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

Guest Contributor: In the Beginning: The Supporting Cast (to be a Grandparent)

This post is from a guest contributor who plays a very important role in her family… the role of a grandmother!

I am having such a blast as a grandmother! All the perks of parenthood, without the responsibility. I am in my third childhood (the second, of course, occurring with my own children) and relish the opportunity to play and be silly once again with my grandchildren. Their innocence and ‘joie de vie’ is energizing. I have been reacquainted with Uno and Sorry, playgrounds and giant bubbles. Together, we have constructed Marshmallow Shooters, and assembled S’mores in celebration of summer. Every season brings its own pleasures and opportunities to play. Fall and leaf battles. Winter and snow painting and snowman building. Spring and puddle jumping. What is not to love?! And when my energy dwindles (long before the grandkids’ does), I take great pleasure in stepping aside and observing Pappa teasing the grandkids and our children parent and play with their kids. It is an amazing and privileged role I get to play as grandmother…

We have both biological and adopted grandchildren. They are all precious to us. We do not make distinctions – no need to – there is plenty of love to go ’round. Nevertheless, it would be dishonest of me and most naïve to suggest to you that there are no differences in the ways in which we grandparent each.

Particularly at the outset, the journey begins quite differently. This is not something I would have anticipated initially. Adopted or biological – they are all kids – right?! Just love them all, big hugs and kisses, lots of sugar treats, spoil them like crazy (a grandparent’s prerogative :), and then send them home to Mommy and Daddy, end of story. Sound right? Well, not quite. (I must confess I am not the ‘spoiling’ type, with any of our grandchildren. A few treats here and there – certainly. More important, though, Pappa and I prefer to spoil our grandkids with love and affection, with time and experiences, rather than with too many treats or things. We are (and always were) just too darn pragmatic!)

The hugs and cuddles are a very natural beginning for a biological grandchild. Along with Mom and Dad, the bonding for us began long before baby was born. It was a natural greeting into the real world.

For our adopted grandchildren, however, because they were no longer babies when they entered our family, the rules were quite different. Fortunately for us, our own daughter and son-in-law took the time to educate us prior to the arrival of their adopted children. They offered us reading material. They provided a list of things they wanted us to know as we embarked on this adoption journey together. This education had many benefits and should not be understated here. Because of it, we did not take it personally when they opted out of family events for the first while; they explained to us that they needed time to bond as a family unit, prior to introducing other family members into their circle. While we missed our own children hugely and were beyond excited to celebrate this incredible event with them (the creation of a family), we were able to step back because we could appreciate that developing this primary bond with Mom and Dad was of utmost importance to our grandchildren and would only come ‘in time’. Attachment is a huge challenge, not one often discussed or appreciated and we had to be patient – not my strong suit! Was it tough to be on ‘the outside’ in the early phase? So incredibly tough. But thanks to our kids (daughter and son-in-law), the conversation had begun.

When Pappa and I finally met our grandchildren, it was love at first sight! (Can I gush for a moment here to tell you how precious they are? 🙂 We were desperate to pick them up in our arms, give them big squishy hugs and tell them how lucky we were to meet them. Instead, we had to check all our instincts to cuddle and nurture at the door. We could love them, certainly, but we were cautioned to move slowly and follow Mom and Dad’s prompts. Good advice, I promise, as our primary role is and should be to support Mom and Dad. However, that is translated into specifics: we refrained from physical contact for the most part. We held back instead of rushing to a grandchild’s rescue when he/she scraped a knee or bumped a toe. We even deferred from offering a drink or snack when our grandchildren were hungry. Pretty tricky! And completely counter-intuitive!! Nevertheless, we understood the reasoning behind the request to ‘step back’ and allow Mommy and Daddy to move in to provide those basic needs, that comfort and sympathy; these children needed to learn to lean on Mom and Dad – to trust that Mom and Dad would be there for them. It can be a huge hurdle/challenge for an adopted child to learn to trust those around them to take care of them; they have spent critical developmental years learning that they can depend on none, other than themselves. Hence, initially, instead of being a hands-on grandparents, jumping in with both feet, Pappa and I hovered around the periphery of this blossoming family, becoming the ‘cheering section’ and celebrating all the small, but monumental milestones of our grandchildren – as when a child sought out Mom or Dad of their own accord when they were hurt, as when a child stepped between his/her parents to hold both Mom and Dad’s hands.

The exciting news is that we have moved past those first tenuous meetings as the bonds in this new ‘forever family’ strengthen. Pappa and I continue to work hard to follow Mommy and Daddy’s lead, but there are now ample opportunities to engage with our grandchildren, to love and nurture them. And as I watch and play with these amazing grandchildren, I register how far they have come in their own journey. There is new confidence emerging alongside their sense of belonging. There is a sense of humor revealing itself as they remember how to play. They are children first and foremost-the path to creating those family bonds is just different for an adoptive family.

I am so grateful that our children had the wisdom and the courage to advise us as to how we could best support them in their role as adoptive parents, even when, at times, it must have been extremely hard to do so… I feel even more blessed that the dialogue is ongoing, for it is because of that dialogue that we are able to work together, parents and grandparents together, to ultimately provide what is best for our children/grandchildren and to celebrate ‘family’.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a game of Uno to play… 🙂

The Many Faces of Adoption

When you start researching ways to adopt, the terminology can be quite confusing, especially if the information you’re gathering is not Alberta-based. If you’re looking to adopt a child, there are really just *three types of adoption.

They are, in language we can all understand:

1) Government Adoption: Adoption of (typically older) children in government care (foster care). Facilitated by Alberta Adoption Services / Child and Family Services

2) Infant Adoption: Adoption of an infant through a private agency (when a birth mother surrenders her child). This is often referred to as “private adoption”

3) International Adoption: Adoption of children (typically infants) from outside of Canada. This is facilitated through a private agency

The phrase “domestic adoption” can refer to both government and infant adoptions; it simply means that you are adopting from home and not internationally.

*Some agencies also handle adult adoptions, adoptions of step-children, and “private direct adoption” (when a birth parent places a child in the care of someone they know) These types of adoption have not been included in this article.

Adoption Frustration: The Timeline

I think the most common frustration we have as parents who’ve pursued adoption through Child and Family Services is that nothing happens as quickly as you think it will. Knowledge is key however, so I’ll share a bit of what I’ve learned to help you prepare for your own journey.

From the time you submit your application to the time you are approved; your file will change hands several times. Each time it does, someone new has to take the time to review it and contact you. In my case, it took six months to receive initial contact and an average of three weeks to be contacted by each new worker thereafter. Your start to finish timeline will vary throughout the province, but in the Calgary area it is currently taking a year or more from submission to approval.

Here are a few examples of unforeseen things that held up my application:

1) It took six months to receive the first phone call after submitting my application. This was due to a staffing issue.

2) When I finally received the initial contact from the intake worker, I had to delay our first meeting as I was preparing to move into my new home. My house was mostly in boxes and of course, they want to meet in your home. I delayed this meeting a little over a month, until I took possession of my new home and had a couple of weeks to unpack.

3) It was late November when I finally had my first meeting with the intake worker. The next step was to attend the several days of parental training, however there is no training scheduled for December so I had to wait until January. That was another month long delay.

A tip for keeping things on track:

While I personally didn’t have any issues with the paperwork side of things, I’ve met with many people who have. I’ve heard stories of paperwork being lost, placed in the wrong person’s file, or not being received by Child and Family Services. These things happen, so do yourself a favour by having all of the paperwork filled out and submitted right away, and make sure to keep copies of it handy (in your email, on a flash drive, etc.) so it can be quickly rectified if something goes missing.

Also, your Criminal Record Check is only valid for six months, so find out from your worker when yours expires and make sure to allow enough processing time when submitting a new one.

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

Three Ways to Shut Down Intrusive Questions About Your Adopted Children

As human beings we have a natural curiosity, so it’s expected that as the parent of an adopted child, you’ll at some point be asked a question that you aren’t comfortable answering. Most people don’t realize they’re being intrusive, but innocent as it may be, it is still important to maintain your child’s right to privacy. Below are a few ways to avoid answering invasive questions:

1) Politely pointing out that the details belong to your child is a good way to cue the asker into viewing the question from the child’s perspective, which they likely hadn’t considered. Try using a response similar to this one: “I appreciate your curiosity but I prefer not to share too many details as I’m sensitive to my child’s privacy”

2) Provide a generic but factual answer. For example, if someone asks for specifics in your child’s past, you might respond with something like “Most children in care have suffered some form of neglect, abuse or other trauma”. This satisfies their curiosity without invading your child’s privacy

3) It’s natural for people (especially women) to overshare information, but it’s not often necessary for people to know that your child is adopted. If it isn’t imperative to the conversation, simply leaving that detail out altogether will spare you the uncomfortable questions that follow

Are You Sure?

I have a beef with the question “are you sure?”. It gets under my skin. It sends creepy crawlies up the back of my neck. It makes my eyebrow twitch.

I don’t know that I can speak for all prospective adoptive parents, but I imagine a good chunk of them feel the same way that I do.

OF COURSE I’M SURE!!

I’d always wanted to adopt, but before I submitted my application, I spent months mulling it over. I thought up every possibly life scenario, every horrible outcome, every risk, every reward, I confided in my closest friends and I had many, many sleepless nights. I assure you, I thought this decision through thoroughly. By the time I started telling people I was in the process of adoption, I was well past the point of  no return. My mind was made up and my heart was set on following this path.

Like I’ve already said, I’m not sure I can speak for all prospective parents, but this isn’t a decision one makes hastily. The next time someone tells you they’re adopting, please, please, pleasssse don’t ask them if they’re sure. Instead, squash that little voice of concern, put on a smile, and tell them you look forward to supporting them in their decision.

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

“There is…nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.” – H. R. Schaffer

After submitting my application, my life became entirely about preparing for the arrival of my future children. I was (and am) determined to raise my children in a “home” where they can feel safe and loved. I immediately started house hunting. I went to therapy to work out some resentment left over from my parent’s divorce. I read books about abuse, adoption and attachment. I went to a couple of free courses offered through Alberta Health Services, and I talked about it a lot with my family and close friends.

When it came to my family, I knew I was going to need their help and support. I called my mom, my aunt, my cousin and my best friends and I asked them outright if they would be able to support me. I hadn’t ever really shared my plans with many people before (probably because I hadn’t really thought of it as something I was going to do but as something that was just going to happen), but every single person was as thrilled about my decision to adopt as I was (albeit some of them were caught a bit off guard).

My mom is just delighted at the idea of being a grandparent. That probably has something to do with my telling her for years that I wasn’t going to have kids (I didn’t want to turn a certain age and get nagged about it all the time). She’s already prepared to help me with before/after school care and I’m so grateful that she just lives down the street.

One of my best friends is a social worker turned parole officer as well as a mother of three, and has a wealth of knowledge about anything and everything I can possibly think of to ask her. She also lives just a few minutes away and I know will be there for me in a pinch.

Watching my brother get on board is pretty cool, too. He’s just 20 so I don’t expect too much from him, but in the last while he’s been spending a lot of time with our family and seems to really be growing up. I can’t wait to see him as a proud uncle; I think he’ll do a great job.

I’ve always been lucky to have a close family and a small group of amazing friends. Having that support in place really does make all the difference when you’re adopting as a single person. Even though I’m doing this on my own, I really don’t feel alone.

“There is…nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.” – H. R. Schaffer

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

“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” -Napoleon Hill

“What made you decide to do that?” is the most common question I’m asked when I tell people about my ambitions to start my family via domestic (government) adoption, and that’s where I’m going to start my story.

I never really “decided” to adopt. It was already decided for me; be it by early life experiences, my subconscious, or God, I don’t really know.

Honestly, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t simply envision adoption being a part of my life. As a kid, I loved playing “house” with my friends. We had dolls, but much of the game was made up of imaginary people. My make-believe husband’s name was always Steve, I had a baby doll named Samantha, and each time during this little game of grown-up, I would somehow welcome more imaginary “adopted” children into my pretend-life. The circumstances behind my pretend adoptions were never played out; I was too young to understand those kinds of things, but my longing to be a mother to anyone who needed mothering was always very apparent.

As I grew into my teenage years, this image of Steve, Samantha, and my adopted children remained in the back of my head; I assumed that someday that would be my life, and I didn’t think about it any further than that until I was well into my twenties.

Going from the point of imagining I would adopt to actually filling out the application wasn’t really the smooth and natural process you would assume. For a few years in my twenties, I forgot about my childhood dream. I was doing a lot of “growing” as a person; finding my place in the world. I focused on my career, had a few relationships and got my heart broke once or twice. There was even a period (however short-lived) when I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids at all. I was finally past that point in life where every day was a struggle to survive. I was enjoying my career and making decent money and I liked the freedoms that came with it. I wasn’t sure if I would ever want to give it up. That feeling didn’t last very long however and soon I was once again under the impression that I would one day find my “Steve” and have a family of my own. At that point, I hadn’t considered adopting on my own, and I wasn’t really in a rush for a family, so life went on for a couple of years with nothing in particular happening.

It’s strange how sad things in life can turn into really amazing opportunities. In November of 2011 I unexpectedly lost my father. The year following that was an emotional roller-coaster but I took the necessary steps to work through my grief and I came out the other side with a lot of clarity. I was a different version of the same person; I had “grown up” you could say.

I realized that waiting around for life to happen is stupid. I had goals, dammit and there was nothing but fear standing in between us. I didn’t have my “Steve” but I had a good job, a supportive family and a lot of love to offer. I was ready to move into the next phase in my life, and if I had to do it on my own then I would.

“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” Napoleon Hill

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