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Adoption Story (part 1)

I always knew I wanted children and never dreamed that it might be difficult. Too bad I didn't know then but we often don't know what's ahead in life, and probably a good thing.

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Adoption Story (part 1)

My family physician said that there was probably nothing to worry about and that we wouldn't do any investigations unless I had tried really seriously for several months without success. Almost a year later I started a battery of tests. They were all normal and inconclusive. The final conclusion of the specialist was that I could probably get pregnant, one tube may be partially obstructed which would qualify me for IVF. By then I had already started thinking about IVF and all of the testing was required first anyway. Preparing for IVF required more and more tests and interviews. I did three rounds, over the course of about a year; by then the chances of getting pregnant were significantly diminished. I'd get up at 4:30 AM to get in line for blood work and ultrasound and then get to work by 8:00 AM. Being a nurse, none of this bothered me all that much but the stress of the whole thing was deep. I got pregnant on my first round of IVF but it was ectopic.

It took a long time for me to get past the upset of not being able to have a biological child; now I sometimes forget that I didn't give birth to my daughter. For a long time, and I understand that it's really quite common, you feel resentful that it's so easy for what seems like everyone else and everyone around you seems to be having babies all the time. People tell you all the time too that as soon as you just relax or as soon as you adopt a child, you will get pregnant", because of course everyone knows someone who this happened to. It never helps when others call it a 'real' child or when they say you're not the 'real' mother but as I said earlier, you learn to get past of that stuff.

Previously, I had started to think about adoption, explored domestic and international options and initiated the home study process. When it was nearly completed, we paused for awhile to complete the IVF and then at its conclusion, re-initiated the process. I experienced it to be quite intrusive and it took me quite some time to get past the questions, probing and scrutiny. It's so easy to just have a child, but if you want to adopt one, you have to open your life to strangers, be subjected to arduous inquiries, investigations into your personal life and activities, relationships, family, friends etc. There is no sacred territory. If you protest, you will be branded difficult and you won't get what you want.

On reflection, this part of the process was the worst part. I don't know if it was the number of times I went through it, the way in which I was treated, some of the individuals I encountered or a combination of all factors; probably it was the combination. The worst part is that you have to wait for someone else to move you along to the next step. In my case, no amount of pushing and begging seemed to work (did I mention paying as well - this whole process costs many thousands of dollars)

No one was malicious. I don't think anyone who caused me grief gave it a second thought. There were a couple of dear soles who kept me going, especially dear friends and colleagues. They did it because they could and because they cared and wanted to help. It made a really big difference.

I explored many programs and I selected one in the United States. There was a weekend course, a home visit and the preparation of a 'book' that took me several months to prepare. It was like a part time job. I wrote letters to every family doctor in Ontario for example, I engaged a local adoption lawyer, one in the US and a couple of facilitators across the US just to cover as many bases as possible. It cost many thousands of dollars with no return.

In October of 2002 I received a call from my agency that Kelly had chosen me to parent her baby; the baby was due first week of January. I told the truth about my circumstances (that my marriage was possibly over because my spouse had left) and Kelly decided that I could adopt the baby anyway. I quickly rushed to the case worker but learned I would need an updated home study and that references etc. would have to be repeated.

The first reaction was to tell me to forget it and come back when a year or two had passed. I begged, I cried and finally the caseworker agreed to help me. Unfortunately it was impossible to complete the process in time. Kelly's baby came early and the baby had to go to another family. I was devastated. Right away I insisted that we get started on a new process but this took many, many months to complete as I was effectively, starting over.

After many months of hard work and effort I re-registered with my US agency. Just over a year later and after two birth moms selected me and then changed their minds at the last moment and after four or five failed attempts at various other adoption programs linked with my agency, I decided that I'd had enough and re-explored international adoption programs.

It wasn't so easy any longer. Vietnam, Georgia, Belarus, Romania and many others had closed. Kazakhstan hadn't brought out any children yet, nor had many of the other countries. China had just put a moratorium on single adoptions and many other once popular countries were now open only to married couples and many had age restrictions too.

Some tried to convince me that I should just give up and enjoy other children. I don't believe that someone who wants children and couldn't have them would ever say such a thing. I will say that a great lesson I've learned and a way of being is not to get too hung up on what other people advise you to do or not to do.

If I had listened to much of the best-intentioned advice I've been given over the years, I'd never have been successful with my biggest challenges. It's truly been a great life lesson for me - take all the advice you get and choose carefully what to take to heart and what to disregard. Most of it is given with good intention although some, albeit the minority, is cruel and mean-spirited. The other valuable life lesson is that you can do just about anything if you put your mind to it. However, one exception is the rules around adoption; there are no explanations or ways around some of it rather, you just have to endure it.

I came to decide on Russia. I knew that Russia had many obstacles, required two trips, was expensive but it was really my best overall option. You can't apply to more than one country at a time; you pick one and if you change countries you have to lose everything you've done and start all over again.

Russia was known to be relatively quick. I decided in the summer, completed my home study in July and my caseworker completed my file in November. You can get married, have families and make major decisions in life and work with less scrutiny. I'm not trying to minimize the importance of screening potential adoptive parents, rather I'm suggesting that some of the requirements are just way over the top. I had to get reference letters from all of my friends and family, my employer etc. I filed my papers for Russia and my documents were in my region in Russia where I would be adopting from in April 2005.

In June I got word that the agency and countless others were denied their accreditation pending further investigation by the Russian authorities into allegations of abuse by adoptive parents of Russian children in the United States. This issue didn't resolve until January of 2006. I didn't know if or when it would ever get resolved and I contemplated starting the process again for another country. By the time accreditation came through, all my documents including the home study had expired and I had to have them updated.

Finally, in March the proposal came to travel to Russia to meet Leyla. I got very little information (name, age, hair and eye colour) and the typical Russian medical diagnoses that mean very little. It's really a leap of faith because you really don't know what the status of the child is and you have no way of knowing whether or not it's valid. The day before I left, a colleague asked me how he might be able to change my mind; he thought it was a bad decision. It really affected me given my anxiety about everything but I quickly put it aside with some words of wisdom from a friend. Words of wisdom and support from close friends and others were a godsend for me as I began the next step on the journey.

Author:  Jo-anne Marr is very happy to be a Mom!

Read the second part of Jo-Ann's adoption story.

Posted to Baby Years | Parenting Articles


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