Part 3 of 4:
The continued personal reflections of one adoptive parent’s journey with parenthood and adoption. Adoption Options is grateful for the sharing of these personal journal entries, as it provides a vulnerable insight into the realities of parenthood and the journey of adoption.
#23 – Back in the Saddle (for #2)
So, we're doing it again. The checklists are filled out, the medical is done, the security clearances are in the works... Yep, we're on the road to adopting another child.
It took us a long time to come this decision. Moonbeam is almost 16 months now and it's something we've been tossing around honestly since she was born. There is so much to consider when adopting a second child... Adopting a second child just feels weightier.
We lucked out big time on the adoption front in so many ways with Moonbeam. We essentially had no wait, we connected with Birth Mom right off the get go, there were no legal risks or even inklings that Birth Mom was ever going to change her mind and we have continued to have a very open relationship with Birth Mom since we first met her. For our family, although the relationship and situation have not been without their growing pains, our open adoption has worked out perfectly.
Now with a second child, it feels like there are so many factors to consider. Now it's not just my husband and I we're concerned about - it's the well-being of Moonbeam, baby-to-be, even Birth Mom and future birth families to consider.
For baby #2, we had to think really, really hard as to what we were open to this time as we filled out our 50+ pages of checklists. And what it came down to is that we're open to the exact same things that we were open to on the first go around.
Because here's the thing. Papers are just that - papers. The check boxes are what get your profile shown or held back when expectant families approach the agency looking to place their children for adoption. On paper, when you're going through the boxes and you look at everything in aggregate, it seems terrifying. But isolate any one of the factors and you've likely got a manageable situation.
So once again, we're wide open to what life is ready to throw at us. It's kind of scary. It's kind of exciting. I'm trying not to think about it too much, really.
I'm scared about not loving this child as much as I love Moonbeam (because Moonbeam is my absolute everything - is it possible to love another human being THIS MUCH???).
I'm scared about Moonbeam feeling rejected and not getting all the love and nurturing she deserves - but when it comes down to it, I'm more scared about the little demon we're creating as an only child (her new favourite words are "I don't want" ... like what??? She's freaking 16 months. Oh boy.).
I'm scared about how this will play out between my husband and I - we're already at times scrabbling to keep our own relationship happy and healthy without adding the strain of a second child into the mix.
I'm scared about what sort of relationship will manifest itself with a new birth family and how this will impact both of our children.
But I'm excited too. I'm excited to have another baby in our lives! To see Moonbeam as a big sister, to grow our family, to experience parenthood all over again with my husband, to get to know a new little person and share our lives with him/her.
We've still got some finishing touches to add to our dear birth parent letter and we've got one set of security clearances yet to come back. Then that's it for our final submission for baby #2 - which will then get our home study rolling. We've been taking our time with the paperwork over the past month, but now there's very little standing in the way between becoming expectant/waiting parents!
So lots going on here - we're excited, we're scared, we're blissfully pretending our lives aren't about to drastically change once again. Heading into the adoption scene a second time is way less excruciating this time around. The first time we wanted nothing more than a quick, easy placement. This time we're much more relaxed about timing ... in some ways, it would be nice to have some breathing room between babies. But we'll see what's in the cards for us. With adoption, you have to leave a lot up to fate and, shall I even dare say it? Destiny. The baby that is meant to be our child will come when it's time.
#24 – One Day at a Time
Our paperwork is all in. We're that much closer now to being on the list and putting ourselves out there for another baby. We still have the home study to get through, which should be easier this time around (I think it's only one afternoon this time instead of three home visits like it was the first time).
We (I) spent the past few weeks pouring over our dear birth parent letter. The details almost felt ridiculous (What colour of background should I choose? What font size and style? How many pictures? Do I look too forced happy in said pictures? Do I talk about our open relationship with Moonbeam’s birth mom or do we leave that for when we meet? What thickness of paper do I print the copies on?). But, ridiculous or not, I know a lot of these things actually do matter - the first step in having an opportunity to parent a child is standing out in some way on paper and connecting with an expectant mom/family. But the reality is that font size and parenting have absolutely nothing in common.
Our checklists, criminal record checks and medicals were a piece of cake. We are veterans of these processes and jumped through the hoops with flying colours. The dear birth parent letter wasn't as bad this time either, as we used the same template as our last one and we could easily talk about what we like to do as a family rather than what we hope to do as a family.
But now that everything is out of our hands, honestly, it's hard. There is a lot that is about to happen to us here that is completely out of my control. I feel like I'm back in the throes of infertility and leaving so much up to the universe. And I don't like it.
We have a lot to do before our home study is scheduled (I think we'll get the call next week sometime to schedule our home study visit in the next couple weeks, based on what happened last time). I'm not neurotic about cleaning or anything before our social worker comes, but we do need to visually baby-proof (yes, Moonbeam is 16 months, I know I know. Please don't judge!) and get a current fire extinguisher… Things that we should already have done at some point within the past 16 months of raising a tiny human…
So we still have tasks to complete, which helps to alleviate the anxiety around my loss of control. But sometimes when I stop "doing" and just start "feeling", I get a little freaked out. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about all of this. I'm not sure how I do feel about all of this. I've been bumbling along pretty nicely over the past year and a half as though I'm just a normal mom. Now I'm forced to remember that I am a mom faced with infertility. And there's nothing comforting about that thought.
I am not in the dark at all this time either about the ups and downs that are about to happen in my family. There is the home study itself that is unnerving. Then there's the waiting part, the uncertainty part. Then the match part and even more uncertainty and hope, which is hard to hold on to, right? In our world enveloped by infertility, you don't even want to dare to hope - there's too much at stake to let your heart go there.
But one day at a time I guess. That's all I can expect of myself and all I can expect of my husband. And all I can expect from this process, really. The longing part has subsided, thanks to my role as mother to Moonbeam. I know I'm one of the lucky ones and I don't feel all tangled up with the uncertainty as to whether I'm ever going to be a mother. I'm just tangled up with the knowledge and experience of how rough the road ahead is. The journey is beautiful, don't get me wrong and totally worth it in the end. But the ruts ahead are deep and there are some significant emotional obstacles that we'll be faced with, this I know.
But, we're packing up and moving ahead. My husband is committed and I am too. Part of me wants to alleviate all risk and just accept our lives as they currently are. But I know that the risk part is only one piece of the whole process and that at the end of it all, it's amazing. I'm just scared.
One day at a time.
#25 – Understanding
Yesterday I attended an arts festival. Moonbeam was feeling especially sucky and for the first time in months she insisted that I carry her in the snuggly.
An old woman stopped me on the street to comment on what she found to be a beautiful moment between mother and child - Moonbeam snuggling closely to my chest and me stroking her hair.
With tears in her eyes, she told me that it had not been her fate to have children - that she had suffered through three ectopic pregnancies.
I gasped and told her that I understood and that we had adopted Moonbeam. We grasped for each other and with little Moonbeam held between us, we hugged and cried. The scene must have looked unusual to strangers passing by, but there was nothing but understanding between the old woman and I.
The pain of infertility never goes away; it lives in our hearts forever.
#26 – Still Waiting for Finally
Over the past few weeks, I've been in a weird head space. We're still waiting ("still" meaning a relatively short "still" ... we've been back on the wait list for a few months). I'm ok with not having baby 2 yet, but I don't really feel ok with being on list. It's hard.
I don't know if it would be easier if we hadn't received two calls already - both calls being situations that fell outside of our comfort levels and would have meant drastic lifestyle changes for our family. I'm ok with the decisions we made and don't regret saying no. But I think these two calls shook me up in a way that I wasn't really prepared for. I now know how completely out of the blue these calls can come from - at times that I'm not mentally prepared for. The first came as we were settling in for a Saturday afternoon nap and the second came when I was in training at work and my husband was in a work meeting. Our minds were on other things and we weren't expecting to be presented with cases where babies were already born and at the hospital.
Over the past couple weeks, I feel I've been bracing myself and have been on edge. I have my phone with me at all times. I check my call history compulsively. My breath stops a little when I get a text message or my cell rings. It's as though I think these behaviours are going to prepare me for what I damn well know I can't be prepared for.
I know there are people who wait on the list for years. We may very well be in this situation this time around. But I wonder if I'd have an easier time with the wait if I had never received those two calls in the first place... If I'd be more at peace and more content with waiting and living my current life.
The funny thing is - I'm perfectly happy with how things are right now and I wouldn't mind it if we didn't have another child for another year or two. I'm on track for a big promotion at work. Moonbeam is still little enough that I question whether now would be the best time for a sibling for her (waiting until she is a bit bigger definitely wouldn't hurt things). We've got reno plans for our home this summer which I don't think we can afford if I'm on parental leave and not working. Sure, I'd love a baby (of course), but I'm just saying it's not the end of the world to me if it doesn't happen right this moment.
It's not the "longing for another baby" that's eating away at me right now ... it's the not knowing when this is going to happen that is. It's not a new baby that I'm craving, it's this part of my life, the infertility, trying for a baby, when the hell is this going to be over thing that I really want to put an end to. I can't wait for this part of my life to be over so we can move on as a family.
I try and remember that Moonbeam is a perfect fit for our family, that our relationship with her birth mom is exactly what we'd hoped it would be. I hope this happens again, but this may mean it will take some time. But still - I'm looking forward to moving on, moving past this stage of waiting and wondering. Waiting for "still" to be over. Waiting for "finally" to arrive.
#27 – Two Years In
Moonbeam turns two in a little over a month. Unbelievable right? Well for me it is ... Time has passed so quickly in some ways. But two years is a long time too... I feel like I've learned so much and have come so far with everything.
I remember feeling so much angst in that first year of being an adoptive mom. I felt like I didn't fit in all the time, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I felt unprepared for motherhood, having spent years and years trying to figure out how to get a baby and thinking one would never come. Then within a matter of a week of this mindset, I had one.
Then I faced guilt. Lots and lots of guilt around how to handle Birth Mom's loss. I struggled with my own happiness in the face of her sadness. I watched it first hand and tried desperately to fix it for her, to do anything I could to lessen the burden of her loss. This took its toll on me and held me back from my own healing.
Then I consciously created a barrier between her grief and my own guilt. I created distance, so we could heal as a family unit ... for my husband, Moonbeam and I ... And my husband, Moonbeam, Birth Mom and I. Two different units, yet one and the same if that makes any sense.
Two years later, I am putting more of the pieces of Birth Mom's story together and can clearly see that placing Moonbeam was a conscious, deliberate, loving choice. This brings me so much peace, as I feel more confident in my position and know more of how I can tell Moonbeam her story. I have more answers and this feels so much better than fumbling for answers. I think the answers were always there, it's just that emotions clouded where to find them.
I also feel like two years in, our relationship with Birth Mom is easier, more comfortable, less intense. I think this is to be expected... We had a crazy year of personal upheaval combined with getting to know each other. That first year is bound to be emotionally challenging I think. I think the intensity of that first year is over... Which I'm thankful for. Our relationship is normalizing - roles are defined, trust is built/building, we know each other way more than those early days. We understand each others' needs for space and closeness at the same time. I think the hard parts were necessary to get to where we are now. We are family, the four of us. That feels good and easy to say, whereas I think a year ago that would have been a really emotionally charged thing to say.
Sometimes I look at Moonbeam's face and am startled at how clear and sweet and loving and trusting this little girl is. How much of mine she is, how much a part of me she is and how much a part I am of her. I know there will be bumps in the road as we navigate the emotions associated with how we came to be a family, but oh man are we ever a family. And this is so good - all of it is so good. I look back on the ups and downs we've had so far to get to this point and know it always all part of the process. I wouldn't change a thing.
#28 – Eyes and Hearts
I was standing at the check out line the other day and was totally stunned at how similar two little boys (brothers) looked to each other and to their mother. It took a few minutes to register that this was "normal" and obviously what most families face... Same noses, same eyes and ears and freckles. Right, I thought, they are a biological family. They are the norm... My norm isn't really the norm. Right.
I looked at my daughter and although I didn't see my eyes or my nose or my freckles reflected back at me on her face, I saw our hearts entwined in her sweet little smile.
....to be continued for the final addition and what is to come for this family in Part 4.