Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Adoption Story

Every time I think about sitting down to write, I go blank. There is so much to say - I could talk about attachment, siblings, Deafness, new routines, new love, a new level of busy and tired (and I have been trying to maintain a bit of sewing to keep from loosing myself completely in paint, trips to the park and laundry, so I could even just write about the latest sewing)...but it all seems scattered and lost in the chaos.

So, I think to help organize my mushy brain I will start at the beginning. I hope that it will help me process how the heck we got here and maybe help others understand or give insight into what a crazy and incredible journey adoption is.

Here it is, Jonathan's Adoption Story.

In December 2010 I was told that I may have Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) - basically a condition that means my ovaries (but I only gots one due to a cyst destroying the other 10 years ovari?!) ran out of eggs a wee bit too early (I was 30) and basically I was going into menopause. You can read more about POF here.

I was lost. I was hurt and crushed and felt things that I don't even know how to describe. Like most people who struggle with infertility, there is a process of grief to run through and boy did I run. I struggled with the loss of not being able to have children but also had much concern over the health implications such as increased risk to heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis to consider as well. There was Hormone Replacement Therapy to think about, fertility gods to consult, calcium to start taking, bone scans to schedule and many many doctors. It was a scary time.
Gord and I were both freaked out. So we did what we do - we jumped on a plane. Gord surprised me with a trip to Cuba for a week so we could clear our heads and just be us. Gawd I love that man. It allowed us to escape our everyday and try to process it all. For the first week of January 2011, I felt like me again. Normal. Happy in my flipflops and in the sunshine. And a world away from my grief.

I was referred to a specialist, but while we waited for our appointment we were told that it may still be possible to have kids and to try. In August 2011 we had our specialist appointment and it was confirmed that I did indeed have POF. I went through all the emotions again, this time with the added bonus of having hot flashes for a few months too (I think my body was reacting to the shock as I haven't had them again since).  We also met with the fertility clinic (amongst a lifetime worth of doctors in a few short months). But this was all just formality and going through the motions of what I/we were suppose to do. We knew immediately  that we would not spend years pursuing intense and costly fertility treatments through egg donation, which was our only option. It just wasn't for us. We knew that if we were going to raise a child together, something we really wanted to do, adoption was the obvious choice.

International adoption was never a consideration and after a brief panic strickin', emotionally fueled week of insisting we need to go through private adoption because I wanted a baby, I needed a baby to make me feel like a 'real' mom (oh lordy I could write a really long post about that one), it seemed pretty normal to choose to adopt from our local foster care system. Perhaps it was because we were a blended family and our definition of family has always been very broad, or maybe because we work in the social work field and along side the foster care system, but choosing to adopt locally from foster care just seemed to fit and be the right decision. And so we began.

We filled out and mailed away FOUR PAGES. Yep, 4 pages about a human being who would rock our world that we didn't even know. Seems a bit odd. But then again, the whole process is a bit odd!

Our 4 pages were filled out in mid October 2011. Just before Christmas time we recieved a package in the mail with training dates, information and a contact name. In January and February we completed our "training", 5 days of listening to things about trauma, FASD, attachment and resources - all things we already knew. But, regardless it was done.

It was around this time that I learned of Jonathan through my boss who was doing respite for him occasionally. As I was talking to her one day in her office about where we were in our adoption process, she told me about Johnathan and showed me a picture. I was done. That was him. That was my boy. I didn't say it out loud for fear of being told I was crazy.

But in my heart I knew.

To say it out loud would have been ridiculous - we were many steps and months away, maybe even another year away from starting to think about placement. And, we didn't know anything about this kid.

But I knew.

The fact that he was Deaf and was learning ASL seemed like it was meant to be as I had wanted to be an interpreter when I was younger and attended college for a year before changing my mind- but not before falling in love with signing.

That night, I showed Gord the picture and he quickly looked away and said it was way to early to start thinking about that and we shouldn't have pictures of him anyway (he was right). But I know now that he was on team Jonathan too.

We pushed him to the back of our minds as best we could but kept track through my boss of his whereabouts. We got assigned a social worker and let her know that we knew of this boy and we would be interested in adopting him, if it was determined he was a good fit for our family.

Our home study, a long process of giving your life story and intimate details about your upbringing, your relationships, and everything in between was completed in early July 2012 and we were deemed to be somewhat responsible and capable people to parent a child and we were approved as an official adoptive home. There were a couple more meetings with our social worker and a few phone calls before we found out that we were in fact a good fit for Jonathan.

Whoa. It was actually happening.

We were given a date for our Information Sharing - a meeting where you learn all about your potential child. Their needs, strengths, history etc. We also got to talk to the school, his therapists, social worker and foster mom. But his meeting at this point, was almost a month away.

The waiting and the process up until this point was easy. Now, knowing that our boy was right there, but we still had to wait, well that was rough. I found it really difficult and may have got a tad bit irritable and grumpy. Gord and I were both very stressed (he was also publishing a book and going to school for his Masters) so to say we were busy and overwhelmed would be an understatement. Throw in highly charged emotions and an unknown future and you get two people about to burst at the seams.

The whole process had come to this peak, and we stood on the peak waiting for the signal to start running down the other side but it was like the gate was stuck we still had to stand there and wait. So we stood on the peak about to burst and we did what we do when we get to any peak - we jumped on a plane. We took off to Seattle for the weekend. We aren't good at not traveling when we are stressed. It was what we needed and it was nice to do some of the waiting amongst different scenery for a few days.

Finally, our Info Share day came and we went through an overwhelming 4 hours of history and details on Jonathan. We learned of his bio parents, siblings, his multiple placements, his personality, his strengths and his needs etc. Although we knew it would be a lot to take in and we were prepared for it, nothing can really prepare you for it all and by the end of the day, our heads really felt like they might explode. It wasn't so much the actual content of the information it was just the volume of it all and the enormity of what we were about to venture into. We'd been talking and planning and talking and talking so much for the past year, even before that really, and now it all came down to us saying one word. Yes. Yes we want this little guy full of love and a fire in his belly forever. Yes yes yes. It was huge.

(*Like many other adoptive parents we have chosen not to disclose much of Jonathan's history except to close friends and family. It is his story to share and one that he will come to learn as he grows up and is able to understand more and if he chooses to share than it will be his decision)

A realllly looooong week later we got to meet Jonathan at his foster moms' house. It was a very surreal couple hours, but felt very normal as well. It all seemed like it was meant to be. Not that I didn't have my doubts and think 'holy sh*# how are we going to handle this?' but that was definitely not our only, or first, thoughts!  For five days we met and visited with Jonathan in the evening times. One night Gord and I took him out to dinner and I think that was our real holy sh*# moment. It felt chaotic and we fumbled around with this little stranger who seemed to be ruling over us. In hindsight, I think it was simply too soon and if we would have put that off a few days we would have felt much more confident in venturing something like dinner, or anything in public really!

A week after we met, Jonathan spent the night and officially moved in. It's been about a month now and we are slowly getting use to our new normal and starting to establish new routines and settle into life with a 4 year old.

It's been a huge adjustment on not only our routines but also our patience, our personal time, energy levels, brain capacity...nothing is goes untouched by adoption. One of the biggest adjustments has been with Anthony and how Jonathan has affected him. I hope to write more about that, as well as some of the other challenges that comes with adopting an older child and some of Jonathan's needs (having a Deaf child, attachment, etc) and things around defining being a mom and infertility in the weeks months to come (maybe with a bit of sewing and other everyday life stuff thrown in too).

For now though, I will practice expanding my patience, enjoy every hug and laugh, sit in wonderment at this little guys resilience, and try to get some extra sleep:)

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