The other day, I came across Harriet’s blog, See Theo Run. Harriet, her husband and their baby Theo live in Vancouver B.C. Canada. They are parents in an open adoption. They adopted Theo at birth. They maintain a strong relationship with Theo’s birth family. Harriet writes about the adoption process and her journey to motherhood and beyond on her blog, See Theo Run.
I know virtually nothing about adoption, so I asked if Harriet might shed some light on the adoption process for me, and her personal journey to motherhood. Here’s what she had to say:
1. What made you decide to adopt a baby?
We could not have a baby by birth confirmed by visits to a fertility clinic, and once we were sure of this, we immediately agreed that adoption was for us. We did not pursue IVF. It’s a wonderful option for many but it did not feel right for us. We went with our gut and knew that adoption was our way. We are a mixed race couple living in a multicultural neighborhood and felt we could parent and support a child of almost any [cultural background]. It’s worth noting that I had worked for a non-profit adoption organization in the past so I was well-versed in the process, and had always maintained an interest in adopting.
2. What steps did you take to adopt Theo?
The biggest and most important step was the decision to adopt with full commitment and faith in the journey. We contacted several adoption agencies (there are only six in BC and two in the Vancouver area). I was interested in adopting through the Ministry for Children and Families but my husband was not keen on that route. It was really important that we both be comfortable for our decision so we approached several agencies. We went with our gut on which agency to use. After meeting face-to-face with a social worker who we immediately took too – we loved the way she listened to us- we signed up with the agency. At this point, we were interested in intercountry adoption mistakenly believing we would never be successful locally. In local adoption, a birth mother or birth parents select you from hundreds of other profiles. Before any of that was to occur, we had a series of visits from a social worker to assess our fitness to adopt (the home study), which took about 6 months to be written up and signed off. We then registered to adopt from the tiny African kingdom of Lesotho, which didn’t pan out. At this stage, we threw our profiles into the local adoption pool and immediately got a phone call saying a birth mother and her dad wanted to meet us. I have written about this extensively on my blog: the shock, the fear, the sheer awkwardness of the initial visit and the surreal nature of the second visit with the birth dad and birth grandmother and later visits with the birth parents including dinner and a movie. Two months after our initial visit, Theo was born and placed in our arms at the hospital with a room full of birth relatives, nurses and a social worker. The passing over of Theo to us was the most emotional and strange event of my life.
We are in an open adoption, and Theo does not look like us so he will figure out pretty quickly that he wasn’t born to us. But that is not really the point. At this stage (7 months), we are introducing words, names and phrases to him so they register. We have regular visits with his birth family but he does not really understand who they are so we say things directly to him such as: “We’re going to visit your birth mom today.” “You are so cute; you look just like your birth dad: Kyle,” or “You got your wild hair from your birth grandpa,” or “I think you’re going to be chatty like your birth grandma!” In terms of the story of his birth and adoption, we will piece it together for him as we go. We have hundreds of photos from the hospital and I have blogged about our feelings on that day. I do not think the penny will really drop for him until he’s between 6 and 9 when the really hard questions will come. Our hope is that by nurturing an ongoing relationship with his extended birth family and supporting this with explanations and stories about adoption that his situation will simply be normal for him by the time he starts to seriously question his identity.
You need to be 100% committed to adoption and it should be your number one choice for creating a family. This needs to be true in your heart and not just another option or last resort. You should tell everyone you know that you cannot have children by birth and that you are embarking on an adoption journey. If adoption is a secret for you, you might want to examine why that is. Tell family and friends that you do not know how long it will take but you are committed to this path and appreciate their support. You will be amazed at how many people get excited for you. You will also receive naive, hurtful or invasive comments. It’s best to face those now rather than later. We also had family say “but you’re still trying right?” when we had been told unequivocally that we could not have children. It can take family time to come round – they are still attached to replicating their gene pool. On the plus side, my father-in-law, who said those very words, is baby Theo’s biggest fan and spends the most time with him outside of my husband and me.
One last thing, adoption can take a long time, be highly emotional, but with patience, perseverance and faith in the process, you will be successful.
To read more about Harriet’s adventures in motherhood visit her blog See Theo Run.