Hearts of Adoption Options

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

So a thing happened today. My son behaved expectantly.

Not at first, but it happened.

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

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

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

Until today.

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

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

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

“He has Autism,” I squeaked out.

“He feels he needs to be here.”

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

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

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

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

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

This sounds horrific, I know.

It was.

And also, it wasn’t.

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

Today my son behaved expectantly.

Not at first, but it happened.

{goodnight, sweet Casey}.

-Erin Peden

Hearts of Adoption Options - Life in Limbo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearts of Adoption Options - A Mother's Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this isn’t the end of our story.

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

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

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

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

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

Erin Peden

Hearts of Adoption Options

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

Hearts of Adoption Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Amy Bell

Hearts of Adoption Options

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Mcroberts Dalakoudis

Hearts of Adoption Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Placement Update

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

Hearts of Adoption Options

Our Executive Director's Personal Story

It is Friday and as announced here is Sheryl Proulx’s first video blog! This is the first time that Sheryl has shared intimate details of her personal journey with adoption and how it brought her into her vocation as a social worker which ultimately led her to becoming the Executive Director of Adoption Options in Alberta.

For anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy or fertility loss and for anyone in the social work field, this is a must watch. Please Like and Share.

From the Desk of Liz: The Rollercoaster Ride of International Adoption from the United States

Liz Gifford

An analogy of creating a family through international adoption from the United States is being on a roller coaster ride. The anxiety of waiting for the ride to begin (the homestudy and approval process) the excitement and anticipation as you sit in your designated car (waiting for a match) and the thrill once the roller coaster starts and takes you at neck breaking speed around the curves and up and downs of the track (being informed of a match) and exhilaration of surviving the ride and arriving at the planned destination - the end of the ride (being placed with a baby).

This ride is not always predictable and the riders do not know when the ride will stop or if they will become suspended upside down. When a birthmother has a change of heart – prospective adoptive parents can feel they are in limbo with no way out. They have no control of the roller coaster ride – they are trapped in without a known outcome.

One of our waiting couples with the U.S. recently experienced a change of heart and is dealing with the loss of their desire to be parents not materializing. They are more than ready to be parents and they were so hopeful their dream would become a reality. In talking with this couple I was struck by their grace and humility in dealing with this turn in their adoption journey and compassion for the birthparents who decided to parent. Yes they are suspended upside down but know they need to remain this way - as their desire to be parents cannot be accomplished if they get out. Their seatbelts are securely fastened, their hands are firmly grasping the handle rail, determination, trepidation, and hope imprinted on their faces as they prepare themselves for the roller coaster to start moving again; this time with the hoped arrival of their dreamed destination of parenthood.

Liz Gifford   BSW RSW
Liz has been working for Adoption Options for almost 25 years,
and as International Program Director since 2008

Introducing: Hearts of Adoption Options

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Adoption Options is thrilled to announce that our media presence is expanding. As Alberta’s leading licensed adoption agency we are committed to providing caring support, quality information and choices to anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy and to Alberta residents wishing to create or expand their family through adoption. Increasing our media presence is fundamental in helping us reach anyone who is facing an unplanned pregnancy requiring support and options counselling. In addition to this it is vital for adoptive families to be informed, educated and updated on adoption information and current happenings in the adoption community.

Follow us on social media for up to date relevant information regarding adoption practices in Alberta. We will be posting live video blogs, resources, interviews with professionals in the adoption community and a series of journals from our in-house birth and adoptive families. Inspired by the popular photoblog Humans of New York, we would like to introduce Hearts of Adoption Options

Hearts of Adoption Options is about sharing our stories. Since the beginning of time we have told stories. The power of story sharing is essential to making and maintaining connections and is an integral part of personal healing and well-being. It's a way to stay connected to our past, and provides us a glimpse into our future. 

You can help us reach out by being connected on our social media, sharing and most importantly by contributing. If you would like to contribute please contact: Desiree.Gebauer@adoptionoptions.com.

As so many of you have shared your stories with us, Adoption Options wants to share our stories with you. Be sure to check out Executive Director Sheryl Proulx's first live video blog available on our social media March 24. Sheryl will be sharing with you her story as a birth mother and how this experience became her vocation. 

In the meantime, please continue to follow us!

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Mahatma Ghandi

Five Days in May

An Adoptive Couple's Journey of the Heart 

Cody and Jenny                                                                 

We’d been waiting a little over three years when we received the phone call that every adoptive parent anxiously anticipates – you’ve been chosen. 

The birth mom was in labour and our little bundle would be arriving that day! We frantically phoned parents, called our employers to let them know we wouldn’t be in the next day (and in Jenny’s case that she wouldn’t be in for the next year!) then ran to grab the last minute essentials for welcoming a new baby into our home. The excitement was nearly overwhelming.

Labour and delivery went smoothly and we were welcomed into the hospital room right after the birth of our beautiful baby girl. This was our first time meeting the birth parents and the emotions that everyone experienced while we held our daughter for the first time are something we’ll never forget. How, after only moments, could we be so in love with our daughter?  It had finally happened, our family had grown by one. Together we discussed our short list of names and made it official, our daughter’s name would be Claire.

We found it difficult to express the level of gratitude and happiness we felt to these two people who we’d only just met. We wanted them to know that we were good people that they could trust. We wanted them to feel how committed we were to loving and caring for this sweet baby. Just saying the words didn’t seem like enough.

Something a lot of adoptive parents think and worry about is their relationship with their child’s birth parents. Will we have anything in common? Will we want the same type of relationship? We came away from our first meeting feeling completely overwhelmed by the warmth and love that we already felt for these two people and how much love they already had for us. We felt the weight of the responsibility and we were ready to live up to every expectation. Watching the birth family say goodbye to Claire was one of the most emotional moments of our lives. We had so much respect for the strength and courage it took to decide that someone else would be Claire’s mom and dad.

We started to call our closest friends and family to share the good news. “We have a daughter, her name is Claire, and she’s happy and healthy! The birth parents? They’re wonderful and have been so welcoming to us”. Everyone who supported us through this journey now got to experience our joy along with us. 

The first few days were stressful but we started to settle into a routine and thought, “Yes, we can do this”. We sent a few pictures in an email to the birth mom who wanted to see where Claire would be sleeping. We wanted her to see the bassinet right next to our bed and hoped it would help her to know that Claire was safe and close to us.

Those first days flew by! We thought often of Claire’s birth parents and were sending them all our good thoughts and love. On day 5 Cody left the house to run a few errands. While he was out, he took a call from a private number – on the other end was our social worker from Adoption Options. It didn’t even register that she could be calling about a revocation. Everything stood still as we received the awful news. Turning around and driving home to face Jenny was devastating.

We spent some time with Claire in the nursery, just the three of us, while we tried to collect ourselves. The birth parents were already at the Adoption Options’ office and were waiting for us to bring Claire in as soon as possible. This was the first time in our lives that we experienced a loss of this significance. The type of loss that brings you to your knees, that brings forward uncontrollable sobs. What we remember most about this moment was the overwhelming feeling of love that we had for each other. There was love and trust that we would take care of one another, no matter what. 

Within 90 minutes we were sitting in a room with the birth parents, our social worker from Adoption Options and baby Claire. We were feeling the same emotions and same sense of loss that they must have felt in the hospital five days earlier. Later, one of the most common questions we would get from friends and family was about how angry we must have been with the birth parents. However, in that moment there was no anger, just a strong sense of concern for Claire. We shared with her birth parents as many details as possible from the past five days; the formula she was eating, what her daily schedule looked like, how she liked to be swaddled. Our only concern was Claire and making sure that we shared everything we’d learnt. We wanted them to know the great start we’d given her and we wanted nothing more than for them to succeed. It was clear that this was heartbreaking for them as well. 

We spoke with our social worker for a few minutes before going home. She helped us formulate our plan for the coming hours, days and weeks. Apart from our parents, there isn’t anyone who has ever saw us so vulnerable. Her hugs, kind words and giving us permission to grieve were so helpful. We remember feeling such loss, emptiness and even embarrassment that the adoption was revoked. Words cannot describe how terrible it felt to drive home with an empty car seat or walking by the closed door of the nursery. We were constantly thinking of Claire, worried if she was alright, hoping that she was happy with her birth parents, and even wondering if her name was still Claire.

 

To help us cope, we decided to get out of town for a few days. We left friends, family, and some of the heartache behind while we took time for the two of us to talk, support each other, and work through the emotions that we were feeling. 

The months after we returned home were not easy. Friends and family were unsure of how to react. Others who did not yet know of the revocation asked “how’s the little one doing?” or “are you getting any sleep with the baby?” While answering these questions was difficult, we continued to be advocates for birth parents, remained committed to the process and still believed we would eventually be parents. Thinking about all the what if’s was also something we struggled with. What if we had gotten to spend more time with the birth parents before Claire was born? What if we had emailed or texted them more during those first days? Giving up that pursuit for answers and just accepting that some things are beyond our control helped us move forward to a place of excitement and anticipation again.

While we had discussed the possibility of a revocation with our family and close friends, we realized afterwards that we hadn’t spoken about it enough. There was confusion on their part about what happens next. Did we go back to “the bottom” of the list? Would it be another three years? Had we changed our mind about adoption? The answers to these questions all seemed obvious to us but more than a few family members needed clarification. 

Then, on a hot sunny day in August, we received another call, this time from Adoption Option’s Calgary office. We’d been matched and a beautiful, healthy baby girl had just been born.  While the excitement was immense, it was almost secondary to the incredible anxiety we felt. These contrasting emotions felt strange – trying to be realistic about the potential of another revocation and trying not to deny ourselves the joy of a new baby. Knowing we were dealing with another instant placement brought back feelings of uncertainty around how we would survive another 10-day waiting period. We decided not to share the news so widely and spent much of the time at home getting to know our little girl. She helped us understand why as adoptive parents we put our hearts on the line and accept the risk of having them broken. 

Every other joy in our lives is now compared to the feeling of hitting day 11. Knowing that we’d made it and that the incredibly painful journey that had led us to this point had been worth every tear. We have an amazing daughter and a relationship with her birth parents that we cherish so much. Everything feels right. This is the moment we were waiting for; we have the daughter we were destined to raise. Part of overcoming the difficulty of Claire’s revocation was understanding that it’s also part of Olivia’s adoption story. The path that led us to Olivia includes those 5 days with Claire and all the pain and heartbreak after. Those decisions in May set the stage for what was still to come. Looking at Olivia now as she turns 6 months old, it’s hard to imagine life any other way.

Cody and Jenny

Tax Credits for Families Created through Adoption

Jean Lucas

As February comes to an end and we start finding tax slips in the mail and our inboxes, it’s important for prospective adoptive families and those who recently adopted to know about Adoption Tax Credits available to help offset costs involved in the adoption process.

If you adopt a child under the age of 18, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) allows you to claim up to $15,453 in eligible adoption expenses on your income tax return (line 313). In addition to the federal tax credit, residents of Alberta may also be entitled to claim an additional $12,619 of eligible expenses with the provincial tax credit (on line 5833).

The tax savings provides relief for families in the year their adoption is finalized, with maximum federal tax savings of $2,317 (at 15% tax rate) and provincial tax savings of $1,261 (at 10%) - for a total max of $3578.

Remember to keep your records and receipts from the start. CRA recognizes that the adoption period usually covers more than one year, but eligible expenses for the entire adoption period must be claimed in the year the adoption is finalized (when adoption order is issued or the child first begins to live with you, whichever date is later).

Eligible adoption expenses include fees paid to adoption agencies and foreign institutions, court and legal costs, and document translation fees. Parents may also claim travel and living expenses related to the adoption and mandatory expenses for an adopted child’s immigration. For expenses to qualify, they must be incurred during the adoption period, from time of application to finalization.

For more information about the Adoption Tax Credit, visit Canada Revenue Agency’s website at: www.cra.gc.ca.

How Our Lives Changed...

Chantelle Beach

For our January Adoptive Parents Group meeting in Calgary, we gathered to discuss the topic, “How Our Lives Changed After We became Parents”.  It proved to be a fun and revealing meeting!  Here are some of the highlights:

  • My spouse and I reverted to how we were raised. Despite having had many conversations about how we would parent similarly, as a team, when the time came, we discovered we had very different parenting styles. The need for clear, open communication is so important!
  • My maternal instincts kicked in as soon as I saw my child. “Mama Bear” comes alive whether you parent a child through birth or adoption.
  • My children have a way of pushing my buttons and bringing out frustration in me that I never knew was possible. This brought a whole new meaning to the word “Patience”!
  • I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the perfect parent. Many adoptive parents feel the need to be “Super Parents” because they know they have had their child bestowed upon them by their child’s birthmother, and because the adoptive agency has approved them.
  • I became anxious, felt lonely, and/or missed my job once I was parenting. Post Placement Depression is real, and very similar in nature to Post Partum Depression!
  • Kids are expensive! Finances become a major source of conflict when you are parenting if you have not already financially established yourselves prior to parenting.

I hope you can join us for our meeting in February, when adoptive parents and birthparents join together to ask/answer questions, and share stories about their open adoption experience.

Chantelle Beach   BSW, RSW
Chantelle is a social worker in our Calgary office, and is very passionate about adoption from both a professional and a personal perspective. She is the mother of three children each of whom joined her family through open adoption.

The Matching Process: An Overview

Erika Moore

Commonly in our work, we face questions about the “matching” process, and how it works. Adoptive parents might wonder, “why has our file not been shown?” or “why has our file not been shown more frequently?”, while birthparents might inquire as to how the files of adoptive parents are selected for their consideration. 

Below represents an overview of the matching process, inclusive of the birth and adoptive parents’ individual and overlapping experiences in OPEN ADOPTION.

Birthparent / Expectant Parent Process

1.    When expectant parents approach Adoption Options, they are met with a neutral and non-judgmental source of support.  Together, the expectant parent and counsellor will:

  • engage in OPTIONS counseling
  • explore supports and resources available to the expectant parent for all options being considered
  • discuss stressors, challenges, and barriers present in the expectant parent’s life
  • educate about Open Adoption

Through counselling, the expectant parent may come to the conclusion that adoption is not the right option for them. 
THIS IS OKAY!  If this is the case, our social workers do their best to refer and connect the expectant parent with resources that are suited to their individual decision.

It is our goal that NO ONE will leave Adoption Options unsupported, disconnected or alone.

2.    If, through counselling, an expectant parent concludes that making an adoption plan for her/his child is what they feel is best, the expectant parent will:

  • be supported in considering what type of family she/he hope their child will be placed with. This may include (but is not limited to):
              o   where the family lives – i.e. location in the province, farm, town, or city
              o   sexual orientation of the family
              o   education level
              o   religion
              o   number of children in family already
              o   lifestyle factors
              o   any other areas of significance for the birthparent
  • provide information about their own health, family background, and pregnancy health history
  • birthparents will also be asked to consider what type and frequency of contact they desire with their child, and his/her adoptive family.  This may range from regular in person contact to very little or no contact (and everything in between!).

3.    The above information gathered by the birthparent is used to select the files of adoptive parents that may be a “good match” for them and their circumstances. These files consist of letters and pictures put together by the adoptive parents, highlighting themselves, their interests, their relationship, and their lifestyle.

It is integral to the process that birth and adoptive parents are “matched” based on similar expectations, mutual comfort, and celebration of one another’s circumstances. 

How many files the expectant parent views is up to them. They may find a family who they are interested in right away, or they may request more files to look at.   

Adoptive Parent Process

1.    All Adoptive parents must go through a process of education, and approval before joining the active waitlist to adopt.  This process involves:

  • Attendance at an educational pre-adoption seminar where they learn about the law, the process, and the values of open adoption
  • Submit extensive application documentation, including medical reports completed by a doctor, criminal record check and child intervention record checks, reference letters, etc.
  • Have a homestudy assessment completed by the agency.  This process is in-depth and is necessary to evaluate the safety, stability, and suitability of all applicants to be good adoptive parents

2.    All adoptive families must carefully consider and educate themselves about a variety of health, developmental, and social considerations in a child’s background PRIOR to approval for such considerations.

3.    An adoptive parent’s profile is ONLY shown when it “matches” the criteria they have identified as a comfortable fit in terms of the birthparent and child’s information, AND when the adoptive family matches the criteria highlighted as a priority for the birthparent (as above). 

4.    While we ALWAYS begin showing adoptive parent files in order of the longest waiting families and down the list towards our most recent waiting families, this does not mean that the longest waiting family is the right “match” for every child.  The unique considerations of both birth and adoptive families (as highlighted above) are prioritized.

The matching process is NOT one of numbers.  Rather, it is driven by emotion, shared values and personal connection.

The Match

When a birthparent(s) has selected the viewing file of a family they feel connected to, they may be offered the HOMESTUDY of that family. This document provides further information to the birthparent to support their determination as to whether that particular family is the right one for them and the child. If not, they can always return to looking at more files of waiting families.

When a birthparent has found a family who she is interested in, a “MATCH MEETING” is often arranged. A match meeting is:

  • An opportunity for birth and adoptive families to meet in person
  • An opportunity to discuss mutual hopes and dreams for the child
  • Often the next step in planning, and topics such as naming the baby, desired contact, etc. are usually discussed in this setting

The Relationship…

When a match meeting has occurred, and all parties identify a commitment in moving forward together, birth and adoptive parents are considered “MATCHED”.

This is a time of preparation for baby, getting to know one another, and developing the relationship that feels right for all involved.

Each relationship in open adoption is unique.  There are no two exactly alike!

All parties continue to receive the support and guidance of Adoption Options staff throughout this time, and onwards…  


Erika Moore  Dip. SW, RSW
Erika is passionate about her role at Adoptions Options; one that encompasses both birth and adoptive parent support, providing options counselling, homestudy assessment and placement facilitation.

Motherisk Resource

Melinda Lombardo

I would like to share a resource which may be helpful for expectant parents to receive information on pregnancy.

Motherisk is a resource that provides reliable, up-to-date information about pregnancy including prescription, over the counter or other drug use, alcohol use, conditions or medical issues and other health impacts during pregnancy. It is sponsored by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacy.

There are plenty of articles and general information on the website, as well as telephone Helplines with Motherisk Counsellors to provide more detailed information on specific situations. This is a great resource for birth parents and adoptive parents to learn more about health, pregnancy, and baby. Check out their website here: www.motherisk.org

(Motherisk is for educational information only and is not designed to constitute medical advice, so it is always best to consult with a physician.)

Melinda Lombardo   BSW, RSW
Melinda is a social worker in our Calgary office. She offers support and counselling for expectant parents facing an unplanned pregnancy as well as adoptive parents dreaming of creating their family through adoption.

A Long Way Home

Liz Gifford

I would like to recommend a book I read recently.  A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley is a true story of a five year old boy from India placed for international adoption with a couple in Australia. This is a memoir as recalled by Saroo and discusses his childhood memories of growing up as a very young child in India, being accidentally separated from his family,  being available for adoption, and placed for adoption with his adoptive parents in Australia. As Saroo was not abandoned or relinquished for adoption by his parents (his circumstances of being available are very unique), he knew his family must have wondered what had happened to him and he hoped as well that they continued to think about him. 

Throughout the book he speaks very highly of his adoptive parents in Australia and feels a great sense of gratitude to the life they provided him, although his desire to reconnect with his birth family and to feel a sense of connection to his country of birth never wanes. It is not that he did not want to be with his adoptive parents and brother but that he grieved for his birth family and craved information about them. Through great determination, support of his parents and girlfriend at the time, the technology of Google Earth, and perhaps some luck, he is able to locate his town of birth and then travels there to find his birth family. 

The book is inspiring, uplifting, sad, and ultimately happy. It has been made into a movie called Lion starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. The movie was nominated for four Golden Globes' including Best Motion Picture Drama. I have seen the movie and it is very well done - I would absolutely recommend seeing. (Jan 24 update: 2017 Academy Award nominations announced: Lion has been nominated for Best Picture, as well as in 5 other Oscar categories.)

Some words of caution for readers: the timelines for the completion of Saroo’s adoption reflects the process and regulations at the time - 1987.  Adopting internationally has become more complex and lengthy over the years but with patience and commitment to the process, children are being placed with Albertans who desire to create or grow their family through international adoption.   Building Families ~ Creating Futures

Liz Gifford   BSW RSW
Liz has been working for Adoption Options for almost 25 years,
and as International Program Director since 2008.

Adjusting After Adoption: The Baby Blues

Becoming a parent is a life-changing event that can spark many emotions despite feeling ready and prepared. The CDC reports 1 in 8 women experience post partum depression. Although there are hormonal changes related to this, studies show fathers can experience this too, as well as adoptive parents. Other factors that can contribute to the baby blues may include the major changes following placement, fertility grief, and adoption related issues, which can take us by surprise following a much anticipated and joyous placement. Patricia Irwin Johnston has written fantastic books and articles about adoption, including the one below “Arrival Adjustment: The Post-Adoption Blues” with some helpful tips for adoptive parents. 

Melinda Lombardo  BSW, RSW


Arrival Adjustment: The Post-Adoption Blues

by Patricia Irwin Johnston

Post-arrival confusion, anxiety and minor depression is relatively common among parents. Some sources claim that at least 50% of parents—both fathers and mothers—suffer from the Baby Blues. Unlike the more serious medical condition known as postpartum depression, Baby Blues are not necessarily influenced by hormonal fluctuations. That’s why it’s just as likely that dads as well as moms may experience Baby Blues whether they become parents by birth or by adoption. Many factors contribute to the Baby Blues, no matter how the child arrives. Becoming a parent is in itself a major life change. Many parents—including those who have prepared themselves well—initially feel inadequate for such an enormous responsibility when a real baby is finally in their arms. No matter at what age the new child arrives, new parents’ sleep patterns are usually interrupted as they doze with one ear tuned to the needs of a small person in unfamiliar surroundings. Parents may eat differently or even skip meals entirely when distracted by a needy small person. Schedules and routines fall by the wayside and life begins to feel out of control. A child who is particularly fussy or anxious, who is experiencing some attachment difficulties, or who is medically fragile may create an early parenting experience far different from the idyllic one dreamed of for so long. 

Issues specific to adoption may contribute to post-arrival depression too. Enormous excitement surrounds the arrival of a new member of the family, but what if you’re worried that grandparents or aunts and uncles won’t accept this child? And what about the insensitive comments that ignorant but usually well meaning others throw about? And what if it doesn’t feel the way you expected that it would? And what if you’re finding that this new experience is re-triggering old memories? And what if you are feeling consumed with worry or guilt about your child’s birthparents’ loss? 

New parents usually take time away from work. But despite recent U.S. federal laws which support the need for adoptive parents to have leave, some employers may be less than cooperative if they see post-arrival leave as a medical issue for those who give birth rather than as a parenting issue. Depending on whether you were able to plan this well in advance or were surprised by the timing of the adoption, being away from the job can produce anxiety and even guilt—both of which may be enhanced by the parent’s berating of self for not being able to forget the job and focus exclusively on the longed-for new arrival. For some people personal self-image is so intrinsically tied to their jobs that becoming a full-time parent, whether on temporary leave or as a change in lifestyle, can be difficult to adjust to.

Some new adopters find that infertility issues resurface briefly when their new child arrives, so that they feel some (usually temporary) sadness that this child is not connected to them genetically. Other adoptive parents are overwhelmed by feelings of sadness for the losses experienced by their child’s birthfamily and find it difficult to allow themselves to feel joy rooted in another’s grief. Still others find it difficult to let themselves fall unconditionally into love with a child during any period of time when a birthparent’s decision may be revoked.

To help yourself or your partner in staving off or coping with post-arrival blues, try these tips, some of which have been offered before as general arrival tips:

  • Acknowledge that you’re only human. That approved homestudy may have felt like getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but it didn’t grant you status as Super-Parent-To-Be. Don’t beat yourself up!
  • The stay-at-home parent should shower and dress before the other parent leaves in the morning. Not only is it hard to find time for this later, but getting off to this kind of “fresh start” can set a tone for the day.
  • Eat a balanced diet. (Those pre-arrival prepared foods suggested earlier can come in handy now, or suggest to friends who want to know what they can do to help that a carried-in meal would be welcomed far more than would “holding the baby.”)
  • Be kind to your head and to your soul. Hire a sitter (or recruit a friend or your partner) to give yourself a few minutes each day just for yourself—to take a leisurely bath, to read a book, to meditate, to make a phone call, etc.
  • Relieve stress by remembering to exercise regularly... yoga stretches during nap time, a brisk walk around the block while pushing a stroller, new parent aerobics or swimming classes (with daycare provided) at the local Y.
  • Don’t allow yourself to feel “trapped.” Take the baby with you to the mall or a museum. Have lunch at Wendy’s with a friend. Contact a parents’ group.
  • Feed your partnership. It’s easy for new parents to forget that this came first and for parenting partners to feel cast aside by a devoted new parent.
  • Be your own advocate for quiet time with your family as you adjust to one another and the changes that accompany this new experience. Well-wishers often forget that it isn’t just the physically demanding experience of giving birth that puts new moms in need of help and rest, many birthfathers and adoptive parents experience “Cinderella syndrome” in the days following an arrival as they struggle to keep up with entertaining a constant flow of visitors.

The Baby Blues are normal, but that doesn’t make them seem less scary. Seek help—from your parent group, from your child’s pediatrician, from your social worker, from your family doctor— if the “down feelings” don’t begin to dissipate in just a few weeks. 

Resources
Bond, June. “Post Adoption Depression Syndrome” on Adopting.org from Roots & Wings Adoption Magazine, Spring, 1995. www.adopting.org/pads.html
Foli, Karen J. and John R. Thompson. The Post-Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforseen Challenges of Adoption. (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 2004)
Fontaine, Nancy S. PhD. “I am Not Supposed to Feel This Way—Post Adoption Depression” http://www. chinesechildren.org/Newsletter/Professional%20 Corner%5CPC_07_2003.pdf
McCarthy, Harriet White. “Post Adoption Depression—the Unacknowledged Hazard.” from International Adoption Articles Directory. http://www.adoptionarticlesdirectory. com/Article/Post-Adoption-Depression---TheUnacknowledged-Hazard/53
McLeod, Jean. “Baby Shock: Dealing with Post Adoption Depression” on BabyCenter.com from Adoptive Families magazine. http://www.babycenter.com/refcap/baby/ adoption/1374199.html
Steinberg, Gail. “Bonding and Attachment: How Does Adoption Affect a Newborn?” from Pact Press. http:// www.pactadopt.org/press/articles/attach-infant.html
Tarken, Laurie. “Even Post-Adoption, the Blues Can Lurk.” The New York Times, April 26, 2006.

Reprinted with permission from Pact  www.pactadopt.org 
Pact is a licensed non-profit organization providing lifelong education, support, and community for adoptees and their families on issues of adoption and race. 

Parenting the Next Time

Journey of a birthmother to parenthood

by Brenda Romanchik

I am the mother of three, the parent of two. I am Matthew’s “birth mom” and Katarina and Daniel’s “mommy”. My experience as a birth mother has a great deal to do with the kind of parent I am. In fact, it has a great deal to do with my becoming a parent at all.

Before I became pregnant with Matthew, children were never a part of my life’s plan. I never felt I was very good with children. I was going to have a career, be independent. If I got married, it would be with the understanding we would not have children. Ironically enough, through Matthew’s pregnancy and birth I learned that I could love a child deeply. It was this love for him that carried me through the difficult decision of placing him with his adoptive family. It was my way of providing for him the best I could at the time.

During the intense period of grieving that followed, the thought of having other children some day was a great comfort. While I was not looking to replace Matthew, believing that I would someday experience motherhood fully was a very pleasant thought. The years, however, took their toll. Besides the guilt I felt in placing my child, I was also grappling with the demon of shame. In the beginning, there was a double message in almost every conversation I had with those not educated in adoption. “It was a very selfless thing you did, but I could never give my baby away, or “It was a wonderful thing you did for your son, but how could any real mother not want to raise her own child?” The underlying message was that somehow my maternal instincts were deficient if I did not do everything in my power to keep my son with me.

Three years later, I got married, with the stipulation that my husband and I would never have children. While outwardly I maintained that my life was too busy for children, inwardly I felt I was not worthy to be a mother. My husband is a patient man, and he knew me well enough to know that I would be an excellent mother. He was willing to take the chance that I would someday overcome my feelings of inadequacy to be the mother of his children. He also loved me enough to stick by me if that should never happen. Two years later, we bought a house in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Over time, the house seemed to be missing something. The closer I got to the answer, the more anxious I became: it was the voices and sounds of children. I slowly came to realize that it was not the house that was missing something; it was my life.

Despite this revelation, I still had a long way to go. I started seeking out other birth mothers. For the most part they fell into two categories: those who had never had other children and those who had other children soon after relinquishment. Most of the birth mothers I talked to felt a certain unworthiness to parent, whatever their parenting choices. I felt that many of those who had parented were either over-protective or too lenient. I wanted more for my future children than a mother emotionally crippled by shame. I wanted to be mentally healthy and whole so I could be the best parent possible. Through therapy, I resolved those feelings of shame and unworthiness. It was not easy, but I came to believe that I would be a good mother. I soon began to look forward to getting pregnant and having other children again.

Two miscarriages and two children later, I am in the thick of motherhood. Katarina is four and a half and Daniel just turned one. It has been a trip like no other. When I first began to talk about having other children, many told me that it would intensify the feelings of loss I had over my son, Matthew. Experiencing parenthood has certainly added a new dimension to the loss. All of my ensuing pregnancies brought long-buried memories of my pregnancy with Matthew.

Whether sweet or painful, all these memories taught me to cherish the time I shared with my children while they were growing inside me. One of my favorite memories of pregnancy was the wonder brought by feeling my babies kick and move inside me. As one woman put it, it is “more intimate than a kiss.” Each child moved differently. Matthew, even in utero, was full of kinetic energy, giving me vigorous kicks and even playfully jabbing me back if I pressed on my belly. My other two, mellow and calm like their father, seemed to prefer ballet to karate.

Lamaze classes were another story. Learning how to puff and pant with my husband reminded me of how alone I had felt in my Lamaze classes for Matthew. Occasionally, I would flashback to that time... walking alone to class, standing alone during break amid a group of happy couples. While these memories were painful, without a doubt they gave me an increased appreciation of the love and support of my husband. I cherished his involvement because I remembered what it was like experiencing a pregnancy and birth without it.

Parenting two children has also reinforced my belief that my decision to place Matthew for adoption was the best decision for the both of us. I was right in trusting my gut feeling that I would have not been able to handle singleparenting successfully. As I write, I have a one-year-old fussing in his father’s arms. There are times it is a relief to be able to hand over the tremendous responsibility of caring for a child to someone who is an equal partner in the endeavor.

Although parenting has reinforced my decisions, it has also more clearly defined what I lost in placing Matthew for adoption. As Katarina’s and Daniel’s parent, I have had the privilege of being there as they have learned to walk and talk. I have observed with amusement, and sometimes dismay, as they have mimicked my turn of a phrase, or a certain mannerism. I have watched with wonder as my daughter has shown caring and consideration beyond her years. There are times when I look at my children’s experiences and realize that I wasn’t there when Matthew learned to walk, that I wasn’t there to observe, to teach, and to learn from him. It is, indeed, a profound loss.

Knowing how much I have to lose, there are times when I have to really work at not being over-protective. There are other times where I have had fight off the feeling that something terrible or tragic will happen to separate my children from me. While these are struggles common to many parents, for birth parents the reality of being separated from one’s child is a real-life experience that stays with them.

Just as parenting has deepened my sense of loss over not being Matthew’s parent, it has also deepened the joy I feel in parenting my own children. I have spent countless guilt-free hours holding a sleeping newborn, reveling in the soft skin, the sweet breath, and the warmth. I have spent whole afternoons just playing with my children. I have spent hours cuddling my daughter while watching the same children’s movies over and over again. In not parenting my first, I am even more aware of the preciousness our time together. I take nothing for granted.

Brenda Romanchik is a speaker, writer and publisher of open adoption resources, and a cofounder of R-Squared Press and Insight.

Reprinted with permission from Pact  www.pactadopt.org 
Pact is a licensed non-profit organization providing lifelong education, support, and community for adoptees and their families on issues of adoption and race.  

Questioning the Hereditary Component of Schizophrenia

Taking a closer look at the evidence

The “established fact” and uncritical acceptance in psychiatry that schizophrenia is a highly heritable disorder is questioned in this article that reviews the substantial research of family, twin and adoption schizophrenia studies. The author concludes that there is a historic failure to identify genetic or biological markers, and calls for the field of psychiatry to focus on environmental causes of schizophrenia in both research and societal attention.

Read the full post by Jay Joseph, Psy.D.: http://www.madinamerica.com/2016/01/schizophrenia-and-genetics-a-closer-look-at-the-evidence/