When you become a parent through international adoption instead of through the "grow your own" method there are several experiences you miss out on, and by default also on the related memories to one day share with your children.
You don't get that moment of first knowing you're pregnant, or the first kick, or the experience of childbirth. You probably don't get the first smile or the first solid food.
Your babies don't get those nine months of growing inside you, next to your heartbeat, to get to know you. In fact, they got to know someone else's heartbeat - then she vanished. After 6 or 7 months they are just settling in with their new "mothers" and learning to trust again - when along we come to whisk them away to another universe where every sight, sound, smell, taste and texture is different.
Please don't take any of the above as a complaint. Our moments of the referral photo, the travel date, the first meeting, and the arrival home are no less meaningful and joyful than those we miss. I would not change the joys that this process has brought with it so far for anything!
That is why we are of mixed feelings as to when our boys will be ready for socializing. On the one hand, we want events like their arrival in Canada and their welcome party to be attended by everyone who wants to be there. We really want them to be able to look back one day and know and hear about just how many people were waiting for them. On the other, we know how important it is that they stay with us, literally stuck right to us, for the first months or more.
So to answer the title question - As long as you understand some of the delicacies of the attachment process and are willing and able to put their needs ahead of yours, you can meet them whenever you like...
Here are some tips from www.a4everfamily.org :
Prepare Family and Friends When the baby comes home, it is highly recommended that you stick close to home and give the baby time to learn who Mommy and Daddy are before introducing other people. Your baby will need time to adjust to all of the new changes in his life before being overwhelmed by more unfamiliar people and places. Some babies show outward signs of anxiety and distress and others hide their feelings and bottle them up, leaving you to think they are easy-going, which may dramatically change at a later point.
Family and friends often want to help. The best kind of help is for others to run your errands, make dinner, and help with things around the house so that you are free to hold and bond with the baby.
Who Goes to the Airport? The day your baby comes home is a joyous occasion and many people have been waiting anxiously right along with you. But it is important to remember that while you have been waiting anxiously for your baby, your baby has not been waiting anxiously for you. Think of all the losses he is experiencing and how scary and confusing this must be for him. It is recommended that you not further overwhelm your baby with lots of faces at the airport. Limit holding to only Mother and Father for as long as possible.
Baby’s Experience For the last six months or more, the expectant parents have been busy. They've painted a room, bought little tee shirts, shoes, and diapers and gone over the baby name book at least a hundred times. Daily, if not hourly, their thoughts turn to the baby waiting for them, thousands of miles away. They take out the precious photo and examine it again and again, wondering "How much older will he look?" The hearts and minds of these loving parents are never too far from this baby. For the baby, however, these folks haven't even been a fleeting thought.
Somewhere, often in a far away country, the baby has already experienced immense loss. For nine months, he lived and breathed with his mother. He learned to know her voice, her smell, her moods-both good and bad-and her sleep. At birth, he abruptly lost everything he had grown to love. He may show signs of grieving at the time, or he may store the loss deep in his brain and body, at a visceral level that will become more obvious with time.
At the time of birth, a child perceives himself as being one and the same as his birth mother. He does not recognize that they are two separate individuals. Physically, his respiration and heart rate regulates in sync with hers. Emotionally, he sees the world through her eyes. Her anxiety is his. Her joy and contentment are his. So what happens when a part of him, the part that regulates not only the physical, but also the emotional, disappears?
Perhaps he is placed in a foster home at birth. He spends his days getting to know the smells, voice, tastes, and moods of his new caretaker. Although it is hard to trust, having already lost a mommy, he enjoys the soft touches and the warm feeling he gets when she fills his tummy. He feels confused and worried, not knowing who this person is and what happened to his first love.
If he spends time in a hospital or orphanage, his little body grows increasingly anxious. After all, he can only focus about nine inches from his face, and the images that move in and out of that space are constantly changing.
In both cases, the sheer separation from the birth mother can put his body on high alert. The primitive part of his brain, the "fight or flight" center, works overtime, flooding with cortisol, sending the body messages akin to that of an adult who senses his life is in danger. "Will I get food?" "Who will comfort me?" "Will I survive?" A variety of factors-genetic predisposition, prenatal environment, ongoing transitions, early environment-contribute to the level at which the child is affected. The initial abandonment alone affects his brain and body, with hospitalization, foster homes, orphanages, multiple placements, and pain increasing the potential for long-term attachment issues.
And then, without warning, it happens again. Just as he is getting accustomed to the new caretakers in his life, he is suddenly handed to a stranger. This person's hair, skin, smell, and voice are all wrong. The stranger takes him to a place filled with people. They go and go and go for what seems like an eternity. Eventually, the child is handed to more strangers. Bright lights flash everywhere. Nothing smells right. Nothing sounds right. Nothing looks right.
The adults are in love. The baby is in shock.
Don't worry - we just keep on loving. And it all works out in the end.
My sister has booked a trip down south from March 2 to 16. It was a free hotel, a seat sale... she just couldn't say no. When would she get the chance again? It's so hard to get time off work. And with the weather like it is in Ottawa... good for her, I say.
Before I continue, I have to explain about our dog, Shadow. At least, I have to explain for those of you who have not been waiting 7 years for a baby and have tried to meet their parenting needs with a puppy... He is not just a dog. He is a precious, wonderful, loved and adored, full-of-treats, sleeps on the pillow member of the family, and has been from day one. It was a serious concern as to who he could stay with while we were in Vietnam. The idea that he would be with his Aunti Steffi, whom he loves to distraction, was very comforting.
So now we need a dog sitter - but not just any dog sitter. You must be flexible and available between February 15 and the end of March. You must love dogs beyond all reason and consider it an honour and a privilege to have our little Shadow dog in your home. You must be willing to spoil him rotten and let him sleep on your pillow. It return he will not shed, nor will he have accidents in the house. He is a good dog.
It's strange how much something like this can be - such a small thing, really, but it was just one small thing we didn't have to worry about. I remember reading on other blogs about how upsetting it was when the people you were relying on became unavailable, through no fault of their own (changes to travel dates, etc.), and thinking that really you have to right to expect everyone around you to put their lives into some sort of spider-webby suspended time-warp while you wait for that last piece of paper or whatever. But now that I'm in it, I realize how much I need the company. And I'm so thankful for the angels who have climbed in with me!
No, we don't know anything for certain. It's more of a feeling. What could be more appropriate than Valentine's Day? We will not hear anything else until next week, as government offices in Vietnam are currently closed for Tet.
We have received our "Recommendation Letter for a Child to be Adopted by Foreigners" from Vietnam, with our names and the boys' names all on one page covered with signatures and official seals. It is the most beautiful piece of paper I have ever seen.
Cindy is special to me because she was instrumental in helping me get my job (which I love) after 5 years as a supply teacher. She was working at my school as the Special Education Specialist when she decided to be a classroom teacher instead. She went to the principal and told her that she should consider me for her replacement; that I would be fantastic for the job; that she had had many conversations with me about special education and that she would help me through (she did). The following year she moved to another school and we lost touch, but I used the shiny folder she left for me for years.
This year we re-connected through our French teacher, who works at both our schools. Imagine our surprise to discover that we had both been traveling the same adoption path! It has helped me so much to be patient when I see the grace with which she has waited, and for so much longer than most. (Journey to Hannah)
Every time I look at the photos of her and her daughter I hear the same word. Sometimes it is the quiet Leonard Cohen version; other times, a chorus of a thousand angels. Hallelujah. If you've ever wondered what that word really means, just look at her face.
Twin cakes for twin boys I would say something cute like, "Wish you were here to eat some," but the truth is, Daddy and a bunch of his hockey buddies polished off most of this during the game Saturday night so I guess it's a good thing you aren't. Except we so wish you were.
Back in Planet Waiting, I wrote about how I was trolling the internet trying to find someone who might have earlier photos of the boys. Having run out of English sites I started looking (and posting!)in French and Vietnamese (Hello Google translator). Yesterday I received this message:
"Félicitations pour tes beaux bébés. Je suis toute excité car j'ai vu tes petits trésors tout minuscules lors de mon adoption a Tra Vinh le 9 septembre. J'ai même une photo de chacun d'eux!"
Et les voila! We are not certain which is which... V-Anh 7 weeks 2 days old
I had a surprise baby shower today! You may be wondering why you weren't invited, especially if you are someone close to me, like my Mom or sister. It's because this was a "Shower of One". My dear friend D asked what she could get that we needed, so after making the list I had suggested a couple of onesies. Here is what she brought me today:
Five onesies - and so cute! - do you see the spaceships?
The first update to the packing list - I had never heard of these
Moose and hockey players and little plaid cuffs...
These obviously essential items that again, in my ignorance, I had never heard of...
1 Diaper bag 2 Snuglis (Strollers – we will buy there) Bouncy chair suggested but no room 4 soothers and 2 clips 2 packages Pampers Cruisers (52 size 3) 2 packages diaper wipes Diaper liners Antibacterial hand wipes Diaper disposal bags Nail clippers (2) Nasal bulb (2) Handful Q-tips 12 baby washcloths Boxes of large and small Ziplocs Thermometer (2) Oral syringe Salinex Nose drops (2) Polysporin Eye & Ear Drops (2) Scabies medicine (2 tubes Nix)
small, light noisy rattles plastic rings to clip things baby photo album with family pics Wipe-off tablecloth
One package or tube of: Infant Motrin Butt Paste Vaseline Stool softener 0.or 1% Hydrocortisone cream Glycerin supps for children Inflatable bathtub Aveeno baby Lubriderm unscented lotion
Per adult: 1 nice outfit for you 5 tops, bottoms, socks, underwear 2 Pjs 2 pr shoes (give one pair a chance to breathe) swimsuit hat, jacket
If you have ever needed an over-the-counter product such as: Cold & Flu med,Gravol,Immodium, Pepto-Bismol, Tylenol-Advil, Cold FX, or Robaxisol, then you will want to bring some just in case
Bandaids, Polysporin Fisherman's Friends Ombrelle sunscreen Travel packs of Kleenex Tampon etc. needs Shaving needs Haircare, deodorant, toothbrush
Universal plug Digital camera, extra battery and memory cards Power converter Laptop $3000 cash (American); $100 in small bills Credit card (remember to call them) Sunglasses Passports, documents: make copies to keep in luggage
Extra suitcase full of (light!) gifts, photos and letters on the way over, and (very light!)memories on the way back.
The autumn leaves were falling, On these old cathedral walls, There were candles in the darkness, Singing in the choir, And reading out the names, Of all the ones who've gone before, Well I could tell that you were thinking, About the meaning of it all; And you said to me "Who will open up my eyes, To the wonder, and the glory, and the stars in the sky?" And you said to me "For this road I'm traveling on, I need someone beside me forever, who? Who?"
And I said "It's me, and I'm ready to go, Ready to show, that I'll never let you down, And I want you to know, that this power will grow, Every day, every beat of my heart, Forever, forever"
We went down to the river, And we found a small cafe, They say that over in the corner, Sat the writer Ernest Hemingway, And here he made his story of the lovers in the war, And through it all they stayed together, Till the rain had to fall; And you said to me "Who will be the one apart, Who will teach me, with conviction, all the ways of the heart?" And you said to me "On this journey of my life, I need someone to love me forever, who? Who?"
And I said, listen "It's me, and I'm ready to go, Ready to show, that I'll never let you down, And I want you to know, that this power will grow, Every day, every beat of my heart, I love you, I love you;
It's me, and I'll never let you down, And I want you to know, that this power will grow, Every day, every beat of my heart, Forever, I love you, forever."
Chris De Burgh
Don't you love finding songs that could have been written by your heart?
This one is extra special to me because I have been a long-time fan of CdeB. In high school I haunted record stores looking for his albums, and I eventually collected everything he had done, but stopped in the late 80s after Lady in Red came out. I was looking up the lyrics for "Crying, Laughing" when I saw this title, released in 1997 so I had never heard of it. I was so happy to find a song that says unconditional love the way I wanted it to.
I think I've finally done it. Let me check one more time...
Yes, I've gotten to the point where, if I cycle through every adoption blog, Yahoo group, and e-mail address I use, and check Facebook, by the time I get back to the beginning there will be a new message/ post/ comment to read. Phew.
I think it's time for some shopping. (Photos posted in Getting Ready II)
Seriously, you can't imagine how much I appreciate my job right now. I am always surprised at 10:50 (when recess and prep starts) to discover that over an hour has gone by without obsessive thinking about babies or computer checking. I feel so lucky to have a job whose importance is as great as my babies - I don't mean that my job is important! - I'm just a Grade 3 teacher - but that I am responsible for 20 wonderful, loving, beautiful, important children.
It also helps that we cannot access Facebook at school...
Woody's been doing some painting, and I took some photos to add to our "getting ready" album. When I tried to write captions to go with the photos, I realized we have a problem. This room no longer has a name. It used to be my office, but I moved my office into my closet when we heard about the twins, so they would have more room to play (it was an amazing closet, but that's another story).
This room leads to the playroom on the right, and back past the bathroom and basement stairs into the kitchen on the left. It has a piano in it.
Woody has taken to calling it the mid-room, but I am picturing future Grade 1 conversations... Max: How do you spell mid-room? Teacher: You mean living room. Max: No, MID-room Teacher: Bedroom? Max: No, MID-ROOOOM, MIID-ROOOOOM!! (Jumping up and down in frustration) Teacher: There's no such thing as a mid-room (Makes note for referral to speech therapist and behaviour specialist)
Piano room seems obvious but somehow a little pretentious. Besides, what if we don't have a piano forever?
This is not a trivial dilemma. Whatever name we decide in the next few days will attach and travel through the family for as long as we live here. I know because there is already a room in our house called the lobby, even though it is on the second floor.
I've always been an Internet junkie, so I was familiar with the world of adoption blogs right from the start, but I have to confess I didn't really get it. I wanted to be one of those people who is able to document their thoughts eloquently enough for the world to read but (a)I was suspicious that my thoughts might be lacking in substance, let alone eloquence and (b)I'm, ummm, well, I'm lazy.
And so it begins. When you put yourself out there for anyone to read, specifically anyone involved with adoption, you really want to present yourself at your best. You want to show that you are loving, caring, intelligent, flexible, patient, kind, spiritual, relaxed, dedicated, able to deal effectively with stress, thankful, happy, gracious, and empathetic - all those wonderful adjectives your references used during your home-study. You do not want to be lazy.
I have to be honest - I am not feeling remotely patient or gracious lately. If I consciously tell myself to relax I can feel a lessening of the tension that is always with me, but the beginnings of physical symptoms of stress belay my belief that I am dealing with it. (I remember reading this in "The Gift of Waiting" - Link List: "And even during periods when we think we are not concerning ourselves with the waiting, the heartburn, psoriasis, colitis, hives and constant fatigue give us away. Our bodies shout the longing of our souls." and thinking, "Ha! I would never be that weak" Ha indeed. Joke's on me now.)
I had also envisioned myself as being a lot more excited and happy and a lot less whiny and selfish, during the waiting to travel period at least. I really can be a patient person, you know. I was fine during the wait for referral - a little anxious about getting older myself, but completely comforted by the idea that everything happens when it should for a reason. Even up through the first few weeks after referral, I remember having thoughts like, "If our paperwork is late getting to the agency that's probably fate helping it to arrive in Vietnam on just the right day to make things go faster in the long run." Where IS that person? I could use her back about now.
How do I feel? Well, I feel like any mother would who had her babies and then was given photos of them and told they would be in an orphanage on the other side of the world for a few months, not sure how long, no you can't visit. Please don't tell me this is not the same thing because I knew going in what the process would be. Would it be easier if you knew beforehand that you wouldn't get your babies at birth? Please don't tell me this is like being pregnant. My babies are born and getting older. I understand what you are saying - that is how I thought it would be; maybe even that's how it is for some people. I even understand if you think I am nuts - I would too, if it weren't for all the other blogs I've read that echo my heart.
Why do I have to confess this all here here? Because it is only because of other women who have been brave enough to do this before me that I know I am okay.
And because above all, I am hopeful. And right now that is all I have to be.
Notes to Ontario families anticipating a referral: Apply for Part 1 of Citizenship (can be done in advance). If you have been approved for twins, apply for two.
When we got our referral, here is how it worked: - We had to sign and return a 1 page acceptance, to be sent to Vietnam - We had to have our children's medicals signed by a doctor, to say we had reviewed them (This was for our Adoption Practitioner) - We met with our AP to sign our acceptance for the Ontario government, and to update our homestudy - We got the 1 page Vietnamese/ English medical letters re-done by our Dr.s - We got our police checks re-done right at the police station, or you can use www.truecheck.ca. (If you go to the police station in Ottawa, they may suggest you need the letters of occurrence and fingerprints; however, these are not necessary for the update)
Don't panic if your doctors can't see you right away (mine went on vacation) or if your AP is busy; just do the best you can. We were told there was no urgent rush for anything except the 1 page acceptance. We took it to Staples and had it scanned so we could e-mail it to the agency and it could go straight to Vietnam!
I've noticed that some people end up here through surfing for something else, and I just wanted to say welcome to interested "strangers". Please feel free to leave comments or e-mail me at Scaramantha@hotmail.com.
Say hello, say how cute Say everything that’s been said before Share your thoughts, send a prayer All of us together will open doors Share your tears, you should know that I’ve been crying too And it hurts a little less when I find those tears from you. Share your story, share your joy Remind me again of the wonder of it all
Every message is a place for my heart to rest a moment During its desparate race around the world.