I am 41 and my husband Rod is 55. We were unable to naturally conceive a child and had finally accepted that reality. We were preparing to simply enjoy our independence as a couple and travel to exotic places. We comforted ourselves that our two dogs and a cat were our surrogate children. Life was good, right?
Precious little Rose came into our lives in the spring of last year. Rod and I fell instantly in love with her during a family dinner at our home, where it quickly became clear that Rod’s aging brother and his teenage daughter, Rose’s mom, were not adjusting well to the new addition in the family. We silently wished for Rose to be our daughter, and believed that if it was meant to be it would be.
Soon afterwards, Rod’s neice tearfully admitted she was unable to care properly for Rose and wanted to place her for adoption. As family members, we felt it was important for Rose to remain in the family rather than in foster care. Connections were made with an experienced lawyer who specializes in adoption, and who made the necessary legal arrangements for a private relative adoption. We became legal adoptive parents in a matter of months!
We were “instant” parents of a 16-month-old little girl, and quickly faced with all of the many challenges that adoptive families have during this life-changing event. Combined with the added complexity of our family relationships, we also needed to develop parenting skills, and learn to navigate and honour our adoption agreement responsibilities—necessary parts of an open adoption.
Books became a fundamental and therapeutic resource as we immersed ourselves in familyland. A friend recommended The Mother of All Toddler Books – An All Canadian Guide to Your Child’s Second and Third Years, by Ann Douglas. I went to Chapters to pick it up and also picked up We Belong Together – A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr. Tears quickly filled my eyes as I read this brightly illustrated book, and I became overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for being given the precious gift of a child. With its brightly illustrated child-like drawings, the book gave me the reassuring message that there are lots of different kinds of families. I barely managed to compose myself enough to pay for the book, and quickly exited the store with Rose at my side, sitting quietly in her stroller, drinking her doctor-recommended vitamin-enriched milk, in her child-resistant glass bottle. Soon after, I began exploring children’s books on Amazon.ca that will deliver to our door, saving me from openly blubbering in retail and used book stores.
Reading out loud to Rose quickly formed part of our daily routine. Rod especially likes to read to Rose and we captured him reading to her on a newly purchased video camera, and we’ll share this with her throughout our lives together. Rose loves Parr’s We Belong Together, and often brings it to us to read before nap and bed time. Her two and a half year old brain strongly knows she is a part of our family and defines us as mommy and daddy.
Books I recommend for adoptive parents include Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis. This is the loving story of an international adoption and how a new mommy and daddy travel by plane to meet their child for the first time. I Wished for You – A Story of Adoption by Marianne Richmond is a favourite because it reflects a similar story to ours, where a birth mom is unable to care for her child and an adoption plan takes shape.
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda was “mommy recommended” and has been particularly healing for me as a new mom. It tells the story of an Indian woman who is forced to place her newborn daughter in an orphanage for fear of her being killed. Her adopted American parents raise the daughter as their own and also have a special connection to the birth family. It is a gripping, captivating read that I have been searching for and highly recommend. It pulled my mommy heart strings and filled me with an overwhelming sense of compassion for Sherri and other birth mothers for the grief and loss they must feel.
We continue to sprinkle in adoption books with other children’s learning books for Rose, and we will continue to rely on them for counsel in anticipation of the many questions she will have, including ones about who her ‘real’ (gulp) mommy and daddy are. Books will always be part of our emotional, spiritual and intellectual growth and are helping us walk the parenting path with wisdom, grace, discipline, and much-needed humour.
Denise is an adoptive mother who works full-time, reads avidly, practices yoga and writes motivational poetry. She and her family live in Kelowna, BC.