Parenting Tips

Meeting the Baby, Becoming a Family

July 1, 2015 in Parenting Tips by   |  No Comments

Meeting the Baby, Becoming a Family

I’ve never been a big believer in “signs from above” or cosmic signals or any of that flimflam. But the package I saw on my doorstep on Jan. 6 gave me pause: a free sample of Enfamil formula.


It was the day that my wife, Rachel, and I were going to meet the birth mother of a tiny preemie in the neonatal intensive-care unit of a local hospital; if all went well, our lives would change forever, as we would be meeting our new daughter for the first time as soon as the following day.


We hadn’t signed up for any mailing lists while we were “in profile” (that’s how prospective adoptive parents describe the time when birth mothers are reviewing smiling images of the two of you cooking, traveling and looking at autumnal gourds). For the life of us we couldn’t figure out where this box that said, “Hello, Mom” on the side came from.


“How did they know?” I asked Rachel when I showed her the package when she came home from work. Rachel is more of a believer in otherworldly nudges, but still couldn’t believe the package I was showing her. It was as if someone somewhere knew that the meeting would go just fine. We didn’t have much time to contemplate that, though, as we rushed out the door to one of the biggest appointments of our lives.


Luckily, the meeting did go well. We met an intelligent and artistic young woman whose reasons for doing the placement were well thought out, and she found us charming enough to text our agency’s casework supervisor her wholehearted approval of us soon after she left. So the next day, after frantically trying to finish up our work, we were to take the 45-minute drive to the hospital to meet our tiny daughter for the first time.


I never thought I would be a dad, for a lot of reasons. But after I married Rachel, the idea of being a parent began to grow on me. We started looking into domestic open adoption in 2011, not because of infertility, but because of our age and some health issues Rachel has that could have made any pregnancy risky as far as her well-being was concerned. We knew it would be a long process, and we would both be into our 40s by the time we got a placement, but little did I realize how long it would actually take.


It was mostly our fault. It took us a long time to get out of our own way and stop dragging our feet as far as completing the paperwork, home study and all of the other preliminary stuff was concerned. At one point, all of the other couples in our preadoption support group had suddenly either gotten babies or were close to getting babies, and my wife and I were still wrangling over the legal language of the agreement with our primary agency. This is what happens when you’re married to a public-sector lawyer who is well versed in family law, and maybe what happens when you’ve both led independent lives for so long, and can’t let go of a fear that you won’t know what to do with a baby once one arrives.


We found out about the possibility of adopting this little girl over the holidays, while we were having a very empty and unsatisfying vacation in Cape May. We were heartbroken over turning down a possible placement over the summer, and during the intervening six months we didn’t hear a word about other possibilities. It’s hard to enjoy the childless life of nice dinners, wine tastings and brewery tours when various birth mothers are looking at your smiling mugs and saying no, and you’re waiting on a child that may never come.


The baby who is now our daughter was in the neonatal intensive-care unit, born at 28 weeks gestation at an almost impossibly small weight of one and a half pounds. The insurance coverage for her birth and NICU stay wasn’t settled. And, after the birth mother reluctantly identified the birth father, he refused to sign away his rights, despite the fact that he had never visited the baby (he was later served notice that those rights would expire in 20 days if he raised no objection). There were a dozen reasons to shy away from this placement, too.


But the thought of this tiny girl – who was up to a “hefty” two and a half pounds – sleeping in an NICU without anyone to hold her was too much for us to bear. When we finally saw her, this bitty thing in her Isolette with a red bow on her little head, pasted on by the nurses, all of the worries about the birth father, her preemie status, our age and even that we were doing a transracial adoption immediately melted. We could tell she was the fighter and “rock star” that the agency’s case worker had said she was.


Now she is Evyn Carla Grace Keller, our little peanut: Evyn, ostensibly a form of the boy’s name Evan (one of its meanings is “young warrior”); Carla, the name her birth mother gave her; and Grace, a name Rachel has always loved. Soon, she will come home, Rachel will go back to work, and I will become her primary caregiver, working as a journalist from home.


This is going to be a hell of an adventure.


Oh, and we figured out where that package came from: When we submitted our profile in April, we started a registry with a large baby item retailer. Even though we said we were adopting, they still asked us to fill in a due date. Not knowing what else to put, Rachel randomly entered “January 2015.” So now I’m starting to wonder what she knew that I didn’t.


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Why I Am Not Striving To Be A Perfect Parent

May 20, 2015 in Parenting Tips by   |  No Comments

Why I Am Not Striving To Be A Perfect Parent

I want to be more patient with my kids.

I need to lose weight.

I have to get more organised.

As much as this time of year is about good intentions and setting goals for the journey into the new year, it can also feel  just a wee bit discouraging to focus on all of those areas where we feel that we just aren’t measuring up – especially when we had that exact same resolution last year…and the year before.

But guess what – I am not perfect. You aren’t perfect. Your partner is fabulous but still not perfect. Your children are sweet/adorable/fun/clever/fabulous but they definitely aren’t perfect. Your parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, school teachers, employers…nope, none of them are either.

We are all imperfectly human. We all have strengths… and weaknesses. We all have times when we fail to meet our own expectations – well at least, the majority of us do.

So this year I am giving up on the ideal of being a perfect parent.

I am going to be me. Imperfectly me.

But that does not mean that I am giving up on being the very best version of me that I can be. As both myself and my family deserve that. But what I am doing is being realistic about what I can achieve and accomplish with the time and space I have available. What I can achieve without compromising relationships I have with people I love and care about.

And here’s how I’m planning on making that happen.

1. Start with accepting yourself as you are now and acknowledging what you do well.

Give yourself credit where credit is due. Focus on your strengths and highest priorities. Give yourself a pat on the back for those things you do well.

“My house is always messier than I want it to to be but my kids are happy, we eat well and enjoy time together and I am doing a pretty damn kickarse job of building my business too.”

“I got cross when the kids turned their nose up at dinner again but we ended the day, as we always do, with lots of love and giggles and a fun bedtime story.”

or even, “We made it to the end of the day and we are all still alive, in one piece. That is all I can ask of today.”

You do so many good, even great, things in a day. Start there.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others.

I am pretty sure that it is human nature to admire those around you that do well in those areas that you struggle with. Right? (At least I hope so, otherwise I am some sort of weirdo!)  I look up to a couple of friends who do such a good job of being organised and I promise myself again and again that I will get a better handle on my disorganised home. I make small, positive changes but never seem to be keep it up. What I have come to realise is that comparing myself is actually really de-motivating as I just can’t seem to attain their level of (what I see as) ‘perfection.’

So stop that comparing. Yes, some people in your life are doing a much better job than you. But they are on a different path to you. Their priorities are different to yours. Their natural strengths and talents are different to yours. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any, just that yours are different. So let’s stop that comparing, okay?

3. Be realistic and focus on things that matter.

When choosing your goals or resolutions, be truly realistic about what it is that you want to change. Make sure that it is something that really matters, that will make a real difference in your life. Think about the positive reasons why it will make a difference for you and your family – maybe it will free up more time for you to be together, maybe it will result in more positive, harmonious relationships at home, maybe it will mean you have more energy to keep up with your kids. Whatever it is, it has to be something that you really care about for you to even get past next week with your resolution in tact..let alone get through a full 12 months.

4. Work on just one change at a time.

Start small. Real small. Even smaller than that. Choose small, achievable actions and practise them.

So, I want to live healthier this year. I need to exercise and move more, I need to eat more vegetables and protein and less carbohydrate, I need to eat less sugar, I need to drink less coffee, I need to drink more water. Woah, I am exhausted even thinking about it – where is that chocolate bar!!!

I suggest choosing just one small thing – Say, I will drink four glasses of water each day, and work on that one thing for a week, a month, even two or three months. Master it. Make it a new habit and then move on to the next thing. Remember you have 12 whole months to achieve this goal. If you try to do too much at once you are likely to pack it all in as much too hard.

So instead of aiming to re-organise your whole house, start with the kitchen bench or the lounge room floor. Work on making sure that it is tidy and cleared each night for a whole week or two before choosing a new area to work on.

5. Be patient with and forgiving of yourself.

Accept that some days you just won’t kick a goal. But you know what – it matters less than you think because you know what, your children are learning by watching you strive to improve yourself and your family’s life, especially when you are knocked down and have to start again.

So you’ve had a bad day (or week!)? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, remind yourself again of all the good things you have accomplished and start again. You are a work in progress. We all are. Remember, imperfectly you!

Have you made goals or resolutions for the new year? What is your plan for achieving them?

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