Category Archives: adoption

First Contact: Birth Family

I sifted my fingers through. I banked up the sides. I carefully patted it back into place. My little pile of worries and insecurities.

It doesn’t feel so little as I slog through traffic and construction on my way to The Meeting. I’m preoccupied by the width and breadth of it. I suppose it is to be expected, from a student of psychology and a writer… worse yet, a blogger. A whole lot of self-absorbed navel-gazing.

I prayed my way through a list of concerns, for each of the people attending, saving my favourite subject until last. Me. How do I feel? What am I thinking? How will this affect me?

But it isn’t about me.

We slipped in the door 7 minutes late. They were sitting around the table already: the social workers with Birth Mom, Nana and Papa. Pleasantries are awkward and Nana can’t even look us in the eye.

Because this is hard.

WE haven’t taken him away from them, but he is gone all the same. They need, need, need… beyond what we can provide. We promise the bare minimum. Better not to disappoint. “We’ll see” is the watchword. A couple of meetings a year, pictures every few months… but it’s not the same as being Mommy every day or Nana who bakes cookies or Papa who explains what “offside” is.

Suddenly my little pile seems insignificant. One uncomfortable hour cannot compare to years of loss. Years past and years to come. We find common ground in a strange place as Birth Mom admits “at first, I didn’t even want to come and meet you.”

But it isn’t about them.

We show each other our best sides. They share little bits and pieces about S and their family. We greedily store away each morsel. He got his hair from his Birth Dad. The curls remind them of his big brother. They are hockey fans too.

Most importantly, we joke to diffuse the tension. It works. We can laugh together and that is a relief. It’s proof positive that our boy has a sense-of-humour-gene in the mix. I’m relieved. Humourlessness is a serious issue (ha ha ha… don’t judge me).

Birth Mom is young and sweet. She speaks with confidence. She calls him her “Miracle Baby” – the little champ who fought his way through every problem. She is trying to do the same. She is lovely.

Nana is protective, sentimental, sad… she is still grieving. And Papa wants to fix it all, but can’t.

By the time we leave, we are friends of a sort. We’ve faced anger and tears and discomfort. We’ve come out the other side because we are on the same page.

It’s all about him.

As long as he is happy. As long as he is safe. As long as he KNOWS that he is loved by all his family, in all its forms.

I don’t expect every meeting to go this smoothly. It will get bumpy and hard and inconvenient. We’ve inherited a new branch of “in-laws” and all the troubles that come with it. But that’s a pile for another day.

So here’s me, putting our son ahead of my comfort. Because that’s what Moms do.

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Losing My Cool

Turns out, I’m not as cool in real life as I am in theory.

I’m talking about the kind of cool that stays calm and collected in the face of a challenge. The serene, unflappable cool that takes life as it comes and assumes that God is in control and everything is going to work out.

If you’ve read this blog before, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise.

But it’s caught me off guard this week. You see, I was sure I knew how I felt about my son’s birth family. I was adamant that they are an important part of my child’s life and therefore, important to me. I was compassionate about their struggles and their losses. I was encouraged by every indication they gave of love and interest in S. I was cautiously optimistic about openness and a continuing relationship with them; regular updates, pictures, and biannual meetings on neutral ground did not seem much to ask. I was secure enough and mature enough to face their angst and anger without taking it personally.

Until we actually set the time for the meeting. Suddenly my high-minded ideals seem naive and impossible. Though my mind continues to believe the truth of it, my heart revolts. I am sad. I am threatened. I am afraid. And I am, inexplicably, angry.

This week I will finally meet the mother of my son.

That sentence doesn’t even make sense. It is unnatural and strange. I share this incredibly intimate bond with a woman I have never met. I know heartbreaking details of her most difficult struggles. I know as much about her medical history as any doctor. And her child is now my child.

She carried him in her body. She felt his first kicks. Her voice was one of the first sounds his ears heard. She held him in the NICU. But she was young and broken and overwhelmed. She could not be what he needed.

Unlike many adoptions nowadays, she did not choose us. Nor did she choose adoption for her child, though she agreed not to fight the ministry on it. So far.

Our adoption is not finalized yet.

After 6 months in our custody, the government will apply to make it permanent (this takes another 2-3 months). It is extremely unlikely that anything should threaten this, but not impossible. Someone could petition the court to overturn the placement. Someone could try to take our boy.

Friends of ours recently lost the child they are desperate to adopt, abruptly taken and returned to his birth mom. Their grief and very real concern about his safety is palpable. Legal or not, he is their son. And they are devastated.

My cool, rational brain recognizes that this is not a realistic worry for us. But my heart isn’t always rational. And I won’t breathe easy until we hold the final papers in our hands.

Birth family is not our enemy.

This is the family that brought our beautiful boy into the world. They gave him a name. They dreamed dreams for him.

We have a plastic-covered book of pictures which we call “Everyone Loves S.” The first page is a picture of our family, the next section contains pictures of foster family and the last pages are pictures of Birth Mommy and brothers and grandparents. As we look through it with him, we name each face and tell him “Nana loves S, Poppa loves S… Everyone loves S.”

It’s true. They really do. As best they can. And we know enough of their story to understand where things have fallen apart for them. They are not evil, heartless villains, just flesh and blood people who are in over their heads.

And some part of me is glad, because now I have the son I wanted so badly. This competitive streak is alarming. I examine their shortcomings and am reassured that we can do a better job as parents. Mine! I see their dark hair and eyes, noticing that S looks more like my children than theirs. Mine! And I know it is ridiculous to be this petty and insecure, but he is mine, mine, mine…

I guess I’m not as mature and confident as I thought.

But I can play it cool.

I will let my mind and not my heart guide me. I will set aside my fear and insecurity. I will keep mama bear in check. I will protect, but not attack. I will pray when I want to obsess and forgive when I want to judge and trust when I am overwhelmed.

Adoption has enough losses already. This week we will try to build something positive and redeem some connection with his past. Because that is what my son deserves.

So here’s me, and I know it’s not a competition. I read “Percival the Plain Little Cattepillar” 7 times a day. I catch him when he leaps off the monkey bars. I wipe his nose and change his diaper. I teach him to sign “please” when he wants ANOTHER handful of blueberries. I rock him to sleep every night. I’m his Mom.


Birthday Letters for The Boy

Birthday Cupcakes specially decorated by the Big Sisters

Once again our family tradition is going public. Each year both of us write a birthday letter to our children on their special day. The pitfalls of having two writers for parents…

One day we hope they will cherish the encouragement, advice and wacky memories we recount in these epistles. Or at the very least, their spouses/kids/biographers will appreciate the historical significance and goofy photos.

Today’s guest poster: Daddy!

Dear S,

Welcome to a new family tradition – the birthday letter! You’ll get one of these from both Mommy and I each year on your birthday, as we look back on the year you’ve just finished, look ahead to the year that’s just beginning, and celebrate the boy (and someday, man) that you are becoming.

It seems so strange to be writing a letter marking the end of your second year, when we haven’t even known each other for two months yet. But that’s okay – it only took me about two minutes to love you!

I thought I might never get the chance to write a letter to my son, since your big brothers never got to come home to be part of our family. After 12 years of being surrounded by girls, I wasn’t sure if I had any boy left in me! I feared I may have lost it under a pile of doll clothes, princess outfits and ballet slippers.

But it sure didn’t take you long to make me man up! You’re energetic and fearless in a way that the little girls never were. Before you even came home, we played our first hockey game together, and we haven’t stopped playing ever since. I can’t wait for the day when we can stretch out on the couch with some pizza and a couple of pops, game on the television, and tell the girls to pipe down so we can hear the play-by-play. Which reminds me, it’s about time I gave you your first Canucks sweater….

When we’re not playing hockey, we’re usually wrestling, as manly men like us are known to do. Sure, the girls used to wrestle me too, once upon a time, but not like this – with a fierce growl, and a look of destruction in your eye. This is new to me, and new to you too, since you’ve never had a daddy until now.

Maybe that’s why we hit it off so well, so fast. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when we met each other. Would you like me? Would I like you? Would you be afraid of me? Would you even look at me? Would you run from me? Would you annoy me? Would you spend all my money? (Well, yes, probably to that last one.)

After one ear-to-ear grin, I knew the answer. I had nothing to fear. Sure, it may take a while… or maybe not. As I put on my shoes to go home after that first meeting, you reached out and let me pick you up. I may never put you down… at least not for a while. Happy Birthday buddy! (Oh, and have I told you about our cake yet? It’s good.)

Love from,

Your Daddy

And now, a word from Mommy:

Dear S,

I can’t believe that it was only 2 months ago when I first laid eyes on you. You were so much smaller than I expected with big blue eyes and a shy grin that lit up the room. I loved you already. I would have even if you weren’t insanely cute, but it didn’t hurt. I had loved the idea of you for years. Before you were even born we were praying for you and imagining what you might be like. It was thrilling to finally meet you.

You did not have an easy start to life. You came into the world 3 months early. The file they gave us was 4 inches thick and by the time we read through it all, we realized that was only your medical records for the first month! It did not look good for you. But you were 3 lbs of fighter, possessing absolute determination. That hasn’t changed.

Your birth mom loved you and wanted you, but she wasn’t able to take care of you. When you were 2 months old your foster mom started visiting you in the hospital, after 2 more months she was finally able to bring you home with her. She is a very special lady: a nurse who takes care of babies with complex medical problems until they can go home with a forever family (birth or adoptive). You did not like to be touched or held at first, but she taught you how to be loved and to give love back. Soon you were a cuddly little charmer. That hasn’t changed either.

You have officially been part of our family for 1 month. Our lives have been turned upside down, but no one’s more than you. It hasn’t been an easy month, but it has been a very good one. Your Daddy and sisters have discovered that you are the best thing they never knew they always wanted. I wanted you all along, but even I am blown away by how important you are to us all. We are enjoying you so much. You are so much fun: so much mischief-making, full-tilt, maniacal laughing, enthusiastic fun. I’m so glad you are part of our family!

Today you are 2 years old!

Those 2 years have helped shape you into the amazing mini-person that you are now. The tough little trooper who overcomes the odds time and time again. The sweet, loving boy who sticks close to family and has bonded with us so quickly. The smiley monkey who keeps us laughing, and on our toes.
Even though it makes me sad that we have missed so much time with you, I wouldn’t change you for the world!

You have such a bright, happy future ahead of you and we will be there with you every step of the way. Always, always, always…

Happy Birthday!

Love Forever,

Mommy


Finding Mommy

He’s teething.

It makes perfect sense. The gnawing on his soother, his toys, his fingers, the t.v. remote… The excessive drool, so much so that Daddy suggested “Hooch” as a new nickname. The fussy night-time waking, for the past few nights anyway. The vampiric tendencies: “Mommy doesn’t LIKE it when you bite her shoulder sweetie.”

Except, my notes say he has all his teeth. It’s in his file. I clearly remember that.

“Must be his two-year molars,” says Foster Mom. At his second birthday party – which, you know, should have also been a clue.

Duh.

I am a Mom several times over. I was a daycare teacher, in the two to three year-old class, no less. How did I forget about two-year-old molars? What am I, new?

Ummm…. ya.

He may be number four. And I may have oodles of experience, even special needs experience. But, I’ve only been parenting HIM for less than a month. I’m new. And some days it feels like I’m starting all over again.

Once again, I’m that awkward, but endearing new mom who packs WAY too much in the diaper bag, but forgets the diapers. Or pull-ups in our case, which is how B ended up wearing her little bro’s tiny diapers to church. At least we had pjs, four snacks, a list of emergency numbers and plastic rain ponchos… just in case.

Once again, I’m the eager rookie for whom every decision is absolutely crucial and the subject of endless research. You know the ones, who quote parenting books verbatum, desperate to do things “right.” Except in our case it’s adoption books, but I suspect this is equally obnoxious.

Once again, I’m the anxious helicopter parent who never completely relaxes at a playdate. Humming with a constant, low-level stress the minute we step foot outside the house. So not my usual style, but here I am: sterilizing soothers! The last one was lucky if I licked it off after it fell on the ground.

There are so many firsts these days: first meetings with cousins, first restaurant fiasco (outing, I meant outing), first taste of peanut butter, first trip to the zoo… with so much uncharted territory still ahead.

Despite hundreds of pages of information, hours of discussion with Foster Mom and somewhat stalkerish observation of the boy at all times, we don’t know each other the way most Mother-and-Son teams do. I don’t instictively know what he needs or wants. He doesn’t instinctively know what to expect from me.

But we are finding our way.

On Saturday, we had foster family over for a backyard BBQ and, as B put it, “super-fun-happy-birthday-cupcakes.” He was surprised to see them at first, but soon he was making the rounds, getting hugs from everyone. With a smile so big it MUST have hurt his face. Eyes constantly darting around the yard to make sure that everyone, yes, ALL his family from then and now, was here. He laughed and played and generally put on a charming show for us all.

And every once in a while he would check in for a little cuddle and reassurance. Not from foster mom (whom he obviously still adores). Not from Daddy (who usually gets top billing). From me.

And for the first time I FELT like I was the Mommy. Not by sheer strength of will, because I love him and want this so much. Not by order of the great province of British Columbia. Not in theory or in circumstance, but instinctively, in both our hearts.

I have faith that these moments will come more and more frequently until they melt together into a constant reality. That there will be days when I can’t remember NOT being his Mommy. And it won’t seem surreal and strange to have this little man in our lives, but so normal that adoption and its drama fades to the background.

So here’s me and my boy, slowly, but surely, finding our way into each other’s hearts.


You’ll See…

Many, many, many moons ago… in the ancient days… B.C. (Before Children) we knew a young couple who had a baby. We had hung out with them before and found them to be interesting, intelligent and fun people.

Our first Post-Baby dinner party was revelatory. Now, I’m a “kid person” to say the least, and am particularly crazy about babies. At this point in time, I was a daycare teacher. Suffice it to say, I considered myself very child-friendly.

But even I can acknowledge that infants, apart from their considerable aesthetic appeal, are somewhat dull in the first few months.

However, our once interesting friends seemed oblivious to this fact. We spent the entire evening looking at the baby, browsing through endless pictures of the baby (and btw, new parents, changing the hat/hairdo/barrette on the exact same angle does not actually make for a new “look”), talking about the baby and generally admiring every little thing the baby did.

But the highest praise of the night was reserved for the earthshaking gas passed by the tiny child. He was lauded for his valiant contribution to the evening. Our hosts proceeded to share with us about his ongoing struggle with constipation, quite exhaustively.

Dessert, drinks and details about baby’s latest and greatest poops. Consistency, frequency, colour… nothing was sacred. I could see Glen turning green as they enthusiastically discussed the benefits of suppositories. Finally, we were given a real life demo, as a particularly rank diaper was changed right there on the floor in front of us, as we ate our dessert.

As their front door closed behind us that night, we had one of those symbiotic marital moments. Turning to look in each others’ eyes, we said in unison, “that will NEVER be us.”

Repeatedly they told us, YOU’LL SEE… Someday, when you have kids, YOU’LL SEE.

It’s something we hear all the time:

…when you meet that special someone, YOU’LL SEE.

…when you’re married, YOU’LL SEE.

…when you get your own place, YOU’LL SEE.

…when you get to high school, YOU’LL SEE.

Because certain kinds of education only experience can provide. Because part of us can’t believe we will ever change like that, feel like that, or act like that. Because life alters us in ways we don’t expect, no matter how many times we are told to expect it.

Sure enough, one day a few years later, Glen walked through our front door, looked over at me and said “Well?” and I immediately knew he was asking if our baby had had a good poop that day. We try not to discuss it with non-parents or over chocolate ice cream, but poop is now a common topic of discussion. Because constipation is a big deal for a baby. Because parental love trumps gross factor. Because living it is vastly different from hearing about it.

This week, we are experiencing a lot of those as adoptive parents. Things we were told to expect, things we had read about, things we knew, but didn’t understand until now, as we are living it.

For instance:

  • Boys are different. Not a universal truth, but in our family the stereotype fits. We’ve never experienced the constant desire to wrestle, the risk taking, the climbing on everything in sight, the tough guy who bounces back immediately from all but the most serious injuries…
  • People don’t really understand adoption. And who can blame them; it is full of strange paradoxes. It is completely different from giving birth. It is the same as bringing home any of my children. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. This is one of the best things I’ve ever done. My experience as a parent has prepared me. My inexperience in parenting THIS child leaves me feeling unprepared.
  • Adoptive parents feel isolated. Some of the people you expect support and encouragement from do not “get it,” and often adoption is treated as “less” than giving birth. Which would probably seem like a mild disappointment, if we weren’t so tired and overwhelmed.
  • Rejection is hard to take. Whether learning to build attachment for the first time, or transferring from the old caregiver, this is a difficult time, and quite often during toddler adoption, one parent is “rejected” in favour of the other (usually Mom). I had read about this. I had heard of it from friends. But I was sure that my Mommy-love was strong enough and rational enough to take it on the chin, and look beyond it to the big picture. And it usually is. Except when it’s not. Those rejections are fewer and farther between these days, but they still prick.
  • Toddlers grieve. We have seen flashes of it this week – the yearning, the sadness, the frustration… it passes quickly, but it is heartbreaking.
  • Adoption draws our family together. We are closer than ever. Even with the grumpy times and the crazy times, our family time has been closer, more fun and more meaningful than ever. We’re being stretched, but we’re pretty short, so we could use the growth.

So here’s me, and if you’ve ever wondered about adoption I can tell you all about it, but most of it… YOU’LL SEE.


Too Tired To Think of a Title

Apparently, happily ever after doesn’t involve a whole lot of sleep.

It’s been several years since we took part in the dawn patrol. Like many difficult times (exam week, giving birth and potty training come to mind) the true feeling of the experience quickly fades. It becomes a collection of “me too” and “I remember when” anecdotes you can whip out at parties to impress people with your fortitude and earthy wisdom (or maybe that’s just me). There remains the vague sense that it was miserable and hard, but the sting has passed.

Then you find yourself there again… and Hokey Dinah, it sucks!

Between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 am, our little man needs to be held. He is not screaming. He is not inconsolable. As long as he is safely snuggled in my arms, he is relatively content. But woe on all our heads if we try to put him down, or bring him to bed, or fall asleep on the couch, or attempt to lean in a non-nurturing-sneaking-a-nap way (they know, they always know).

So, I rock him and pat his back and walk around and rub his forehead and he rubs my face and holds my hand and pulls the glasses off my face and snuggles close and eventually nods off JUST as the sun peeks over the horizon and the question arises: go back to bed? or stick it out for the day?

So yesterday, Glen asks me, “do you really mean what you’ve written on your blog?” Because it seems that there’s a whole lot in there about the blissful experience of cuddling the new kid.

Sneaky Bum, when he puts it that way, it’s pretty much everything I’ve been begging for. And come to think of it, it IS kind of wonderful.

And somehow it was easier last night, because I remembered to enjoy it. And somewhere along the way I lost my expectation of sleep (unless it is Glen’s turn, of course). And I knew I would fit a nap in today, because the age-old “sleep when the baby sleeps” is a classic for a reason.

Of course, the relentless busyness, general aura of neediness in the home and all-around emotional upheaval of this MASSIVE life change probably has just as much to do with to the exhaustion as our little night owl. He’s waking up in a relatively new place with new people each night. Of course he needs some comfort. He’s been such a trooper so far. Of course we will give him the comfort he needs.

So here’s me: tired, so very, very tired. But very, very happy just the same. And totally stoked that I finally have something to contribute when the “my baby was so colicky he never slept” conversation crops up (because Mommyhood is 9 parts unconditional love and 1 part bragging/one-up-manship).


Today is The Day

So… today, this happened:

We added a new pair of shoes to the blog.

This sentence is meaningless to most people, but to us, it means that today is The Day We Have Been Waiting For, for three years. Today we became the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy!

Actually, a bouncing toddler boy, and I really must emphasize the bouncing… lots and lots of bouncing from our little live wire!

Today we brought the boy home. We filled drawers with tiny shirts and pants, unpacked baby snacks and plastic bottles, played a rousing family game of mini-hockey, and waited for it to finally sink in.

There is no one waiting for him to come back at the end of the day. No more schedules and no more handoffs and no more shared parenting. Only friendship and occasional visits with those who have carried him this far and are an important part of his story.

But this is his home now. The boy is ours. And we are his.

Because forever family goes both ways.

This January, I joined the One Word project, choosing one word to pursue for the year (a sort of abbreviated new years resolution). My word for 2012: DREAM.

I expected I would be finding a new dream for my life, since adoption was so clearly not working out. I expected soul-searching and Plan B’s and making the best of things. I expected less… less than I wanted and less than I hoped for.

Instead, I get everything I dreamt of and more. Instead, I get wrestling matches and grass stains and 2 am wake up calls and sticky hugs. Instead, I am overwhelmed with the depth and width of this dream come true – our very own boy.

So here’s me, tired and nervous… and so very grateful to God and foster family and everyone who gave us today!


Happy Family Honeymoon

I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe even the first one. There will definitely be shoes. And they will be dropping.

I’m not sure where this saying came from or why the dropping of shoes sounds so ominous, but it’s the best way I can think to explain the mild concern I have lurking in my subconscious. I’m holding my breath, because everything is going so well right now.

The boy prince (aka – my son, the little brother and Daddy’s new best friend) has been making himself at home with us. Last night was our first sleepover and he did remarkably well. There is an occasional wariness and some quiet, somber moments, but he rallies quickly and jumps right back into the fray.

Things have been going so well, we’ve been able to move the transition forward. He’ll be back again tomorrow night for the whole weekend. So many exciting firsts to look forward to: lazy Saturday mornings on the couch, Father’s Day with his new Daddy, and our whole family to church for the first time!

So, what’s with the dread?

This is a honeymoon period.

Right now, Daddy is the star of the show! He is working from home and taking time off whenever S is with us. I’m still the second string parent: okay for a few laughs, but not the go-to comforter or cuddler. When all else fails, Daddy to the rescue! We double-team the chaos. When we’re not sure what to do, we bounce the questions back and forth: Do you think he’ll eat this? Is he getting overstimulated? What IS that smell?

That’ll end.

Right now, he is the most exciting new toy our girls have ever gotten! The big girls debate who “gets” to play with him while I get dressed and clean the kitchen. They spend hours crawling around on the floor with him. They compete to coax the biggest laugh out of him. Even B, who is needing a lot of extra attention and playing “baby” right alongside her brother, is happy to share her favourite toys and pose for the endless photo shoot that is now our life.

That’ll end.

Right now, everything he does is charming! Even the occasional temper tantrum is pretty darn adorable: “Look how determined he is! Did you feel that grip… he’s super strong!” But most of the time he is full of smiles and soaks up the attention. All the toys and games are new and exciting to him. He is sleeping and eating and feeling just fine. He fusses a little bit when foster Mom drops him off, but is quickly distracted by all the fun times. Although we’ve talked about it and show him pictures and put words to what is happening, he doesn’t really understand that his whole world is about to change.

That’ll end.

Someday, it will be just he and I. And I will scramble around trying to figure out what he needs, and what he wants, and what to do with a toddler all day long, and how to be the safe person that he can always rely on. Praying that he will realize that this makes me “Mommy”, not just because it’s my name, but because I am HIS person, the one that will ALWAYS take care of him. Even if that means putting playtime on hold to change a diaper or making the busy road off-limits or collecting rent from him at age 20-something.

Someday, his sisters will realize that little brothers can be a real pain. And a busy pre-teen calendar of primping and bickering and thinking up new strategies to convince the parental units that texting is, like, ESSENTIAL at age 11… will seem more important than playing with the boy. And he will get into their stuff and decorate their new outfits with snot and throw their iPods down the stairs. And the child formerly known as “the baby” will realize that the competition is getting attention when she wants it (or possibly getting attention and THEN she’ll decide she wants it), and the fireworks will begin.

Someday, he will notice that this is more than just a visit. Perhaps when his foster family says good-bye and hands him over to us that last time. Perhaps when all his belongings are here. Perhaps when he stays night after night after night with no sign of return. Perhaps when they visit a couple of weeks later, but he stays here with us… Who can know? But toddlers do grieve. It’s part of a healthy transition and there is no short cut. He may not have the language to express it, but his heart and mind are mature enough to feel it. So it is coming.

Honeymoons don’t last forever!

BUT, they are meant to be enjoyed. Why focus on someday, when today, everything is going so well?

So I will breathe. I will enjoy. I will quit searching for signs of trouble and jump into the fray myself. Because everything is going so well and we are ridiculously happy.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

The Message paraphrase says “give your entire attention to what God is doing right now” and I can’t think of better advice for parenting, or work, or life for that matter. Right now, that means attention on our changing family and all the fun we are having discovering each other.

So here’s me, letting the shoes drop where they may, because I’m not going to borrow any more trouble today!


Test Driving a Person

I test drove a human being today.

Or, to be more accurate, he test drove us.

Our first day spent together, just our family, in our own home.

Altogether, we handled beautifully.

Of course, there were a few glitches. For instance, we made him leave the park to go home for lunch… NOT cool. Also, Daddy ate the last bite of (his own) garlic bread, despite the fact that his son was clearly eyeing it for himself. To be fair, Daddy had shared almost everything on his plate already… but STILL.

It should be noted that this is a huge upgrade over the past versions of the man. 2000-2011 Daddy models DID NOT share food, AT ALL . He also brings some high-tech gadgets to the table (iPad, smart phone…), but it’s the standard features that we love best: swinging through the air, tickle games, carrying heavy things, general doting and, of course, keeping Mommy happy.

But the real question is: how does it idle? It’s one thing to fly down the highway of fun family time, but what about nap time? This is where the rubber really hits the road.

We used bedding from his other home. We stuck to the same routine. We followed the manual.

Superior engineering on the part of foster mom has ensured a set of reliable sleep cues: warm bottle, sleep sack, soother, blankies and lullaby music (Bach, because he’s classy like that).

Mom of the Year! A snuggle on the rocking chair and then right off to sleep. This was definitely the highpoint of MY day – holding a sleepy bundle of sweet, sweet boy in my arms, in the room we had so carefully prepared for him.

Pause to soak in this incredible moment…

He slept over 2 hours in his new bed, without complaint. Through the tantrum his big sister threw. Through the fight that ensued when she hit one of the other big sisters on the head with a book. Through the wailing. Through the extra tv/cuddle time as she changed into her pj’s and demanded milk in a sippy cup, along with HER blanket. It bodes well for us that he sleeps deeply.

There were several moments today that felt utterly surreal. We have been frustrated with the long wait periods, the endless streams of paperwork and the strange bureaucratic rituals we must complete. But suddenly they seem like so little, considering what’s at stake here. They are giving us a human being. And we get to keep him forever. How weird is that?

I remember feeling this same way at the hospital as we walked out with our brand new infant. “Seriously, they’re just going to let us walk out of here with this tiny person? They aren’t even blinking. It’s like it’s not even a big deal.”

But it is a big deal. Every time. And adoption is no different. In fact, it is a bigger deal, since our little person already has a personality and a routine and the ability to leap off the very top of the staircase and a desire to climb onto the counter and a need to rummage through every drawer in the house.

As we packed up all his things to take him back to his other home for the night, it was bittersweet. We’re big believers in the gradual transition, especially at this age, and so blessed that we are able to do it at all. But more than ever, it feels like he belongs here with us.

So here’s me, completely sold on the new kid. He does come with a warranty, right?


Snapshots of Adoption

Life is moving at warp speed these days. I should probably be running alongside, trying to keep up, instead of blogging. I should probably be doing the dishes or installing child proof latches on our valuables (by valuables I mean 23 Wiggles DVDs and 14 lbs of scrapbooking supplies I may never use again). I should probably try to catch up on sleep. I should probably be siphoning gas from our neighbours’ cars (driving 2-3 hours per day, often in two separate cars, is pricey).

But instead, I’m going to introduce you to the cast of a little show I like to call “Adoption Transition: Awkward is an Understatement.”

First up, Stranger Mommy

Not my favourite role, I’ll be honest, but a necessary part of the process. My son’s initial reaction to me was the same as to any stranger in his life. For a shy little boy with stranger anxiety, this means a few smiles and tolerating the briefest of touches. He doesn’t mind me, but he doesn’t welcome me either.

This is actually a good sign. He is very securely attached to his foster mom and caregiver. One day he will transfer that complete trust and reliance to me, which is infinitely easier than creating attachment where none has been before.

This is a test. I am not Mommy to meet my needs, but his.

The Other Women

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way. The other women in his life (foster mom, foster-sister and caregiver) are going against all their natural instincts: backing off so we can step in; spending time away so we can grow closer; letting him go so he can be part of our family. It is no small sacrifice, and they are grieving.

People who work in foster care have a bad rap. Some rightly so. But there are many others who are better than saints. Better because they are flesh and blood people who struggle and hurt and do their best and sign up to do it over and over again. All so children like my son can have what they need.

The Other Other Women

Three big sisters. An embarrassment of riches for any boy. They are getting a bit sick of playing the bit parts. The dialogue is repetitive “When do we get to see him? It’s not fair. You get to see him all the time… She took my iPod! It was just lying there. Moooooooom!”

The past 2 Saturdays have been spent with foster family, having a great time, sad to leave… B has decided her brother is okay, which is good since he is fascinated by her. L is angling for the role of second Mommy. C completely overlooked a TRAMPOLINE she was so focused on playing with her new brother. Now that’s love!

Reluctant Snuggler

Which brings us to the real star of our show – my son. He is charming. He is ridiculously cute. And he knows it. He can handle an adoring public, but he likes to stick close to home base.

Suddenly, we are changing the rules on him. And he’s not impressed, but he is beginning to rally.

Our first night alone got off to a rocky start: screaming and reaching for the door, then crying in heartbreak. But we both calmed down after about 15 minutes. He let me comfort him and there was some definite snuggle-age. We played and read books and sang songs until bedtime. After a brief protest, he cuddled with me and his bottle. And I rocked my boy to sleep in my arms! I can’t say that enough – I rocked him to sleep in my arms! And in fact I rocked this sleeping boy in my arms, long past him falling asleep.

The Daddy

Our final cast member is the hero of our story. On his second visit, his son went up to him, lifted up his arms and proceeded to snuggle with his new Daddy. That’s right, on day two! He still flinches away from me, but he LOVES his Daddy.

He runs to him when we arrive. He chooses him above everyone else. He climbs all over him. He plays “hockey” with the mini-sticks. He recruits him to swing him around in a big, green Rubbermaid. He rubs his scruffy face with his hands. Yesterday, he found a hairy belly under Daddy’s t-shirt and found that endlessly fascinating. This is the only Daddy he has ever known.

There are moments when I’m slightly envious, but altogether, I am thrilled! Glen was worried about bonding. He wondered if he would love this child the same as the others. He wondered if this child would love him.

When will he learn that I am ALWAYS right? 😉

So here’s me, at the end of our second week “visiting” S at his foster home. On Saturday, the whole family is coming to our house. The next two weeks, he will come home for increasing visits: 2 hours, 4, 7, overnight, 2 nights… until he comes home for good.

P.S. Sandra and John – I’m totally kidding about the siphoning gas thing, especially since I know you’re reading this. A dark parking lot where no one knows me is much more my style.


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