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

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

Guest Contributor: The Home Study and Your Therapist

This post was submitted by Christine, a guest contributor. Christine and her husband are in the process of adopting domestically through Child and Family Services.

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My husband and I started our adoption journey in December last year and have just completed the home study. We are waiting to be matched with a sibling group. We were married later in life and children were just not possible when we were ready for them.

We had both been going to see the same therapist separately to work out some issues with our relationship and to help my husband deal with his PTSD and ADD. When we talked to our home study worker, I found it natural that she might want to talk to our therapist and/or doctor, particularly as we are both on depression medication. We had no problem signing the consents, although I do admit to a feeling of trepidation about it, afraid we were going to be rejected because of something they might find out. I didn’t have anything to hide, but what if..?

Around that time, someone in an adoption support Facebook group I am a member of posted that their home study worker was asking for the same thing and they were expressing reservations. My first thought was why not? But as I thought about it some more, I understood a bit better. We have no control over what they will say and how the home study worker will interpret it. Prospective adoptive parents are very vulnerable throughout this process and terrified that we will be told we are not ‘good enough’ to adopt. Scary.

When I got married the first time (this is my second marriage), during our pre-marital counselling I was scared I would be told we shouldn’t get married. So I considered every answer and made sure I answered the questions in the best possible way. I didn’t lie, but I may have moulded things to look and sound better than they were. Of course, that was a mistake, I later learned, as the marriage didn’t last.

So, back to the home study – its tempting to orchestrate our answers to put us in the best possible light, but are we doing the children any good? Why are we adopting, anyway – is it more important that we get a kid or that the kid has a great home?

I have learned through this process and through discussions with our home study worker that they really don’t want to reject anyone. In our particular case, although there were some ongoing anger issues due to the PTSD, there was far more good than bad and they were willing to help us with the anger issues so the kid(s) they place with us won’t be affected.

So, have no fear to fully open up, give the home study worker access to everyone and everything. They are not looking for reasons to reject you, they just need to know ALL the information so they can match the right kids with you. In our case, we took a couple of things off the list of things we would look at to avoid any problems (ie. FASD, domestic violence, etc.)

We meet with our support worker next week to sign off on the report and take the next steps – we are so excited!

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