Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2012 - Meet Lynn

I mentioned last month that I had decided to participate in the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012.  This project is put on by Heather at Production, Not Reproduction in connection with Open Adoption Bloggers.  The project helps celebrate Adoption Awareness Month and gives us an opportunity to get to know fellow bloggers.

I was paired with Lynn of Open Hearts, Open Minds.  Lynn and her husband Tim have a fantastic little boy Elliot who they adopted at birth three years ago.  It was terrific getting to know Lynn through her blog and our email correspondence.  Lynn lives in Michigan so geographically we are not that far away.  Talking with her made me think of the four years I spent in Windsor.  In particular the two years I lived directly under the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.  Oh university life... lol.

Lynn is a writer and among other projects has written a few children's books, one based on a story she wrote for Elliott about his adoption.  Lynn's blog was a joy to read.  She talks not only about her open adoption with Elliott's birth family but also about raising her son, travel and life in general.  I found her posts on bilingual parenting especially interesting since I would love to teach myself and Gaby Italian.  Lynn is teaching her son Spanish and has an amazing grasp on it herself even though it is not her first language.

Below is my interview with Lynn.  If you would like to read her interview with me you can find it here.  Heather has posted a list of all the interview project pairs on her blog if you are interested in exploring any of the other interviews.


Me:When we as potential adoptive parents make the decision to adopt we learn allot throughout the adoption process.  Our families do not always have this same opportunity.
 
You talk allot in your blog about adoption being the way Elliot joined your family not one of his defining characteristics.  Do you find this is a point you have to remind friends and family of (eg. positive adoption language)?

Lynn:Fortunately, no…we have not often had to remind family and friends to use positive adoption language. I have had a few situations where acquaintances have referred to Elliot’s birth parents as “his parents” and I’ve immediately corrected them. I’m hyper-vigilant about people saying things like “he is adopted” (defining characteristic) vs. “he was adopted” (one-time event), although this has rarely come up.

 
Me:In response to an open adoption bloggers prompt that stated "open adoption is about information sharing" you spoke about how you felt open adoption was about love.  Over the years has your opinion on this changed at all? Why?
 
Lynn:I’m not a big fan of rereading my own writing, so I’m not going to go back and see what I wroteJ However, I do feel that love is at the heart of our (and any successful) open adoption. Love – and wanting to do the best thing for their unborn child -- was the motivating factor beyond Elliot’s birth parents’ adoption decision. Love – of each other and of the idea of growing our family – was what prompted Tim and me to explore adoption. Although it’s not really expressed, I think love is the underlying current that connects Elliot’s birth parents and us.

And of course, parenting is love, and the love I feel for Elliot is hard to put into words. 
  
 
Me:When you adopted Elliot his birth parents were still together. Are they still? If so how do you think Elliot will feel about this as he gets older?

Lynn:They are still together, but I don’t feel that their relationship with each other should in any way affect how Elliot feels about their adoption decision. A lot of birth mothers make an adoption decision because they are in a situation where they would otherwise have to parent alone, and that’s valid. However, it’s a misconception to think that all birth parents (usually birth mothers) decide on adoption as an alternative to single parenthood.

Not everyone wants to be a cook. Not everyone is cut out to be a runner. In the same way, not every person in this world is meant to be a parent. Elliot’s birth parents love him, but realized that they shouldn’t be his parents. That’s what I plan to tell Elliot as he gets older, and I’m confident he’ll understand.

Me:You have said that you do not have and would not have wanted an open adoption agreement.  In Ontario it is required that an open adoption agreement be signed.  It is part of the paperwork reviewed by the ministry of child and youth services before granting finalization of an adoption.     
Looking back if you would have been required to have an openness agreement would it have changed the level of openness you were willing to have? Why?

Lynn:A theoretical question of this type is hard to answer. It makes me think of a marriage pre-nuptial agreement. We had no reason to have one, so don’t. But, if it were legally-mandated, we would.

Likewise, Tim and I would have obviously agreed to an openness agreement if it were mandated by law. However, I’m not sure that I would have been comfortable stating that we’d get together with Elliot’s birth parents once a month or so, which was our verbal agreement. I think perhaps we would have agreed in writing to a lesser degree of openness, but would have hoped to have the level of contact we have currently.

 
Me:There are many stereotypes about birth mothers.  They are all teenagers, unwed, drug users, poverty stricken, eg...  Have you ever had someone assume that Elliot's birth parents fit one of these stereotypes? How did you handle the situation?

Lynn:Elliot’s birth parents do not fit any of the popular stereotypes, but people often assume that they do. In the beginning, people would often ask, “Are they really young?” as if assuming this would be the only reason someone would decide not to parent. When this has happened, I’ve simply explained that their age didn’t have anything to do with their decision and that they simply had never wanted to be parents…so, they made the wise decision not to be. People generally seem surprised, but they always “get” it.
 
Me:In your blog you discuss how at times it is difficult to determine when it is important to tell people Elliot was adopted and when to leave it alone.  You make a great point in saying that eventually it should be Elliot's decision who should be told and in what circumstances. It is his story...

Our daughter is only 9 months old and I already struggle with this.  Do you have any advice on how to deal with these situations? 

Lynn:Elliot is only three years old, so you might have to check back with me in a few years!

In part because all of the important people in our lives obviously already know that Elliot joined our family by adoption, it’s not something that comes up nearly as frequently as it used to. When Elliot was a baby, I felt that I needed to tell people that we adopted Elliot -- sometimes, because people in the neighborhood suddenly saw us with a baby after I hadn’t been pregnant; sometimes, when other mothers were sharing stories about their birth and breastfeeding experiences, which I couldn’t relate to.

Today, the fact that Elliot is not our biological child really only comes up at doctor’s appointments. It’s not a secret by any means; it’s just not relevant to our day-to-day lives.

I anticipate that the topic may come up more when Elliot is older. When he’s old enough to understand, I plan to discuss with him how and when we should deal with any questions that may arise.


I would like to say thank you to Lynn for participating in the interview project this year and also to Heather for all of her hard work.  Without her there would be no interview project.





Friday, November 2, 2012

9 Months Gone!


Tomorrow Gabriella will be 9 months old.  This morning when I laid her down for her morning nap I thought what a big girl I have and where has the time gone.  I mean everyone tells you that when you have kids the time just races by.  Our lives are busy anyway so time always seems to slip away from us. 

I just can't believe all the changes in my not so little baby.  Just last week there is no way I would have ever got her down for a morning nap.  NO WAY! Just one week of steady sleep training and she is somewhat sleeping through the night and having a morning and afternoon nap.  They are both short ones but I will take what I can get.  She is also crawling everywhere, something she has been doing for awhile but new this week she can pull herself up to a standing position.  Her hand eye co-ordination is getting better by the day and last night she could easily pick up half a blueberry and put it her mouth while running around in her walker.

I am amazed by this little girl every day and so thankful that she is in our life.  With her adoption finalization on Monday I think I am getting a bit sappy.  Can you blame me?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Finally!

I got a call from our licensee's office this afternoon.  We finally have a court date to finalize Gaby's adoption.  YIPEE!!!  It is way sooner than I thought which is even better.  November 5th at 9 am. 

This is purely ceremonial since the ministry and the judge will have already reviewed everything but still exciting none the less.  Our licensee or practitioner do not have to be there.  Nic and I will go with Gaby and can invite friends and family if we wish.

I can't tell you how happy I am to finally have a date.  I have been contemplating getting Gaby a temporary passport since we can not get her permanent one until we get her birth certificate.  The birth certificate should be issued shortly after our court date so I think I am okay to wait and just get her a permanent one.  A bit of a relief since I did not want to do it twice or necessarily deal with all of the rigmarole involved with getting her the temporary one. 

I know this is just ceremonial but it still feels good to know this is the very LAST step in our adoption of Gaby and she will finally be ours officially.  The paperwork will not end for awhile but that is okay with me.  :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who Doesn't Like Guacamole?

It seems lately that Gaby is growing by the minute.  With her getting older the type of food she is eating and when and how she is eating it seems to change all the time. 

When we first started her on solid foods (around five months) I had read a bunch of books on feeding your new baby and thought it best to try to stick to them.  Her first introduction to rice cereal was rough and to say she did not take to it right away would be the understatement of the year.  When I saw our family doctor about two weeks after starting to feed her he said "the babies job is to spit it out and yours is to shove it back in".  So that is what I continued to do...

Eventually I started to lean away from all of my books instructions and went with my gut instincts and some advise from friends.  It took time but eventually both Gaby and I got the hang of  it and I am happy to say that at eight and a half months she is eating three meals a day, along with a snack in the morning and afternoon.  She still has three to four bottles a day but we have switched her from formula to organic homogenized milk.

Her taste buds have really been developing and with that I have pretty much given up on feeding her any jarred baby food.  Let's be serious, that stuff tastes terrible! I  have always done my own vegetables but now am making meal and fruit concoctions as well.  This has been allot of fun and I have been freezing a ton of stuff.  Most of it is just meals that I have made for Nic and I and then put in the food processor (eg. beef stew, chicken noodle soup, thanksgiving dinner).  She seems to like all of it but is not great with chunkier textures so I add organic vegetable or chicken broth when I put it into the food processor to get everything to the right consistency.

Today for lunch I made her a mild guacamole and she loved it! In general she really likes things that are tart (especially plain greek yogurt) so I thought she might like this.  It was funny because as she ate up the first few bites I said "that's my girl".   Like I am the only person in the world who LOVES guacamole and by her loving it, it means she is my daughter and mine alone (I think sarcastically). Then I started thinking.. Does A like guacamole? I know she likes taco's? I should text her and ask her? ...

I think part of the reason for this thinking pattern is our on going discussion about nature vs. nurture.  As I type this my daughter is talking away (at an ear piercing volume) just to enjoy the sound of her own voice.  A is a bit quieter and Nic and I are big mouths. Who will she take after?  I guess only time will tell.

Overall Gaby is doing great and both Nic and I are really enjoy being parents.  She started to crawl a little over a week ago and is really moving now. She can get from one end of the house to the other in a blink of an eye which has us trying to keep a close watch on her.  One minute she is playing on her blanket with a toy the next minute she has both dog water bowls upside down and is playing in the puddle of water she has created.  At these moments you just have to laugh.

Her personality is also growing and she is a very happy baby.  I mean she always has been but she smiles and laughs allot more now and makes a few funny faces when she is contemplating something or giving a bit of attitude.  She also "dances" to music or singing and will clap when she is in the mood.  We have been working on getting her to give kisses and she is starting to get the hang of that as well.   

With fall in full swing I am looking forward to the upcoming winter.  With being a stay at home Mom, while working full time, gardening, housekeeping and a busy social calendar, summer has pretty much kicked my butt! I am sure things will be crazy until Christmas but after that I am looking forward to tying up my year end and then spending the winter enjoying my wonderful family. 

Sometimes I still can't believe that Gaby is ours and we get to keep her forever.  It all seems a bit too good to be true.   

Monday, October 15, 2012

Great Big Happy Family

Reading about the adoption bloggers interview project made me realize that it has been a very long time sine I have spoken about Gabriella's birth family.  I can't really explain why that is?  I think mainly because they have molded so well into our everyday lives that we don't think of it as a big deal when we talk to them or get together.

Since Gaby was born we have visited with her birth family four times.  They came here after the waiting period was over and met all our family.  A bit of an emotional visit for everyone but also allot of fun.  We took them on a tour of the area.  A bit of a walk down memory lane for Nic and I. I know they loved seeing where we live and the area that Gaby would grow up in.

Then in the early spring Nic and I booked a campsite about 15 minutes from where they live and they came and spent a day and night with us on Gaby's very first camping trip.  It was allot of fun and Nic and I loved showing A & K a bunch of our fun camping traditions.  Growing up in the city they have never done any camping. The girls lead us on a fun hike, we had a delicious bbq and a bonfire that lasted long after Gaby had gone to bed.

The third visit was another camping trip.  We were up in their area again camping with my brother and sister in law as well as a good friend from University and her boyfriend.  We had planned on stopping at their place on our way home but plans changed and they ended up coming to the campsite on Saturday and having dinner with all of us.  I was glad they came because my brother had been away on vacation when they came to our house so they got to meet him and his beautiful wife.  Again we eat far too much and talked around the campfire until A started drifting off to sleep in her chair.

Our fourth visit was a sleep over.  Nic and I took a week long camping vacation and near the beginning met up with Gaby's birth family at a lake near their house.  They took us out on their boat fishing for the afternoon and then we drove back to their house with the camper and spent the night.  They made us an amazing meal and we topped it off with a bonfire.  They had made a pit in their backyard after camping with us in the spring.  Another amazing trip with lots of catching up and laughs.  I thought it might be hard for A to see Gaby in her own home but everyone had a nice time and I did not sense that A was uncomforable or upset.

We had also invited them to come here for Thanksgiving two weekends ago.  Unfortunately they could not make it but we are hoping to get together again soon.  Sometimes life gets in the way of the best made plans.

We still talk once or twice a week on the phone and text regularly.  I have tried to keep on top of the blog we have and post pictures a couple times a month as well as put up videos when I get a good one.

Our relationship is no different than the ones we have with our family members and close friends.  When we talk we do talk about Gaby but mostly we talk about what is happening in our lives.  We are becoming familiar with each others close friends and family and often ask after them in conversation.  I am always interested to hear how A and K are doing in school. Even with the few months A took off of school during the end of her pregnancy she managed, with K's help, to not miss out on any credits so started school in September at the same stage as her sister.  Both girls also got jobs this summer working at a fast food chain.  They do not love the job (who does love their first job) but it is good experience for them until they turn 16 in December and can qualify to apply to more places.

In general I think A enjoys our visits.  She is always interested in how Gaby is doing and has lots of questions.  She will often spend long amounts of time playing with her and having discussions with K about features Gaby has that are similar to theirs. She likes to hear my stories about funny things she is doing or really loves. I find the way she relates with Gaby is similar to how any girl of her age would.  She is fun to play with but she would rather leave the hard stuff to us. 

Nic and I love the visits and the chance to reconnect with them.  If anything we wish we saw them more frequently but it is difficult to find time to do the almost 3 hour drive (one way) and their schedules make it difficult for them to come here.  Hopefully we will see them again before Christmas.

We could not be happier about our decision to have a fully open adoption.  I love that I already have a great collection of pictures and mementos for Gaby.  I am stock piling everything away so that when she is old enough to understand she can see the story of how we all became a family.  It is a very loving, honest relationship and we feel very lucky to have them in our lives.

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2012

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012
 
 
Last year around this time Nic and I had completed all of our homestudy paper work and were at the "waiting" stage of adoption.  We were making lots of connections and I was trying to take in all I could about anything and everything adoption.  For lack of a better term I became an adoption sponge.   
 
During this time I stumbled upon the Adoption Blogger Interview Project (2011).  This project is put on by Heather at Production, Not Reproduction. She is an amazing women and has really invested in the online open adoption community, especially with her involvement in Open Adoption Bloggers. 
 
The interview project randomly pairs bloggers who have some involvement in adoption and gives them the opportunity to get to know each other and ask some questions.  I learned so much from the project last year that it encourage me to join open adoption bloggers and I am happy to say I will be participating in the interview project this year.  Last year the project helped me to expand my knowledge about adoption and also to open my eyes to an amazing community of bloggers.  Real life stories have been the best education for us.  I am hoping that by participating this year I can pay it forward and help someone else out there in internet space who wants to learn about adoption in Ontario.
 
This is an amazing project!  Anyone who is interested in participating or learning more about the project can click on the button at the top of the page or here.
 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"I'm Having Their Baby"

This Friday while channel surfing I stumbled upon a show on slice that surprised me.  The name of the show is I'm Having Their Baby. I soon found out that this reality show follows birth mothers through their decision to adopt, birth of their child and (sometimes) relinquishment of their child to adoptive parents.

This particular episode was about Megan a college girl and Lindsay a single Mom.  Their journey's were very different but both very emotional (of course).  I have come across many fictional shows about adoption but never a reality show. 

I have followed Catelynn & Tyler's story on Teen Mom after they chose adoption for their daughter on 16 and PregnantI have learned allot from their story and have always felt it represents a real and positive story about adoption, showing the ups and downs from a birth parent standpoint.  Here is some more information about Catelynn and Tyler if you are interested.

I am still not sure how I feel about I'm Having Their Baby.  The way the show is filmed seems to put adoptive parents in a negative light.  I don't think this is done intentionally but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  It is hard to explain why I felt that way but I just did.  I may have to watch again this Friday to see if it was just this particular episode I did not like. 

If nothing else this show helped me to continue along my adoption learning curve.  I suppose in the era of reality TV I should not have been so surprised to stumble upon a show about adoption.  There is one about everything else.