When Mother’s Day gives Mixed Emotions

I didn’t always want to be a mom. In fact, I thought that I’d live happily childfree for all of my days. Around 5 years of marriage, I started to wonder if I’d regret not having a child. I thought of and pursued the possibility of building our family through adoption. That door closed. Then we tried for a baby and had a miscarriage. Mother’s Day 2014 was dark and sad. I didn’t know if we’d ever have a child.

Here I am now in 2016 with a 13-month old on Mother’s Day. Becoming a mother has changed me in a way that I didn’t imagine. I now feel certain things so deeply in my heart. In particular, my heart aches for all sorts of mothers on Mother’s Day. Especially today, I think of:

The woman who wants to be a mother

The one who has lost a child

The lady struggling with the demands of motherhood

The mother who has an estranged child

Those living without their mom

And this week, I think of all the mothers affected by the Fort McMurray fires. There have been women who’ve given birth during this past week while fleeing from their home.

I am glad to be a mom. It is seriously hard work. Challenging. Tiring. And the lovey-dovey stuff too. But one thing I’m grateful for is the way in which my journey of motherhood has given me a deep love for any struggling momma. I’m feeling both sad and glad this Mother’s Day, and I think that’s okay.

Large or Small Family: Is your reality different than what you imagined?

I recently saw a picture of a family with 4 children. That was the composition of my family growing up: 2 parents + 4 kids. For the longest time, I imagined that I would have at least 4 children, if not 5. Then shortly after marriage, I changed my mind about children and decided that I wanted to live happily childfree. Then after 5 years of marriage, we explored the possibility of building our family through adoption but that door shut. We finally came around to building our family “the old fashioned way” and experienced some set-backs and a devastating miscarriage. Today, we have a 4 month old daughter via birth (ouch!!) and are very glad for her. But seeing that we are 31 & 35 yrs old and having our first child, the likelihood that we will have 4-5 children is very slim.

When I saw the photo of the family of 6, my heart smiled. That was my childhood. I had a good life. Part of me started to picture the possibility of having 4 children again. But soon afterwards, reality hit. Factors such as age, time, money, health and ultimately, preference came to the surface. We won’t be having a large family. And you know what — that’s OK. Really. There’s pros and cons to small or large families.

If we are lucky to have another, we’re pretty confident that we’ll be 2 and done (unless we are surprised by twins, oh my!). I was thinking the other day that if our daughter has a sister that will be perfect. Or if she has a brother, that will be perfect. This gave me peace that 2 and done seems right for our family. (I say all this knowing that it’s never a guarantee that we’ll be able to have another. Secondary infertility is quite common).

http://ydtalk.com/crib/am-i-amish/
http://ydtalk.com/crib/am-i-amish/

Having one or two children is not what I always pictured re: family size. Maybe we tend to picture what we knew, what we experienced. Regardless, people have more or less children than what they grew up with all the time. Sometimes this is due to personal preference. Sometimes it’s due to timing. And sadly, sometimes people don’t end up with the family size they always dreamed of due to fertility problems.

I’m embracing our reality of being a small family. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for large families. But I no longer feel that’s for me. One or two kids sounds great. Not what I originally pictured but just fine with me.

What about you? Is your family size larger or smaller than what you thought it would be?

Giving up on the dream of Adoption

As mentioned on this blog before, I first heard of and became enamored with adoption via Steven Curtis Chapman. I dreamed of one day adopting a daughter or two from China. Adoption became a great passion of mine, I even made hubby attend an adoption info session while we were engaged! I wanted him to be open to the idea of adoption. At that time in my life, my desire to adopt a child was much stronger than any desire to have a bio child. May sound strange, but it’s the truth.

Fast forward to 2011, we had been married for 4 years, and I began to research adoption. This can quickly become and addiction if you already are prone to be an internet research addict. There is SO much out there on adoption, I feel like I have read it all (although I likely have only scratched the surface). I’ve read about international adoption, foster care and private domestic. Then various articles and personal stories on older child adoption, living with a child with RAD, Guatemalan baby trafficking, attachment, toddler adoption, sibling adoption, adoption = trauma, openness, the damage done by closed adoptions, perspectives from adoptees (esp. in light of trans-racial adoption), and many sad stories of adoption disruption and of parents who regret adopting their child. Phew. There’s just so much to read related to adoption.

The research that I’ve done has challenged and changed some of my previous assumptions about adoption. In bold is what I used to believe:

1) There are more children available for adoption than people willing to adopt. This is SO not the case. For example, in domestic infant adoption, for every baby that is placed for adoption there are at least 8 couples waiting and willing to adopt. In International and Foster Care adoption, there are more applicants than “healthy” children available under 3 years of age . The situations where there are more children than prospective parents are: special needs adoption, sibling adoption, and older child adoption (6 years old and up).

2) There are 147 million orphans in the world that need to be adopted. This number is misleading for so many reasons. First, many of the orphans listed here live in countries where international adoption is not an option. Also, the majority of the 147 million are “social” orphans. This means that they were relinquished due to poverty and they have a mother and/or a father who is alive. With the proper help and supports, many (if not most) of these children would have a chance of being reunited with their family.

3) If you want to adopt, it will happen. Similar to someone who dreams of a bio child, sometimes our dreams do not come to fruition. I read a story of a couple who attempted to adopt for 12 years before giving up their dream of raising a child through adoption. In those 12 years, they were never picked by a birth mother. This is the case for many who attempt to adopt a newborn. Internationally, the doors to various countries are coming to a close slowly but surely. Russia – closed. China “healthy’ newborn – closed (unless you are Chinese). South Korea – in the process of closing.  Recently, in Ontario, there have been some changes made to the foster care system and its nearly impossible to adopt without being a foster family first (realizing that the child may never become available for adoption). In the foster-care system here, there are very few adoptions by non-family members .  A desire to adopt does not always equal the reality that one will adopt.

Where does this leave me re: my desire to adopt? Over the past 2 years, anytime I have looked into adoption the doors to adopt have slammed shut. I almost have to laugh at how many adoption related avenues I’ve looked into that came back with a resounding “NO!”. Mostly this is related to countries closing or changing their policies or not accepting applicants for a year or two. Sometimes doors close because hubby and I aren’t on the same page at the same time.  Or, I get freaked out re: RAD and put the thought of adoption out of my mind for a chunk of time. Then, when feeling more brave, I’ll go back and look into adoption again and even more doors have completely closed.

For a number of reasons, the stars have not yet aligned for us re: adoption. Believe me, you need a) open doors b) lots of sheer willpower and c) star alignment to ever get to adopt! I’m coming to the realization that adoption may never be part of our story.  It is sad to accept that something I pictured for my life (adoption) may never happen. Maybe we will adopt one day, but maybe we won’t. The latter is looking more likely.

For now, I’ll continue to live vicariously through other people’s adoption experiences. You bet I’ll keep reading about adoption ethics and alternative strategies for orphan care. And I’ll try to wrap my mind around the fact that sometimes what you previously pictured for your life does not end up being your reality. I’ll keep in mind that this may not be better or worse, just different.

Attachment and Adoption

Attachment. Most go through their day to day lives without an understanding of terms such as “secure attachment”, or “insecure attachment” or “reactive attachment disorder”. So why is “attachment” on my radar? For one reason, I have learned a little about the utter importance of attachment as it relates to child development in my social work training. But that was several years ago in my BSW program. More recently, as friends and acquaintances adopt or are attempting to adopt, attachment is a major topic.

What is an attachment disorder? This article by an adoption educator is excellent! Click here to read the whole thing. Here’s a brief explanation:

Attachment disorder essentially occurs when a child has not developed a healthy sense of being able to trust others and internalizes a message that she will need to look after herself because there is no one else who can be depended upon to be responsible for her. This child may appear outwardly charming, outgoing, “together,” even quite appealing, but their underlying motivation is to get their needs met themselves.

Several years ago, I volunteered to help run a VBS program. There was a little girl from the community who came the first day. She checked out all of the adults and then chose me to try to be close to while at VBS. Within 30 minutes of meeting and hanging out with her, she took my hand and asked me, “will you be my mommy?‘ My heart melted. I was so flattered at the time. Now, learning about attachment, I reflect on that experience differently. This was a little girl (not adopted), who was a latch key child, who was not able to relax and go and play with the other children. No, instead, she was motivated to get her needs met for adult attention by asking me to be her mommy.

I work with a Child Psychiatrist. In her years of practice, she has come across the devastating effects of attachment disorders. The vast majority are children who were adopted. While most were adopted as toddlers and older, in one case the child was adopted as a newborn! This shocked and surprised me. I have also been made aware of the devastating effects of attachment difficulties. I have worked with several teens with attachment disorders and it is heart breaking. I wish so badly that I could give them back their early years , I know their current difficulties stem from not having their basic needs met in those formative years. While attachment problems certainly can happen in children who are not adopted, the vast majority that I have come in contact were.

I appreciate the following blog post (and the comments!) regarding how ill prepared many who adopt internationally are in regards to attachment and other adoption related challenges. Several who have adopted chime in and state that they have been surprised to realize that their attachment work with their child will last for years. They expected, at most,  to experience 1-3 months of attachment work when first home. Here’s the blog post from “Scooping It Up”, it’s really worth the read: Agency and Social Work Fail.

The fact that adoptive parents are beginning to open up and talk about attachment difficulties related to adoption is a step in the right direction. Adoption agencies and social workers do a disservice to the child and new parents by not educating and preparing them for attachment difficulties. It may be helpful to be prepared for the worst case scenario re: a child’s attachment so that appointments with professionals are booked for when the child comes home. Prospective parents should also receive training re: attachment being a two-way street. Sometimes the adopted child does not have difficulty attaching to their new parents but it’s the parent(s) who find it difficult to attach to the child. “Fake it till you make it” has been a motto for these types of situations.

Attachment and adoption: its a topic that needs more understanding for adoptive parents, their family members, and their extended communities. Hopefully, with more understanding, the shame surrounding attachment difficulties related to adoption may be lifted. Then, and only then, will a newly adopted family feel less isolated. Then they will begin to receive more casserole dishes and less judgement in their time of need.

From Adoption to Resettlement: The journey of a potential adoptive family in Honduras (Guest Post)

From ship to sea

I was connected with Brittany and Nick Krueger who are currently living and serving in Honduras. They were all set to adopt a sibling set of 3 when their world got rocked and they realized the girls had a birth Mom who loved them. This has undoubtedly changed the Krueger family and what they see orphans and vulnerable children needing in Honduras. They were given my contact to ask about our experience with resettlement here in Uganda and now I have asked if they would share the journey they’ve been on in moving from adoption as the answer for their girls, to resettlement. 

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. ~ Isaiah 55:8

When plans change, is He still good? When things don’t line up quite like you had planned, is He still good? When you don’t get the answers that…

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Book Review: Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

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In Instant Mom, Nia (writer and actress for the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding) shares about her fertility struggles and her experience of building her family through adoption. This book could appeal to a variety of people – those experiencing infertility, those considering adoption, those who have already adopted, etc.

While I really liked Instant Mom, one problem that I had with it is that Nia seems to promote foster care adoption with a “just do it” attitude. She doesn’t point out that her adoption experience from foster care is a unique one (her child was given up for adoption rather than removed from the parents due to abuse or neglect). The problem with the “just adopt” message is that adoptive parents may be ill prepared for the challenges that come with adoption.

While this book has a strong focus on children/adoption, I believe that most would enjoy learning a bit more about who Nia is and her life. A person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously is refreshing to be around (that’s Nia). And her “I will not give up!” power is very impressive and inspiring. Also, who doesn’t enjoy a story about a Canadian girl who defines all odds and makes it big in Hollywood? There’s interesting Hollywood and Greek stories sprinkled through out. Despite the writing style, I really enjoyed Instant Mom. It was an interesting, informative, and entertaining (sometimes very funny!) read.

Adopted children re-homed over the internet

Photo source is the article below
Photo source is the article below

This is a long story, but so so very worth reading. Make yourself some tea or coffee and sit down for a gripping true story. I had no idea that so many children have been re-homed via an internet advertisement.  Here’s the story that’s hard to forget: Parents Swap Adopted Kids Online