If you have experience with adoption you know it is amazing, difficult, heart-breaking and life-affirming - sometimes all in one day. Millions of words have been written about how difficult adoption can be. But guess what? It's also AWESOME, and here's why:
It’s all about the village, people.
Before we adopted our two daughters I probably would have resisted the idea of relinquishing so much influence over their education, mental health and general well-being. But adoption has taught me to welcome anyone and everyone who can help. For us, it started with some incredible foster parents. Instead of being threatened by their connection to our girls, we welcomed them with open arms and hearts because it was immediately apparent how much they loved and cared for our kids. Over the years we've engaged a small army of play therapists, tutors, child psychologists, teachers, counsellors and pediatricians to help us navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of adoption. Grandparents, close friends, aunts and uncles also know that parenting these girls brings a unique set of challenges and there is no shortage of ears for us to bend and shoulders to cry on when the going gets tough. It takes a village and my village rocks.
My definition of family is so much broader.
Adoption opened my eyes to a new and more unique definition of family. I now believe that parenting is not about biology. We met each of our girls when she was four and, although I mourn those first few years when I didn’t know them, I know I didn’t need to watch them grow from infancy, or give birth to them, to know that the four of us – despite zero biological connection – were meant to be together. Think of some of the people you're closest to: your spouse, your best friend, your sister-in-law. They’re not all blood relatives because love is more powerful than blood, and I’m proud that my daughters will grow up learning this lesson.
We’re Changing Lives.
Both our girls have loss and grief that we’ll need to help them move on from, and while that challenge can seem monumental, it’s also a huge privilege to be responsible for changing a life. Through adoption we’re giving two girls a second chance to live the lives they deserve to lead. I don’t think adoption is more important than birth parenting, and I definitely don’t think adopted children are more deserving of love and opportunity, it just means that this family - my family - has been given an incredible opportunity to learn and grow and heal together.
Long before Oprah made it cool, adoption opened my eyes to the power of gratitude. Two of the people I’m most grateful to in the world are women I’ve never met: the women who brought my daughters into this world. My feelings for them are much more complicated than simple gratitude but I still get to parent these amazing little girls because of them. I’m grateful for the adoption worker who matched us with our first daughter, and the foster parents who introduced us to our second. I’m even grateful for the horrific health scare and resulting infertility that led us down this path to parenthood. I’m grateful for whatever it is …. fate??? … that brought us all together. My husband and I were approved to adopt our oldest daughter only a month after she came into care. Had we entered the process two months earlier or two months later, would we still have found her? Would we be raising different children? Try to imagine your kids living somewhere else, sleeping in a different bed, calling someone else Mom and not even knowing who you are. It’s mind-bending but it could have happened to us. We’d be none the wiser, of course, but I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that things turned out the way they did.
My body is still intact.
Oh come on! You’re all thinking it! Neither my husband nor I ever felt that having a biological child was of paramount importance. We wanted to be parents and it didn't matter how we got there. For some, this is much more difficult to accept and my heart breaks for the women I've met who are grieving that kind of loss. When we were "trying" there was no shortage of people who wanted to share all the ways - both magical and horrifying - that pregnancy and childbirth had changed their bodies. Women who give birth are total warriors and they have my undying respect and admiration, but when I hear their stories a not-so-small part of me silently high fives myself because I get to experience the glory of motherhood without having gone through the war. Our journey was painful at times but it did not involve blood, stitches or adult diapers. Sometimes when I see a friend’s ultrasound picture or watch a pregnant woman rub her belly I have a twinge of regret that I will never get to experience that. Daren and I will never hold hands and marvel over the little human we made together. Now, every time I hold a baby he puts his hands on my shoulders, looks deep into my eyes and says “NO”, which is rude. But most of the time there are zero regrets, and I like the fact that the only one I can blame for my stretch marks is me.
November is Adoption Awareness month in Canada. The following organizations are great resources if you’re interested in learning more:
Adoption Council of Canada (www.adoption.ca)
Adoption Council of Ontario (www.adoption.on.ca)
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (www.oacas.org)
Have questions? Tweet me @wineandsmarties.