby I had handed to me the first time I became a mother. This time I was falling in love with caramel skin and black hair. While this little person did not come from my body, I still shook with tears and exhaustion and absolute joy when I clutched him in my arms. There is a ‘feeling’ that comes when you know you are someone’s mom; the pride of having the lifelong occupation of adoration and advocacy sweeps over you. His little body was swaddled in my lap as my husband and I gazed down at our new son, Albi. Albi was the name she had given him which meant ‘my heart’ - a name so perfect for a child who already held the love of so many people.

“She already loves him so much,” his birth mother said to the social worker. I reached over and grabbed her hand. “Yes,” was all I managed to get out. We all sat in silence, wiping away dripping tears and celebrated the beautiful child before us.

Now, while this is a true depiction of what happened in that moment, make no mistake, adoption tales are much more than fluffy stories about couples receiving a desperately desired child.

For in order for one to receive, another must give.

While my husband and I sat there in bliss, prepared to smother the world with our love, another woman sat there wondering how she was going to pick up the pieces of her broken heart. It would be dishonest of me if I didn’t admit I was acutely aware of this. Worse than that - I was terrified of her love for his baby.

After five years of wanting, trying and aching for a child - Jay and I knew someone was missing. A life was meant to join our team and after processing the loss of the babies my body couldn’t hold onto, we knew the Captain of our little team would have to come from someone else. We were game to deeply love another soul and felt so blessed adoption was going to give us that opportunity.

But I couldn’t put away the memories of the ‘feels’ that came with being pregnant with my daughter. The deep, intense love that grew for her as the days passed with her in my belly were the same intense feelings Albi’s birth mother would have felt while she carried him.

I mean, he grew under her heart. That leaves a mark.

So we were not entirely surprised when we received a message on our final day of the revocation period that our fears were confirmed: her love for him was too strong, the hole was too big, the need too much.

Yes, there were great similarities between that day and ten days prior. Because amongst the heartache and sadness, there was also anticipation and joy and excitement - and while it wasn’t us who were able to experience those emotions this time, we were able to find a small piece of peace in the knowledge that our Albi, our heart, would spend his life deeply loved.

The ride back to town was silent, save for the occasional sob and once we entered our home I fell into a very dark hole.

But this isn’t the end of our story.

You see, only 24 hours later our phone rang again and we were asked to step back into our Albi’s life. There was no decision to be made, our hearts had made it for us before he was even born.

Sitting in the little apartment Albi’s birth mother lived in, my life changed forever. Not only because I was gifted with a child I already loved, but because of the lesson I walked away with.

“I am a good mother,” she said to me tearfully, her familiar brown eyes piercing my heart. “I love him and I want him - but I can’t give him the same things you can.” If love was enough, she said, then she would be enough too.

It was on that day I experienced the complete ferocity of a mother’s love. Because she grew a person under her heart and that leaves a mark - and that mark, her mark, would be a scar as she let me raise her son. I vowed in that moment that my lifelong occupation of adoration and advocacy would not only be for him, but also for her - a woman who loved my son so profoundly that she let me call him ‘my son’.

Indeed, sitting in the little apartment Albi’s birth mother lived in, my life changed forever. For I learned one of life’s hardest truths: that in order for one to receive, another must give. *** For all Birth Mother’s, you are loved and appreciated beyond words. Happy Birth Mother’s Day

Erin Peden

Hearts of Adoption Options

I had Jessica when I was just shy of 17 years old. I was in love instantly. She was such a joy to be around, always smiling and making me laugh. A few months went by and I thought to myself, what does her life look like through her eyes? Hmm, not as great as I'd like it to be. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible but it wasn't enough. A friend of mine told me about Adoption Options so I went to their office and looked at a few files. Jessica was 6 months old at this time. I took 3 files home with me so I could continue looking them over. They just didn't feel like the right fit. Jessica and I spent her first birthday together, heaven for me but I still knew, there needs to be more. Then a new file came in and I immediately headed over to Adoption Options. I read it over and looked at all of the pictures and I knew, this is her family! It was one of those "clouds part, angels sing" moments! We met a few days later and they were perfect for us. Jessica even crawled over and hugged her soon to be mom. Talk about meant to be 🙂 It was just around Christmas time and I thought about having her for one more Christmas but then wouldn't it be just amazing for this new couple and Jessica to share their first of many Christmas's together starting right now? We made arrangements (contract) of seeing each other 6 times a year and pictures every 2 months and special occasions. This didn't always work out but maybe I asked for too much. They needed to have a life too and not have to always worry about sending me letters and pictures. Fast forward to Jessica being 11. Now that she's a little lady she wanted to start chatting on the phone. Our first phone call lasted a few hours 🙂 And then over the years we chatted on the phone, Skype'd and I visited her several times a year. As she got older she would come see me, spending reading week with me etc. She lives in Calgary, I live in Vancouver. I remember fondly that she was dating a boy who really wanted to meet her 'tummy mommy' so on one of my visits to see her I met this young man. He is now her husband 🙂 Wouldn't you know it, I met my husband the same year they got married! And now it's not just visiting her, it's visiting our 5 grandbabies too! She has said many times how fortunate she feels that her children have 3 sets of active grandparents (his parents, her parents and me and my husband). We are all so very fortunate! And I feel very fortunate that Adoption Options exists, otherwise I would not have been able to keep in contact and have all of these beautiful babies in my life!!! Nor would I see the exceptional woman Jessica turned into!

Hearts of Adoption Options

Most of us are aware that the divorce rate continues to rise amongst Canadians. It is important to remember that our adoptive families are not immune to these statistics and in fact the divorce rate in adoptive families is even higher. A special thank you to the author of the latest edition of Hearts of Adoption Options for sharing her story. We appreciate her openness.

I am an adoptive mother. I am divorced. I am a single mother. None of these things I thought I would ever be in my life. When you sit down with your social worker and complete your hours of home studies, you delve into the depths of your marriage with your partner. They ask your strengths, your weaknesses, what you struggle with. And I remember so vividly that being the least nerve wracking part of the home study, because we were solid. Of course every couple has their issues and things they need to work on, but not once did I think there was anything about my marriage that would be of concern.

And then we became parents. On a totally uneventful January day I got a phone call. A social worker asked me to pull over, and my heart began to race. A baby had been born. His birth parents had looked at our profile and wanted to meet us. And just like that, in that one instant, our lives changed forever. This little boy, this tiny little 5lb baby boy, was born in our hearts. We met his birth parents. We got to hug them and thank them and promise that we would take care of their little boy for the rest of our lives. And then two mothers were born in that room; one who gave life and one who came alive with their gift. To trust two people to love and care for their son? Gift doesn't even begin to describe what that is. They wanted love and laughter and stability for him. They felt like we were their soul mates, and we felt like they were ours. And this innocent little baby was the connection that tied our hearts together for life.

Then the unthinkable. The thing that only happens to 'other' people. Never to us, not to our family. The realization that some things are just so beyond our control. You imagine what your life will look like, the path that you will travel. Meeting someone, getting married, having babies, living happily ever after. But the babies didn't come, despite the trying. Despite the fertility treatments and the years of anguish. And then we were parents, and 9 months later became shockingly pregnant with another baby boy, and our little family was complete. Until it fell apart.

That time in our lives was a roller coaster of confusion and pain and this feeling of detachment that this was actually happening. I will never forget the moment I thought of his birth parents. I was standing in my kitchen, still living in a fog of shock, when they sprang into my mind. There was instant sadness and guilt, instant tears; all those promises we had made to give him the best, to give him stability; all of a sudden they were gone. Would they be disappointed? Would they regret the decision they made if they knew? Would they want something better for their son whom they trusted us with? It was the heaviest feeling I had ever known.

But here is what I know now. Now that a year and a half has passed. Now that divorce documents have been signed by a judge who doesn't know us, who doesn't know our story. Who doesn't know our little boy. What I know is love. The love has not changed. The love I have for him as a mama. The love his daddy has for him. The love our families and friends have for him. If anything, it has made my connection with him become even stronger as I watch him grow through this with tenderness and resiliency beyond his years. The other day while cuddling in bed he said "Mama, I feel sad for my brother". I cocked my head and asked him why and he said "because he only has one mama, and I have two!". Oh sweet boy. Nothing about that has changed. You have me. You have your birth mother. You have your daddy. You have your birth father. And in all the ways the lives of the four of us have changed and swirled through the wind like wild dandelions, the one thing I am certain of is that the love for you has never changed and never will.

-Amy Bell

Hearts of Adoption Options

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The DALAKOUDIS family is on the Blog!! Photo courtesy of Amy Bell from Modern Nest Photography. (www.modernnestphotography.com) Amy Bell is a proud adoptive mother who has a soft spot for capturing the love of families created through adoption.

Adoption is now sewn into my very being. I cannot imagine not being Jordan's mom. We chose to adopt and thank goodness we did because Jordan is in my soul forever. We don't have a story of years of trying to conceive. We got married young and didn't conceive after 4 years of marriage. After consulting with doctors we were encouraged to try fertility drugs and treatment. This did not feel right to me. So we decided to explore adoption. Immediately I knew this was my preferred choice for starting a family. It makes me cringe when people say "oh how come you had to adopt?". I always respond with "I didn't have to adopt...it was the best choice I ever made!".

So ironically, after nine months of waiting we became parents to Jordan. It was an instant placement. I was sitting at my desk working away in the morning and by the afternoon I was a full blown mom with no warning. Adoption is not easy. It's a constant emotional roller coaster, but worth it in every way possible. From waiting to be picked by birth parents, to wondering if you and your child will bond and then trying to build healthy relationships so your child is given opportunity to develop in a world knowing they belong. I would do all of it a million times over again if it meant in the end I was Jordan’s mom.

He is now 8 years old and he is starting to ask the questions that I knew would come. I just want him to know that he is loved by so many people in this world. We are so connected that I know he feels we are meant to be together. I never want to take away the fact that there is also a birthmom out there, who also loves him very much. We have not been able to have a relationship with her because of circumstances of her wellbeing. This is something we cannot change and maybe it is not ideal but it is our family. Also ironically nine months after adopting Jordan...I found out I was pregnant with another baby boy. So we went from no kids to two kids within less than a year and half. Now if that's not meant to be then I don't know what is... I am always open to meeting with prospective adoptive parents and birth families to share our story and love. . .

Rebecca Mcroberts Dalakoudis

Hearts of Adoption Options

I sit here and watch Jax (name has been changed for privacy) run up the steps to go down the waterslide for the 99th (or so!) time in the last hour and my heart nearly bursts. I watch him, my weary self, and wonder for the 199th time “where does he get his energy from?” And then I’m thankful he’s smiling and giggling and screaming with life, and I enjoy this, what appears to be a typical family sharing a fun evening together, away from the every day of life. I remember, this boy and his big sister are the joy of my heart, the reason I get up in the morning, and the long answer to our prayers to be parents.

And I also remember that this boy, just a couple of hours before, completely melted down as we pulled into the hotel parking lot. He didn’t like the “look” of the hotel. “The doors are on the outside Momma!” he screamed from the back seat, with big alligator tears rolling down his face. I looked over at his Dad and sister and their downcast looks said it all. “Not again” their eyes said. We’ve been here before, many, many times, because with our son, we’ve been living what we’ve come to call “The Eggshell Life” since the day he joined our family as an infant. Being with him and caring for him can parallel walking around on eggshells, watching what we say, how we say it, how we plan and live every day, because anything might set him off.

This boy, our Jax, has an FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Spectrum Disorder), a diagnosis not completely unexpected given the information we knew when he came to our family, yet it challenges our capacity as parents and as a family every day. Jax has challenges in behaviors and relationships and learning that have forced us to make some hard choices about priorities for our family. His diagnosis has been heartbreaking as it would be for any parent who sees their child struggling with health issues. The needs for his future are overwhelming if we think about the possibilities too much.

That afternoon, we sat together in the van, mini-holiday on hold, as Jax continued to refuse to consider that this hotel is where we were staying. As my 10 year old son screamed and cried in the van, I did what I’ve learned to do after years of similar experiences. I tried to calm my shaking heart and steady my voice, wondering like I have a hundred times before whether we made the right decision to leave home for this short family outing. In the end, with time followed by a calmer conversation, Jax decided it was okay to at least “go check things out”. Once he saw the big atrium with the pool and waterslide, and that he could see the waterslide from our room, he was ready to be there, meltdown forgotten, full speed ahead. Not so much for his parents and sister, who were still shaken by it all, but then, that’s the “eggshell life” we live.

FASD is a spectrum of disabilities mostly hidden from the eyes of those not looking for it, and caused by a pregnant mother consuming alcohol sometime before the birth of her child. Current research shows maternal drinking is one of the leading preventable causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the western world. There are no confirmed statistics of how many children are affected by an FASD, however, there are some places where it is documented as high as 5 out of every 100 births. Other places, including among those that I work with in our local Fetal Alcohol Network, say they think it could be as high as 1 out of every 10 persons. I share these stats because, in the world of adoption, where we don’t have complete control over what happens to the children who join our families before they are in our care, we may have to face the decision to open our lives up to the possibility that an FASD could affect our families. But statistics aside, I also write this to reach out as a mom and advocate to say, if you are facing this hard choice and the challenges of the “eggshell life”, you are not alone. FASD has become a very real consideration in many adoption experiences.

Many of us may be parenting a beautiful son or daughter who like mine, can be both maddening and miraculous, creative and charming, but also calculating and compulsive and constantly confusing, who is both explosive and engaging. Your child, like mine, probably snuggles up for love one minute craving love and touch, then fights your help when they’re in crisis and they need the love and touch the most.

This may not be the life we expected, or planned for, but it is the family we have. We absolutely adore Jax and all his quirky, unique and high spirited ways. We are fierce about advocating for him, and for our whole family’s needs. But when we tell our story and talk about the hard parts, we always make sure people understand that we made a conscious and informed decision as a family in the adoption process to consider increased health risks in many areas, including potential prenatal exposure to substances. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it felt like the right one for us. Every family must make their own decision and understand what risks they are willing to consider. But for us this is our life, and we’re grateful for it, and we’re doing the best we can, even while walking on eggshells.

Placement Update

We are happy to share with you that we facilitated TWO PLACEMENTS this weekend!! One instant and one of our matched families was placed yesterday. As always we have nothing but respect for all parties involved. We are thrilled for our adoptive families who are now experiencing their dreams of becoming parents a reality. At the same time our hearts ache for the birthfamilies who have made these adoption plans to ensure their childrens' best interests are placed first. We are in awe at your strength and selflessness and we recognize that for our adoptive families the gift of becoming a parent would not be possible without you.