My Mother’s Day Gift to Myself: Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-sSeXv9QDAPQ/UVxS6yMwuhI/AAAAAAAAFXc/CJdrF9ZnnMM/s1600/VARDALOS_InstantMom_HC.JPGAdmittedly, I steered clear of this book when I first heard about it.  Books with “Mom” in the title simply don’t appeal to me right now.

I started hearing little bits and bobs about the book in the media and downloaded it to my iPad.  The preview of the book sat on my “bookshelf” for a while.  I still wasn’t sure that I could read a “Mom” book.

Mother’s day weekend came.  I was feeling really down and felt like I needed to acknowledge the day.  I knew I wasn’t going to get brunch, flowers or a card so I had to do something for myself.  I bought myself the book.  It was empowering.  It made me feel proactive rather than mopey.

I started reading and I could not put it down.

Within 20 pages I was sobbing and laughing (simultaneously – a very attractive look).  I immediately contacted friends and created an impromptu book club.  This book not only needs to be read, it also needs to be shared and talked about.  I shared it with one friend who has struggled with infertility and is now a mom through adoption of the cutest curliest haired girl I’ve ever seen.  The other friend is one of my closest friends and the sister of Lil Curly’s mom.

I fell in love with this book because it was so relatable.  The first half of the book follows Nia Vardalos’ personal struggles with infertility. Being a comedy writer (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), she is able to share stories about infertility, IVF, multiple miscarriages and surrogacy painful but still able to laugh  – much the way I try to approach my own life and my blog.  There is so much sadness in my life right now, I have to find some things to laugh at and I have to find the joy.  Nia’s (yes, we’re on a first name basis) voice was so refreshing.  I described it my friend (when I told her she had to read the book)  “this lady is our people”.  My friend agreed whole-heartedly.

Nia’s stories about infertility brought me to tears (and still do upon re-reading).  It really felt as if my own feelings were being articulated through someone else’s words.

One of my favourite scenes was her description of a Mother’s Day party.  Being Mother’s Day when I read it made it even more significant.  She describes Mother’s Day as “the worst day of the year”.  At the party she gets all of the dreaded questions including the classic, “When are you due?”  (WHY?? WHY do they ALWAYS ask that???)

Reading this passage, similar to the way I feel when reading other blogs, I no longer felt alone.  Someone out there gets it and is sharing her story very publically.

After years of struggling, the story moves on to Nia’s decision to adopt.  She and her husband (who sounds like an amazing husband by the way) considered and tried different avenues including private adoption and international adoption and finally came to the conclusion that foster adopt was the best route for their family.

The second half of the book, which focuses on the adoption and first few years with their daughter were much harder for me to read.  I feel so far removed from my “happy ending” right now that it’s hard for me to go there.   It comforted me that Nia acknowledged this feeling in the book,

“I could here a hundred fantastic adoption stories in a row and then be stopped in my tracks by a negative one”.

I kept reading and was very glad that I did.  Nia’s story is so honest.  She describes the process from the Home Study to the adoption ceremony.  Her daughter was adopted as a toddler and with that came the struggle to attach and to adapt to a new life (and to sleep).  The way that Nia approaches these challenges is heart warming.   She parents the way I dream of parenting one day.  She reminded me that when I do get my family that my wounds will begin to heal. More laughter, more tears, more hope.

Thank you Nia Vardalos for sharing your story.  Thank you for telling all of our stories.

*Here are the book club questions that we discussed (through sobs and giggles).  If you read the book, feel free to join in the conversation!

  • Which part of the book did you relate to the most?
  • What unique challenges Nia Vardalos face as a celebrity exploring adoption?
  • What were your favourite Canadian moments in the book?
  • What surprised you the most?
  • What made you sob?
  • Favorite quote from book.

“Ooooh so cute! I want to find a baby too!”

Maybe I’m just sensitive but….

This story is doing the social media rounds and it’s driving me crazy!  I need to get this out of my system.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/we-found-our-son-in-the-subway/?smid=fb-share

I’m not calling total “B.S.” on the story. I’m not questioning its authenticity, maybe just it’s up-to-datedness.   I do think it’s spreading a false message about how adoption and children’s aid societies really work.

For the last 48 hours my Facebook page has been riddled with links to this article connected to comments like, “Oooh so cute!”, “I like babies, I want to find a baby too!”

It’s just not that easy!  I have read the story a few times now and I still find the circumstances so bizarre.  I understand this happened in Manhattan; maybe the rules are different there.  I understand this happened twelve years ago, maybe things have changed that much in just a short time.

Here’s how this story would have gone down here (in Ontario) and now.  I assume this would be the same for many other places.

A baby is found and someone calls 9-1-1. The child would then be placed immediately into foster care. To become a foster parent, one has to do home studies, trainings (in many places, P.R.I.D.E training) and be approved by the ministry.  Once the child is placed in foster care, an extensive search for the parents would take place.  Assuming the parents are found, charged and classified as unfit to parent, or signed away their rights, the child would become “ward of the crown”.  The child (probably no longer an infant) would then be put on an “adoptable” list.  Waiting parents who have gone through the same home studies and trainings, as the foster parents are now eligible to apply to adopt the child.  Children’s Aid in Ontario would make and effort to match a child of “light brown skin” with a couple of the same race, this is their policy.

A perfect parallel to this story is the story of baby Angelica-Leslie, found in a North Toronto stairwell on a cold day.

I’m happy that the couple in the NYT story have their happy ending.  It really is a dream come true.  I just don’t like the way the story has contributed to adoption myth and fantasy.  I don’t like the way it trivializes the long, painful wait and process.  Yes, I’m just sensitive.  I like babies.  I want to find a baby too.

Hey! We’ve seen this story before!
(source: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/619N55YT7GL._SL500_.jpg)

A Picture of Parenthood

To apply to adopt internationally, my husband and I were not required to create a profile or write a “Dear Birthmother” letter.  In our case, the agency will use the information in our home study and any insight from communications with us to create the best match with a child.

When adopting locally, the process is much different.

To prepare for the A.R.E. (see previous post), my husband and I had to create a profile.  We weren’t sure that local adoption was the route we wanted to take, but we didn’t want to turn up empty handed and close a door on ourselves.

Creating the profile was a very interesting challenge.  It’s a strange combination of employment cover letter and an on-line dating profile but with way more weight behind it and way more heart and soul.

I have heard from friends about getting photo shoots of themselves rolling in fall leaves and playing in the park to help to create an image of fun, welcoming parents.  Being a “just in case” profile, we didn’t want to go as far as a photo shoot (this time).  Instead, we went through every photo ever taken of us to find our most “family friendly”, warm, “parent-ish” but also fun, most “ourselves photos. This was a little bit of a challenge but also a heart-warming experience. It was so nice to go through all of our photos, to see all the happy times we have had together and how much we have changed in just a few years.  It was a really good reminder of the positive things in my life at a time when life has been feeling negative and full of loss.

We managed to pull together some photos and write up some general information that painted a truthful and positive picture of us as a couple, us as potential parents.

I have to say; seeing it all on paper really confirmed to me that we’ll be great parents.  I was convinced by my own words.

Overwhelmed at the Adoption Resource Exchange

Last weekend, my husband and I went to our first A.R.E.

In Ontario, there are events called the Adoption Resource Exchange (the A.R.E.).  I had heard about the event, but didn’t really understand what it was all about.  I knew that it was a “trade-show” style showcase of waiting children who are wards of the crown and eligible to be adopted from all over Ontario.

My husband and I have already applied to adopt from Vietnam, but we didn’t want to close any doors.  If there are children close to home, it’s worth a look.  We created a profile and went in with open minds and hearts.

The A.R.E. was very overwhelming.

It was a full day event.  The format of the event seemed strange, but worked well and made sense.

The day began with videos in a large auditorium.  The videos were short video profiles of waiting children.  We were given a folder that included a list of the children’s’ names (in some cases pseudonyms) in order to record any notes.

The videos were very difficult to watch.  The waiting children profiled included everything from children with severe disabilities, children with F.A.S.D or who had been born addicted to drugs, large sibling groups and even teenagers.  Some of the children had been shuffled around the system for several years.

After the first set of videos, we were given time to browse the “booths” (booths set up trade-show style with pictures and profiles of the children and their social worker available to answer questions).  There was also time provided to spend in the “reading room” where we could browse through a large binder of child profiles.  The profiles went in-depth into the children’s’ backgrounds, personalities and any health issues.

There were three sessions like this. It was heartbreaking, exhausting and eye-opening.

By the third set of videos, my husband and I really had to question what we could handle and how we see our future family.   We had to remind ourselves that we were there to start a family, not to “save” children.  This is a realization that is hard to swallow.

The booths were a great help.  Being able to ask specific questions to a child’s caseworker can make things much clearer than trying to interpret the technical language of a child’s profile.  There were children there that we did seriously consider, but had to take a step back and make sure that this is what we really wanted to do and that we weren’t just getting swept away in this heart-wrenching moment. After some very serious discussions, we walked away this time.  We did not submit any proposals; we decided to stick with plan A.  This was a very difficult decision.  All of these children will always remain in my heart and mind. I will always question whether or not we made the right decision. (Even if we had submit our profile, we may not have even been selected – I know this decision goes beyond that of just me and my husband).

There were so many prospective adoptive parents at the A.R.E.  This made me feel good.  This gave me some hope that there is a chance of forever families being created and of the right matches being made.

I know I’ll have the right family for me… I just can’t choose when.