Hearts of Adoption Options: Part 4 of 4 journal entries....another ‘Call’

The final journal entries shared.....

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The continued personal reflections of one adoptive parent’s journey with parenthood and adoption. Adoption Options is grateful for the sharing of these personal journal entries, as it provides a vulnerable insight into the realities of parenthood and the journey of adoption.


#29 – A Call
So - another call received from the agency about a baby today. Expectant mom hasn't yet decided if she wants to parent this baby and will be induced on Saturday. We were asked if our profile could be shown in the event she wants to make an adoption plan. I'm having a hard time getting excited, feeling attached or committing to the process... We'll let our profile be shown, but it's so uncertain as to whether this will a) go through or b) we'll be chosen. At the very least, I feel it's cause to feel a mix of emotions - excitement, nervousness, happiness for a new life joining the world, anxiety, uncertainty. I don't know what my gut's saying at this point, but I'm not sure it really matters because if there's one thing that I've learned through the ups and down of waiting and matches and this process is that everything is unpredictable and my gut only speaks the truth at the very end where the fork in the road lies. We are open to this but know and trust that this will work out for all of us, no matter what decision the birth parents make. Saying a silent mantra for this new life and his/her mom and dad today. ***Two days later… We haven't heard anything further about the baby that is being born today/tomorrow that we were called about. I did talk to the social worker yesterday and I got the sense that there is a lot of uncertainty over whether mom will decide to place or not. So there's that. There are at least two other families that will be shown (up to four others - the social worker still hadn't heard from two of the five families she'd contacted when I talked to her yesterday afternoon). So there's that. In our profile and in our paperwork, we talk a lot about our open adoption with Moonbeam’s birth mom and that we look forward to having an open relationship with the next baby's family. We talk about wanting to get to know mom and dad on a personal level. We know that this mom and dad don't want to meet the prospective family and want limited contact. So ya, there's also that. I feel like there's a lot pointing towards a big fat no. But a big part of me is really wanting this to work out. I want another baby really badly, and situations like this remind me of this so much. I feel anxious and I feel sad. I feel hopeful, but the realistic side of me is screaming that there is a very slim chance this is going to work out. Mom was/will be induced today ... my google search and experience with Moonbeam's birth is that it will be a minimum of 12 hours between induction and birth, which means baby won't be born until tonight or tomorrow. We'll know more tomorrow and we'll know for certain on Monday ... the social worker told me she'd call us on Monday either way. It's hard to keep this private in our normal lives - I've had to let work know that I may not be there as of Monday because I may have to drive 3 hours to get the baby from the hospital. I've had to arrange childcare for Moonbeam in the event that we have to bolt tomorrow. I've had to rearrange plans I've had with friends in the event that we have an early morning wake up and mad dash to pick up our new son/daughter. I hate this part. I really, really hate this part. The worst part is the waiting. ***The next day…I woke up this morning feeling really antsy and uncertain about how everything was going to pan out. I knew that baby had most likely been born last night and that mom was going to make her decision today. I texted the on call social worker and asked if she had any news. I waited for an excruciating hour before I heard back. Mom decided to place her baby through a private direct adoption with someone she knew personally rather than through the agency. I felt ok about it all. I'm disappointed that we won't be bringing home a baby, but I feel that this was the best decision for the baby. I don't know the details, but I suspect the baby will stay in its home community, which is really important for maintaining cultural connection. Also, I suspect that the adoption will be more open than had the baby been placed with us ... because the mom knows and clearly trusts the parents she's placing with, I imagine that openness will be a more natural fit for everyone in this situation instead of if the baby was removed from its home community and placed with parents (us) who are not connected to them at all. So back to the drawing board. I feel disappointed, but I also feel optimistic. Moonbeam has been asking about "the baby" all day - we never specifically addressed this particular baby with her, but it's obvious that our discussions have permeated her spongey little mind. We took her out to the toy store and bought her a new bike to take all our minds off of the stress of the weekend and to remind ourselves how truly lucky we already are. Moving on.

#30 – Effects of 12 Years…
We've been trying to build our family for 12 years - a helluva long time if you ask me. For all of these years I've been looking forward to the next step in a long sequence of unanticipated movements. In all these years, I've never been entirely settled. I feel it's only a matter of time before our family is complete... And then what? Have I trained my mind, my body, my whole existence to feel unsettled? Will I be content with my two kids, my regular job, my normal family? What have 12 years of waiting done to my psyche and my ability to be present?

#31 – Letting Go
I have a weird thing about letting go. Like if I let go of the idea of baby #2 and when that's going to happen for us, it never will. Like being satisfied about my own current life situation will make the next thing I'm hoping for never happen. I know it doesn't make sense, but I feel unable to let the tension related to "when" and "how" just go ... just in case by surrendering I'm jinxing myself from the very thing I want so badly from never happening. Realistically I know none of this makes any sense. I'm holding on/obsessing about an idea of something (when will I get another baby? how will this happen?) which is unrelated to the events that will need to take place for baby 2 to happen (pregnancy from a woman who wants to place her baby, our profile being shown, our profile being picked, us having a relationship with an expectant mom that is strong enough to validate her placing her baby with us, etc. etc.). Had this not happened to me once before, I think I would be thinking the chances of this happening are incredibly unlikely. But it happens. Circumstances, situations happen. This too will happen. It's just really really hard to not know when and how. It's time to let it go though. I've been holding on too tightly and the uncertainty is driving me bonkers. I want another baby, but I worry that I'm focusing too much thought on this and not enough on appreciating that I am one lucky mama just as it stands today. So time to grab hold of that "when will this happen, when will this happen, when will this happen" and push forward to "wow - this is really awesome ... I have a two year old and she rocks. Let's enjoy this time." Letting go...

#32 – And so it begins…
Today my little girl noticed a framed picture we have on display in her room of her birth mom holding her the day after she was born, the day Birth Mom signed over guardianship to my husband and I. Birth Mom is smiling in the picture, proud of her baby girl, proud of the moment she had as her mother. I pulled the picture down for Moonbeam to get a good look and took this as an opportunity to talk about how special Birth Mom is to her. That she is her birth mom. That this means Moonbeam grew in her tummy and that Birth Mom loves her very much. That Moonbeam has two mommies - me, the mommy that takes care of her and loves her every day … and Birth Mom, the mommy that carried her in her tummy and who also loves Moonbeam every day. Moonbeam looked at me and said very definitively, "No, I grew in mommy's tummy. In YOUR tummy." This was hard. A lot harder than I expected it would ever be. I'd rehearsed this many times, told Moonbeam the story many times, but I swear this was the first time it really clicked with her. And honestly, I felt so sad for her. This is a lot for a 2.5 year old to process. She knows that everyone loves her very much and there is no doubt she feels comfortable in her own skin. She is a cherished child, spoiled rotten and very happy. I have no doubt that she lives a full, rich, happy life. But as she contemplated this and stared at the picture, running her tiny little finger around the frame, I felt she understood. That yes babies grow in mommies' tummies - but that she didn't grow in HER mommy's tummy. That she realized something was different about her/us and that she didn't want to have to deal with it. That the difference in our relationship compared to that of other moms and kids was the first time she has had to confront adoption loss. And she's only 2 and a half. It's a lot. I had a very hard time not holding her too close to me, not squeezing her too hard. So instead, I just sat with her and held her close and breathed, letting the moment wash over her, over me. I put her to bed, closed the door and then let myself cry. And so here we are.

#33 – I am Here
For three years we waited. Although we filled our time with happy memories and loving Moonbeam, the wait was hard. I felt super anxious, more so as time pressed on. My husband weathered the wait with grace and we both had a hard time understanding why I couldn’t just be happy for all we already had, all the blessings life had already bestowed. And I WAS happy and I DID feel blessed... but I felt something big was missing. And with the passing of time, I became less and less certain that I was meant to be a mother of two. Year 1 was hard on us as a family. When we initially submitted our paperwork for adoption #1, we were all starry eyed with rainbows in our eyes. We were open to pretty much everything that came our way... we knew that we could handle a lot as a couple and we felt that by opening our hearts to anything, the right baby would find its way to our family. We were matched very, very quickly with a lovely, healthy, happy expectant mom who we quickly grew to love. A week later, our daughter, a healthy newborn baby girl was born and placed with our family. She was, and still is, perfect. So, for adoption #2, we were certain that by opening up our hearts to anything that would come our way, we would be placed again with a similar situation... that fate would deliver another happy, healthy newborn baby very quickly and we’d have our happy ever after. That’s not how it worked at all. Week after week, month after month, we would randomly receive phone calls from the agency about cases that fit our checkboxes. We spent many many hours deliberating all of these cases, but in every scenario, either we weren’t selected by the birth parents or we declined the opportunity to parent the babies. It was crushing. It was hard on our marriage. It was hard on my heart. Knowing we had the means to parent some of these cases but refusing them was the hardest thing ever. But we moved through that year and made it through. Meanwhile, my job was causing me a lot of stress and was becoming more and more demanding.... much more so than the two year old I was parenting at home if you can believe that! In the fall, after a year of waiting on the list, I quit my position and moved to a smaller company where I thought I’d have more balance. After finding a new job, I talked to my husband and we decided to put our wait on hold for a year. That year provided us with reprieve from calls and decision making, but it was becoming increasingly clear that I didn’t like my new job and that I really wanted another baby. We talked a lot about next steps – whether or not we should add another child to our family. Many hours and tears were spent deciding on what to do next. I quit my job again and found a much less stressful line of work where I could contribute, help people and make a difference for 7 hours a day rather than the 10-12 I had previously been working. Life slowed down but my desire for another baby did not. Year 3 rolled around and a lot of hard family stuff happened outside of family building. In the meantime, we went back on the list, this time with a much more strict set of criteria and the request for no consultation calls. We got very few bites on our profile and with adoption numbers so low, it really felt like a second baby wasn’t going to happen. After five years, we took our first real vacation with Moonbeam and spent most of our evenings talking about coming to a resolution that our family was what it was, and being happy with that. We got to a good space individually and as a couple and resolved to be happy together, just the three of us. Less than two days after arriving home from our vacation, we got a phone call from the agency. A baby girl had been born two days earlier... just as we’d been pulling into town from vacation. Birth mom had picked us the day after baby was born and we found out the next morning. Baby girl was perfect. She was who we’d been waiting for. We were in complete shock... after three years of waiting we’d convinced ourselves that we were meant to be a family of three, yet here she was... funny how things work. Four hours later, we held our guardianship papers in one hand and our Sunshine Girl in the other. It was incredible. Our hearts had been prepared to accept what was coming our way, although our brains were convinced that this meant a future with just Moonbeam. Sunshine Girl’s arrival and presence take me aback at how meant to be everything has turned out to be. She is exactly what our family needed. Five months later, I still feel grateful every morning when we wake up together as a family. I have Moonbeam, my big girl of five years who brings so much spirit, heart and beauty to my life. And Sunshine Girl grounds me... her calmness and joy keep me tied to the moment. It’s amazing how this has all unfolded. The past three years have been painful. I kept busy and tried to be the best mom I could be with Moonbeam and my husband assures me that I did a good job of that. But I was sad. I was uncertain. Now, with every ounce of myself I can say I feel happy, I feel clear, I feel complete. After 15 years of not knowing how my story to motherhood would begin, I am here.

The End.

With gratitude,
Adoption Options

Hearts of Adoption Options: Part 3 of Journal Entries....adopting again??

Part 3 of 4:
The continued personal reflections of one adoptive parent’s journey with parenthood and adoption. Adoption Options is grateful for the sharing of these personal journal entries, as it provides a vulnerable insight into the realities of parenthood and the journey of adoption.

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#23 – Back in the Saddle (for #2)
So, we're doing it again. The checklists are filled out, the medical is done, the security clearances are in the works... Yep, we're on the road to adopting another child.

It took us a long time to come this decision. Moonbeam is almost 16 months now and it's something we've been tossing around honestly since she was born. There is so much to consider when adopting a second child... Adopting a second child just feels weightier.

We lucked out big time on the adoption front in so many ways with Moonbeam. We essentially had no wait, we connected with Birth Mom right off the get go, there were no legal risks or even inklings that Birth Mom was ever going to change her mind and we have continued to have a very open relationship with Birth Mom since we first met her. For our family, although the relationship and situation have not been without their growing pains, our open adoption has worked out perfectly.

Now with a second child, it feels like there are so many factors to consider. Now it's not just my husband and I we're concerned about - it's the well-being of Moonbeam, baby-to-be, even Birth Mom and future birth families to consider.

For baby #2, we had to think really, really hard as to what we were open to this time as we filled out our 50+ pages of checklists. And what it came down to is that we're open to the exact same things that we were open to on the first go around.

Because here's the thing. Papers are just that - papers. The check boxes are what get your profile shown or held back when expectant families approach the agency looking to place their children for adoption. On paper, when you're going through the boxes and you look at everything in aggregate, it seems terrifying. But isolate any one of the factors and you've likely got a manageable situation.

So once again, we're wide open to what life is ready to throw at us. It's kind of scary. It's kind of exciting. I'm trying not to think about it too much, really.

I'm scared about not loving this child as much as I love Moonbeam (because Moonbeam is my absolute everything - is it possible to love another human being THIS MUCH???).

I'm scared about Moonbeam feeling rejected and not getting all the love and nurturing she deserves - but when it comes down to it, I'm more scared about the little demon we're creating as an only child (her new favourite words are "I don't want" ... like what??? She's freaking 16 months. Oh boy.).

I'm scared about how this will play out between my husband and I - we're already at times scrabbling to keep our own relationship happy and healthy without adding the strain of a second child into the mix.

I'm scared about what sort of relationship will manifest itself with a new birth family and how this will impact both of our children.

But I'm excited too. I'm excited to have another baby in our lives! To see Moonbeam as a big sister, to grow our family, to experience parenthood all over again with my husband, to get to know a new little person and share our lives with him/her.

We've still got some finishing touches to add to our dear birth parent letter and we've got one set of security clearances yet to come back. Then that's it for our final submission for baby #2 - which will then get our home study rolling. We've been taking our time with the paperwork over the past month, but now there's very little standing in the way between becoming expectant/waiting parents!

So lots going on here - we're excited, we're scared, we're blissfully pretending our lives aren't about to drastically change once again. Heading into the adoption scene a second time is way less excruciating this time around. The first time we wanted nothing more than a quick, easy placement. This time we're much more relaxed about timing ... in some ways, it would be nice to have some breathing room between babies. But we'll see what's in the cards for us. With adoption, you have to leave a lot up to fate and, shall I even dare say it? Destiny. The baby that is meant to be our child will come when it's time.

#24 – One Day at a Time
Our paperwork is all in. We're that much closer now to being on the list and putting ourselves out there for another baby. We still have the home study to get through, which should be easier this time around (I think it's only one afternoon this time instead of three home visits like it was the first time).

We (I) spent the past few weeks pouring over our dear birth parent letter. The details almost felt ridiculous (What colour of background should I choose? What font size and style? How many pictures? Do I look too forced happy in said pictures? Do I talk about our open relationship with Moonbeam’s birth mom or do we leave that for when we meet? What thickness of paper do I print the copies on?). But, ridiculous or not, I know a lot of these things actually do matter - the first step in having an opportunity to parent a child is standing out in some way on paper and connecting with an expectant mom/family. But the reality is that font size and parenting have absolutely nothing in common.

Our checklists, criminal record checks and medicals were a piece of cake. We are veterans of these processes and jumped through the hoops with flying colours. The dear birth parent letter wasn't as bad this time either, as we used the same template as our last one and we could easily talk about what we like to do as a family rather than what we hope to do as a family.

But now that everything is out of our hands, honestly, it's hard. There is a lot that is about to happen to us here that is completely out of my control. I feel like I'm back in the throes of infertility and leaving so much up to the universe. And I don't like it.

We have a lot to do before our home study is scheduled (I think we'll get the call next week sometime to schedule our home study visit in the next couple weeks, based on what happened last time). I'm not neurotic about cleaning or anything before our social worker comes, but we do need to visually baby-proof (yes, Moonbeam is 16 months, I know I know. Please don't judge!) and get a current fire extinguisher… Things that we should already have done at some point within the past 16 months of raising a tiny human…

So we still have tasks to complete, which helps to alleviate the anxiety around my loss of control. But sometimes when I stop "doing" and just start "feeling", I get a little freaked out. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about all of this. I'm not sure how I do feel about all of this. I've been bumbling along pretty nicely over the past year and a half as though I'm just a normal mom. Now I'm forced to remember that I am a mom faced with infertility. And there's nothing comforting about that thought.

I am not in the dark at all this time either about the ups and downs that are about to happen in my family. There is the home study itself that is unnerving. Then there's the waiting part, the uncertainty part. Then the match part and even more uncertainty and hope, which is hard to hold on to, right? In our world enveloped by infertility, you don't even want to dare to hope - there's too much at stake to let your heart go there.

But one day at a time I guess. That's all I can expect of myself and all I can expect of my husband. And all I can expect from this process, really. The longing part has subsided, thanks to my role as mother to Moonbeam. I know I'm one of the lucky ones and I don't feel all tangled up with the uncertainty as to whether I'm ever going to be a mother. I'm just tangled up with the knowledge and experience of how rough the road ahead is. The journey is beautiful, don't get me wrong and totally worth it in the end. But the ruts ahead are deep and there are some significant emotional obstacles that we'll be faced with, this I know.

But, we're packing up and moving ahead. My husband is committed and I am too. Part of me wants to alleviate all risk and just accept our lives as they currently are. But I know that the risk part is only one piece of the whole process and that at the end of it all, it's amazing. I'm just scared.

One day at a time.

#25 – Understanding
Yesterday I attended an arts festival. Moonbeam was feeling especially sucky and for the first time in months she insisted that I carry her in the snuggly.

An old woman stopped me on the street to comment on what she found to be a beautiful moment between mother and child - Moonbeam snuggling closely to my chest and me stroking her hair.

With tears in her eyes, she told me that it had not been her fate to have children - that she had suffered through three ectopic pregnancies.

I gasped and told her that I understood and that we had adopted Moonbeam. We grasped for each other and with little Moonbeam held between us, we hugged and cried. The scene must have looked unusual to strangers passing by, but there was nothing but understanding between the old woman and I.

The pain of infertility never goes away; it lives in our hearts forever.

#26 – Still Waiting for Finally
Over the past few weeks, I've been in a weird head space. We're still waiting ("still" meaning a relatively short "still" ... we've been back on the wait list for a few months). I'm ok with not having baby 2 yet, but I don't really feel ok with being on list. It's hard.

I don't know if it would be easier if we hadn't received two calls already - both calls being situations that fell outside of our comfort levels and would have meant drastic lifestyle changes for our family. I'm ok with the decisions we made and don't regret saying no. But I think these two calls shook me up in a way that I wasn't really prepared for. I now know how completely out of the blue these calls can come from - at times that I'm not mentally prepared for. The first came as we were settling in for a Saturday afternoon nap and the second came when I was in training at work and my husband was in a work meeting. Our minds were on other things and we weren't expecting to be presented with cases where babies were already born and at the hospital.

Over the past couple weeks, I feel I've been bracing myself and have been on edge. I have my phone with me at all times. I check my call history compulsively. My breath stops a little when I get a text message or my cell rings. It's as though I think these behaviours are going to prepare me for what I damn well know I can't be prepared for.

I know there are people who wait on the list for years. We may very well be in this situation this time around. But I wonder if I'd have an easier time with the wait if I had never received those two calls in the first place... If I'd be more at peace and more content with waiting and living my current life.

The funny thing is - I'm perfectly happy with how things are right now and I wouldn't mind it if we didn't have another child for another year or two. I'm on track for a big promotion at work. Moonbeam is still little enough that I question whether now would be the best time for a sibling for her (waiting until she is a bit bigger definitely wouldn't hurt things). We've got reno plans for our home this summer which I don't think we can afford if I'm on parental leave and not working. Sure, I'd love a baby (of course), but I'm just saying it's not the end of the world to me if it doesn't happen right this moment.

It's not the "longing for another baby" that's eating away at me right now ... it's the not knowing when this is going to happen that is. It's not a new baby that I'm craving, it's this part of my life, the infertility, trying for a baby, when the hell is this going to be over thing that I really want to put an end to. I can't wait for this part of my life to be over so we can move on as a family.

I try and remember that Moonbeam is a perfect fit for our family, that our relationship with her birth mom is exactly what we'd hoped it would be. I hope this happens again, but this may mean it will take some time. But still - I'm looking forward to moving on, moving past this stage of waiting and wondering. Waiting for "still" to be over. Waiting for "finally" to arrive.

#27 – Two Years In
Moonbeam turns two in a little over a month. Unbelievable right? Well for me it is ... Time has passed so quickly in some ways. But two years is a long time too... I feel like I've learned so much and have come so far with everything.

I remember feeling so much angst in that first year of being an adoptive mom. I felt like I didn't fit in all the time, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I felt unprepared for motherhood, having spent years and years trying to figure out how to get a baby and thinking one would never come. Then within a matter of a week of this mindset, I had one.

Then I faced guilt. Lots and lots of guilt around how to handle Birth Mom's loss. I struggled with my own happiness in the face of her sadness. I watched it first hand and tried desperately to fix it for her, to do anything I could to lessen the burden of her loss. This took its toll on me and held me back from my own healing.

Then I consciously created a barrier between her grief and my own guilt. I created distance, so we could heal as a family unit ... for my husband, Moonbeam and I ... And my husband, Moonbeam, Birth Mom and I. Two different units, yet one and the same if that makes any sense.

Two years later, I am putting more of the pieces of Birth Mom's story together and can clearly see that placing Moonbeam was a conscious, deliberate, loving choice. This brings me so much peace, as I feel more confident in my position and know more of how I can tell Moonbeam her story. I have more answers and this feels so much better than fumbling for answers. I think the answers were always there, it's just that emotions clouded where to find them.

I also feel like two years in, our relationship with Birth Mom is easier, more comfortable, less intense. I think this is to be expected... We had a crazy year of personal upheaval combined with getting to know each other. That first year is bound to be emotionally challenging I think. I think the intensity of that first year is over... Which I'm thankful for. Our relationship is normalizing - roles are defined, trust is built/building, we know each other way more than those early days. We understand each others' needs for space and closeness at the same time. I think the hard parts were necessary to get to where we are now. We are family, the four of us. That feels good and easy to say, whereas I think a year ago that would have been a really emotionally charged thing to say.

Sometimes I look at Moonbeam's face and am startled at how clear and sweet and loving and trusting this little girl is. How much of mine she is, how much a part of me she is and how much a part I am of her. I know there will be bumps in the road as we navigate the emotions associated with how we came to be a family, but oh man are we ever a family. And this is so good - all of it is so good. I look back on the ups and downs we've had so far to get to this point and know it always all part of the process. I wouldn't change a thing.

#28 – Eyes and Hearts
I was standing at the check out line the other day and was totally stunned at how similar two little boys (brothers) looked to each other and to their mother. It took a few minutes to register that this was "normal" and obviously what most families face... Same noses, same eyes and ears and freckles. Right, I thought, they are a biological family. They are the norm... My norm isn't really the norm. Right.

I looked at my daughter and although I didn't see my eyes or my nose or my freckles reflected back at me on her face, I saw our hearts entwined in her sweet little smile.

....to be continued for the final addition and what is to come for this family in Part 4.

Hearts of Adoption Options: Journal Entries - Part 2 of 4...

Part 2 of 4:
The following journal entries have been shared by one of our adoptive parents. These open, honest and heartfelt entries provides an intimate glimpse into the emotional rollercoaster and realities of open adoption. Now a mother of two, we are truly grateful for being able to share the following. No names or any identifying information has been shared.

Continued.....

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#10 – Four Week Reflections
Today marks Moonbeam's 4 week birth day. Wow, how time flies. Our precious little girl has achieved all of her 1 month milestones, including turning her head from side to side while on her belly, focusing on our faces, recognizing mama and daddy's voices and visually tracking movement. We couldn't be more over the moon with happiness at our good fortune - we are amazed that this perfect little baby has found her way into our family forever. This four week milestone also provides a mark of resolution that I have come to since Moonbeam's birth. The past month has been awesome, for sure, but it has also been emotionally difficult. I have wrestled with my emotions over how I feel about my position as Moonbeam's mom, Birth Mom's position as Moonbeam's first mom and what my role is in bridging all of the complex relationships that are unfolding together. The process hasn't been easy. I have struggled with Birth Mom's grief over losing her daughter and what role I have played in contributing to this loss. Sometimes I struggled to be truly happy for our family, as I was acutely aware that another family has lost what we have ultimately gained. I didn't expect to feel grief over this, but I did. I know that Birth Mom doesn't regret her decision and has respect for us and nothing but hope and happiness for Moonbeam's future, but I also know that this decision is met with a heavy heart for her. There is nothing I can do to ease this pain, which has been a hard realization for me to come to. What I have also come to terms with is that I have not been a contributor to Birth Mom's loss - that her loss and pain are her own crosses to bear, just as my own issues are mine to bear. None of us come through life unscathed, it turns out. I plan to bear my own crosses with as much grace as I can and not feel guilt for the pain that others must endure.The second piece of the puzzle that I have struggled with is others' perception of our relationship with Birth Mom. We have been met with reactions ranging from shock, confusion, worry, happiness and curiosity over what our open adoption means. I have grappled with where I stand amidst others' reactions as I try to defend my position. I don't fully understand everything myself, nor am I truly able to put a descriptor of this relationship into words. What I do know is that when it is my husband, Birth Mom, Moonbeam and I hanging out, exchanging pictures or sending texts, the relationship makes sense. The minute I try to explain this relationship to others, I start to feel self-conscious and question myself. But I received a really sound piece of advice yesterday from a friend of mine - she told me that no matter what, people are going to have opinions about everything we are doing as parents ... from what we are feeding our child, to where she sleeps, to childcare decisions we make, all the way to how we are handling this relationship with Birth Mom. She told me, in so many words, that I need to (wo)man up and say to hell with them and their opinions. If it's working for us, that's all that matters. As for the rest of them, too bad. At this four week anniversary, I can honestly say that I am ok with everything. That I feel secure in my position as Moonbeam's mom. That I will always recognize that Moonbeam is also Birth Mom's daughter, and that this doesn't compromise my position. I can say with certainty that I am doing my best, not for me, but for Moonbeam. I have promised her a strong sense of identity so she can grow up with a solid foundation of who she is, and I plan to live up to this. Our relationship with Birth Mom is not about my husband or I, it's about Moonbeam. No matter what, Moonbeam is always going to have been adopted. She will always know this and at some points in her life, she may struggle with this. My job, as her mom, is to help her become the best Moonbeam she can be, and our plan is to help shape her with love, honesty and openness. We are forever grateful for Birth Mom - she has entrusted precious little Moonbeam with our family and she has made our dreams come true. She deserves the right to know her daughter... our daughter. We are early in the stages of this relationship, but I feel we have laid a pretty sturdy foundation. People, including friends and family, may not get it right now. They may not get it in a year. But eventually, over time, maybe they will. Parenting birth children doesn't come with a manual. Neither does parenting a child through adoption. We are excited for the spontaneity that this new role has offered into our lives - parenting Moonbeam has been a pretty wild (and amazing!) ride so far.

#11 – Love and Biology
Yesterday on a one hour "me break" at the pool, I had an interesting adoption-related encounter with a mom in the change room. After finishing my swim, I headed back to the change room where there was a mom who looked about my age getting her baby ready to go swimming. I stopped to admire her pretty little girl and we got to chatting about babies. I mentioned that I had a month old baby at home ... as per usual, the woman eyed my body suspiciously and then commented that I was ambitious for going swimming only four weeks after birthing a baby. I didn't hesitate to tell her that our baby was adopted and after expressing her congratulations, the questions and comments started flooding in. The first comment the woman made was "I could never do that." My response: "Never do what?" And she replied, "Adopt." I was taken aback. I am sure people have said this behind my back before and I've heard people say that they could never place their child for adoption (don’t get me started on that one), but I am a little perplexed as to what she meant by never being able to adopt. I thought about launching into a descriptor of my history with endometriosis, my ten year struggle with trying to conceive, my failed attempt at fertility treatments and the heartache that accompanied me through years of childlessness. And that maybe she would have a different opinion if she in fact had been through similar experiences. But I decided not to get into this sort of stuff with a complete (half naked) stranger in a public setting. Instead, I saved the comment to ponder later in the confines of my own mind. I was really left wondering - what did this woman mean by saying she could never adopt? At first I thought she meant that she wouldn't be able to manage all the complexities and sensitivities required with maintaining the various relationships with the birth family, but after she reacted so strongly to my admission that our adoption was "open" and that this meant contact with the birth family, I'm pretty sure this isn't what she was referring to. The financial costs? I doubt it. The only thing I can rationally think of that she meant was that she didn't think she could love a child that wasn't biologically linked to her. Maybe I'm out to lunch here, but seriously, I have no idea what else she could have meant. The idea that a person couldn't love a child that isn't biologically linked to them seems absurd to me ... it always has. I love my husband so incredibly much and guess what? We're not biologically related, yet we still have a very deep love for each other. I love my nieces and nephews on my husband's side of the family, and we're not biologically linked. I love my friends, my friends' kids and we're not biologically related. In fact, the sheer number of friends and unrelated family members that I love probably far outweighs the number of people I have in my life that I love that are actually biologically related to me (i.e. 2 parents, 3 sisters - two who are only half-sisters ... would this mean I only love them half as much?, 4 grandparents, 10 aunts and uncles, about 30 cousins and only one biologically related nephew). I also have a ton of family that I don't really know (second cousins, great aunts/uncles, etc.) and, even though we're biologically related, when I'm being honest, I don't know if I'd go so far as saying I "love" them ... I don't even know them! So how is it possible that a person couldn't love a baby that they didn't give birth to? Love is in your brain, not in your blood. Without a doubt, I love my baby. I have never even questioned this - I have loved her since I knew about her. When I first saw her, I had no doubt regarding love for her. This little girl is my daughter, through and through, and I feel fortunate that I don't need genetics to open my heart to her.

#12 – On My First Mother’s Day
Today is Mother's Day. My first real one, with a real live baby. The first one where I can legitimately say I'm a mom and I can join the ranks of women that go out for brunch, get flowers and beautiful Hallmark cards. But I don't forget. I don't think I ever will. I don't forget all those Mother's Days where I plastered on a fake smile and wished everyone around me the happiest of days. Or coming home after family/friend celebrations, curling up in a ball and sobbing, asking my husband when it would be my turn to celebrate too. I don't forget how my heart ached every time I saw a baby in their mama's arms or a small child holding their mama's hand. Those scars are here to stay. So dear friends, please know that for those of you waiting, trying, deciding - today you have my heart. I understand. I hope my story can offer you a beacon of hope. That dreams do come true. That the perfect little baby will make her way to you too. *** This morning I woke up with a two month old baby on my chest, smiling and cooing just for me. The sweetness is oh so sweet. It doesn't erase the bitterness, but I do think that the years of bitterness have made the precious moments with my daughter so much sweeter. I know what it's like to lose, to have empty arms. Today is a happy day for our family. I owe it to everyone to enjoy today, to relish in the moments I've been longing for all these years. For anyone still waiting, I owe it to you to be happy. I owe it to Moonbeam’s birth mom. So for our little family, today will finally be a happy Mother's Day. Thinking of you today.

#13 – Where we’re at
Wow. Time flies when you're having fun - even faster when the fun involves a sweet little baby girl. Moonbeam is 3 months old. She'll actually be 14 weeks tomorrow. I've been a mom for 14 full weeks. I feel like it's been forever, that this little girl has been my reason for getting up every morning, for smiling, for existing my entire life. That everything I've done up until this point has been preparing me for loving, raising and shaping this little girl. Yep, there has been lack of sleep, arguments with my husband over who is going to clean the bottles or make dinner and moments of inexplicable worry and panic. There is less time for my husband and even less time for myself. But despite all this, there have been moments of the greatest happiness I've ever experienced thanks to the sweet gummy smile of this little baby. Over the past few months, I've had to really think long and hard about some difficult things - things that although I would like to push to the back of my mind, I've decided to just deal with then and there, as they pop up. This process has validated how I am moving forward. Some of the things that have been on my mind are: 1. Family issues. I had a fear that my family would not accept Moonbeam as well as they would accept a child that was genetically linked to them. However, time and time again my family has shown me that this is not an issue. Yes, we adopted Moonbeam, but who cares? She's our daughter. She's a member of the clan. There's actually no question in my mind that all members of my family have accepted her - and how awesome is that? Any fear I had around this has dissipated. Moonbeam is one of us, no matter her genetics or what uterus she grew in. I can't imagine our family loving her any more if she was my biological child. 2. Questioning our decision to adopt vs. IVF. One of my friends recently announced to me that she finally had a successful IVF. I am over the moon excited for her - her journey has not been an easy one either. One of the first things I did after finding out (after congratulating her) was begin to question whether I had done the right thing by not pursuing IVF and by letting go of medical intervention as a way to build our family. This was difficult to explore. What if we had conceived our own biological child? Would I be happier? Would things be less complicated? I thought about this for a few days and came to the conclusion that no, I wouldn't be happy-ER or that things wouldn't be any less complicated. I love Moonbeam so much, and can't imagine life without her. I wouldn't trade her for any other baby. She is MY baby and biology wouldn't change the way I feel about her. In terms of complications - having a baby does complicate things, no matter what. There are added pressures, way less sleep, more things to keep organized and less time for your significant other. And there's very little "me" time. This is what complicates things, not anything related to having adopted this baby. 3. Our relationship with Moonbeam's birth mom. I was scared about this relationship heading into open adoption, but it's turned out to be better than I could have ever hoped for. We have regular visits with Birth Mom and going through the application process, I’m not sure how I would have perceived this possibility. But it's been good. Birth Mom loves Moonbeam and anyone who loves our kid as much as she does is welcome to see her and shower her with love! She acknowledges me as Moonbeam's mom and we acknowledge her as an important part of Moonbeam's life – Moonbeam is her daughter too. I'll admit that I do get a little nervous when she comes over, but this is my own anxiety that I need to work through. She never gives me cause to be nervous and the only indications she gives about how we are parenting Moonbeam are positive (e.g. she recently gave me a card in which she wrote she can't believe her good fortune at finding the best mom - me - and gave me a picture where I'm holding Moonbeam the day she was born). I'll also admit that there IS awkwardness in the relationship, mainly because we are just getting to know each other on a personal level, even though we entered into a very personal "contract" 3 months ago and have gone through some pretty personal moments together. I think in a way we also want to seem flawless to each other - I often don't want to seem as neurotic as I am and I think Birth Mom doesn't want to seem like she's messing up. I'm sure she doesn't see me as neurotic and I definitely don't see her as messing up. But still. We're working through the relationship and are getting to know each other. So far so good. So far we all genuinely like each other. The other awkward part of our relationship is what to call Birth Mom. Some that I've considered include her first name and Mom. When Moonbeam is little, Tummy Mommy might be appropriate. I haven't asked Birth Mom what she wants to be called, and every time I meet with her it's something that I want to ask her but am too shy to broach. I know that I need to address this sooner than later - sure, Moonbeam isn't talking or understanding what I'm saying, but over the next 9 months before that happens, we should really start to get comfortable with this. 4. "Are you sure you're doing the right thing by being open?" Unless coming from close family members or super close friends with whom I actually like to bounce ideas off of, I really hate this question. It bothers me - do people really think I'd intentionally be doing the WRONG thing when it comes to parenting my daughter? If I didn't believe whole heartedly that open adoption is the best way to go, it wouldn't be a part of our family. Or do they think that they are imparting some wisdom and knowledge of the situation that I have never thought of but that I really need to hear from them? This question is so judgy ... as though I need randoms telling me what the right way to parent is. But really, this question is just a part of parenting. People are judgy no matter what you do - people form opinions about the formula we feed, the bottles we use, the way I hold the baby, how we get her to sleep ... it's kind of crazy really. I'm doing things because I think it's the right way to do it - just like they are.***I think the most interesting part of where we're at right now is that open adoption plays a smaller role in my life than I thought it would. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it or dwelling on things as I had in the first few weeks after Moonbeam was born. We have established some healthy patterns and boundaries with Birth Mom that seem to be working for everyone right now. If the time comes that we need to adjust, we will. But for now, most of my days are spent being a mom, just like any other mom. I fret about whether I'm doing enough for my daughter. I feed her, clean her bottles, get her formula ready. I change her diapers. I cuddle her, sing to her, dance with her, take her for walks. I rock her when she's crying. I do her laundry. I'm the face she sees when she wakes up in the morning (when she gives me a huge baby grin!) and I'm the face that she sees as she's closing her eyes when I rock her to sleep. I'm her mom and nothing will ever change that. So where we're at right now is good. No, it's freaking fantastic. Moonbeam is seriously the cutest kid in the world (with my nephews and nieces trailing right with her) and I can't imagine being happier.

#14 – Not Forgetting
It's a beautiful sunny day - the perfect backdrop to reflect the happiness I'm feeling in my heart today. Sometimes I forget about how amazing this whole experience is. But today I'm remembering. Last week I got a package in the mail from my friend’s mom and dad. I've never met either of them and was surprised to receive a baby gift from this (very sweet) couple. Over the past two years, I've had the good fortune of getting to know their daughter, who seriously has to be the sweetest, most thoughtful person I've ever met. And now I know where she gets it from.In addition to the little outfit they sent Moonbeam, they sent us a card with warm wishes and heartfelt joy over the news of Moonbeam's birth and how special she is to our family. The card made me cry and jolted me back to the miracle of our story. And since then, I've been trying not to forget. Trying not to forget that I am finally a mama. That this sweet little babe is here to stay. That the downs are always followed by ups that are much more colorful and joyful than I could have ever imagined. That, like my friend’s mom wrote, although Moonbeam doesn't have my eyes, my hair or my genes, she has my heart. Oh boy does she ever. Trying not to forget that she is more than I could have ever hoped for. Trying not to forget that our family's story is full of grace and love and mysticism and fate. Everything happened so fast for us that sometimes I know I forget how lucky I am. I go about my day, making bottles, changing diapers, packing diaper bags, doing laundry and totally, 100% forgetting that my life has changed forever. That after 10 years, we have a baby. That I am the subject of people's stories about the miracle of adoption. Sometimes I wonder if we had been on the list for longer if I'd be less prone to feeling overwhelmed by all the details of motherhood, if I'd be less worried about the ebbs and tides of our open adoption relationships, if I'd be all around more appreciative. This baby came so fast that sometimes I think I forget how hard it could have really been. We could still be waiting. We could have gone through a failed match. And I'd be hoping for nothing more than my current life. It's hard to be perpetually thankful, elated, joyful. I want to be, really really badly, but I don't think it's possible. So today, rather than be concerned about happiness into perpetuity, I remember that Moonbeam is a miracle for my husband and I. That, like the card my friend's mom and dad sent so eloquently lays out, "each new baby is a miracle that has never happened before and will never be repeated." Today, I will marvel at Moonbeam's sweetness as she naps in her swing, at her laughter when we make funny faces and funny voices, at her coos when we take her for a walk outside. I will marvel at her cries when we go for her immunizations this afternoon and I will marvel at how she is quickly calmed and soothed in my arms once it's all over. I will marvel at the miracle that is Moonbeam, that is our little family. Today I will try not to forget.

#15 – Mama is a State of Mind
We are enjoying the freedom of long summer days and our lack of schedule. Moonbeam is loving getting to know her family, especially her cousins. My husband is enjoying spending time with his dad working on various projects. I'm enjoying relaxing and most of all, I'm enjoying being a mom. Coming home for family visits during our years of trying to conceive were tough. Year after year we would meet new babies and congratulate our friends/family who were all becoming new parents while our own arms remained empty, while our dreams of parenthood remained unfulfilled. I often felt out of place... not quite fitting in with the women who were keeping an eye on their children, talking about milestones and concerns, discussing the possibility of a third child. I didn't fit in with the guys either, laughing in the garage, discussing upcoming house reno projects and fixing anything mechanical. This summer I can happily say that I finally feel like I fit in. We've been having some beautiful family/friend meals and gatherings since we arrived. Last night as I held my daughter and watched the kids play, talking casually with the other moms, it hit me that I've made it. After all those years of sitting on the outside looking in, I'm in. In a way it saddens me that the emotions that come with infertility and treatment failures defined the perception I had of myself all those years. No one treated me as an outsider - it was me inflicting exclusion on myself. What I realized last night is that it's not just the main mamas raising the babies - it's ALL of us raising the babies. We are all teaching them about the world and shaping these little people. All these years, I was impacting these little guys too without realizing that I did have a big role in their lives. All these years I was a mama too - I just didn't have my baby yet. We are all mamas, shaping the people around us. It's hard to see it when the failures and the losses are so fresh. But life is happening at every moment and we are leaving our mama mark every step of the way. We've been mamas all along. Being a mama is a state of mind more than anything. I know it's easy for me to say this because of the side of the fence I sit on. But I also know that I held myself back from the role before anyone else did. I wish I would have given myself permission years ago to feel that I was a part of the club too. But the reality is that I never fully trusted that my time would come. You're a mama too. No matter if you are going through treatments, haven't started trying yet, are pregnant, have given birth, are on a break, have lost your babies, are adopting, have adopted or have resolved to remain child free. You are a mama because those little folks in your life don't see you any differently than the other women in their lives. You love them, you help shape their perspectives and they look up to you for guidance - this makes you a mama. It's the love in your heart and not the babe in your arms that makes this so. Today I understand. Today, if no one else has done so, I give you permission to BE the mama you already are in your heart.

#16 – What I’ve Learned From Moonbeam
Today Moonbeam is 19 weeks old (mommy speak for 4.5 months!). Wow. Like seriously wow. This little girl is growing up right before my very eyes and I'm trying to figure out where all the time has gone. A lot of it has been spent adoring this little person that we love so very much. A lot of it has been spent doing laundry, cleaning bottles and changing diapers. Most of it has been spent learning the ropes. Over the past four and a half months, I have been through some intense mama schooling - some of it baffling, some of it kind of disgusting, but all of it super good. Without very much notice at all, I had to quickly learn about umbilical cord care, cleaning poop from the many cracks and crevices little girl babes have, good vs bad poop colours, the importance of burping, how to quickly and efficiently deal with poop explosions and how to find time for eating and sleeping and cooking and cleaning and and and... The learning curve was steep. But learning to be a mommy has been the best educational experience I've been through to date. Google has been a reliable teacher. So has my mom. The women in my life have been amazing sources of info - my sister, my aunt, my gramma, my mother in law and sisters in law, my gal pals… But the best teacher, hands down, has been little Moonbeam herself. She has taught me more about life in these short 19 weeks than anyone or anything ever has before. She's got good values, this kid. Among her top lessons: Smile. Never stop smiling. Even when you're sad, distressed or uncomfortable - if you can throw in a smile, you will remind those that love you that the outcome is going to be a-ok. Smile when you wake up, smile when you're going to sleep. Smile at strangers and at those you love - not only does it make you feel good, it's the winning ticket to making many new friends and to swaying people to your side. Be present. At times I catch myself spinning my thoughts about the future (e.g. return to work stress, childcare stress, you name it stress). Then I look down at the baby I'm holding in my arms or pushing in our stroller and in seconds flat, I tune in to what she is experiencing at that moment. I tune in to the sound of a bird singing, the feel of the wind on my face, the movement of the light on the carpet. I tune in to the radio announcer, to the sound of the fan spinning and the feel of Moonbeam's breath on my chest. She brings me back to the now and it's amazing. Everything is new for her, everything is remarkable. She is my little yogi. Any discomfort can be cured by a full tummy, a cuddle and a nap. Enough said. Family matters. Friends are great, don't get me wrong. But family is the most important thing. Family for us means unconditional love and acceptance. Cousins are your first friends and grandparents, aunts and uncles give the best snuggles. There is no one that I feel more comfortable leaving my baby with than her grandmas. There is no one that gets as big a kick out of baby giggles or developmental milestones than our family members. I am beautiful ... and smart too. I need to believe this, because this is Moonbeam's truth. If I waver on this one, Moonbeam's perception of beauty and intelligence will shatter. I define her understanding of what beauty is and for her to grow up feeling beautiful and smart, I need to know that I am the things she sees in me. I am her female role model - I shape her understanding of the world of women. Prioritize! Since Moonbeam's arrival, I've had to quickly learn that when there is free time, I need to make a conscious decision as to how I'm going to spend that free time. I've learned that nap times need to be used for the things that I consider important (important, by the way, has shifted to hold new meaning ... like I used to think having a shower was a given - I've reclassified it as important ... in other words, not necessary, but high on the priority list). Bottle and formula preparation are important. Having enough sleep is important. Having my morning coffee is important. But making sure I have a clean shirt to throw on is now less important (seriously, I've actually contemplated if dried poop or puke is "cleaner" ... dried puke won hands down). Curling or straightening my hair? I can't even believe I used to do this on a daily basis. Definitely not important, which means it doesn't get done. Motherhood is amazing and provides so much opportunity for self-reflection. Moonbeam rocks my world and I know I rock hers too. We are in this together and I couldn't ask for a better teacher and student, all wrapped into one.

#17 – Transitioning
When we gave ourselves the go ahead for open adoption, I knew we were signing up for a lifelong commitment with a child and with a birth family. I knew that there was a risk that the birth parents may change their minds before or after the birth of the child. My husband and I agreed that the relationship with the birth family was for the benefit of the child. We wrote in our dear birth parent letter that we were looking for members of our future child's birth family to become extended members of our own family. What we didn't know is how difficult this was all going to be when it actually happened. I never prepared myself for the guilt that came with taking home a baby from the hospital while another woman, another mother, went home empty handed. I never prepared myself for the emotional attachment to my child's Birth Mother. No one told me how hard it was going to be to separate myself from our daughter's Birth Mom and refocus our adoption so that it was centred on the child and not her Birth Mom. The moment Moonbeam was born, I knew that I was her forever mom. I never questioned whether Birth Mom would change her mind ... I just knew that it was all meant to be. What I didn't know was how hard it was going to be to separate myself from being Birth Mom's main supporter to being Moonbeam's main supporter. This transition has taken until now - 8 months in to our open adoption - to fully implement. I don't know if it's because Moonbeam is starting to show the first tell-tale signs of making strange to anyone other than me or if it's just time itself that has started to work its magic. I don't know if it's because we are finally starting to get some distance from Birth Mom – more time between visits and fewer texts / pictures. I don't know if it's that it takes all moms about 8 months to wrap their minds around becoming mothers (bio moms get 9 months to prepare, whereas my husband and I had a week!). Regardless, it has taken until now for me to confidently head into our next visit with Birth Mom and know that although I love and care for her, my main focus is Moonbeam's well being and emotional health, not hers. For me, this is finally about Moonbeam and not about her Birth Mom. For the past 8 months, I have felt vulnerable. I think a lot of this has to do with there being a possibility that my child could be taken away from me until the adoption was finalized ... therefore I sort of held my breath while social workers and judges put their stamps of approval on the authenticity of my motherhood. Until that point, I wanted to give Birth Mom an opportunity to change her mind if she really wanted to. I never wanted to be the one to break up a mama and her babe... and transitioning from the mindset that placing Moonbeam for adoption was Birth Mom's choice, and not because of me took a long time. Since the adoption has been finalized, I have had to work through strain on my relationship with Birth Mom that didn't exist before the adoption was settled in court. I have had to find my footing as a mom and move away from being Birth Mom's main pillar of support ... and move towards just being Moonbeam's mama. I never prepared myself for sadness or guilt associated with adopting a child. I only prepared myself for the eternal bliss that would come as a result of welcoming a child into our lives. Looking back, if anyone did try to prepare me for this, I certainly never thought that it would happen to ME. I never guessed that I would struggle with being an adopted mom. 8 months in to this, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I no longer feel afraid that Moonbeam will shun me as her mom when Birth Mom is around (although I always knew it was unrealistic that the baby I'd cared for since the moment she was born would turn her back on me for biology, the feelings were there!). I don't feel like I have to impress Birth Mom with how amazing of a mom I am or that I live up to any standard I set on paper through our homestudy or in our dear birth parent letter. I don't feel I need Birth Mom's approval that she made the right choice, because I have come to realize that her journey through grief and pain is not a reflection of me at all. It's not my daughter's Birth Mom that is going to give me the title of Mom, it's Moonbeam who will.

#18 – What I Wished I’d Known in the Beginning
In the beginning, in the first few weeks after Moonbeam was born, I wish I would have known... That Moonbeam would look at me with stars in her eyes more and more as each day passed. That I was her Mama, through and through and there was nothing that could stand between us that would ever change that. That Moonbeam would look at Birth Mom with stars in her eyes, understanding that there was an indescribable love and connection between the two of them. That this love and connection would never jeopardize my position as Moonbeam's mama. That there was nothing I could ever do to make Birth Mom's pain go away. That my texts, pictures, conversations and emails would never make her pain go away. That opening our home helped, but these visits would never take away her grief. That placing her daughter was Birth Mom's choice. That I did not cause her or coerce her to make this choice. That this choice had nothing to do with me ... that it was a choice Birth Mom made for Moonbeam and for herself. That I cannot make Birth Mom heal. That this part is up to her. That the tough things we went through together were going to make for easier times ahead. That they would result in a greater understanding and respect for each other. That ups and downs are just part of it and that we were always going to hold each other close, no matter how often we saw or heard from each other. That there are three adults in our open adoption and they all have a responsibility to keep the lines of communication open. That all visits, contact and pictures do not have to be initiated by me. That I have a responsibility to keep things open for our daughter and her birth mom, but that I am not the only one who has to uphold this responsibility. That there needs to be balance between all three adults in our triad to make sure this is going to work for our daughter. That I matter. That when I'm hurt and upset, it's ok. That this will be hard on me, but I will come out of it stronger, healthier and happier in the end. And most importantly ... That being a mom would be much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. That I would be forever thankful to Birth Mom and to Moonbeam for making this journey possible.

#19 – Reflection
Tonight while holding Moonbeam I passed by a window and saw a reflection shining at me. For a fleeting moment I thought, "That happy woman with that sparkling baby is so lucky. I hope she realizes it." It took a second before I realized that the happy, lucky woman with the sparkling baby was me.

#20 – Disclosure?
Since adopting our daughter, we have had to decide how open to be with the general population about our adoption story ... that is, how much to disclose when faced with questions by friendly/curious people that we meet through the interactions of daily life (i.e. I'm referring to strangers). What my husband and I decided early on, and have continued to stick to, is that the details of Moonbeam's adoption are personal to Moonbeam and our family and that information is to be shared only with people close to us or on a need to know basis (e.g. her pediatrician, health care providers, child care providers, etc.). This has often proven to be easier said than done. Very regularly, we are faced with questions such as "Where does she get those eyes?" or "Does she look more like Mom or Dad?" and we've become pros at being vague and dismissive... we slough the questions off and innocently admit that we don't know where she gets her eyes (true) or that we don't know if she looks more like Mom or Dad (true). As Moonbeam gets older, she may choose to share with strangers that she gets her eyes from her birth mom or that she doesn't know if she looks like her birth father... but until then, I don't feel comfortable making it known to strangers without Moonbeam's consent that we adopted her. As I type those words I wonder if this is the right approach... If I'm in some way imposing "adoption shame" on Moonbeam and coercing her to be silent about her history. On the other hand, we are open with our family, friends and others who we are in regular contact (e.g. coworkers). We often share with Moonbeam and others in our life that she looks like her birth mom. When we visit Birth Mom, I openly talk about their common features - they are both beautiful and share so many similar features. I'm not shy to talk about this to our extended family if it comes up - especially when they tell me she looks like me or my husband (which is weird in itself to deal with ... everyone knows that we adopted Moonbeam and I can only assume they understand that this means we don't share genes ...). My husband and I were confronted with this discussion the other day when someone asked us where Moonbeam gets her beautiful eyes from. I'm faced with this question a lot and I brushed it off with "I don't really know ..." and my husband answered "From her mom." Both were kind of true ... we don't really know and it's possible that she inherited this feature from Birth Mom. The lady leaned in to examine my eyes and said "Yes, she does have your eyes." My husband and I smiled, thanked her and moved the conversation along in a different direction. Afterwards I told my husband that I felt a bit like a fraud, but we agreed that the person was not "in the circle" and didn't need to know the intimate details of our family make up. I understand that in so many ways we are lucky because Moonbeam could pass as our biological child, which eliminates a lot of questions and judgment by the general population. We were open to adopting a child of a different ethnicity and now I am starting to understand how much different this whole experience would be if we couldn't just hide behind the shield of looking the same. This leads me to question if we are pretending that the situation is something other than what it really is... And whether we should be more open with strangers about how we came to be a family. We are not ashamed of our adoption story or our journey to parent and never want Moonbeam to feel ashamed about how she came to be our child. I’m not really sure where to draw the line at disclosure.

#21 – Good
It's been a while since I was feeling that things were genuinely in a good space with our open adoption. Today I feel I can genuinely say that good is making its way back. I look back at the ups and downs of how things have gone over the past year and I wonder if there are things that I should regret. I don't doubt that I've made mistakes. I don't doubt that I've said hurtful things, despite not meaning to. I don't doubt that my own insecurities have clouded my judgment at times. Over the course of the past year, my husband, Birth Mom and I have all done our best, this I am sure. We've done our best for ourselves, for each other, but most of all we've done our best for little Moonbeam. Oh little Moonbeam, who we all love so very much. I have learned that I have limits and that this is ok. I have learned that I am the only piece of this puzzle that I can control. I have learned (am learning) that guilt is not indicative of having done something wrong ... I have learned (am learning) that guilt is not an objective or healthy way to process the dynamics of our relationship. I feel Birth Mom growing stronger and I am so thankful for this. I see her gaining confidence in our triad and asking for things that are important for her. I feel myself relaxing. I feel myself starting to trust again. I feel my husband gaining understanding and comfort that we're all going to be ok. I feel Moonbeam radiating happiness, love and joy. I feel that because the three adults in our adoption are able to come together with openness, strength and understanding, Moonbeam is going to shine and radiate a light that is beyond beautiful. We've had some tough times in our open adoption and it's hard not to wonder if there were things that should have been done, said and handled differently. If I'm being honest, yes, there are times where we (I) have made some mistakes. But, I feel that these mistakes were necessary - they were what needed to happen to establish personal ground rules and healthy boundaries. They weren't easy to walk through as they were happening, but at the end of the day, they were good. Without mistakes, we would have learned nothing. I feel like the lines of communication are opening up again - that we've gained some tools to process the shock of what's happened to all of us (birth, adoption, parenting, not parenting, gaining immediate new family, loss, getting to know each other, grief, guilt, happiness, pride, you name it!). We are learning our roles in our daughter's life and are gaining comfort that none of us are going anywhere, that we're committed to each other, to this little girl we all love so very much. So ya, I'm feeling good. I think we all are. I am excited about where our relationship is headed. I'm not naive to think that it's smooth sailing forever ahead ... but I do know that our bond is strengthening and that we are gaining trust that we really do have each others' backs. The key? Talking and opening up. Opening even when the door feels stuck - pushing with all our might and looking to see what is behind the door, even when it feels safer to keep it locked shut. I'm learning that safe doesn't mean better. Opening up can be scary, but it's the only way to sweep out the dust and let the fresh air and sunshine in.

#22 – Overcoming Insecurity
I am waging a war on insecurity. This is a tough one all around. So far, one of the toughest parts of this battle has been admitting that I am insecure over oh-so-many-things. It's embarrassing, I feel vulnerable, I even feel ashamed. I don't want to be an insecure adoptive mom - I want to be strong, secure, confident in my position in all of this. Last weekend we had a visit with Birth Mom and it was textbook great. Moonbeam was thrilled by all the attention and there is no question that she adores her birth mom. Birth Mom was great - happy and engaged and interested in Moonbeam and in our family life. My husband was great, taking pictures of all of us, making us snacks, sharing funny little stories about Moonbeam's shining personality. There was only one problem. And that problem was me. Specifically, that problem was my own insecurity. My husband says I played it off totally legit, but inside I was kind of panicking. With every kiss, smile or hug that Moonbeam shared with Birth Mom, I felt left out. I felt myself shrinking in importance, I felt myself disengaging from what was happening. I felt isolated. When Birth Mom left and Moonbeam waved bye bye while resting her head on my shoulder, I sighed so many sighs of relief. And then I slipped away from Moonbeam and my husband so that I could quietly sob away my insecurities. I'm embarrassed that this is how I felt/feel and that I'm struggling with this part of adoption. I am afraid of losing my daughter, of not being good enough for her or for Birth Mom. I am afraid of being rejected by Moonbeam. This all seems crazy to a part of me that is very rational. But it all makes perfect sense to a part of me that is frightened, afraid to let go, afraid to give in, afraid to trust. I am unquestionably Moonbeam's mom. Honestly, I know this. Moonbeam knows this, Birth Mom knows this, the whole world knows this. The only one who seems to second guess this from time to time is me. I have never wanted to take away that title from Birth Mom, I've always wanted to share it, although I never really knew how. But here's the thing - it's not a question of Birth Mom retaining, gaining or losing her title as mom - this has nothing to do with me. But I NEED to own this title come hell or high water, because there's certainly no turning back now, I am a million percent this little girl's mom. I'm going to own it. I'm going to stand tall and rock this mom thing. I have no trouble rocking it when Birth Mom's not there, but as soon as she's around, I shrink into a version of myself that lacks confidence and seems weak. An insecure version of myself that frankly I don't like being a part of. And I'm starting to realize that by being strong, this doesn't mean that I am a bully to Birth Mom. It means I'm in charge of myself and my family. It means I'm giving Moonbeam 100% of me 100% of the time, even when Birth Mom is around. Having Birth Mom around does not make me any less of a mom.So I'm working on this. I'm working on it by reaching out to Birth Mom and learning to trust her. Learn to trust that as much as I have her back, she has mine too. It's hard. It's hard because I'm afraid that Moonbeam will hurt some day and I'm afraid I will too. I will never forget the moment that Birth Mom and I held Moonbeam between us and held each other while we cried, the moment right before Birth Mom left the hospital and officially made me a mom. I am a mother because this strong, beautiful woman made it so. I have to trust that she is not trying to take away the very thing that she made entirely possible. So for our next visit, I will invite her to my home and we will hug our daughter together and celebrate our very unique relationship and our very unique motherhood. We have gained so much because of each other's commitment to our little girl and to each other.

.....to be continued in Part 3 of 4.

Hearts of Adoption Options: Journal entries of facing fertility loss and one’s journey through adoption

Part 1 of 4:
The following journal entries have been shared by one of our adoptive parents. These open, honest and heartfelt entries provides an intimate glimpse into the emotional rollercoaster and realities of open adoption. Now a mother of two, we are truly grateful for being able to share the following. No names or any identifying information has been shared.

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#1 – Cat’s Out of the Bag
So. The cat is coming out of the bag. And be prepared - it's kind of a doozy. But a good one. We are adopting. We feel good. Relieved. Happy. Excited. Scared. But honestly, mostly we feel like it's meant to be. I am not religious, but I am actually a spiritual person, deep down when I look past the skepticism and logic. And you know what? I'm sick of being a non-believer in fate. I'm tired of thinking that nothing in this world is meant to be. That fate is playing a nasty joke on my maternal instincts. I am meant to be a mother. My husband is meant to be a father. We together are meant to be a family, with children. It's just going to be a bit of a different process than we initially thought it was going to be. We went to see the adoption agency yesterday and we immediately felt good. Right. At ease. Comforted. What a contrast from sitting in the fertility clinic waiting room feeling scared, sick inside, jealous. Those feelings are not for me. I avoid them at all cost. But there they always were, plain as day, every time I walked through those elevator doors. So here we go, on to a new chapter, a new journey. It is not what we'd anticipated, but we are thrilled. Our families have been more than gracious and open and so freaking amazingly fantastic about it all. I am so supported, and this is the greatest gift anyone could have ever given me in this life. I am honoured to be a part of a circle of people who are so so so cool. I feel thankful to everyone who has been a part of our decision. Making this decision has not been easy. But it makes sense. To both of us. For the first time in a long, long time, we feel destiny tugging at our hearts. This is an amazing feeling.Deep breath - diving in head first. Although I know the water will be choppy, I've dipped my toes in and the water is warm. Welcoming. Feels good. Finally.

#2 – Day One Down
Well, Day One of our adoption seminar down. I'm not gonna lie... it was a pretty overwhelming day and I'm feeling a bit overloaded with information. My husband and I both had to take the day off work for Day One of a two day open adoption seminar, which runs today and tomorrow. The session ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we sat through a full day of social workers walking us through the ins and outs of the legal system surrounding open adoption in Alberta. A lot of info, for sure. Don't get me wrong - I think the info session is great. There are many, many things that we need to learn about the adoption process and about parenting an adopted child, neither which will be easy or seamless. Today we had an opportunity to meet other couples in similar situations as ourselves, all living in and around Edmonton. There was a lot of opportunity to ask questions to the social workers and to the other prospective adoptive parents, allowing us to get as much information as we could handle about the journey that we have embarked on. All good stuff, for sure. That said, it is overwhelming. By the end of the day, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and wondering when the issues we face as an infertile couple will end. The answer I guess is never. Yes, we will eventually get a child, but we will always be infertile. This is not a new concept for me, but nonetheless, it's a daunting thought and one that I'm not sure exactly how to reconcile 100%. I fell into old thought patterns today, including wondering "Why me? Why us?" and trying to appreciate exactly how it ended up that it was me sitting in that room today with all of the other hopeful prospective adoptive parents. Sigh. The road ahead, like the road behind, seems full of challenges and "what ifs." What if our profile never gets selected? What if we have to wait for another 2, 3, 4 years before we have a child? What if the birthmother revokes her consent to the adoption plan within the 10 day window she has to legally do this? What if she has a change of heart before she signs the consent? What if the child that is placed with us is resentful and struggles throughout his/her life with the knowledge that he/she was adopted? So many questions with no certain answers. I guess it really does just come down to making it through all of this one day at a time. Inch by inch we will crawl through the application process, the checklists, the questionnaires, the homestudy process, the selection process and the various legal timelines. My husband was so awesome today after the seminar and insisted that we go for sushi; over raw fish and green tea, he reassured me that this really is the right decision for us and our future family, and that it's all going to work out just fine. When I commented that his positivity was enlightening and really uplifting, he reminded me that it's so important that we continue to support each other through the ups and downs of it all. I feel blessed to have him to walk this road with. For tonight, I think it's important that we just veg and clear our minds. Sit and watch TV and laugh, if we can. Put the adoption paperwork aside and enjoy being the two of us tonight. Go to sleep early and relax. Tomorrow is a new day.

#3 – Yellow Blanket Revelation
I am having a doozy of a weekend. Amidst all the happy news of pregnancies and babies and happiness for everyone around me, I felt a little alone on the inside. It's a strange state of being - being truly happy and excited for those around me, yet being sad and twisted up for myself. I actually really hate this part of infertility ... the part that robs me of 100% happiness for those around me. After a girlfriend's pregnancy announcement on facebook, the unveiling of the baby gender for another friend's pregnancy, a visit and cuddles with a girlfriend's brand new baby boy and an evening with my four year old nephew, I was feeling pretty low. PRETTY low I tell ya. I woke up on Saturday morning and my husband was sleeping. I played guitar and he kept on sleeping. I made some coffee and he slept some more. Meanwhile, his adoption paperwork was staring me in the face on the coffee table, as though we were having a stand-off. And I was clearly losing. The papers were still blank. So what did I do? I contemplated filling them out on my own, throwing them in the recycling bin, burning them or waking my husband up to complete them. Instead, I did the honorable thing and I ignored them. I had a shower, curled my hair, put on some make-up and some nice clothes and I left the house. I spent the afternoon distancing myself from those damn papers, contemplating whether I had once and for all given up and whether they had finally won, blank until kingdom come. I convinced myself that the journey was over. That I was tired of fighting and that this was the end. That I could accept my fate of being childless and, although I knew I would grieve, I felt I could overcome it and move forward through life with a happy ending. I worked myself into a state of convicted sadness and then came home to tell my husband the news. And guess what. The papers were no longer blank. He'd filled out all of his short answers, marking the grand finale of his end of the paperwork. I was in shock. After an afternoon spent contemplating my future childlessness, I had a hard time accepting that the paperwork end of things was finally complete and through the process of filling in his questionnaires, my husband had silently given his permission to forge ahead. So what did I do? Did I hug him and tell him how much I loved him? Leap into his arms and share stories of how it will be when we finally have a baby? Nope. Instead, I started crying and told him I can't do this anymore. He hugged me, handed me my jacket and said, "Let's go for dinner at your parents' place, as we planned. We'll talk about this later." He’s the best.So we went to my family supper and it was there that I had a revelation, which is this: the baby we're waiting on is not just a baby for my husband and I. This baby is EVERYONE'S baby. Everyone who knows us, who loves us, who's rooting for us. This is not just OUR story anymore, it's everyone's story. Everyone around me, who knows me and loves me, is playing a role, one way or another. While waiting for dinner to be served, I spent an hour or so filling in my aunt on our story, recounting our complete journey through infertility, in a very condensed nutshell. I actually startled myself at how long we've been at this, how hard we've worked and how far we've come. After dinner, my mom took me downstairs and showed me the yellow baby blanket that she's working on for our baby. For OUR baby. Everyone's baby. I realized when running my fingers through that soft knitted beginnings of a baby blanket that we all have too much invested in this journey for me to give up now. I am moving forward for myself, absolutely, but I'm also moving forward for everyone around me. Sure, I can throw in the towel and once and for all give up on myself, but... I can't give up on them. I need to stand up, be strong and push ahead for myself, for my husband and for my army of supporters. We all have so much invested in this journey. I have shared my story with anyone who has wanted to hear it, and we have been committed to openness and honesty throughout this process. Our families have been amazing. Our friends are rooting for us and ask every time they see us how things are progressing. People - friends and strangers alike - have encouraged us in so many ways. Honestly, the troops have been rallied and they are freaking awesome. So here I am today, at the end of the paperwork and, although I feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain, we are ready to press on. Our dear birthparent letter is in for review. The next step is finalizing the letter, handing in our completed paperwork package and getting ready for a homestudy. Small baby steps towards the end goal.

#4 – The Last Paragraph
I have lots of good news to report on the adoption front. Our application is IN! Like really, really in. This includes checklists, questionnaires, a profile of the child we wish to adopt, our financial profile, our health profile, tax returns, our marriage certificate and a security clearance. Phew! The only thing we're waiting on is our reference questionnaires (which have been received by all 3 of our references, and I'm sure have been/will be sent in very soon!). Oh ya, but there's one more thing we're waiting on. I'll be honest here. The last outstanding item falls to me. It's our dear birthparent letter. The. Dear. Birthparent. Letter. The DBL. Our story. Our best foot forward. Our photos. Our lives/hopes/dreams/plans all wrapped up in a couple pages. Our letter has been written and reviewed and reworked and reviewed again. We are happy with it. The social worker is happy with it. That is, with the exception of one small thing. One teeny tiny last paragraph that we need to write to sum everything up. Our 5-10 last lines. This is the paragraph that discusses the relationship we are willing to embrace as part of our open adoption. (Eek!) Not so long ago, this paragraph seemed like a distant thought, a far-off concept that we would broach in the far-off future. Well, turns out the far-off future is now. Like this week. Here we are, faced with the big question - what level of openness are we wanting for ourselves, for the family that will be giving us a child and most importantly, for the child that we will welcome into our lives? I wish I knew. I wish I had an idea of what this is all going to turn into, how the relationships that we're about to develop are going to unfold. What the impact of our decisions now are going to have on the many lives that we're about to be connected to, including our child. Which brings us to the stand-off with this one last paragraph. Open adoption is the only legal form of adoption here in Alberta. This is something that my husband and I are okay with, although I know many people have their issues with it. I get that. The concept of intertwining lives with people you don't know, especially when they centre around placing/receiving a BABY with what are currently strangers, is scary. I get this. All of it. However, we are okay with this. I don't know what exactly we are okay with, which is what I'm trying to sort out so that I can put it on paper for a birthmom to read when she is selecting a family for her baby. That is, hopefully selecting US to be the family for her baby. No matter how a child comes to us, we want them to have a strong sense of identity. We want them to always know who they are and where they come from. We believe that a strong foundation is the starting ground for any child, to help them work through life and turn into healthy adults. I don't know what this means in terms of relationships with the birth family... Emails and photos? Regular visits? Irregular visits? Phone calls? I don't know. But the thing is, I need to put it into words, into black and white print, so that we can let an unknown birthmom know that we are open, we are willing, we want our child (her child, everyone's child) to grow up strong, happy, healthy and secure. And most of all, know that they have always been loved. Sigh. I don't know what to write. The paragraph stares at me in draft form, waiting to be crafted into something legible and appealing to a mom who, I can only imagine, is about to make THE most challenging decision of her life. One that will impact her life, and the life of her unborn child, forever. Our lives forever. Everyone says to be honest, but what does that even mean? How can I commit to a relationship when I don't have any context or knowledge of the circumstances? I freaking hope that there is some sort of destiny or fate or sense of god that will weave its way into this story. Some a-ha moment for the birthmom or for us where she feels connected to us through a couple paragraphs and some photos where I look motherly enough and we are smiling just enough (not too much, not too little, just enough to look real) and we all just "know" that this is what is meant to be. If that's even real, I don't know. So ya, that's where we're at with all of this. It's up to me now, to craft the hours of discussions that we've had with so so so so many people about this into 5-10 sentences. Wish me luck. I super duper need it. This glass of red wine is only doing so much here.

#5 – Gaining
Things are moving along on the adoption front... slowly, but surely. Our dear birthparent letter was submitted and we have paid our first chunk of money for the home study. I'm anticipating that the home study will start at some point in January or February, which a couple months ago seemed like an eternity, but with life going on around me, it's really not that much longer to wait. I feel like I've changed a little bit in the past few months. Gaining patience. Gaining optimism. Gaining assurance that our baby is coming, we just don't know when. It could be a few months, it could be a year or two, but he/she is coming. Both my husband and I have unconsciously started referring to baby's arrival as "when" baby comes with confidence, and this feels good. It feels like we are finally in control of this. We have started referring to our spare bedroom as "baby's room." Wow. Big step for us. We are in the process of picking out blinds for our house and yesterday we contemplated the colour and style we want for our baby. We agreed that we'd like to have the baby room renos in progress when the home study starts so that the social worker sees that we are ready in the event that we get a call for an instant placement. So, plans are underway, including a paint job and a head start on furniture. Holy smokes. Lots of good is coming out of moving towards adoption. After 10 years of trying to conceive, it feels really great to let this part of our relationship go and focus on us as a successful, loving couple, rather than us the failing, broken hearted couple who can't have a baby. Every month I still get my period of course (contrary to what most people think, putting our adoption plan in motion has not made me more fertile... shocker!), and although endometriosis is still very painful for my body, I have been able to let go of the emotional turmoil and monthly depression that came with getting my period. No longer do I feel like a failure because we are no longer trying to conceive. And I think that was one of worst parts of it all - trying so hard and never attaining our goal. We have time off coming up to rest and relax, which is amazing. It feels good to reconnect with my home body self - sleeping in, cooking, spending time with family, organizing our home ... Although the adoption process is definitely one that requires a lot of patience as it is looonnnngggggg, I'm actually thankful for the waiting period. It's giving me time to mentally prepare and get ready. We are having a baby.

#6 – Moving Forward in Moderation (New Year’s Eve)
Looking back at the past year, it's hard to deny that this past year was a biggie for my husband and I ... the first year in our new house, job changes for both of us, the start and end of fertility treatments and finally embarking on our journey to open adoption. It's been a year of change, growth, reflection and decisions. I'm glad all years aren't like this past one - shifting is good, contemplating is good, decision making is good. But it's all very hard. And for this reason alone, I'm looking forward to putting the past year behind us.I'm not sure if this coming year will be the one that we bring a baby home, but for now I'm not stressing about it. What I'm more concerned about for this year is getting to a state of being where we are ready to bring a baby home. A state of being where I am at peace, my husband is at peace, our home is ready for a baby and our lives are ready for this pretty awesome parenting ride that we're signing up for. My new year's resolution is to be healthy in body and mind. My husband laughed yesterday when I told him that I aim to be healthy ... but ... in moderation (I'm kinda lazy when it comes to things like working out, for example). But I am serious about this moderation thing... I don't want to get all health nutty and hyped up about carb consumption and BMI and cardio this and that, which for me means potentially jeopardizing a healthy state of mind (which I have been working so hard to achieve) just for the sake of 5 lbs. So my resolution is to commit to healthy life choices and, more importantly, healthy thoughts. I think this is what is going to best prepare me for the year ahead and the years to come. Now that we've stopped trying to conceive, I am certain that we are going to bring a baby home. Funny how that works, but now that I've shelved any ideas of conceiving a child and putting my mind and body through the challenges of fertility treatments, I've been able to move past the thought of getting pregnant and focus on what is the more important goal - becoming a mother. This past year I came to terms with letting go of the hope of getting pregnant, of conceiving a child that was 50% my genes, 50% my husband's genes. I gave up on the dream of watching a mini-biological me grow up. This was hard, I'm not going to lie. Probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. I grieved, for sure. I cried, denied, got angry for all the things that couldn't be. But through that process I was able to accept my life for what it is and open my heart to what is to be. By giving up on one dream, I opened my heart to another - adoption. As the last day of the year, today is a happy day, but it's a sad day as well. As I wait for a child, I know that the best is yet to come. But I don’t forget that for many people (myself included), today marks the end of yet another year where our hearts and homes feel empty. All we can do is hope that these feelings of emptiness will soon be relieved with the happy news that a baby is about to enter our lives. For some of us, this new year will be the ticket. For some of us, this new year will serve as a greater test to our patience, our strength of character and our ability to hold on and let go at the same time. I wish for all of us that the new year that we’re welcoming will be easier than the one we’re leaving behind. That our growing pains have not been in vain, but that they have afforded us the ability to smile in the face of adversity. Baby or no baby this coming year, I know that I will need strength and will be calling on the experiences I had as part of the old year's growing pains to keep me standing tall.

#7 – Oh Crap
Ohhhhhkay. Just a couple days ago I was all zen-like and happy for the time that I would have to settle in to this whole getting ready for baby thing, organizing my house, etcetera, etcetera. Well, turns out life has other plans here. Yesterday afternoon I was plugging away at work when I got a phone call from the adoption agency. Annnnndddd... turns out they are coming to our house to start our homestudy on Monday. Yes, this Monday coming up. I’m panicking. I started freaking out. Not freaking out like "oh my god, there's a social worker coming to my house in 6 days" but more like "oh my god, this is really happening, I'm going to have a baby" kind of freaking out. I don't know what I expected. I think I sort of expected our homestudy to not start for like two more years. I know, ridiculous right? But seriously, I feel like I had all these lofty visions of what it was going to be like when a) our homestudy was under way and b) when we get a baby. Here's the low down. A social worker will be coming to our house for the next 3 Mondays, from 1-5 p.m. I will take the time off work and my husband has the afternoons off as is. I don't know what the whole homestudy is really going to entail, but I'm imagining there will be questions about our lives, why we want to adopt, our relationship, our families, etc. My sister pointed out that this seems very arduous. My feelings on it are that yes, this process is going to be taxing, but... one of the only fortunate things about infertility is that I will never have to grow a baby in my body. 12 hours of interviews I can take. Then. THEN. At the end of this month, we will be done our homestudy. Then we will be on a waiting list. Oh. My. God. This is happening so fast. Chances are, we'll be on a list for like a year or two or more. That's fine, I'm totally cool with that (today, anyway). But here's the thing. My friend was on the list for three weeks and she had a daughter. Like a real live, breathing, crying, pooping, snuggling newborn baby girl. After three weeks. I am trying to remember what it was like when I thought I was never going to be a mom. I am trying to remember if there was *ever* a hint of relief in there. Because for the record, this is a teeny bit scary. Don't get me wrong, there is for sure nothing I want more than to be a mama. But let's be honest here - now that I'm inching, no, let me correct myself, SPEEDING towards motherhood, I'm kinda crapping my pants. So ya, that's what is new in my world.

#8 – Almost Done
Well, here we are, so close to the finish line to being "expectant parents." Our homestudy is COMPLETE! Our social worker is just finishing up with last minute touches to our profile. I can't believe it. This new year has been insane so far - I remember New Year's Eve when I was calmly and quietly welcoming in the new year, naively thinking that this new year would be chill and that we'd have a slow easing in to this whole becoming a parent thing. I couldn't have been more wrong! January started with a bang when we got a call from our assigned social worker asking if she could come to our house the following Monday (i.e. less than a week from the call). This call put us immediately into getting busy mode, including emptying out our soon to be nursery and completely organizing our basement. We had moved into our new house two years ago but we had just started using the spare bedroom (that is - nursery) and our fully finished basement as storage areas. Not neatly organized ones either. But over the course of 4-5 days, we completely (and finally!) unpacked our house and fully settled in. Next came 3 Monday afternoon visits - a total of 15 hours of visits in our home by the social worker. This meant two full tours of our house and intense interviews. Our social worker couldn't have been more perfect. We had a lot in common and she was just so awesome about the whole process. Although we all got along very well, the process was gruelling and emotionally difficult. Talking about your complete life history, with all of its ups and downs, is no easy feat. I'm glad the hard parts are over. I seriously can't believe that this is almost done and that we're nearly on the list. This is really, really happening. We are almost, almost expecting a baby. I'm scared man, for reals. Like me, with a baby? (insert peep of a scream here.) We went to visit our neighbours' new set of newborn twins and I just marvelled at these little boys and realized that soon I will have my own little guy or gal to feed, care for, hold, change, bath and worry about. Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod.

#9 – Big big week
Ok. So. I don't even know how to begin writing this post. This week has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Here is our timeline: Monday We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. We also received our home study report in the mail, which we reviewed in detail, reading out loud. We were happy with it. Coincidentally, Monday also marked the one year anniversary since we had started hormone injections in prep for our first IUI. We reminisced about how awful injections were for us as a couple and for my poor body. We talked about how thankful we are that we pulled the plug on fertility treatments and decided to pursue open adoption. Tuesday10 am - I called the adoption agency to confirm we'd received the homestudy report and that we had only minor changes to dates/ages of siblings, but that overall we were really happy with the report. The adoption agency officially confirmed that we’d been on the list for over a week. Yahoo! 2 pm - I got a call from the agency while at work asking if they could talk to my husband and I together at 6 pm. I told them this was no problem, but was wondering what the nature of the call was. The social worker told me she needed to make some changes to my section of the report. It seemed a little weird, but I wasn't going to dig too deeply, so we agreed to connect via phone at 6 pm. 6 pm - The social worker called and asked if we had our homestudy report in hand. We said yep and were ready to do some editing. She told us to put it away. Get this. We'd been chosen. 6:02 pm - Shock. Utter and complete shock. No words. 6:03 - 7:00 pm - The social worker gives us all the details. Baby girl is due in two weeks. Birthmom lives in our city, not that far from us. She'd been looking for a family for a long time. When our profile came available, she took it home for review and knew she'd found the right family. We'd been picked. 7:00 pm - 2:30 am - Processing. Dealing. Being excited. Being scared. Working through so many WTF feelings. Contacting family and close friends. Jumping up and down. Hugging. Definitely not sleeping. Wednesday Telling work and confirming my last day of work will be next Friday. Reassigning all of my projects. Staring at my computer screen and not being able to focus on work at all. Texting the social worker to reassure ourselves that this is real. Starting to panic about all sorts of irrational fears about baby girl's health. I left work early and we talked to the social worker at 4 p.m. We told her all the things we're scared about. I told her I knew I sounded like a stress case and that I didn't know where all this stress and fear was coming from. She said I was talking like a mom, nothing more, nothing less. This made me feel better. My husband had to work this night so instead of eating or doing any of my normal evening life stuff or anything productive or fun at all, I spent 4 hours googling the most absurd, scary things that could ever go wrong with this baby's health. I worked myself into a panicked frenzy until I called my sister who told me this fear is normal and happens to all moms (is this true????). She told me that the sad news is that it actually gets worse as the kid gets older and that understanding this now will help to mitigate the worry I'm going to feel moving forward. She is awesome. She assured me this is going to be ok and that this baby is 99.9% for sure going to be just fine. Thursday I started to feel like it's all going to be ok and that the baby will be healthy. Then I started panicking that the birthmom won't like us and once she meets us she'll change her mind. Ya, another day of fear and irrational stress. That night, my husband was still worried about baby's health (just for the record here, there are no indications of ill-health - this is all just us being crazy). We talked it through and came to the understanding that it's all going to be ok no matter what and that we have the skills to handle any parenting situation that comes our way. We concluded that kids are a crap shoot and that you never know what you're going to get and that this little girl is going to be the love of our life. Then my husband started panicking that birthmom won't like us. Luckily, I'd already gone through this cycle and was able to assure him that it was going to work out just fine. Friday We met birthmom. I was calm until about 10 minutes before we were scheduled to meet her. My husband was very nervous all morning. We bought her some flowers and a card. We went to the adoption agency and were met by the social worker. She introduced us to birth mom. We loved her. Love love love. She is beautiful, she is so sweet, she is perfect. She loves so much of the same stuff that we do and she loves this baby. She wants us to parent this little girl. We talked for 3 hours. She invited us to the last ultrasound, which is this coming Tuesday. We named the baby together. We talked about contact. We exchanged phone numbers. We got a photo together and walked out to our cars together. She's so cool. I can't believe it.***So ya. Kind of a crazy week. Last night we went to the baby store and started looking at all the things we're going to need, starting with a car seat, a bassinet, clothes and bottles. We bought some small stuff and set today aside for the big purchases.Our baby girl is coming. We can't wait to meet her.

HOPE.... to be continued next week.

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

Birthmother Tribute and Adoption Circle devotion

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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,
Sheryl

*photo c/o my good friend Robb Thompson photography

Do You Have Any Children?

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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!

Marilyn

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?!!”

YES IT DOES.

“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.

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)

HOPE:
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.

xox

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!