Before the Birthday Candles

I lit a candle tonight and reflected on the fact that we get to celebrate my son’s first birthday soon.

We get to celebrate the laughter, the giggles, the mischief and snuggles that is fully him.

We get to reflect on the joy of the last 6 months of being his parents. The joy in seeing him sit up, cut teeth, crawl, walk and speak his first basic words to us.

Before we celebrate the sweetness of adoption though, the bitter part of the grief of adoption has shown itself.

I told him his basic adoption story again this evening – he has heard it before.  It is his story after all, as much we are a part of it and he is a part of ours.

His story, the details of which are his to hold onto or tell as he grows.

Tonight on reflecting on our beautiful son and how awe inspiring it is to see him growing before our eyes, I was reminded of the fact that he is going to have things to deal with that we can’t pretend he isn’t.

I was reminded that  for 9 months, he grew under his birth mom’s heart – and as much as people say that adoption is when a baby grows in your heart instead of your womb, this baby grew under a heart in another’s womb and that is a part of his story.

It is a part of her story and now it is a part of our story too.

A friend recently reminded me that the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 139 of being knit together in a mother’s womb and not being hidden from the start.  She reminded me that my son was known from the start as much as we didn’t know him from the start.  I was reminded this evening that as much as adoption was always part of how I planned to grow my family one day, of the conversations my guy and I had prior to marriage that, this plan brings with it a story of loss for two others – but that they are known too.

Tonight I want to make sure that he knows that we will stand next to him in responding to the things that are going to be his to deal with as he matures into manhood.

More than that, before we think about candles on cakes, tonight I lit a candle and want to honour a birthmother, who a year ago was preparing for labour and to relinquish (the details of this are hers and his) the baby who became our son.

I want to honour her simply for being his other mother.  We don’t know her and she doesn’t know us and yet our life stories are intertwined.

So before the candles celebrating a year of life are lit, there is another life I want to honour tonight and have no idea how do that.

Other than to pray.

To hold the space with my son and to say to this other mother that you are a part of our story always.

In a respectful way.

In a way which honours a decision you made.

In a way which honours our son.

In a way that honours the unknown between us and yet shares a life.

Tonight I simply want to honour you.

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It’s not my story to tell

We were joined just over 6 weeks ago.

6 weeks of getting to know each other.

In these 6 weeks we have had to navigate being a new family with a baby, but who isn’t a new born.

We have been exceptionally grateful for the conversations, the listening, the facebook groups talking around things from a transracial adoption perspectives, adoptive parents, birthmoms perspectives and adoptees perspectives that happened in the build up to meeting our boy.

We ventured out the house for rambles, just the 3 of us in the first week of being together.

In the first week of being together we had already run into questions and statements– some well meant, some simply curious and some just inappropriate re: how our family was joined.

We have had to navigate some racial stuff.

We have had to navigate questions around his story.

We have had to navigate questions around the adoption process and costs.

All of this is stuff beyond simply being a family. Beyond simply being a new family. Beyond the (happens to all I know) unsolicited comments and advice.  Comments and advice which I know are well meant but don’t always acknowledge that adoption starts with a relationship (or more than one as between birthmoms and adopted families there are foster/ place of safety placements for adoptees too) ending.  So regardless of how cute, or little, or challenging our children are, when we adopt, our families start with navigating a grief.

My own story involves having being intimately involved in another little boy’s life who called me his mamma for a season despite my reminding him that I couldn’t be. Having to step back from his life was one of the hardest things I have ever done (He is in a permanent placement now with siblings and I celebrated the sweetness of that despite the bitterness of saying goodbye.  He taught me much about parenting and loving babies and being available when you don’t ‘feel’ awake, rested & sociable enough!)

My own story involves having to face an awareness that the grief that I have around this creates empathy for my son’s birth mom and yet is not the same.  The grief of knowing that you have to say goodbye to someone and step back from their lives and yet they are very much alive.

We, my guy and I, both believe that our family story isn’t just ours as the adoptive parents.

 

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Not every adoptive family will feel this way. The internet is full of public disclosures by adoptive families.

Our family being an adoptive family is already public – we can’t pretend that we are genetically his!

Our family story also belongs to his birth mom, as well as to him.

We adopted by choice. He needs choices to navigate the world as the world gets bigger and he engages more of it.

It needs to be his story to tell.

Deeply grateful for friends and family who have honoured this space as well as created safety for us as a new family to be a new family, regardless of our incredible boy’s age!

Grumpy but Grateful

I am a mom to a 6 month old.

I have only been a mom to him for 2 and a half weeks.

That’s when he joined us – 2 and a half weeks ago.

Our plan A – his plan B.

His plan A would have been to stay with his birth mom.

The bitter-sweetness of adoption is that fact.

I am grateful for the sweetness of this boy, of the joy that he is, that he is the first child that my guy and I get to parent together.

My heart has ached for his birth mom and him.  His first Christmas was with us – not her. This was her first Christmas without him.  This has been a tangible grief in the last 2 weeks.

Joining our family was the 2nd biggest thing that has happened in his short life.  He has had to settle into a new way of being with us and us with him.

The reasons for his joining our family and not staying with his birth family is not my story to tell – that belongs to him.

Joining us.  Not because he is lucky, or because we are extra special.  Simply because we have been joined.  Matched in a process that was full of incredible grace.

We have been joined and belong to each other, with the knowledge that he is linked to another too.

The last 2 weeks have been amazing. Overwhelming.  Exhausting. Terrifying. Exhilarating.

Pretty much what any new mom feels – regardless of whether the baby joined their family through a biological birth process or not.

I have been so grateful for the way in which our community has rallied around us – from my mom only being a phone call away – I can’t wait for her to be a short few minutes away – to friends and family who have stepped up, with meals, WhatsApp support and in support of our transition.

I have been grateful to my guy who has been open to truly co-parenting –even though the sleep thing is hard and he is/ was averse to body fluids of all sorts.  I am grateful that he gets that we are both in a 24/7 commitment with our boy and that in some ways, when he leaves the house, the intensity is different than my being home –and yet that doesn’t minimise the fact that him going out to work allows my being at home – something that we are both grateful for!

I have been grumpy, like all new moms, at times, as we settle into this new season.

I have been grateful for people respecting the fact that we need to attach and learn each other’s dance before our gorgeous boy gets to engage with others.

I have been grumpy from tiredness at times as our small family is only 2 and half weeks old in this sacred, fragile, beautiful adventure and it’s incredible; it’s also still new and unknown as we navigate new ways of being as indviduals, partners and parents.

I have been grumpy and oversensitive sometimes when people ask well- meaning questions or offer advice (like happens with ALL parents, new or not) around what our boy does or needs.  It’s easier some days than others to field all of this.

What he needs, what we need is for our attachment dance to be danced and the rest follows that.

His grief at this change (yes, babies grieve), the adjustment for him, as well as figuring out who we are and are we going to keep showing up for him, loving him, feeding him, trying to figure out what he needs is our priority now.  Yes, he is 6 months old – so we celebrate all the joys and milestones that come with that but together we are only 2 and a half weeks old.

Our boy’s starting point wasn’t with us.  It was with people who genuinely cared about him to look after him – but that isn’t the same as being in a family that you belong to – and that brings extra developmental tasks for him and for us to navigate. As individuals and as a family.

Not because of anything else, but for the fact that this is beautifully normal in the adoption process.

I have reminded friends (and clients) of this in the past.

It is my turn to be reminded.

The Bittersweet in THE CALL

Last week we got the call.  If you are an adoptive parent, who has waited, or is waiting you will know EXACTLY what I mean by THE CALL.

The call to say that our wait was over.

The call to say that we can meet and bring home a small person to raise as if he was born unto us, as if he is our own.

The call to say that everything we have been intentionally reading, listening, discussing and praying into is about to be made real.

In the Christian calendar, we are in Advent. A season of waiting and of hope.

My guy asked me last week what I wanted for Christmas.  I didn’t really want anything other than for our small person to be home. I said so- in fact I even suggested he call the social workers and put it out there ;)!

The next day we got the call.

Our personal waiting was over.

It’s been a bittersweet time of choosing adoption.

I have always wanted to adopt. I have always thought that this makes sense in terms of growing families.

I have also wondered what happens to mothers who choose not to raise their children post-delivery for whatever reason (whether through relinquishing their children for adoption or abandonment).

I have wrestled with the fact that we are on a register waiting for a child whose birth mother would have had to release him – however that looked for her, as well as him for her.

Not out of pity, but simply as I have had to release a child, not born unto me, but one that I cared for deeply into the adoption process and it was one of the most bittersweet moments of my world – I was over the moon excited that he had a family which was going to be fully his.

I was devastated that I couldn’t be it.

This week I have reflected on the journey to tomorrow and all it has held.

From my guy and I debating whether to go the adoption route first or the birth babies first.

I have had moments of intense grief for a birth mom who was carrying a baby to term but would not see him grow.

I have had intense gratitude and frustration at the fact that this baby is going to be cared for by others between his birth mom and coming to us.

I have been sad for the ‘others’ who care for, look after, love and celebrate children knowing that they will have to say goodbye.

I have had days where it felt okay and days where it felt awful and like it was never going to be real that we would get the call.

It’s bittersweet.

The sweetness of meeting him tomorrow doesn’t change the preceding part of his story, or ours.

The sweetness of meeting him does change how we engage with the world.

The sweetness of him is a reminder that he has a birth mom who has her own story and who we can honour in how we engage with him in our new family of 3, regardless of the story, for she is his birth mom.

The sweetness of him is a reminder that there are spaces which are sacred and the journey into parenthood is one of them.

We are excited to meet our boy.

We are overwhelmed and (beautifully) normal in our nervous anticipation of the pending changes in our worlds.

I can’t wait to meet him. To hold him. To snuggle and feed him. To watch him grow.

I can’t wait to see my guy in his role as father, protector and guide.

New ways of being are going to be unlocked.

This is scary exciting.

It’s bittersweet.

p.s. My guy didn’t call the social worker.  That was just how the story all happened J

The Wait

Post #worldadoptionday conversations

Monday was our 2nd wedding anniversary.  I can’t believe that it’s been 24 months to the day since we chose each other – to dream and do life with, but also to wrestle the rough edges off of the other and to see healing come in the parts that only heal in relationship.  It was also a day for me that I thought would be a good day to get the CALL despite knowing that it wasn’t likely to happen.  It’s okay to dream dreams too.

We are in the waiting season familiar to most adoptive parents known as waiting for THE CALL.

The call that only comes from our social workers when there is a child who we potentially could be the right match for.

The call that only comes once there is no chance of things not being possible.

The call that social workers for the child, birth mom and prospective parents are working towards and yet no one can talk about anything with the prospective parents until the time is right for the call.

The call that means there is a wait.

A wait while you start to nest (and wash nappies) and prepare for a child who you aren’t sure about in terms of preferences, sizes or sleeping habits.  (On receiving the call some of this is clarified a little, but how many of us on paper reveal the fullness of who we are in person).

A wait in which dreams of babies and bedrooms and nappies and what will our future small look like happen.

I catch myself occasionally looking around at people and wondering whether our small grow up with your build, or your eyes, or your skin tone?  I know that it won’t be mine, so I am curious to discover what the unique blend of birth/ first parents has created.

A wait in which I wish for, and am grateful for, our immediate circles of family and friends being mindful of the bitter-sweetness of the adoption process so that when our small arrives, their immediate world is one which honours the duality of space from before as well as the now and the looking ahead.

A wait in which grandparents are picking up books and learning from adult transracial adoptees what it means to be adopted and asking questions around this in order to better love their next grandchild.

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A wait in which future cousins and children in our community are asking questions or figuring things out about the future arrival.

A wait in which friends have been excited for us and asking questions.

A wait which until this week felt helpful in transitioning.  Helpful in preparing us as a couple to be pressing into the space of us.  Until this week when it was a lot of just us and now we are increasingly becoming aware of the space that we have created and are waiting for the small one to be the next one of us.

A wait in which I pray our small person comes home sooner rather than later so that the gap, grief and loss between saying farewell to a birth family and hello to the adoptive family isn’t longer than it absolutely needs to be.

A wait in which my heart is beginning to labour more.  Another adopted mom said to me:

We were always excited for our children to come home, but then one day the excitement turned to a yearning.

When she first said this to me, the excitement resonated.

Today the yearning is.

We wait.

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!

I was warned about Freedom Day

I was warned.

I was warned that as what would have been the due date of our pregnancy approaches that things might come undone.
I was warned that your first menstrual cycle after a miscarriage would be hard and it was.

But it also helped heal because it reminded me that my body was healthy and had normalised.

I was warned that this would be hard.
I just didn’t know how hard.

I didn’t know how hard it would be to have a grief erupt that had felt like it was over.
I didn’t know how hard it would be to feel undone. All. Over. Again.

BUT as I sit in this space
This hard space
This sad space
This space that could have been something else

I realise
That my space isn’t empty
Nor is it undone.
It simply is.

It simply is another part of the healing of a story that isn’t complete: That of meeting the dreams of a specific baby.
It isn’t just hard. It has softened my heart in ways that I never knew it needed softening.

In this 3 week period I expected to be on maternity leave.
In this 3 week period I expected to be nesting and putting my feet up.
Instead in this 3 week period I am living with the paradox that is life:

That there can be hope in the midst of grief and grief in the midst of hope.
That in the next 3 weeks both hope and grief can co-exist and as we approach Freedom Day,
Which would have been the due date,
That I too can find freedom in this.