Friday Nights In

In the first months after I made the decision to adopt, I had a lot of concerns; “little bugs” to work out, you could say. I worked through them one by one, I identified and weighed my options, tried to find the best solutions to each. The concerns I had are pretty typical I think… can I afford this? What about the logistics? Will I be able to find after school care or babysitting? Will I have to move into a house with more bedrooms? Should I stay in the city or go back to the ‘burbs? Where are the best schools located? And the list went on…

But my biggest concern in the beginning was when would there be time for me? What about my Friday nights when I like to hit the take-out aisle of the grocery store and curl up on the couch at home in front of the TV, after a long week at the office? I don’t think I could function now without my night to stay in and veg, so how will I function once I have kids? I still wonder this sometimes.

I do not intend to be one of those mom’s who says “once you have kids there’s just no time left for you!”. I firmly believe that to be a good parent, you need to be good to yourself, and that means taking breaks. Lots of breaks. I’m lucky enough to have an incredible support system in the making. My mother will be my after-school care (one down!), but she’ll also be there for me if I need some time off once in a while. There’s no reason my kids can’t go to Grandma’s for a weekend once in a while, or spend the day at the zoo with my cousins, or once they’re comfortable enough, to have sleepovers with friends. I’m certain there’s another mom out there willing to trade sleepovers once in a while.

Any takers?

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

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” –Win Borden

Finally deciding to pursue adoption was pretty scary. I’d always imagined having adopted children, but I hadn’t ever realized that having adopted children meant I actually had to adopt them. Doesn’t a stork just drop them off on the doorstep?

I spent a lot of time browsing the internet for information on adopting in Alberta. I read everything I could find so many times that it was nearly memorized. At some point I landed on the government site with the profiles of the cutest damn kids I’d ever seen. I’d been to this site a few times over the years and I noticed that a lot of the profiles hadn’t changed during that time. There was one sibling group in particular that caught my eye; they had been on the site as long as I could remember and it broke my heart that they still didn’t have a forever home. That was the day I picked up the phone and called the head office in Edmonton for more information on the adoption process. I talked to a very helpful woman for nearly an hour, and I gained a lot of information. I knew right then and there that I was going to submit an application, but there was one thing I needed to figure out before I did.

I was in a relationship at the time. It wasn’t a particularly serious one, but still it brought up a lot of questions about adopting as a young single person. I wondered if I was giving up something I might one day regret. I wondered if I was willing to put my love life on hold for at least a couple of years until my kids were settled, and I considered that being a single mother might make me less desirable to potential husbands in the future.

It was a tough situation to be in, and one I thought about for a few months. What I concluded was that adopting was my dream and not one I would ever be willing to give up, so if that made life more complicated in the future then that would be okay. There are only so many things you can control in creating the life you want for yourself. I couldn’t force “Steve” to show up before the time was right, but I could go ahead with the rest of my life, anyway.

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” –Win Borden

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

The gentle, sensitive, artistically natured, little diva that we are so proud to call our eldest daughter.

We have built our family through adoption.  It’s definitely been an interesting process…  We went from zero to three children in just under a year.

The gentle, sensitive, artistically natured, little diva that we are so proud to call our eldest daughter.

Our eldest daughter joined our family less than a month after her younger sister.  She had been the foster sister of our son, and from the moment we had met her, my husband was swept off his feet by this little girl with an amazing genuine giggle.  Our son was also very attached to this beautiful young girl that he considered simply to be his sister, and talked about her often in our home.  As we were lucky to remain connected to their foster family, we were able to continue visiting with this little girl until the placement for her adoption was approved.  Now we maintain the connection to their foster family as they are simply part of our extended family.  Our kids all refer to them as “Auntie” and “Uncle”, and they are an important part of our world.

Our first visit with our son, was also our first introduction to the little girl that would one day be our sweet daughter.  Though we were there to meet the beautiful little boy that we had been matched with, it was a day full of giggles, many children and the spark of a relationship between my husband and his “soon to be” daughter, though at the time, we had no idea.  I remember watching them on the swing set in the backyard, calling each other ridiculous names and giggling.  I think that the favorite name at the time, was “pickle face”.  This darling little 6 year old girl had shouted it out, and could barely keep herself on the swing as she was doubled over giggling.  To this day, that memory remains a favorite!

I remember the day that she finally gave me a real, genuine, squishy kind of hug.  I was on my way out the door at the time, and she ran up to me and reached out her arms.  Up until this point, hugs only happened when prompted and consisted of leaning her shoulder into my side for a few seconds and then she would dash away to continue her playing.  When she reached out her arms for a real hug, the kind when she wrapped her little arms around me and squeezed like she would never let go, it took every ounce of composure I could muster to keep from bursting into tears.  For me, that meant more than the first time she called me “Mom” or even than the first time she told me she loved me…  In that hug, I could feel the sweet, gentle, terrified little girl that finally trusted me enough to allow herself to open up, even a little bit.  Now, I look forward to those kinds of hugs every day and I need to remind myself that it took a lot of hard work and patience to get there…but we made it.

Our beautiful daughter with a big heart pushes us every day.  She will always be my reminder that we all need reassurance and a push to allow ourselves to be genuine in every moment.  We all need a soft place to fall when things don’t go quite according to plan, we need to take small steps to conquer our fears even if what we’re facing doesn’t seem so scary to anyone else, and we need to know that even when we get hurt that the people that love us will still be there.  Even when we test that love, we need to know that it won’t break.  My amazingly brave but sensitive little girl, on the verge of becoming a young lady, has helped me to remember that love, patience and respect are all things that come with time and are treasured once achieved.  Every step we take together with her becomes more and more exciting to see the truly amazing soul that she is.  We are so lucky to be part of her journey!

Working on attachment with our sensitive daughter has taken us down a bit of a different path than the one travelled with our other two children.  Though our family’s “ground rules” are the same, we take a bit of a different approach.  With our eldest daughter, much of our focus is on creating a sense of self and working through emotions before regulating.  This means that we work hard to stay completely neutral and calm in her hurricane of emotions.  There are many strategies that we use to create a safe place for her to put all her angry, negative and self-destructive thoughts out into the open and then once we have been able to regulate our breathing and emotions, we will tackle each of them one at a time.  We talk about where they come from, how they are working for us, what kind of reasons do we have to back them up and if maybe perhaps, we could be looking at things a little differently.  The concept of choice and that each choice comes with a consequence (good or bad) seems to be one that is sinking in, though impulse control can be difficult in the chaos of emotion.  This seems to be especially true on the many occasions that my and husband and I make ridiculous requests (like turning off the lights and earth-shaking music when leaving a room, cleaning up toys, wearing a jacket and toque in a blizzard…) that is received with impressive eye rolling and grunting!

Our gentle, artistically natured daughter shines brightest when it comes to our family pets.  She giggles when the cat tries to chew off each of her hair elastics that she has carefully created into a full, arm length bracelet (leaving me to wonder where all the hair elastics have gone!), she will cuddle with the smelliest of dogs, allowing the dog to crawl all over her in search of the last piece of dinner that is sure to be hiding somewhere on our daughter’s face, and she will spend hours playing catch outside with the dogs throwing snowballs that mysteriously disappear once they hit the ground.  Our beautiful girl will pour over books about horses, dogs, cats or bats, working hard to discover all of the animal’s secrets.  She spends time with each animal every day, stroking their hair and gently telling them how special they each are as she rubs their bellies.  When it’s time to watch a movie on the couch, she takes up most of the couch herself, with two dogs draped over her legs and a cat in her lap.  During the summer, every bike ride or walk has multiple stops along the way to allow the ladybugs, crickets, ants or spiders to cross the path safely.  She is an amazing little girl with a heart of gold.  We are so proud to call her our daughter!  We love her so much and are so honoured to be walking through life with her!

Posted by: Cara

The charming, quirky, full of energy, little comedian that we are so lucky to call our son.

We have built our family through adoption.  It’s definitely been an interesting process…  We went from zero to three children in just under a year.

The charming, quirky, full of energy, little comedian that we are so lucky to call our son.

From the time that we submitted our first batch of paperwork applying to adopt, it was just under a year before our son moved into our home and we became an “overnight” family.  He had just celebrated his fourth birthday with his foster family when we met him for the first time.  I remember thinking what a beautiful little boy he was and when he came up to me, proudly riding his bike, he paused for a moment, looked me over and exclaimed “That’s my Mommy!” and rode off with his foster brothers.  It’s my very first memory with my son and I treasure it.  Now, he’s going to be turning seven years old soon and he’s still a beautiful little boy and he will still stop, look me over and exclaim “That’s my Mom.”.  It sounds different now, but it’s filled with the familiarity that comes with living in the same house, fighting the same fights over and over again, saying “I’m sorry”, the bedtime hugs and kisses, the goofy things that happen each day, our hands that clasp together when we are facing a new situation and the knowledge that no matter how crazy things may be during the day, when we wake up the next morning we are still a family full of love and laughter.  We are a forever family.

We had heard many things about our son, all gathered through the social services team, before we met him.  We heard about some of his successes and some of his challenges, but there was nothing that could have prepared us for bringing him into our home and getting to know and love him.  He had (and still has) some significant behavioural challenges.  We worked hard on attachment for a long time and it is still an ongoing process, though I think that he is fairly secure in his place in our hearts and family.  He struggles with dealing with his anger still, but I remember the time that he was first able to describe how he was feeling “all squeezy” on the inside.  We were so excited that he was able to identify how he was feeling.  He has come a long way since then, but it hasn’t been without it’s battles.  For a long time, everything was engaging in battle with this tiny little person, or preparing for battle.

He worked hard to control the environment around him and that included us.  His “forever” parents.  It happened through conversations through the day, where he would ask the same question hundreds of time just to engage you, unpredictable tantrums and screaming, bolting through the neighbourhood so that you had to give chase, flinging food around the house that he had begged to eat, physical aggression, unbuckling his car seat and grabbing my hair while driving, hitting the dogs, throwing objects at preschool or attacking other children, using the bathtub as a toilet, smearing feces and/or blood, but it also occasionally took a different path.  He would cuddle up to me to block my face from anyone I may have been interacting with, he would act like a baby – especially when we were around other people, clinging to me and needing to be carried.  He would wait outside the bathroom door if I was inside and would reach under the door, screaming until I came out.  Even understanding that his behaviours were coming from a place of fear, and a degree of an attachment disorder, most days felt like a battleground and it was hard to figure out how I was ever going to feel attached to this child.

Bed time would trigger another battle every day, where he would scream, spit and bite any person he could find (though apparently I tasted best).  We walked around with bite marks on our arms and legs while saliva dripped from our faces and walls.  Even looking back now, I’m impressed with his spitting accuracy…  He would throw his toys, blankets, books and even try to throw his bed out the room or windows.  He would dart out of his room to try and push me down the stairs.  Bed times were terrible.  Eventually, bed times became Daddy’s domain.  By the end of the day, I had little to no composure left and things seemed to calm down significantly once Daddy took over.

We quickly became very structured in our days and focused on natural and logical consequences.  We worked hard allow him the control that he fought so hard for, within parameters that were safe for everybody.  We created his own “boss” corner, where he made all the decisions.  We found an ANGRY bird/pillow/stuffie that he could “fight” with so that his angry didn’t get him into trouble.  We had secret signs that he could show us when he was feeling “squeezy” so that we could give him a bear hug, because the deep pressure and deep breathing helped him regulate.  We had to become very creative, fast.

We still use a lot of the same strategies today.  We can often see the meltdowns coming now, and we can talk with him about it.  We are more aware of his triggers, like the month of November and cement sound barrier walls along the roads.  Even though we don’t always understand his reactions to things or the depth of his anger, we walk with him through it.  I’m not sure that we will ever understand, but we will always love him.

Looking back, that first year was really hard.  Now we see his quirky little personality grow each day, and his sense of humor evolve as he takes great pride in calling his Dad an old man and asks why Dad’s hair is shrinking.  He hides shoes from people when they come to visit, or his sister’s plates of dinner if they dare leave the table during meal times.  When helping with the dishes, he asks his sister if she can “feel the burn”…  He does it all with this impish little grin and a twinkle in his eye.  He holds my hand to walk through a parking lot, and builds puzzles with such precision.  He starts snowball fights that he knows he won’t win and tells me “That’s okay, Mom.  It’s still fun.”  He will take his little sister’s hand and show her how to go down a toboggan hill as fast as he can just to fall out of the sled at the bottom.  He carries his big sister’s books home from school so that they aren’t too heavy for her.  That’s my beautiful son.  My son who was recovering from one of his huge meltdowns and asked “Why did I have to be such a fast baby, Mom?”  We are so proud of the little man that he is becoming.  We are so lucky to call him our son.

Posted by: Cara