The grief of adoption

Some reflections on our initial screening to becoming potential adoptive parents

Celebration. Joy. Permanency. Family. Forever (in faith). These are all words we see and hear around adoption. The past few weeks though as we have journeyed through our initial screening and preparation to be presented as prospective adoptive parents, I have become acutely aware of the grief in this whole process.
My professional world is predominantly child focused, so it has been easy for me to be able to think, focus and identify the grief process for a child whose birth family isn’t the one that they get to do life with. Regardless of how good the reasons are for this.
My grief for the birth mother – whether someone who has signed over their baby for adoption or has abandoned them (whether through leaving them safely somewhere or otherwise) is something I have had to grapple with. No one dreams of having to make an adoption plan. In my circles questions around parenting range from your birth plan to whether you believe in co-sleeping or not to which school do you think that you would like to send your child to and why. What a contrast to not knowing what you are going to do with the small person that has grown in you, but that you can’t (for whatever reason – from age to finances to addiction) care for and having to decide what to do with the small person.
Then there is a grief for us. Our grief is less complicated or compounded in some ways as we are not grieving infertility issues. We are choosing this. In choosing this though, there is still grief.
There is no romantic standing in the hospital while a mother gives birth (thank you Hollywood) for us. Our meeting our small person only happens once there is no chance of it legally not working for the baby or us – once all the I’s have been dotted and the T’s crossed – such a good thing for everyone actually but so hard in terms of the knowledge that from the time the small person is born until we meet them, they will have had at least a birth mother and one other carer in their little lives that they will have to say goodbye too.
My heart is sore in ways that by the time I get to meet our small one, that he will have been held by many arms, not mine. My heart is okay with the not carrying him. My heart grieves at the knowledge that I don’t get to delight in his initial newness in life (sleep deprivation and all). That’s sad for him and us…it’s a part of the bonding that birth moms and dads have with their smalls. It’s not insurmountable grief. It’s just something we need to process.
I have recently heard more than once the declaration that we are lucky to skip the exhaustion of pregnancy, the birth process and the repeated wake ups of a new born baby.
I have witnessed more than once the surreal reality of friends anticipating the phone call saying that their small is ready to meet them, but none of the ‘natural’ preparation of a visible pregnancy in the future mother for people to be engaging with.
Adoptive parents are expectant but the way in which we process this has to happen a little differently to a set of pregnant parents. Choices to get ready to meet a small person happen along the way too – but our timelines, our bodies, our planning is not benchmarked by bellies and breasts.
Our world is about to be turned upside down. We will have to get to know a small one from when they have already engaged with the world. There are going to be joyful discoveries and heart rendering moments of oh my goodness. Life is never going to be the same again. That’s not lucky though – our journey to the discovery of each other comes with a cost to all involved – one we choose and process. We are still figuring out what this all means – luck doesn’t need any of that work!

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Weddings, details and what I am really excited about….

3 and a half weeks ago I got engaged to my Bear – my best friend, my supporter, the man who has my back, who fell in love with me and not the idea of the me – the idea of me being what I do for a living or project.  Rather I am blessed enough to be loved by someone, who I love back, who sees the fragile, gentle parts of me too and loves those parts tenderly. 

Our formal engagement came after setting a wedding date – we had too many faraway friends & family members to do this any other way if we wanted there to be a chance of them being with us.  So, for about 10 weeks I walked around with the knowledge there was a hoped for date….about 8 weeks ago, there was an official speaking to my parents and on the 15th June there was the official proposal.  A thought out, romantic, overwhelming spoil of a day – one of those days that you wish you could get lost in for longer than the permitted 24 hours.

I can’t wait to get married.  I can’t wait to be MRS BEAR.  It has been truly scary having to confront my wedding phobia.  There it is out loud:  Marriage doesn’t scare me as much as weddings themselves do. These past few weeks I have had to confront this phobia because what I think does count.  My amazing parents (who have been married for 40 years) and sister in law have taken on the task of “wedding planning team” in the province where we are getting married.

I had to make a commitment to not be an ostrich and to be willing to talk about things.  So this is how we did it.  We had a sanction on any wedding talk except for dedicated times.  We enforced this with family, with friends and with well-wishers.  This past weekend I flew to spend time with my family and sign off with them on the details:  you know fabrics, chapel, photographer, reception venue, DJ, décor….it was a really busy weekend of details.  Details which overwhelm and scare me!

Friends popped over to say congrats and hellos and asked me if I was excited about the wedding.  I got text messages asking if I was excited about my dress.  I have had people want to know if all the details are on track.  We have had to negotiate the tight rope of the wedding guest list- something I guess only preludes the table seating plan….and in the midst of it all, as much as choosing who to marry is a big deal what has struck me time and time again is that I am more excited about being married to my Bear than I am about the details.  Every single service provider was concerned about my reaction to rain or to something not being perfect.  Our wedding day is about us being a part of community of family and friends and honouring God and them for the people that we are today, being able to stand and say I do.

DO I think that our wedding is going to be lovely? YES.  Do I want him to think that I look beautiful?  Yes.  Do I want people to have fun?  Yes – More than all of this though I want there to be love and hope and kindness and joy present.  I want us to be surrounded by a community of people who choose to be there- not just on the day we get married, but in the years ahead.  I want us to be talking about marriage and what it means more than talking about colour schemes.  I want us to be laying firm foundations with wise input for the biggest adventure of our lives.

Really, I am serious when I say to you the thing I am most excited about is being Mrs Bear: More than lace; more than colour schemes; more than worrying about the weather.  I am excited about the Marriage part.  The wedding seems small in comparison. Image