Monday, June 15, 2015

Our Adoption Story

Today in Manitoba Adoption Records are being unsealed.  Records going back as far as 70 years are being released.  This is a big step for adoption.  Adoption needs to be better understood in today's society.  Adoption in the present day is much different than it was 30 or 40 years ago.  Surprisingly, adopting a child born in Manitoba is quite rare.  The wait lists are long.  This is why many parents opt for international adoption which gives parents better odds of being able to adopt.

Fortunately, for us our adoption story was very amazing and couldn't have worked out much better.  I posted our story before but I think today it is worth re-posting.

The chances of us having kids was very unlikely and we had opted to look at adoption as a possible option.  In February of 2006, my Dad was dying of cancer and Susan's Mom was waging her own battle with cancer.  We discussed with our social worker at that time, the possibility of coming off of the adoption list temporarily to let our lives settle down a bit.  We talked about it and decided not to de-list.  If an opportunity came up we would seize that opportunity.  Besides, we had no real control over the situation, the opportunity to adopt could happen in a week, a year, or never.  We are so happy we made that decision as Nicole was already on the way.  I remember so vividly the day we got "the call."  It was the Tuesday following Easter.  I got the call from our social worker that there was a potential baby available and were we interested??  It seems a little bizarre when we think back...that someone was phoning us to offer us a human being.

When we got the call...we know this was far from being a "done deal." In fact we thought chances were that this wouldn't happen at all.  After all it was the birth mom's choice as to where her baby would go and we knew she was looking at a couple of other potential families.  Having never been through this before, it seemed a little unbelievable and that it may never happen.  I don't remember the exact order of events but that evening when Susan and I both had a chance to absorb the situation and read the adoption profile we had a follow-up discussion with our social worker and asked her a few more details.  We found out that the baby was due in about a week and that the birth-mom wanted to meet us.  A meeting was setup for that Friday.  I think we were remarkably calm during this I think we really didn't understand the gravity of the was just too unreal.

Friday morning came (the day of the meeting).  On the way to the appointment, I commented to Susan that we are going to meet, have a nice chat, and in all likelihood this wouldn't happen.  The birth-mom will likely choose someone else...but this was a good experience to go through, so we would be better mentally prepared for the future.  I laugh when I think about how unprepared we were for that meeting.  We really didn't have a clue.  One of the reasons I love our Social Workers from CFS is that they would never put a family through this process unless they were pretty sure it was going to work.  They look carefully at the birth-mom and the family and put all of their eggs in one basket.  They want this to work.  We didn't realize it at the time but they were pretty much sure this was going to happen before we met.  Again, there are no guarantees, but they definitely had a game plan.  After a 45 minute, somewhat awkward visit.  We found ourselves making appointments with lawyers and making arrangements for temporary guardianship in the event the baby were born over the weekend.  Papers had to be filed that day if we wanted to take the baby home, as this was a Friday.  Susan and I were absolutely stunned!!  We had to take our social worker aside and we very sheepishly ask "is this happening"??????  She must have been laughing on the inside, but she very calmly said..." is!"

We were dazed!  In a few minutes we were driving on our way to our lawyer's office to begin the legal process of adopting our, yet to be born, baby.

We made a few phone calls to family to let them know what was happening and then we began thinking about all of the things we needed.  We didn't have a clue.  The first thing that was mentioned to us was that we needed a car seat to take our new baby home.  There is a baby store a block from where Susan works so we thought...hey why don't we take care of this right now.  We wandered into the store, and began looking around.  We didn't have a clue what we were doing or what we were looking for.  After some time a store clerk offered some assistance.  We must have seemed like total morons as we didn't know what to ask and had no idea of what we were looking for.  I remember the clerk asking..."So when is the baby due?" and we said "next week" to which the clerk responded with a bit of a puzzled look as she glanced at Susan's not pregnant belly.  We were so overwhelmed by all of what had happened that morning we were in no frame of mind to be buying a car seat, so we graciously thanked the clerk for their help and exited the store.  The car seat purchase would happen another day.

The weekend passed with no news.  We exchanged a few e-mails with our lawyer and our social worker as we had several questions about the process.  We had several hurdles to overcome before this adoption would happen.  Yes, we had a verbal commitment, but we still had legal hurdles and the dreaded 21 day waiting period.  By the time Monday rolled around, we were already well into the process of getting..."baby supplies."  We went back to work and attempted to put all of this out of our minds as we "waited."  Monday, Tuesday,  then Wednesday.  No word and no news.  The pandemonium of the previous Friday had now transformed into boredom.  When is this baby going to be born, would it be healthy, would it be a boy or a girl?  Imagine all of the questions, fear, joy etc of 9 months of pregnancy packed into a week.

On Thursday afternoon,  while picking up some drawings for work, I stopped for gas.  While I was filling cell phone rang.  It was our social worker, and the news we were waiting for was finally here.  "You have a perfectly healthy little girl."  Wow!  Never in a million years did I imagine that I would find out I was a father at a Coop gas station and that I would have to phone the baby's new mother to let her know.  I quickly detoured on my way back to work and stopped by to see Susan.  Susan met me outside...we got in my truck and had a "moment."  We cried (I NEVER cry) and I don't remember who said it but I know we were both thinking it..."What did we just get ourselves into?"

Nicole's adoption was what is known as an "open" adoption.  "Open" meaning that the birth mom and adoptive parents all know each other and can have the ability to maintain contact.  The choice of where the adoptive child goes and how the adoptive family is chosen is a matching process performed by the Provincial Adoption Registrar who creates a "short list" of perspective families.  These profiles are then given to the birth parent/s and they select based on their own personal criteria.  We as perspective adoptive parents have no part in the process other than providing input for the profile such as pictures and an introductory letter.    This also makes these adoptions very unique and personal.  What we experienced could be very different from someone elses adoption story.

After Nicole was born; this "lack of control" could not have been more evident.  We were on cloud nine but we could not see her yet.  To be respectful and with the social workers advice we wanted to wait until the birth mom invited us to see the new baby girl, who at this point did not have a name.  Perhaps the birth mom did not want to see us, she could have second thoughts, there were many possibilities as to how this would play out.  I think this is where the social workers did such a great job.  They kept talking to birth-mom and kept us informed about what was going on.  They kept everyone on an even keel during a very emotional time.  The first news we received was the basic height and weight information and that the baby was perfectly healthy.  Mom, however, had some post delivery complications which put everyone on edge.  From our understanding the complications were not minor in nature.  This just added to the stress.  So the night our daughter was born we went; not because we needed to but because we were going stir crazy sitting at home and "waiting."

Thursday slipped away and then it was Friday.  Still; no news.  Sometime on Friday we were called by our social worker to let us know we had been summoned to the hospital.  We agreed to meet on Saturday morning.  We were going to see birth-mom first and then the "BIG" introduction.  We were also informed that birth mom would be meeting with her lawyer on Saturday afternoon for her to declare her intent to adopt.  This is a critical part of the legal process.  This would allow us to take our newborn daughter home from the hospital.  So...Saturday was the BIG day.

With great anticipation and mustering every bit of parental confidence we could we headed to the hospital on Saturday morning.  We met birth mom and exchanged some small talk.  Keep in mind that we had only met her once before and only for about 45 minutes.  We were basically strangers.  Our birth-mom is an extremely easy going person and although I wouldn't describe her as chatty but nonetheless easy to talk too.  Then the big moment.  Our little girl was wheeled in from the nursery.  You would think that moment would be vivid in our memories as "the moment" but it is not.  I think we were so concerned about etiquette and trying to be respectful I think we lost ourselves for a bit.  Our girl was truly perfect.  The day before we had found out that our girl did have a name and that it was Ashley.  This was chosen by her birth mom for the registration of live birth.  Our initial reaction was that we liked the name and intended on keeping it.  We did have the choice of choosing our own name, but we were ok with Ashley.  Baby names were not high on the priority list at this point in time.  Our visit on Saturday morning went well.  After a few hours, and knowing that the lawyer was coming in the afternoon we made arrangement to come back in the evening.

When we came back, that night, we found that the lawyer had come and gone and that the papers that needed to be signed; were signed.  We were very pleased to hear that the lawyer spent some time with our birth-mom and they even went on a walk together.  It sounded like they made a good connection and things were going very well.

That night we visited some more and gave baby Ashley her first bath.  We found out that the plan was for birth mom and baby to be discharged the next morning, Sunday.  We would be taking "our" baby to "our" home the next day.  Needless to say we were a little anxious and a whole lot excited.  Could it really be this easy?

When we went home that night and made final preparation for the next day's homecoming.  We had a bit of a "moment" as we were trying to get used to the idea of having baby Ashley around.  I remember talking to Susan and referring to "Ashley" and Susan said "who?"  It was probably at that point that we figured that we needed our own name for her.  We liked "Ashley" but it just didn't have that "fit like a glove" feeling to it.  It was that night, quite by accident, that the name "Nicole" came up.'s corny...but the name Nicole actually came about while we were watching a movie...the Interpreter...with Nicole Kidman.  Yes...our daughter is named after an Australian actress.

Sunday morning came and we buckled the baby seat into the car and headed to St Boniface hospital to fill it.  We were kept fairly busy, at the hospital, doing administrative stuff and getting last minute instructions.  Our social workers where their to help with the transition.  The only request our birth-mom made the whole time we were in the hospital was that she wanted to spend time alone with baby Ashley, say goodbye, and then she would leave.  I remember it very well.  Our birth-mom walked out of the hospital room with a back pack over her should and left...without a baby.  Ashley was now ours.  This was "our" moment.  This was when this all became real to us.  This was our birth story, at this moment.  We spent a bit of time gathering up some items and said goodbye to our social workers and strapped our little girl into her car seat.  I remember what our social worker said when we left..."have a good life."  That really sticks out in my mind as although it was a very trivial statement it meant a whole lot more.  Although we still had some legal process to go through...we were done.  Our baby was coming home.  At noon on Sunday, with church bells ringing, we walked out of St Boniface hospital with our daughter, Nicole.  We took pictures outside the hospital, a ritual we repeated two years later.

Our 21 day waiting period came and went.  At any point in the first 21 days, the birth-mom can change her mind.  This is probably every adoptive parents most feared time but with us it came and went with no issue.  In August of 2006, the final adoption was legal.  A new registration of live birth was filed with the name of Nicole Ashley Anne Lepp being born to Donald and Susan Lepp on April 27th, 2006.  That single piece of paper hardly tells the whole story.

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