Saturday. Where do I begin? I had the very best time, met the most wonderful people and learned more than I can ever begin to share here. My recommendation for adopting parents is that if you are given the opportunity to attend a seminar, DO it! As you can tell by my previous post, I was a little hesitant before going. Would I learn only negatives? Would I leave discouraged? Did I really want to go?
I am SO glad I went!!! I left pumped – my car fairly flying down the DVP and 401. (Even more than normal that is!) I phoned a friend to share my excitement before even pulling out of the parking lot!
Guess I’ll begin at the beginning (how original) and share things with you as they pop into my head.
I wasn’t too sure how many people would be there. The website where I'd read about it didn’t list dates of the seminar so I wasn’t sure how many people would have heard about it. I was guessing 15-20 might be in attendance. I walked into a large room to find it filled with 85 other people who were also adopting internationally! Wow! There were 41 couples and 3 singles there and the countries they’re adopting from are: China, Russia, Kenya, Singapore, Ukraine, Korea, Vietnam, Serbia, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Thailand and Bulgaria! We took time to introduce ourselves and it was fun to be one of the people furthest along in my adoption journey. For the longest time it seemed like everyone was ahead of me having completed their homestudy, been DTC, had a LID or even a referral in hand! This time, many were still working on their homestudy’s or waiting for Ministry approval. I know how that feels!
Many people were adopting their first child, some already had adopted or bio children, some had teenagers and one brave couple already had 2 grandchildren and were beginning the adoption process of their 6th child! Another couple were also working on the adoption of a 16year old girl. Wow! And to think I fear the teenage years. They’re brave enough to jump into an adoption at that point!
There were 2 couples, a single girl and her sister at my morning table. 1 couple was adopting from Singapore which is a new country for Canadian adoptions. They are embarking on unknown territory. Another fun couple, Allan and Laurie, were also adopting from China. There was also a great single girl Julia who is still deciding which country to pursue her adoption journey with. She and her sister (who was there for moral support and was a hoot!) ended up being cousins of a friend I went to school with in grade school! Theresa and I haven’t seen each other in 25 years but I sent a note to her. It would be fun to hear what’s happening in her life.
I guess you’d much rather hear about what we discussed and what I learned, right? I'll get on with it.
The Process Involved in Adopting Internationally:
I was surprised to hear how different the process is depending on what country a person chooses to adopt from. China seems to be mid-way when it comes to length of time to adopt. Some countries take as little as 2-3 weeks from when a file is sent to that country and others 2+ years! The current time-frame for China seems to be about 1 year from Log In Date (LID) to having the baby in my arms. The afternoon table had a couple at it who are adopting from Russia. They leave in less than 2 weeks to visit their 2yo daughter for the first time! (Last June they were supposed to go get another little girl and just 2 days before they left to get her Russia closed it's borders to international addoption! Due to some unfortunate situations with prior adoptions each and every agency needed to be reaccredited. Shortly after this happened, they were told ‘their’ little girl had been adopted by someone else.) Their agency has since been accredited again and they leave on March 25th to meet their new daughter. They will spend a week with her, return to Canada for 2-3 months and then go back to Russia to bring her home. During their time in Russia they must go before a judge and defend their homestudy. The final say is the judge’s and even though they’ve met and become part of this little girl’s life, he can still put a stop to it. I don’t think my heart could stand it! It reminds me too much of domestic adoptions where people have babies in their homes and then a birthmother changes her mind and they have to give the baby up. I can’t begin to imagine the heartache that must cause! This is part of the reason I choose to adopt from China. It is a well established, reliable program and I know that in the end there is a baby for me. Besides that, I chose China because that is where my daughter is!!!
Positive Adoption Language:
We were encouraged to talk about the parents having an adoption plan for their child rather than that the child was ‘left’ or ‘abandoned.’ At first this sounded a little far fetched to me but when I think about it I do believe that my little girl will be given up for adoption because her parents want her to have a better life than they can give her. It’s not that they wouldn’t give her a great life; it’s that most likely they won’t be allowed by the government to keep her with them. They’re not leaving her planning on being an orphan for her life; they’re leaving her hoping that she will be adopted.
Suggestions When Meeting Your Child:
Wow! This is so important as it is the first day of our entire lives together! The most important thing to remember is: It’s all about Hannah. Her needs. What is best for her? What will make the transition easiest for her? This is something I need to constantly keep in mind and also encourage family and friends of the same.
How I will choose to do things may not follow the ‘norm’ that a birth child would. I ask that family and friends trust my decisions knowing I’m learning from the experience of many others who have traveled this road before me. My precious little girl will need extra care and attention and she and her needs are my priority.
It was suggested to us that on the day we meet the children we don’t wear heavy perfume, try to eat food from China prior to meeting the girls and if possible, have worn the clothes we get the children in, to a restaurant the evening before. A baby’s sense of smell is so acute and these little things will all help in easing her transition.
The next recommendation will be tough for me if not downright impossible! Try not to cry when I meet Hannah! What? Oh man, that’s going to be tough! But, again as I try to see things from her point of view I can see how it would be beneficial to her. Her precious little world will be turned upside down. History proves that often these little lambs are removed from their cribs while they’re sleeping, put on a bus for hours with nannies they may or may not be familiar with and then hours later placed tired and hungry into the arms of parents who look different, smell different and talk differently. That in and of itself is traumatic for these little ones. Add to that the complete stranger crying and trying to hold her close and it’s extra scary for a life that has been through more hurt and loss than any child should ever have to endure. She will have no idea that my tears are tears of joy, not sadness.
When I think of dear Hannah I can’t help but think of what losses her little life will have to endure before I ever meet her. She will be born and will recognize the voice of her birthmother who lovingly carried her in her womb for 9 precious months. I imagine this wonderful woman gently talking to her baby, possibly singing to her and caressing her tummy as my daughter is growing inside. (This may not be how you choose to think about your child’s birthmother but it’s how I choose to think of my daughter’s.) During this entire time, God is forming and creating each little finger, each little toe and each hair on her precious little head. I ache at missing this experience yet know without a doubt that this wonderful opportunity of international adoption is how God is guiding me to my new position as ‘Mom.’ This is not a responsibility that I take lightly and I am so thankful He is allowing this to happen. I may not have the opportunity of feeling her kick in my womb but she is constantly in my heart and rather than feeling her kicks, she's pulling on my heart strings. Hold on Hannah...Mommy's coming!
Another suggestion given to us about when Hannah is handed to me is to hold her on my hip a little away from myself and allow her to look at me from a short distance rather than immediately pulling her in close.
Now, having said all this, I’m sure when the day comes I’ll be a blubbering mess and instinctually I’ll pull her close and envelope the daughter I've waited a lifetime for, into my arms! (Just call me a slow learner! :o) I will take my cues from her. If she pushes away, I'll allow her the comfort of looking at me from the distance of my arms. If she snuggles in, look out! I'll be done for! As she takes me in, I'll be breathing in the scent of this most precious gift of my daughter! We will be learning about each other for the very first time.
*** I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that his is quickly (?) becoming a long post! I think we’re only about 2 hours into the seminar at this point so I’m going to close it off for now and post Part II later.