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.
#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.