Holding My Breath

Does adoption ever feel like it’s actually happening, until it does? My file has been active again for a few months now and I finally (FINALLY!!), after three years, have a match! For the past few weeks since I’ve known about it, I feel like I’ve been holding my breath… not quite believing that this is actually happening.

I’m going through the motions… gathering information, asking questions, talking to the schools, transforming the guest room… but all the while my head is spinning in a thousand different directions and it hasn’t really “sunk in” yet. I have this fear that the second I finally exhale, someone will tell me this whole thing was just a sick joke and it will feel like a punch in the gut.

Sometimes I manage to break down my walls and allow myself to feel excited, but most days I feel like I’m going to throw up. It sounds a little like pregnancy, no?

Posted By: Sarah

My Amazing Summer Experience Providing Respite Care

“God laughs when we make plans.” That’s a saying that’s been going through my head a lot over these past several months. Thankfully, I’m somewhat of an eternal optimist and I believe that when one door closes, even temporarily, another one opens; and opened, it did!

I’ve been dabbling in respite care since the spring, and in June I was given an opportunity to house a teenage girl for the summer. I must admit, I was hesitant at first having only done respite on weekends in the past. An entire summer was a lot of parenting to take on, and teenagers… well, teenagers.

As it turns out, we both made it through the summer without any permanent scars, and a little bit wiser. We had our challenges; opportunities for consequences and growth on both our parts, but in the end we were better for it. I’m actually not sure who learned more this summer, her or me, but I’m betting on the latter. I seem to recall telling my home study writer while discussing my adoption age range that “teenage girls have problems I haven’t even figured out yet!”, so I thought that parenting a seventeen year old girl was way out of my league!

She and I had conversations about everything from curfew and chores to boys, parties and alcohol to graduation and university. I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a parent; I eventually stopped second guessing myself when making decisions and learned that it was okay if she didn’t like all of the rules or some of her chores. We had a few tough talks, but far more positive ones. We spent a lot of evenings curled up, talking about all the tough stuff in life. I gave some (pretty decent) guidance when she asked for it, and just listened when she needed to vent. We also had a lot of fun together. We tried out colouring as a form of stress relief, she got to know my family during our regular family dinners, I watched numerous fashion shows as she tried on everything in her closet, and we capped the weekends off by curling up in my bed for “Bachelor TV Sunday’s”. We now share some inside jokes, like her obsession with chocolate Lucky Charms cereal and one of the Bachelor participant’s use of the phrase “straight Kentucky crazy”.

This morning, when we were packing her things, she asked me to come to her graduation next year, and I could barely hold in how touched I was. We shared a lot of tears and hugs as we said our goodbye’s, and if I’m being honest, I’ve shed more than a few since she left. (God bless foster parents, I don’t know how they do it!)

This experience has been one in a lifetime. I’m so grateful that it was presented to me and that I didn’t turn it down out of fear. I’m ending my summer with a far bigger heart, and she’s ending her’s with one more person in her corner. I can’t wait to see her next week for Bachelor TV Sunday!

Posted by: Sarah

Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

Putting My Dreams on Temporary Hold

The adoption process is almost guaranteed to be frustrating, but sometimes it can be downright heartbreaking. There are families who dream of adopting and put their heart and soul into the process only to have their home study rejected for various, sometimes uncontrollable reasons. There are families who Foster to Adopt and although they expect the possibility that the child won’t remain with them, end up heartbroken anyway. Then there are those families who wait for what seems like forever before they find a match; the process for them is excruciating, never knowing at what moment their lives will change forever.

Adoption can be trying for everyone, and that’s why I’ve tried so hard to stay positive since losing my job last year and putting my adoption plans “on hold”, but I’ve not always been successful in remaining optimistic. Adoption is something I’m very passionate about, and it hasn’t been easy to talk about it, to visit my friends with kids or to focus on my volunteer work with FACES. There have been periods where I’ve had to block it out completely because it made me sad to even think about. I’ve had to shift focus to my other responsibilities and ambitions. I’ve spent more time reading and writing and hanging out with my family, which has actually been incredibly good for the soul.

Despite how difficult the last few months have been emotionally, I am still looking forward to getting back on track with my adoption plans very soon, and also allowing myself to take a break from it all in the meantime.

Posted by: Sarah

Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

“Mom, I’m in the Principal’s office.”

“Mom, I’m in the Principal’s office.”

This is how our week started.

The week continued with our quirky comedian tying a child to a tree and leaving him there, getting into several fights at school, puking up his breakfast on the table because he didn’t like the food and bouncing on his mattress so hard, wooden slats underneath broke through.  Our feisty butterfly has been screaming all day, every day for the last 10 days, except for taking the time to bathe herself in toilet bowl cleaner, pick holes in her clothes and create artwork on her wall with spit and blood from a nosebleed.  Our sensitive diva has decided that she no longer needs to sleep, do homework or brush her hair and has perfected stomping up and down the stairs to the tune of ‘I hate you’, returning only to let me know that I have made her scratch herself because I am so mean.  It has been a truly tough and terrifying week.

Through the adventures of the week though, we have seen some incredible things.

One afternoon after an impressive rage, my son was curled up on his bed, wrapped in blankets and we talked.  We talked about all the things he has been terrified to say out loud.  We talked about how a substitute teacher yelled at him.  How he didn’t know the substitute teacher and he didn’t know that his regular teacher wouldn’t be there that day.  We talked about how much it upset him, and how worried he was because he wasn’t sure what to expect from this new person.  He talked about how he didn’t understand why she had yelled at him, and that all the kids stared at him because she yelled.  We talked about how angry and scared that had made him feel.  He helped me understand that this happened on the same day that he decided to tie another child to a tree and wanted to fight the other kids on the playground.  The trauma in my son’s life has surfaced again…

My son also talked about his fears of moving into a new grade, with a new teacher.  My quirky little comedian starts every day ready to earn a smiley face from school to show me at home.  This smiley face means that he worked hard at school that day and used his amazing little heart in how he treated the kids and teachers around him.  As he’s explaining to me that he will be too old next year to earn that smiley face, he is wrapping himself tighter into his blankets, trembling, and trying to hide that he’s crying even as he is sobbing too hard to catch his breath.  My heart was breaking for him.  I could feel him melt into a hug, and then lean back and look at me like a huge weight had been lifted from him.  He has been a different kid since that conversation.

Our feisty little butterfly and I discovered something new this week.  As she is busy screaming, shrieking and howling, she will pause to hear what I have to say – as long as I’m not actually talking to her.  I played “I wonder”.  I started talking to myself, in a voice just barely loud enough for her to hear.  I “wondered” if she knew how much I missed her giggles.  I “wondered” if she knew how much I was looking forward to a big squishy hug.  I “wondered” if maybe she was feeling sad and lonely.  I “wondered” if she had forgotten how special and loved she is.  I “wondered” if maybe she was too angry right now to think about anything else.  I “wondered” for about half an hour, and she listened to every word.  She would hold herself tight and cry softly when I talked about being scared or sad.  She would turn her head to the sound of my voice when I mentioned the things I love most about her.  She would wait patiently to hear what I would say next, her little body leaning forward to make sure she didn’t miss anything.  It was amazing.

After I had run through all the things I could think of, I called to her and asked if she was ready to go back to her previous activity.  She hopped up, smiled brightly and asked who I was talking to earlier.  I told her that I was playing a game on my own, and asked if she had heard anything.  She looked at me very seriously, and told me that she didn’t hear a single thing.  Two minutes later, she worked up a big giggle and then told me that she thought maybe I might have been missing her giggles…  🙂  Things have turned around completely for us since then!

Our sensitive diva has been struggling lately.  Really struggling.  Every conversation turns into a battle.  Every request is a fight.  Every chore that she swears is complete, has been shoved into a corner.  After our most recent encounter with chores, I had left her in her room to complete the task she swore she had already done.  Once the door was closed, the name-calling and screaming began.  I walked back in the room, sat down on the floor and said that it sounded like there were some things that she would like to tell me.  I didn’t realize it then, but that was an incredible understatement…

We talked about the names she would like to call me, the words that she thought that if said, the police would come and take her away.  We talked about how she would like to hurt me, and hurt herself.  We talked about the bad dreams – that one night robbers were going to come into our house, ask me where the kids are and then take them away.  We talked about her friend’s family, dealing with divorce.  And then we talked about her birth family.  Her special memories of them, her scary memories, the fear she has because she’s forgetting them.  We talked about how hard it is to say goodbye.  We talked about ways to connect with her birth family.  We talked about writing a memory book so she could keep them close to her.  We talked about anger, sadness, loss and love.  She sat, curled in my lap and holding my arms tightly around her and sobbed.  My beautiful sensitive little diva has been keeping so many things inside.  With Mother’s Day arriving this weekend, my sensitive daughter has helped me realize what a special place in my heart her birth mom has too…  Even though I don’t know her, she is very much a part of my daughter, and for that, I’m grateful.

It’s been an amazing week.  It’s been a heartbreaking week.  It’s been a week that my beautiful, fragile and resilient children let their guards down enough to let me in, a little closer than ever before.  I am so thankful for that.  I can’t imagine a better gift than getting to love them, and to walk this part of their journey with them…  That being said, I’m looking forward to a boring, routine kind of week, next week!  🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!  I’m thinking of you all.

 Posted by: Cara

Please do / Please Don’t

 Welcoming a new child into the family is an exciting and overwhelming time for everyone. The new parent(s) are busy imagining how their lives will change, trying to prepare bedrooms, toys, clothes, coordinating plans for their new arrival and lying awake at night full of questions, anxiety and anticipation. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are often caught up in the whirlwind of preparation too, or may be struggling with their own worries as to how this will impact their growing family.

We found that creating some guidelines was helpful as we looked for some “non-traditional” support from our family and friends.

Please Do:

  1. Offer household help (running errands, preparing meals that can go right from the freezer to the oven, etc.) so the parents can spend more time holding and bonding with the child. This new addition to the family has created a significant change. Suddenly, the smallest task may take on a life of its own when there is a child demanding much of the parent’s energy and patience. Initially a new adoptive parent may not be sure of their child’s responses in typical daily situations, line ups, grocery stores or even a short walk or drive
  2. Trust the parent’s instincts. Even a first time parent may notice subtle symptoms that well-meaning family and friends attribute to “normal” behavior.  These children are wonderful little individuals, but they have not been through “normal” things and do not simply have “normal” behaviors. Due to the trauma that they have all experienced in their short lives, many behaviors may have a different motivation than that of their peers
  3. Accept that attachment issues are difficult for anyone outside of the mother and father to see and understand.  Each child is different and each situation may look different to the new family. The bonding process requires a great deal of time, commitment and energy. This young child is learning new boundaries, trust processes and starting to figure out the context of new relationships in the world. Initially, their world needs to be kept quite small to allow them to re-establish their place in this new context and to include their forever family. To create a solid foundation of a healthy attachment, the parents must be seen as the “safe” place. This can be difficult to do while setting boundaries and disciplining a toddler who may be presenting some challenging behaviors
  4. Be supportive even if you think everything looks fine to you.  Understand that even for a new toddler that may sleep through the night, each waking moment of the day requires a great deal of energy and thought
  5. Allow the parents to be the center of the child’s world. One grandfather, when greeting his grandson, immediately turns him back to his mom and says positive statements about his good mommy. This is important to help establish the attachment process. Though many members of the extended family may have been supportive and excited about the new addition to the family, the relationship of the immediate family must always be the focus initially. This means that all others need to take a “backseat” role. There will be a time to create healthy relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Until this little person has had a chance to form a healthy attachment with the parents, pushing the additional relationships may create confusion, anxiety and stress for them
  6. Tell the child every time you see him what a good/loving/safe mommy and daddy he has. This will help to reinforce the strength in the entire extended family unit. It also supports each parent in their new role through the child’s eyes
  7. When the parents need someone to care for the child for a night out, offer to babysit in the child’s home. (After the child has been home for a substantial period of time.) Especially if the time will include the child’s bedtime, it may be helpful to do a practice run at the home with the parents. Routines can be important and it may allow the child to become familiar with you during this time and will prepare both you and the child for the upcoming evening
  8. As hard as it may be for you, abide by the requests of the parents. Even if the child looks like he really wants to be with Grandma, for example, he needs to have a strong attachment to his parents first. Something as simple as passing the child from one person to another or allowing others, even grandparents, to hold a child who is not “attached” can make the attachment process that much longer and harder. Some parents have had to refrain from seeing certain family members or friends because they did not respect the parents’ requests. When the child is comforted and/or having their needs met by someone other than his/her parents it can create confusion as to who will take care of them. It is especially important during the process of attachment that the parents are the “first responders” in meeting and anticipating their child’s needs. If you see something or would like to offer something (like a treat) it is a good idea to discuss this with the parents without the child present. Many adopted children have an incredibly keen sense of hearing and will also gauge a situation to determine who the “boss” is in the room. Without guidance, these children may simply focus on the person they feel is in a position to keep them safe, or the person who they may need to establish dominance over to maintain their own control. When the extended family shows support of the parents, it can help these children learn that they can be safe and secure by relying on their forever mommy and daddy
  9. Accept that parenting children who are at-risk for or who suffer from attachment issues goes against traditional parenting methods and beliefs. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues. Parents will know what methods do or do not work for their child. They may look different than those you have used or than those you may be familiar with but this new family needs your support and buy-in to support them on this journey. If you have the opportunity to sit down and discuss any questions or concerns you may have with the parents it can be a wonderful time to regroup and create an open and supportive atmosphere for the entire extended family unit
  10. Keep in mind that the attachment process is cyclical. “Two steps forward, one step back”
  11. Remember that there is often a honeymoon period after the child arrives. Many children do not show signs of grief, distress, or anxiety until months after they come home. If the parents are taking precautions, they are smart and should be commended and supported!
  12. Allow the new parents to vent in a safe, non-judgemental environment. It may be difficult to simply listen without providing advice or input, but it can allow adoptive parents to feel supported and united with the important people in their lives. Tackling this adoptive journey can be a challenge. Though rewarding, it can also be filled with heartbreak, guilt, isolation and overcoming many previously held (internal and external) beliefs and values towards adoption and adopted children. Much of the attachment process is geared to supporting the child in attaching to the parents, but an important part of the equation is supporting the parents in attaching to the child as well. Though not often talked about, it can be difficult in bonding with a child that swings from physical aggression towards the parents, to overly affectionate and smothering in an effort to manipulate the situation. Just as each child requires a great deal of love, patience and support on this journey, so do the parents

 

Please Don’t

  1. Assume any child is too young to suffer from emotional issues related to attachment. Even babies are not immune. This may not always present itself in predictable ways but it will certainly color many interactions for this new family
  2. Underestimate a new parent’s instincts that something isn’t right. They are spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with this child
  3. Judge the mother or father’s parenting abilities. What looks like spoiling or coddling may be exactly what the child needs to overcome a serious attachment disorder. Managing controlling behaviors is also a large part of many family’s challenges, especially those adopting toddlers and older children. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues
  4. Make excuses for the child’s behaviors or try to make the parents feel better by calling certain behaviors “normal”. For example, many children who suffer from attachment issues may be labeled strong-willed by well-meaning family members. While being strong-willed can be seen as a positive personality trait, this type of behavior in an attachment-impaired child may signify problems
  5. Accuse the parents of being overly sensitive or neurotic. They are in a position to see subtle symptoms as no one else can
  6. Take it personally if asked to step back so the parents can help their child heal and form a healthy and secure attachment. You may be asked not to hold the child for more than a minute. This is not meant to hurt you. It is meant to help prove to the child who his mommy and daddy are. Up until now the child’s experience has been that parents are replaceable. Allowing people to hold the child before he has accepted his forever mommy and daddy are can be detrimental to the attachment process. These children and their forever parents need your support in redirecting the child back to the parents consistently. If the child falls down, bumps their knee and is crying, you can check in with them as you are bringing/directing them back to their parents for comfort (“Oh my, that was quite a bump! Let’s find your Mommy and Daddy and make sure you’re okay.”). If they are asking for something that an adult can provide, please redirect them back to the parents while providing a neutral response (ie. “Can I have a cookie?” “Let’s find your Mommy and Daddy!” “Can I go downstairs?” “Let’s see where Mommy and Daddy are!”)
  7. Put your own timeframes on how long attachment should take. One mother was hurt when she was chastised by a relative who couldn’t understand…after all, the child had been home six months. It could take weeks, months, even years. Every child is different
  8. Offer traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new parent not to sweat the small stuff, that it’s a phase or that the poor child has been through so much in their life already. At the beginning, new adoptive parents are getting to know this child so nothing is too small or insignificant. As they develop a sense of this little person, trust the parents to address the things that need addressing. Each “phase” that an adopted child may go through, will likely look a little different. For a baby, new parents may be told not to pick the baby up every time he cries because it will spoil him. A child who is at-risk or who suffers from attachment issues may need to be picked up every single time he cries. He needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of him and always keep him safe. All of these children have gone through experiences in their short lives that may have a lasting impact to some degree. Follow the parent’s lead on the ways to best support their child
  9. Fall into the appearance trap. Some babies/toddlers with attachment issues can put on a great show to those outside of the mother/father. What you see is not always a true picture of the child. Even babies as young as 6-months-old are capable of “putting on a good face” in public
  10. Lose hope. With the right kind of parenting and therapy, a child with attachment issues can learn to trust and have healthy relationships. But it does take a lot of work and a good understanding of what these children need

This article was adapted from an article on adoptionjourneyhelp.com

Fears of Motherhood

Three reasons I’m terrified of motherhood:

1) I worry that my kids won’t think I’m good enough, or that they’ll be upset at having a single parent and no father figure
2) I would like to add a husband & father to our family someday, but I’m afraid that meeting someone who will accept both me and my children will be difficult
3) It is really expensive to raise kids, and I hope I can strike a balance between work and family life without struggling financially

Three reasons I can’t wait to me a mom:

1) I was born for it. My maternal instincts have always been apparent and I can’t wait to have little people to guide as they learn and grow
2) My house needs a family to live in it; noise and chaos and lots and lots of love
3) Family has always been important to me, and I’m so ready to have one of my own. I’m ready to switch gears from career to mommy mode

Posted By: Sarah

Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

Nesting

 

I always thought that “nesting” was a hormonal thing that only birth mothers went through, but as I inch my way closer to bringing home my own (adopted) children, I am re-thinking that theory.

I can’t seem to stop doing projects at home. In the last couple of months I’ve painted both kids bedrooms, turned the basement into a games room, re-built a safer fence and built a new deck. Part of this is probably due to the recent purchase of my new home and my love of decorating, but I feel like it’s more than that. I’m finding myself cooing at babies more, looking through the adorable children’s clothing in the stores and having to physically stop myself from purchasing every single item I think they might need one day (so far I’ve only allowed myself to purchase one piece of art work for each bedroom, a book of Christmas carol’s – it was on sale – and a box of crayons). I’ve had to start drinking less coffee because I’ve actually been sitting up a night wondering about things like which of my lamps are more gender neutral and if they’re going to fight over the bigger bedroom with the really cool chalkboard wall. I just can’t seem to turn it off.

I was really hoping to spend these last few months enjoying my life as footloose and fancy-free; but those days seem to already be long over.

Posted By: Sarah

Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

ReMoved: A Touching Video Reflecting a Child’s Journey

This video requires no introduction; but you should probably have the tissues ready. (Click the image below to view the video on YouTube.)

(Click to view the video)
(Click to view the video)

“We made ReMoved with the desire that it would be used to serve in bringing awareness, encourage, and be useful in foster parent training, and raising up foster parents. If you would like to use the film for any of these reasons, the answer is yes.” -Nathanael Matanick, Director

Guest Contributor: Emotions of Infertility

This is a guest post from Patricia, about her journey through infertility.

My husband and I started our adoption journey last April and are currently waiting to sign off on our home study report. Many adoption journeys start with an infertility journey, and I would like to take the time to share mine. It is not easy for me to do, even though it has been part of my life for quite some time.

My journey started way back in 1996 when, at 11 years old, I was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor- a form of kidney cancer. Surgeries, chemotherapy, and blood transfusions were to become part of my world for 6 months. During this time, childhood cancer was more of a death sentence than a survival story. In 1998 my cancer relapsed into my lung. At the age of 14, I endured more surgeries, a more aggressive chemotherapy regimen, a stem-cell transplant and radiation.

On my 16th birthday, I was told that I would ‘probably’ never become pregnant. I was to remain on birth control. Well, at 16, that was fine with me. I didn’t want kids anyways. I was raised to think that career came first, children would be low on the list of priorities anyways.

I have to admit that I looked down on those girls who got pregnant in high school. “Their lives are over,” I would think- “they will never be as successful as I will be.” I buried myself in my studies- still scoffing at those who had to quit University to have their children. I thought to myself that they were the ones who should be jealous of me- I could do what I wanted, when I wanted while pursuing my education.

As I got older however, my thoughts changed. I started noticing that those girls who got pregnant in high school now had children that were 10 years old- and that those girls had become happy, fulfilled women. I had noticed that for some reason- everyone I knew was pregnant. To quote “Labor Day” by Joyce Maynard- “Wherever you looked, pregnant women and babies, as if it was an epidemic.” I even felt like the main protagonist- not wanting to even go outside because everywhere I went, someone was pregnant or had kids. I remember standing in line at the vet’s office, and having to listen to two women complaining about being pregnant- one of them wishing that she was infertile. It took everything I had not to: a) yell at them for being insensitive; or b) run out of the vet’s office a hot crying mess; or c) have a panic attack in my car.

I noticed that I am 30 years old and had never held a baby.

I noticed that other girls who went through cancer and treatments- same as myself- get pregnant. I would like to admit that this doesn’t bother me- but I would be lying to myself. It does bother me. It is not fair. I battled and survived, I have had much taken from me- and yet having a baby is one thing I cannot experience. I can admit that I still haven’t worked out how to become ‘not bitter,’ for now- it’s still not fair.

I know that I have not yet “gotten over” my myriad feelings about being infertile. I probably never will, because I don’t think that an infertility journey is ever “over.” I just take it one day at a time.

Making the Right Choice About Potential Matches Despite Everyone Else’s Opinion

As I go through the matching process I am constantly reminding myself to take outside opinions with a grain of salt. It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially when those opinions are coming from the people closest to me.

Not many have come right out and told me I’m crazy for considering certain things, but I can sense their hesitancy. It comes from a place of love and worry (for me), so I don’t take it personally, and I do consider their points, but at the end of the day I know myself better than anyone and I’m confident I’ll make the right decision.

Someone with more sense than me might adopt children with less severe needs or choose to take on only a single child, but I have always been of the opinion that if someone has to do it, why not me? That’s not to say that I will take the hard road simply because it is hard, only that I won’t close any doors before they have even opened.

It frustrates me about myself when I see I’m not taking the road that demands more of me. Judith Light

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985