Tuesday, September 30, 2008

my daily mantra

This is not about:
  • Breaking some record for being matched with an expectant mother
  • My desires and wants
  • Finding a specific baby that was "destined" to be placed within my family
This is about:
  • An ethical placement where no one has been coerced into making an adoption plan
  • Hope for an open adoption situation
  • FAITH and TRUST in a God who allows me free will to make decisions and also guides my feet

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Do you ever have the feeling that you’re waiting for something that will never happen? I’m not really speaking about the waiting period we’re in right now – our file only arrived at our American agency last week so we know we have a bit of a wait ahead of us. But I have been thinking about and hoping for a family for quite some time. I’m having a hard time visualizing our lives changing and a real live baby in our house. So while I’m preparing for a child I feel like I’m playing house because it doesn’t seem real. I actually feel silly making baby purchases since I am obviously not pregnant and I always wonder what the sales clerk is thinking.

A friend and adoptive parent told me the other day that the waiting is really hard right after you know your file is active and possibly being shown to expectant mothers. And then as the months march on the waiting changes and it doesn’t occupy quite so much brain space. Right now my brain is quite preoccupied with all of this! I’m going to need something to do and focus on during this waiting period. Any ideas? I think I need a good stack of fiction novels!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I saw a short video clip this past weekend that made me very uncomfortable. The clip was about giving money at church (this does not make me uncomfortable!) and the concept of it was quite humorous. A football player tackles people who aren’t giving any money or little money. However the football player was portrayed as a stereotypical Black man using ghetto type language and everyone else in the video was middle/upper class white.

Why did the football player have to be Black? Or why were no other ethnicities shown in the video?

I bet that most people in the video and the makers would argue that they were not intending to be discriminatory. This goes to show how discrimination in whatever form can be so subtle. If it weren’t for me thinking and researching about being a future transracial family I likely wouldn’t have picked up on the stereotyping of Black people in this video clip.

Even positive stereotypes can hurt. Like assuming every Asian kid is a math whiz or every African American kid will have rhythm or grow up to be a sports star. Positive stereotyping can also place limitations on a child, taking away his or her right to be perceived as an individual.

This has me thinking about the stereotypes in adoption in general. The birthmother is seen as uneducated, living in poverty, and unloving because she "gave away her baby." Adoptive parents are seen as saints and saviours because they "gave a baby a better life." And adoptees are seen as angry, bitter, and ungrateful to their adoptive parents if they even entertain thoughts about their first families. Check out this document for other adoption stereotypes.

Stereotypes are dangerous.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

transracial adoptees

This has been on my mind a lot lately. Even though there are many transracial families in my circles and I think they are beautiful (it's when I'm with these families that I get the most excited about my future family), this is not the norm in society. And even though the family members may not see the child as Black the rest of the world does. In some of my reading I’ve come across adult Korean adoptees who talk about how their white parents didn’t prepare them how to be Korean in America. Years ago the advice given to transracial adoptive families was to treat the children as if they were white and completely assimilate them into North American life. But transracially adopted children grow up and need to have survival skills for the racism and discrimination they will face. D and I experience white privilege and don’t have a clue what it means to be a person of color living in a white society. We recognize this and will commit to surrounding ourselves with people of color so that this child will have opportunities to be mentored and learn how to address discrimination.

Right now I’m reading “Outsider’s Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption”. This book is written by adult transracial adoptees. It’s so good – and at times difficult – to read something written from the adoptee experience. They are the experts on their own lives. Not the adoption agency personnel, not social workers, not researchers, and not other adoptive parents. At our agency adoption education seminar we heard from a panel of adoptive parents, all who had adopted from overseas locations, but I really wanted to hear from the older kids that had been adopted years ago. What was their experience as an African living in Canada with white parents? How could we as prospective adoptive parents learn from them as we contemplated our own futures? What did their adoptive parents do well and in what areas was their room for improvement? Adoptees need to be given a voice in this process. As adults we are making some pretty significant life changing decisions for these children. Wouldn’t you want to know what they think about it?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

some excitement

Yesterday our file broke the vapor barrier between Canada and the US! Our paperwork has finally landed in the hands of our American agency! So now we enter a new stage in this process…the waiting and jumping every time the phone rings kind of stage!

I also had an interesting experience yesterday afternoon after rushing into a local store to purchase some products that I want to pack for this future baby. I had intended to quickly make my purchase and leave, but instead was approached by a sales person who asked if I had any questions about the product I held in my hands. I actually did have a question and thought why not ask, which meant that I disclosed the fact that D and I were in the adoption process etc. Well the staff in this store became super excited and wanted to know about the process and then the sales person who initially approached me probed me with questions. All of a sudden it dawned on me. I asked her if she was thinking about adoption and she said yes. So we ended up talking for quite some time and during this conversation I felt myself getting all excited about our future! She said I was so calm and sure of myself when talking about the adoption (little does she know!) and this felt good. In the end, the sales staff all gushed again about my future family, gave me a $10 off gift card, and told me to be sure to bring the baby by the store! What a neat experience…is this the sort of thing that happens to women who are pregnant? I can’t speak to that but I sure am grateful for these women who remain complete strangers but yet impacted me greatly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

how to be an anti-racist parent

I found this document online a while back but finally had the chance to read through it. I think that most parents (whether adoptive or birthing parents) desire to raise their children to be anti-racist. This short e-book provides some great tips on "how to be an anti-racist parent" that anyone would find useful.

Monday, September 15, 2008

it will all work out in the end

This statement bugs me. Today while talking with someone about our adoption process I mentioned that we've been really frustrated with the process and that our file is STILL stuck in Ottawa, etc. This person responded with the typical "it will all be worth it" or "it will all work out in the end" response which really irritated me. There is no validation for the process we are currently going through and how we feel about it. I know I have made the same sentiments in the past and for that I apologize.

This statement seems to be the norm during the adoption process. Even at the education seminar we attended through our provincial agency our frustrations at the process and paperwork were minimized. No space was created to feel what we were feeling. I get that once a child is placed with us all of my current annoyances will be forgotten and feel like nothing (especially with a screaming baby around my house!) but we aren't there yet. So in the meantime, allow waiting families the space to be frustrated!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

cautious anticipation

It's a weird thing this waiting and anticipating a child through adoption. I was reminded today by a friend to find ways to approach this anticipation with excitement. I think I've lost some of the excitement I felt when we initially made the decision to pursue adoption. At that time I was just so relieved that we had finally made a decision and would have a family one way or the other. I will admit that some of the loss of my initial excitement is my own doing. Those of you who know me well, know that I tend to over think things...a lot! And why would I approach adoption any other way than the way I know best?! I have read countless articles and blog posts and a few books on adoptive parenting and transracial families (and I just ordered 3 new books today!). Considering I named my blog "eyes wide open" it should be somewhat apparent that it's really important to me to be informed and educated about the new journey my life will take.

However, in this process and the stress of dealing with the uncertainty of the Hague I have learned how to cautiously anticipate our future...and forgot how to be excited. It is also difficult to be excited when you have to create that excitement yourself. Besides my sister, who is uber excited all the time (!), no one around me is asking the questions expectant women generally get. And this makes sense since I don't exhibit any outward signs of expectant motherhood. Plus, I'm not sure that I would want to be asked all the same questions anyway. My point is just that the "pregnancy buzz" doesn't follow me so life on the outside looks completely the same, when in reality life for me has completely turned upside down! So my question then is how do I create some excitement in my life during this waiting and anticipating period? Of course...something that I will need to spend some time THINKING about!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

how to support waiting families

I read this post yesterday from one of the adoptive parent blogs I frequent and thought she did a great job of summing up how to support waiting adoptive families. So instead of me trying to summarize her words, take a look at her post.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

good-bye hague...hello future

Yep, you guessed it! I spoke with the lawyer from our American agency yesterday and our file will be considered pre-Hague! We are super thrilled and feel like we can finally breathe. I’m sure there will be many more bumps along the way but this is one mountainous hurdle that we just crossed! Thank the Lord for my persistent nature:)

Now if only our documents would leave Ottawa!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

to prepare or not to prepare

This is the question!

We will likely have a quick turn around time from the moment an expectant mother chooses us to when the baby is placed with us. Often it’s 24-48 hours! So then the question for me is do I start to prepare for a child or wait? Everyone has a different opinion on this one, even prospective adoptive parents. Considering that we won’t have much notice before flying to the US I feel that we need to do some preparing. But how much preparing does one do? I have little interest in walking by a baby room completely ready sans baby for months on end….but at the same time there are a few things that we can do now versus when we’re sleep deprived with a little one. So this is my conundrum! I really want to start preparing, but I don’t want to have to look at a completed but empty baby room! Especially with our uncertainty regarding the Hague and how the rules will impact our adoption process.

Even with all of our uncertainty I have decided to do some preparing because I’m feeling the pull and need to do it. I also need to do something for me to feel like the possibility of a child is real. I don’t have an expanding belly to constantly remind me that our lives are in for a dramatic change so I need to do other things to help me mentally prepare. I need to fold some sleepers, oogle over tiny newborn diapers, and get a diaper bag ready (that is one thing that we will need ASAP when we get the call!) to remind myself that someday, somehow, we will become a family of three.

Monday, September 8, 2008

its not a fairytale

I love fairytales. Always have.

But adoption is not a fairytale as is so often depicted in society. In society, adoption is the answer to teen pregnancy and abortion which results in a happy ending for an infertile couple. But this isn’t the whole picture.

When people find out our hopes to adopt a child, many have made comments like:
That is going to be one lucky baby!
Adoption is such a blessing
God has a baby picked out just for you

I’m really uncomfortable with these statements. I’m still not sure how to respond. It isn’t often that when speaking about adoption, people recognize the intense loss that occurs for every member of the triad. The first mother experiences intense loss and grief no matter what her situation is (just try reading some blogs by birth mothers to hear their grief), the child experiences loss and unnatural separation from his/her mother and the one person that he/she knew the best even from the womb, and the adoptive parents experience loss at never knowing or experiencing what it is like to have a biological child.

I don’t feel that I deserve a baby anymore then the next person. I don’t think that teen’s are completely unable to parent. I have witnessed teenage parenting countless times in my jobs and volunteer work, and although there are times when I wonder if parenting was the best choice for a particular child I never question the fact that this child is loved (I’m not speaking about abusive situations). I’m really acting out of selfishness because I desire to fulfill my need to have a child. But for us to add a member to our family causes great loss and sorrow in many other lives. I don’t mean to dwell on this but rather think it’s important for prospective adoptive parents to be aware of what is all involved with forming a family in this way. But this reality isn’t often discussed in the adoption world, especially by agencies.

Adoption IS a blessing, but it is preceded with intense loss. Once we get past the fairytale image, we can move forward to learn how to acknowledge and deal with the loss and create a pretty neat family! I am really excited about this journey ahead!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

travelling documents

I am continually amazed at the amount of miles our documents are travelling. We should be getting extra air miles or something! Our agency is split between 2 provinces so papers travel back and forth multiple times which gets quite frustrating. Then unbeknownst to us our file was recently sent to Ottawa for authentication (which basically means someone verifies that yes, the notary at our agency is in fact a notary...I'm not making this up!). We were initially told that this process would take 2-3 weeks, then told that it would be 7-10 days, and this week found out that it really takes 20 working least a month for someone to add another stamp which seems unnecessary. Gee whiz. Much of this process is so inefficient. At times I wonder if our file will ever leave this country!

Friday, September 5, 2008

marketing babies

Today I came across a website advertising “situations” as they called them of women who are due in the next few months and these babies will be available for adoption. They even include the price of the adoption! I am struck by how children have become a commodity to advertise and “sell.” Children are not possessions. We are given the responsibility of their care but they are not ours to market. For a moment my heart thinks “oh wouldn’t it be nice if we were with this agency and then could be matched with one of these baby’s really soon.” But I very quickly move back to being appalled at this practice and a system that would allow it. People…we need to stop thinking only about the adoptive family and getting them a child, but also consider what’s best for the child and expectant mother. I would rather wait for an ethical adoption situation versus getting a baby quick in this way.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

my nemesis

I guess it’s time to introduce my nemesis….the Hague Treaty. (I would link to this document but it’s incredibly long and a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo). This little document has potential to cause major issues for Canadians planning to adopt children from the US. The Hague Treaty is an international set of laws and guidelines that are ultimately designed to protect children from child trafficking and other atrocities that have happened in the past with international adoption. The Americans signed the treaty some time ago but it was ratified in the US on April 1, 2008. The Hague is a vague set of guidelines and generally each country interprets them on their own. Well, the Americans have interpreted it in a few ways (that seem completely ridiculous) that will present challenges for future inter-country adoptions and out-going cases from the US. In March 2008 we found out about the ways the Hague was to be implemented in the US and after much thought, prayer, and phone calls to everyone and anyone who would talk to us about this, we decided to apply with our Provincial agency as well as an American agency before April 1, with hopes to be grandfathered into the system. There is a whole lot of confusion in the US with the Hague laws and no one really seems to know what is going on. We were assured that everything was good to go but then recently the Hague has come back to haunt us. We are now not so sure where we stand and if we’ll be able to be grandfathered into the system. We have some hope and are working with the lawyer of our American agency to figure out our next step.

But this causes some extra stress around our household. It’s the stress of anticipating and planning for a family when every day poses a real risk that this will not happen. I’d really like to kick some Hague Treaty butt!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

in a perfect world

During some of my reading and researching what it means to be an adoptive parent I’ve come across quite a bit of anti-adoption information. Some of this comes from adoptee’s who share their experiences as an adopted child and often don’t have positive things to say. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that there is a part of me that is concerned about adopted children and how they come to understand their world, build self-esteem, deal with loss/abandonment etc. I believe that certain practices such as an open adoption situation can help to alleviate potential risks to the adoptee, as well as adoptive parents who acknowledge and create space for the first family. This is my say to anti-adoption:

In a perfect world there would be no separation between mother & child
In a perfect world there would be no infertility
In a perfect world there would be no orphans
In a perfect world there would be no loss

Since we don’t live in a perfect world but rather one that is broken and fallen, I think there is a place for adoption. I agree with the call from adoptees and birthmothers for reform within the system. I agree that adoptees have the right to their original birth certificate. I agree that no expectant woman should be coerced into placing her child. I agree that open adoption contracts should be legally binding. I agree that agencies should not profit from the process. And I agree that all members of the adoption triad (adoptee, birthmother, adoptive parent) need to work together to ensure morale and ethical practices. And, yes, life would be easier, better, and all around nicer if we lived in a perfect world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

why the united states?

One of the questions we get asked when people find out that we are planning to adopt a child from the US is...why there? Our first choice would have been to adopt a child locally so we would be able to have a relationship with the child's first family. However, due to many different reasons the average wait for a domestic adoption in our province is at least 4-8 years. I wasn't willing to wait that long!

Most people around here adopt children from overseas international locations with Ethiopia being by far the most popular. Our agency here has a really well developed program with Ethiopia and generally the children arrive in Canada around ~9m at the earliest. Then we heard from friends of ours in a different province that they know people who adopted a child from the US. As we researched this option it seemed to fit and feel right for us. Adoptions from the US generally involve newborn babies and there are opportunities to have an open relationship (contact through letters, phone, and possibly visits, etc) with the first (birth) family. (I am aware of potential ethical concerns of newborn adoption and the possibility that expectant mothers are coerced into placing their children and pray that our US agency takes measures to avoid this). Both of these things are important to us which is why we chose to proceed with an American adoption. So this is still considered an international adoption (even though the US feels just like a neighbor!) which means we are also subject to all the immigration laws and paperwork (mountains of paperwork!).

The next most asked question comes after people find out that we are planning to adopt an African-American baby. Why? Because when we initially started thinking about adoption we were aware that a strong option was to adopt a child from Ethiopia and this would mean we would become a multi- or trans-racial family. We were also aware that most often the babies that are adopted from the US into Canada are African-American or bi-racial. D and I spent a lot of time talking, thinking, and praying about this and we are both excited about becoming a trans-racial family. This will present us with some unique challenges but we're up for it! There are some great resources available to us in the form of reading material and most importantly other trans-racial adoptive families. Who better to learn from then others who have walked the journey ahead of you!

Some of the questions we get asked when we start talking about adoption with friends and acquaintances are really interesting. I'm sometimes amazed at what people will say and I'm still learning how to put the answers together!

Monday, September 1, 2008

it's about semantics

I have become increasingly aware that the words we choose to talk about and describe the adoption process are quite important. This is also a hotly debated topic in the adoption world as I've come across a few blogs that are very passionate about the words they choose to use or not use.

Our American agency required us to create a profile which included a "dear birthmother" letter and pictures. This profile is shown to women who then choose a prospective adoptive family for their child. D and I were uncomfortable with labelling a woman as a birthmother before she has her child. Through some extra reading we became aware that the use of the term "birthmother" to describe a woman before she has given birth and relinquished rights is incorrect and disrespectful. Prior to signing relinquishment papers this woman is an "expectant woman" just like every other woman who is pregnant, and is then a mother immediately after that baby is born. The term birthmother can only describe the experience after paperwork has been signed. D and I took this to heart and when we wrote our letter started it with "dear expectant parents." We continue to use this word when speaking about the adoption process.

Something I've been thinking about recently is how I talk about this future child that will join our family. In the past I've referred to this child as "our child" but now I'm not so sure about that one. This child will not be ours until paperwork is signed and until then will only have one family. Once papers are signed the child will have two families and he/she will become ours as well. Some may think that this is such a minor thing and what's the big deal! But I think how we use our words is a really big deal. I certainly don't have it all figured out and know I've used words poorly in the past, but as I'm trying to approach this adoption with eyes wide open, it's important to me to think about these things. There are so many prevailing myths (many that are very hurtful) in society surrounding the adoption process and the words we use can help to perpetuate them. I don't want to be a part of that.